The Twelve Tables (450 BCE)
How did the roman republic change
in order to address problems?
Directions: As you listen to the passage being read aloud annotate the text
Focus: What problems existed in the Roman Republic?
How did the republic change in order to address the problem?
An important aspect of early Roman history was a great social conflict, usually known as the Struggle of the Orders, which developed between patricians and plebeians. What the plebeians wanted was real political representation and safeguards against patrician domination. The plebeians’ efforts to obtain recognition of their rights are the crux of the Struggle of the Orders.
Rome’s early wars gave the plebeians the leverage they needed: Rome’s survival depended on the army, and the army needed the plebeians. The first showdown between plebeians and patricians came, according to tradition, in 494 BCE. To force the patricians to grant concessions, the plebeians seceded from the state; they literally walked out of Rome and refused to serve in the army. The plebeians’ general strike worked. Because of it, the patricians made important concessions. One of these was social. In 445 BCE the patricians passed a law, the lex Canuleia, that for the first time allowed patricians and plebeians to marry each other. Furthermore, the patricians recognized the right of plebeians to elect their own officials, the tribunes. The tribunes, in turn, had the right to protect the plebeians from the arbitrary conduct of patrician magistrates. The tribunes brought plebeian grievances to the senate for resolution. The plebeians were not bent on undermining the state. Rather, they used their gains only to win full equality under the law.
The law itself was the plebeians’ next target. Only the patricians knew what the law was and only they could argue cases in court. All too often they had used the law for their own benefit. The plebeians wanted the law codified and published. The result of their agitation was the Law of the Twelve Tables.
Source: McKay et al. A History of World Societies: To 1715. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004
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