The Greek democratic and Roman republic governments each had their own positive and negative aspects making them similar, yet exclusively different. Both have had tremendous influences on governments in our modern world. Rome was a republic where the leaders were chosen through voting, while Greece practiced a more direct democracy in which the citizens participated in the crucial decision-making within the government. This paper will attempt to diagnose the fundamental similarities of each government coupled with the not so obvious differences.
Based on the evidence from each type of government, it is clear that each were similar and different in numerous ways, in particular the way each government system operated, the method in which officials were elected, and the actual hierarchy within each system. Today the words republic and democracy are widely considered synonymous, but in actuality are historically different. Government practices and ideals today are very similar to how things were in ancient Greek and Roman times. There are many similarities and differences between Greek democracy and the Roman republic.
Research has shown that there are basically three significant ones that we have spent decades debating over: how the different governments elected their officials, the basics of how each system worked, and the orientation of the hierarchy within each system. One major similarity is that both systems strived to give power to the people. The Roman republic’s form of state believed that ultimate sovereignty resides with the people, whereas in the Greek democratic system, the people were the littoral sovereignty.
Both types of government elect their officials and power is given to these official representatives. Here is one of the first major differences. In the Roman republic, the people expect their elected officials to use their own best judgment and uphold the needs of the country on behalf of its people. The democratically elected representatives within the Greek system are expected to directly reflect the views of their constituents, even if that means going against their own personal judgment.
The second major similarity between ancient Greek and Roman civilizations was that their citizens voted on who to make their elected officials, however the difference was that each culture differed in their definition of a citizen. The Greeks only recognized native-born males having the right of citizenship, women and slaves could not be citizens and therefore could not vote. The Romans on the other hand, recognized foreigners residing within Italy as half-citizens giving them full legal rights but not the right to vote.
Greece mostly voted into office people of middle- to upper-class citizens, whereas Rome only voted in the rich 10% of their population. Even though history seems to show that the Greeks were more fair by randomly selecting citizens to run for office, the Roman government specifically chose who would run for election similar to our political race today where the Republican and Democratic parties choose who will be there candidates. The third similarity/discrepancy noted between these two cultures is the hierarchy.
Greece did not elect representatives primarily because their population was small enough that they could practice a more direct democracy, where the citizens actually participated in the politics. On the other side of the coin, the Romans did practice a representative democracy by electing two consuls to act as heads of state. These elected consuls were allowed a one-year long term and could actually practice veto power over each other. Below the consuls were their Senate which consisted of 300 men usually the top 10% richest ones too.
Greece on the other hand elected their citizens to serve on the Athenian Assembly as well as the Council of Five Hundred who advised the assembly and which proposed and created laws. It should be noted though that there is one thing that makes Rome’s style of government stand out. Rome did not want there to be only one man making the laws for their country. So they created the three branch system, very similar to our own. They had an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch.
All in all the Roman government was an interesting mix of democracy and republic. Many of their ideas about government came from the Ancient Greeks, which we have also incorporated into our American democratic style of government. We as Americans can thank both Rome and Greece for our style of government.
- Fiero, G. K. (2006). The Humanistic Tradition (5th ed. ). New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
- The College of New Rochelle. (2003). Roman Government. Retrieved from http://www. vroma. org/~bmcmanus/romangvt. html