Patrician Era

According to legend, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown in 509 BC by a group of noblemen led by Lucius Junius Brutus. Tarquin is said to have made a number of attempts to retake the throne, including the Tarquinian conspiracy, the war with Veii and Tarquinii and finally the war between Rome and Clusium, all of which failed to achieve Tarquin's objectives. The historical monarchy, as the legends suggest, was probably overthrown quickly, but the constitutional changes which occurred immediately after the revolution were probably not as extensive as the legends suggest. The most important constitutional change probably concerned the chief executive. Before the revolution, a king would be elected by the senators for a life term. Now, two consuls were elected by the citizens for an annual term. Each consul would check his colleague, and their limited term in office would open them up to prosecution if they abused the powers of their office. Consular political powers, when exercised conjointly with a consular colleague, were no different from those of the old king. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, the senate and the assemblies were as powerless as they had been under the monarchy. In 494 BC, the city was at war with two neighbouring tribes. The plebeian soldiers refused to march against the enemy, and instead seceded to the Aventine Hill. The plebeians demanded the right to elect their own officials. The patricians agreed, and the plebeians returned to the battlefield.[34] The plebeians called these new officials "plebeian tribunes". The tribunes would have two assistants, called "plebeian aediles". From 375 BC to 371 BC, the republic experienced a constitutional crisis during which the Tribunes of the People used their vetoes to prevent the election of senior magistrates. In 367 BC a law was passed, which required the election of a least one plebeian aedile each year. In 443 BC, the censorship was created, and in 366 BC, the praetorship was created. Also in 366 BC, the curule aedileship was created.[35] Shortly after the founding of the Republic, the Comitia Centuriata ("Assembly of the Centuries") became the principal legislative assembly. In this assembly, magistrates were elected, and laws were passed. During the 4th century BC, a series of reforms were passed. The result of these reforms was that any law passed by the Plebeian Council would have the full force of law. This gave the tribunes (who presided over the Plebeian Council) a positive character for the first time. Before these laws were passed, the only power that the tribunes held was that of the veto. The Roman senate heard of the approach of Porsena's army, and were afraid lest the people of Rome should out of fear let the enemy into the city. Accordingly the senate took a number of measures to strengthen the resolve of the populace, including purchasing grain from the Volsci and from Cumae, nationalising licences for the sale of salt (which was at the time costly), exempting the lower classes from taxes and port customs duties. The measures were successful, and the mood of the populace turned against the enemy. Porsena, with his army, attacked Rome. As his troops were surging towards the Pons Sublicius, one of the bridges over the Tiber leading into the city, Publius Horatius Cocles leapt across the bridge to hold off the enemy, giving the Romans time to destroy the bridge. He was joined by Titus Herminius Aquilinus and Spurius Lartius. Herminius and Lartius retreated as the bridge was almost destroyed. Horatius waited until the bridge had fallen, then swam back across the river under enemy fire. A statue was erected to Horatius in the comitium, along with land at the public expense, and also private awards.