Manycivilizations around the world have developed similar features of everyday lifeincluding their government, social structure, and culture. One specific example is the development ofthe Greek and Roman political and governmental structures.
Both civilizations borrowed some innovationsfrom the other and developed some technologies of their own to help shape theirgovernment. The Ancient Greek and Romangovernments were very similar through their political structures, but differedin their focus; for example, citizenship, democracy, and the branches ofgovernment all differed in their function, but played a key role in bothsocieties.Thefirst similarity represented between both ancient cultures is through thecitizenship of the people.
The Roman citizenshipsystem consisted of people from all regions in and out of Rome, that containeddifferent rules and restrictions. Firstly,the men of Ancient Rome had a wide range of privileges that were all defined bythe Roman state, but could vary throughout the society based on the time andplace of origin. The most common rightswere the right to vote in assemblies, the right to run for public office, theright to make legal contracts, and the right to own property.
Other less common rights included the rightto sue courts, the right to have a legal trial in court, and the right toappeal legal decisions made by smaller courts (Goldsworthy ¶1). Thewomen of ancient Rome also had many privileges, but still were consideredlesser than men. Women could still ownproperty, engage in a business life, and obtain a divorce, but were restrictedfrom voting and running for a political office which always left womenun-recognized for having any influence on Roman culture (ibid). The next form ofcitizenship had to do with the allies and client states around Rome. These people received a limited form of Romancitizenship and could not vote or run for office even as a male. The slaves of ancient Rome actually receivedsome legal protections under Roman law, but still were consideredproperty.
Freedmen, or former slavesthat had gained freedom did not receive any rights themselves, but theirchildren were born as free citizens with all legal rights (ibid). The citizenship ofancient Rome also relates to the present-day rights of citizens in the UnitedStates, but can be more closely related to the Greek in their society.The men in ancientGreece had all the privileges of Roman men during that time, but were splitinto three sub-groups within each class. The richest and most affluent class was the aristoi or ‘best people.’ These people possessed lots of land, and usually led their society in holdingthe highest political positions (Cartwright Greek Society ¶2). The second class of male citizens were the periokoi or ‘dusty feet.’ These people possessed little amounts ofmoney, had less protection against invading forces, and lived in smallcommunities that were subordinate to the neighboring cities (Cartwright GreekSociety ¶3).
The third class was thebusiness class, engaging in trade, commerce, and manufacturing goods. These business people could vary depending onhow successful their business ran. Mostbusiness leaders rose to power by wealth or by owning a monopoly while othersmaller business-men could down a class if bankruptcy or political upheavals presentedthemselves (Cartwright Greek Society ¶4). The next group of people lower than the men were the women in AncientGreece.
Women had very few rights incomparison to men and could not vote, own property, run for government orinherit wealth. Many women were forcedto marry and the entire marriage was arranged by the male figure in the family(Cartwright Greek Society ¶5,6). The laborerclass was disinguished as lower than women as they were forced to answer totheir employer. Many laborers couldbecome serfs, bound to the land, but were not allowed to be sold intoslavery. Most of their rights weredetermined by their employer and the employer provided the laborers withprotection as well as wealth (Cartwright Greek Society ¶9).
Slaves however had no rights but wereconsidered a normal part of city-life in Greece, but served by working oneveryday jobs in the city, making perfumes, food, and clothing, as well asworking on agriculture, mining, banking and entertainment (Cartwright GreekSociety ¶10-12). The foreigners inAncient Greece were granted with some rights as they brought many new ideas andcultures into the society. Most foreignershad to register as a “guest” citizen but were not fully considered as havingfull citizenship until they proved great loyalty and contribution to the state (CartwrightGreek Society ¶13). As citizenshipexpressed some similarities between these two great societies, the governmentsset up in each civilization can prove a greater equivalence. The Roman Republic was created from the ashes of amonarchy and developed into one of the first democracies created. This form of government was divided intothree forms which consisted of electednon-hereditary magistrates, the Senate, and the popular assemblies (Wasson¶2). One form of this non-hereditarymagistrates is the appointment of the consul.
The consulreplaced a king in having a higher power but only worked to prevent any repression against the new form of government. The two consulswere elected by the popular assemblies and only served a one-year,non-consecutive term. A consul had full executive power incontrolling both the military and political head of the state, controlled thearmy, presided over the senate and proposed legislation. Even with all this power the consuls checked each other’s power andhad the power to veto any decision made by the other consul. In this way eachdecision made by the other consul couldbe checked and kept in balance with the other (Wasson ¶3). The second branch of the Roman Republic wasthe Senate which held indirect executive power called auctoritas. Surprisingly the Roman senate had very littlelegislative authority in the government, but served as a significant influence onthe other bodies.
The number of senatorsvaried from as little as three-hundred to as much as one-thousand depending onthe ruler at the time. Each individualmember of the senate served for life and received no pay while being forbiddento participate in banking and foreign trade. Although the Senate had little political and legislative powers, theydid have responsibilities that were essential to the operating of the Romangovernment. “First of all, the senators not only discussed both domestic andforeign policy but supervised relations with foreign powers. They directed thereligious life of Rome, and most importantly, controlled state finances”(Wasson ¶6). The third field of theRoman Republic was in the form of popular assemblies whom held power in thelegislative branch. The assemblies wereentirely run by the people of Rome and they allowed any free man to run for aspot in the assembly.
“Itsduties included electing various magistrates (consuls, praetors, and censors),enacting laws, declaring war and peace, and invoking the deathpenalty on Romans who were arraigned on political charges” (Wasson ¶9). Although the Roman government seems complex,the Greek government shared lots of similarities including three main parts andthe system of democracy. TheGreek government, much like the Romans, was divided in to three main parts to keepeach power in check with the other. Thethree branches included the assembly, the council, and the courts which allplayed key roles in maintaining a stable society. Thefirst Greek democracy was developed by the city-state of Athens in 460 B.C.E.
and, Athens, was one of the only city-states to develop this form of government(Cartwright Greek Government ¶3). WithinAthenian government, the first branch was the assembly or the ecclesia. The assembly was composed of free males whomwhere not elected, but were attended by choice which was a right of thegovernment (Habicht ¶26). The assembly hadfour main functions in maintaining the structure of Ancient Greek society,those being: to make executive decisions (making decrees in war and grantingcitizenship), tried political crimes, it legislated, and elected officials(Habicht ¶27). The second main part ofthe Athenian democracy was the council or the boule. The members of thecouncil were elected from the assembly and could only consist of respectedpoliticians.
“The boule served as an executive committee for the assembly, andoversaw the activities of certain other magistrates” (Habicht ¶35). Overall the council served as a hugeadministration over the state and greatly helped in executing the wishes of theassembly (ibid). The third most influentialpart of the Greek government was the courts. The members of the court were all put under oath and served fully oncitizen’s rights.
The number of people servingin a court varied depending on the crimes committed or rights exercised. The rest of the court ran much like tojudicial branch today in serving for the people of the state and by makingdecisions to better the society. In conclusion, eventhough most civilizations have developed on different sides of the world, it isinteresting to see the similarities in political institutions, inventions, andachievements.
One example of this simultaneousdevelopment is through the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman civilizations. Although they developed in different regionsat different times, many aspects of both empires are present in eachother. Most specifically the politicalstructures of both societies grew to be very similar through the democraticstyle and branches of government. Thisis just one example of the similar developments of two civilizations, but whatcould be the cause of such closely related societies in this and in thecountless other examples?