Research and Writing
4 January 2018
First Draft: The Similarities and Differences Between the Greek and Roman Political Systems
The political structure of both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece varied in many ways, but both of these forms of early democracy had the same key values. While the progression of the two forms of democracy was years apart and had different structures, both of these civilizations went through the same steps to achieve a representative form of government. The political development of both these civilizations required a great deal of time to become the powerful civilizations that we know today. The political systems and structures of both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece have long been studied by historians; while both have differences, they played large parts in shaping their economy and history.
The Greek system of government was quite different than the Roman system of government. One example of this difference was the city-states or polis which existed in Ancient Greece. “From the very beginning, Ancient Greece (800 b.c.e.- 600 c.e) proceeded on a course of urbanization, evidenced in particular by the rise of polis (plural poleis) or the city-state” (H.W.E. ¶-1). These city-states would be self- governed and each individual would not be a citizen of Greece, but rather, a citizen of their respective city-state (H.W.E.- ¶1). Having no higher authority to govern the city-states led to conflicts between the different city-states. Another reason for the success of the poleis was Greece’s centralized location in Europe. “Urbanization in Greece also came about due to it increasing reliance on commercial trade networks to supplement the Greek economy” (H.W.E.- ¶2). The enhanced government system and strong economy of Ancient Greece helped Greece became a strong and advanced civilization for its time.
Ancient Rome’s centralized location made it easy for traders to help expedite routes and find new trading routes that helped boost Rome’s economy. “Rome’s location, as well as it’s surrounding terrain gave the city certain unique advantages, which would later prove essential in Rome’s expansion efforts and in the development of its own unique culture” (H.W.E.- ¶3). Geographical factors benefited Rome’s security. The mountains to the north of Rome and the Mediterranean Sea to the south benefited Rome’s economy and government. In a similar way to Ancient Greece, the Mediterranean Sea provided excellent maritime trade routes, that helped the Roman Empire grow and expand to other parts of the world. Similar to Ancient Greece, the prime location and waterfront access of Ancient Rome helped build the Empire into the powerful empire that we know of today.
The Roman political structure consisted of one ruler with many other groups of people below him. This is similar to the government system of each individual Greek city-state where the city-state was ruled by one person. However, unlike the Ancient Greeks, the Romans had one centralized government with one ruler for the entire Roman Empire. “The last century of the Republic left Rome in disarray: violence, lawlessness, and civil strife had destroyed the Republic’s political processes” (G.E.W.H. ¶ 3). In order to restore the Roman Republic, an emperor was made the head of the government. The first emperor was Augustus, who created a period of Roman peace or Pax Romana (G.E.W.H. ¶ 3). Similar to the United States government, Rome had one ruler and a Senate that would work closely with the Emperor and put new laws and doctrines into place. Another way that the Roman government is similar to the United States and Ancient Greek government is that the ruler of their government had a group of close advisors or what the United States would today call cabinet members (G.E.W.H.- ¶1). In order to be an active member of the Roman government, an individual usually had to be a member of the higher class, unless he was a plebian selected to be a member of the assembly. The political policies in Ancient Rome helped shape an early form of democracy.
The Greek system of government consisted of smaller city-states, different than the traditional nation-wide political structure of others including Ancient Rome. Each city-state had one ruler and advisors who would rule over the whole city-state and make all of their citizens pledge their allegiance to them.
“Not settling on a definitive answer to these questions, government in the ancient Greek world, therefore, took extraordinarily diverse forms and, across different city-states and over many centuries, political power could rest in the hands of a single individual: (monarchies and tyrants) or in a select few (the oligarchies) or in every male citizen: democracy – widely regarded as the Greeks’ greatest contribution to civilization” (Cartwright- ¶1).
The lack of a centralized government caused many battles between two city-states. One of the major wars of this era was the Peloponnesian War fought between the Athenians and the Spartans, two of the most advanced city-states of the time (T.E.E.B.- ¶1). The strong rulers of Greece’s individual city-states led to Greece consisting of many powerful city-states that had an impact on the Greek-Peninsula and the way Greek government developed.
Both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece had a government that used one ruler and many others who either supported or disapproved of the ruler by voting on his decisions. “One important dimension of Greek and Roman political ideas includes the claims and practices of self-government, exemplified especially in Athenian democracy and the Roman republic” (P.P.P. ¶2). Both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece had a very strong military and economy that helped build the empire to what we know of today (P.P.P. ¶7). Another way that these two systems of government were similar was the way that they used their leader’s military experiences to build up their defense and conquer other neighboring territories to spread their religion and ideology. One of the most advanced political ideas at the time was the way that both Rome and Greece elected their leaders. Their democracies use of democracies was one of the most influential ideas of the modern political structure of today.
One of the ways that Greece grew to be such a powerful nation was through the conquests of their people. One of the most famous Greek conquistadors was Alex the Great from Macedonia. Alex the Great was a threat to not only other civilizations, but to the Greek people themselves (G.E.W.H. ¶1). “The kingdom at this time was ruled by Philip II, who had spent three years of his youth as a hostage in the Greek city of Thebes, where he gained a Greek education” (G.E.W.H. ¶1). Both King Philip and Alex realized the Greek’s political weaknesses and acted on them. One of the most influential wars for the Greek political structure was the Social War which was a conflict against Athens, one of the most powerful city-states, and its neighboring territories (G.E.W.H. ¶2). The war left Athens as a weak empire that had lost some of its territories and left others in ruin (G.E.W.H. ¶2). However, a couple of years after this, Philip II died and left his kingdom to his son Alexander II who is today more commonly referred to as Alexander the Great (G.E.W.H. ¶3). Alexander was not as focused on conquering the Greek peninsula as Philip was; he focused on other major civilizations. “The Persian Empire was still a major power, ruling most of the territories of modern Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Levant, and Egypt. All would soon fall to Alexander” (G.E.W.H. ¶3). The power and determination of both Alexander the Great and Philip the Second helped develop Greece into a powerful civilization like the powerful Roman Empire.
The Roman government consisted of the Emperor who was in charge of the military and the empire. The Emperor would today be compared to a president similar to the President of the United States. The Emperor made decisions on whether or not to invade another civilization or another area of the world based on the strength of his military. One of the most notable Roman Conquest was the conquest of Britain. “Julius Caesar made two forays into Britain, resulting not in conquest, but in expanded contact and trade with the Celtic tribes that lived there. Roman legions did not return to the island to conquer it until the Emperor Claudius’s reign, almost one hundred years later” (G.E.W.H. ¶2). This was one of the many conquests of Rome. One of the more notable conquests was the conquest of Judea, an area in the Middle East. Many Jewish and Christian followers are familiar with this area because of the birth of Jesus Christ during the rule of the Romans. The territory of Judea was divided into five separate territories or provinces (Schiffman ¶1). One of the reasons that both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece was so powerful was because of how they ruled not only their own citizens, but they overtook other civilizations and ruled them as well.
The close relationship between the Greek and Roman civilizations helped create a form of government still used today. Both of these civilizations used their strong economy, geographic advantages, and advanced government to create a strong civilization. Both civilizations developed a self-government form of democracy, still used today. The style of government has been replicated in many countries, most notably being the United States of America and other democracies around the world. The political systems and structures of both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece have long been studied by historians; while both have differences, they played large parts in shaping their economy, amount of territory, and history. These historians confirm the similarities, but do you believe they had an impact on each other?
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