Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Accountability and the Roman Republic

In walking out of today's/yesterday's class, its really important that you grasp the importance of accountability not only in the governing style of the Roman Republic as related to previous governments, but also the role of accountability in relation to the evolving concept of rights that continues throughout history.

As the Patricians were now accountable to the Plebeians, there is a fundamental shift in the basis of law itself. Prior to this (when the main concern of each society was simply survival), law was simply designed to keep things efficient and orderly so everyone would continue to do the job for which they were designed. 1200-1400 years later, when the inhabitants of the world begin to meet those basic survival needs which had been, before this, very tenuous, law no longer has to function simply for efficiency. As such, you see the development of the republican style of government, which inevitably brings also the beginnings of what we know today as human or civil rights.

As said in class, it breaks down like this: if the government is willing to give people the right to influence the government, this naturally implies that the government feels the people are important. If the people are important enough to be given a voice, it is only natural that they should then be guaranteed a number of other things. Thus the concept of rights begins to develop. As seen in Rome, the right to life is followed very quickly by the right to property-this will be a common theme throughout history.

For all this accountability and this great step forward, do not forget that we have a very long way to go. One need only look at the law within the twelve tables that states that women are essentially to remain property throughout their lives that we see the limits of a government even as revolutionary as the Roman Republic. From 1800 BCE to 450 BCE, the concept of human rights evolved quite a lot, but there is much more evolution that needs to occur. And before another step forward is made, there may need to be a step or two back.

1 comment:

Coleslaw said...

I think that because of the bountiful amount of people in the early roman empire, and since it continued to grow and soon you had more middle and lower class people and more then the numebr of upperclassmen. Essentially, if rome did not change to a republic and have all the people have a voice, it could mean a possible revolt. For a growing and expanding empire, or for any at that fact would want to avoid a revolt because then their government could crash. I think the tables have turned and now the people have power and they shaped the government to be heard and thats sort of the basics as to why i think they gained their rights. I suppose it was better in this new system because they were the strongest and were the strongest for thousands of yearz.

-C.S