The Constitution of the Roman Republic

The Constitution of the Roman Republic

The Constitution of the Roman Republic

The Constitution of the Roman Republic


There is no other published book in English studying the constitution of the Roman Republic as a whole. Yet the Greek historian Polybius believed that the constitution was a fundamental cause of the exponential growth of Rome's empire. Knowledge of Rome's political institutions is essential both for ancient historians and for those who study the contribution of Rome to the republican tradition of political thought from the Middle Ages to the revolutions inspired by the Enlightenment.


The study of the constitution should be central to the study of the Roman Republic, as I argue more fully in the Introduction. One object of this book is to provide a work in English to which teachers of ancient history can refer pupils on this topic. However, I have also sought to rescue Roman constitutional studies from the stigma of being old- fashioned, smelling of the attic of nineteenth-century scholarship, and out of tune with modern approaches to the analysis of society. It is of course true that the constitutional approach is not the unique route to understanding the way ancient societies worked, but that was recognized by Mommsen, when he was writing the Staatsrecht-- a work that is much less narrowly legalistic than is often supposed. And the same may be said of earlier constitutional studies reaching back to Machiavelli and indeed to Polybius.

I am extremely grateful to the many scholars, largely outside the United Kingdom, who have helped me by sending books and offprints. In England I owe a special debt to John Crook and Duncan Cloud, who read the book in typescript, saved me from a number of errors, and made many interesting suggestions. The British School at Rome elected me their Hugh Last Fellow and provided me with a valuable base at an important stage in my research. My study of the Republican constitution began and has reached a conclusion at Oxford, and it is a pleasure to be once again publishing under the imprint, especially as this book will soon be accompanied by a second edition of Violence in Republican Rome, where the reader will find a fuller discussion of certain issues raised in it.

Worcester College, Oxford A.L.

May, 1998 . . .

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