So in ancient Rome Republic elections where done every year and two consuls were elected, however I see sometimes the same consuls elected again and again, same seems to happen with the senators.

Was the Republic democratic as we understand it in modern terms or was it a little bit corrupt and open only to certain families (that is, only rich families may had access to become senators, not any regular citizen)?

  • Of course it's nothing like modern liberal representative democracies. But you are listing attributes (rich families become senators, senators get re-elected) that are true in modern politics too... – Semaphore Jan 16 '15 at 3:02
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    Probable migrate to politics.se. This seems to be more about political science definitions of "democracy" than about the actual social history of Roman governance, law, state, civil disorder, politics and social contest between classes. – Samuel Russell Jan 16 '15 at 5:11
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  • One measure of how democratic a nation is, is how many people can vote. In the Roman Republic it was about 20-25% of the population. The Roman Republic was constantly in flux with a power struggle between the patricians and the plebians. In the last few centuries of the republic, a plebian aristocracy blocked anyone but those from established political families from holding official office. I wrote an article that goes over the institutional changes in the Roman Republic here: governology.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/government-behind-us – B T May 4 '16 at 4:11
  • One comment that might sheds light how the roman system worked: Senators were NOT elected. The role of the senators was NOT to represent the people. Their right and duty was to give counsel on the matters touching the public good and the state. They represented themselves, their families and the political, diplomatic and military expertise accumulated in the roman elite. Actually, they were 'Patres et conscripti' Either they inherited their position from their aristocratic ancestors, or 'were written on the list' by the censors for their merits and wealth. – b.Lorenz Jun 21 '18 at 7:10

Better questions produce better answers. At present, this question is quite broad, so the answer is quite general.

The exact rules changed over the 450 year history of the Republic. For most of that period, one had to be a member of the Senate to stand as a Consul. To be a member of the Senate required extensive land holdings and to be of noble birth.

The rules did originally preclude consecutive Consulships, so that the Consuls would not just replace the recently ousted Kings. But during times of peril, when it seemed that only one person could save them, the Senate decided to relax the rules. Of course they didn't tighten them after the crisis was over.

So it wasn't democratic as we understand the term, in a modern Representative Democracy. While there was significant separation of powers, the key way of winning an election was through public spending - what would now be called pork barreling, or worse.

A few references

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  • It was always the rule that you needed to be a Senator to run for Consul. This was set aside from time to time for Scipio Africanus, Marius the Younger, Octavian Caesar...but it was the rule regardless. – Oldcat Jan 16 '15 at 17:46
  • Good answer and +1, A quibble, though: pork barreling only appeared relatively late in the republic's life. As you point out the period was 450 years long so it must really be treated diachronically. – Felix Goldberg Feb 12 '16 at 7:08
  • @Felix Yes, I believe so, but I don't have dates and sources to cite. – andy256 Feb 12 '16 at 9:04
  • @Felix Is the +1 on it's way? (I once promised a +1 myself, over on English, and forgot to actually click :-) – andy256 Feb 12 '16 at 9:06
  • @andy256 I've clicked it straight away. – Felix Goldberg Feb 13 '16 at 17:08

How democratic was the Roman republic? Slaves couldn’t vote; Women couldn’t vote; You had to own property…

How democratic was the American republic? Slaves couldn’t vote; Indians couldn’t vote; Women couldn’t vote; You had to own property…

Maybe a better question would be: What actually is democracy?

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    You didn't have to hold property to vote in Rome. You just voted last, so if the propertied classes couldn't decide you might get the deciding vote. Otherwise you didn't vote at all. – Oldcat Jan 20 '15 at 23:29
  • @Oldcat Not really. See roman-empire.net/republic/rep-assembly.html I presume you mean the centuriate assembly, where voting was a group vote (as in, "one group, one vote") and the proletarii had one vote out of.. 193. – Felix Goldberg Feb 12 '16 at 7:13

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