The power of the monarch passed to two annually elected magistrates called consuls; they also served as commanders in chief of the army. The magistrates, though elected by the people, were drawn largely from the Senate, which was dominated by the patricians, or the descendants of the original senators from the time of Romulus. Politics in the early republic was marked by the long struggle between patricians and plebeians (the common people), who eventually attained some political power through years of concessions from patricians, including their own political bodies, the tribunes, which could initiate or veto legislation.
In 450 B.C., the first Roman law code was inscribed on 12 bronze tablets–known as the Twelve Tables–and publicly displayed in the Roman Forum. These laws included issues of legal procedure, civil rights and property rights and provided the basis for all future Roman civil law. By around 300 B.C., real political power in Rome was centered in the Senate, which at the time included only members of patrician and wealthy plebeian families.
During the early republic, the Roman state grew exponentially in both size and power. Though the Gauls sacked and burned Rome in 390 B.C., the Romans rebounded under the leadership of the military hero Camillus, eventually gaining control of the entire Italian peninsula by 264 B.C. Rome then fought a series of wars known as the Punic Wars with Carthage, a powerful city-state in northern Africa. The first two Punic Wars ended with Rome in full control of Sicily, the western Mediterranean and much of Spain. In the Third Punic War (149–146 B.C.), the Romans captured and destroyed the city of Carthage and sold its surviving inhabitants into slave...
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...he Byzantine Empire–would remain largely intact for centuries to come. An entirely different story played out in the west, where the empire was wracked by internal conflict as well as threats from abroad–particularly from the Germanic tribes now established within the empire’s frontiers–and was steadily losing money due to constant warfare.
Rome eventually collapsed under the weight of its own bloated empire, losing its provinces one by one: Britain around 410; Spain and northern Africa by 430. Attila and his brutal Huns invaded Gaul and Italy around 450, further shaking the foundations of the empire. In September 476, a Germanic prince named Odovacar won control of the Roman army in Italy. After deposing the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, Odovacar’s troops proclaimed him king of Italy, bringing an ignoble end to the long, tumultuous history of ancient Rome.
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