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How Republics Began

The United States is a republic – and we got the idea from Rome.

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Ancient Rome became the most powerful city-state and empire in the world. The Romans learned from the Greeks, and their government was a blend of Greek ideas called Res Publica (Latin: “the people’s affair”). In modern language, we call it the republic.

Athens’ Democracy

Athens was the largest and most successful Greek city-state. Athenians created a system of government called democracy. A democracy holds elections among its citizens, and the majority decides what will be done. But under democracy, Athens created many policies that weakened its defense and made it an easy target for invaders. One of these invaders was Sparta.

Sparta’s Military Rule

Sparta had two kings, and judges who ruled in criminal cases. It also had different classes of people. Their hierarchy of groups and order gave security and structure that made Sparta the strongest military power in Greece. But they weren’t flexible enough, and so they lost control too after a while.

The Roman Republic

Romans really liked Greek culture, and they decided that both Sparta and Athens had ideas to learn from.

Athens’ democracy on its own was too weak, while Sparta’s military culture and class society were too rigid. So, Rome took parts of both systems. They had citizenship and elections, as well as a military and judicial system.

The citizens elected representatives in the Senate, where they created laws based on which ones got the most votes. It was up to the judges to apply the laws and pass judgment in criminal cases.

The United States

This system sound familiar to you because the United States was founded as a republic, imitating and improving on the Roman version.

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