Would the ancient Roman republican constitution be a viable alternative in the west today?

By Nicholas Johnson


Has the 21st century Washington Consensus politics of the western world and beyond become too democratic than what was previously intended? We can indeed draw parallels between this and Roman republican politics, since its rise with Brutus in 509 BC, until it’s fall under the dictator Octavian, or ‘Augustus’ in 27 BC. The republic of Rome is arguably one of the most successful civilised nations in global history. Its complex, but smooth political system put the complexity and prosperity of all other kingdoms and tribes to shame, even the state of Athens itself, hence it’s subjugation.


But what comprised the Republic? What were the cogs and chains in this political engine that made it run like the engine of a BMW for nearly five-hundred years?


Primary material suggests that there were three recognisable ‘pillars’ of the republican constitution: The people, the magistrates, and the Senate. The Greek writer, Polybius (c. 200-c. 118 BC) provided us with an idealised view of the constitution, explaining how Rome delivered her people a constitution whereby the aristocracy (Patricians) and the ordinary people (Plebeians) were both accountable to the decisions they made, sharing an equal amount of power, accountability and checks on each other. Polybius even argues that ‘it would be impossible to find a better political system’, which is extremely valid for the time, given that most other tribes and kingdoms experienced internal disputes and conflicts throughout this period.


Let’s briefly run through these three ‘pillars’ of the republic. The ‘people’ possessed the ability to vote in the magistrates they wanted but possessed most their power through the Plebeian Tribunate; two tribunes that formed part of the magistrates who were elected from the Plebeians, not the aristocracy, that had power over all magistrates and the Senate, held the best interests of the ordinary Roman citizen to account and having the ability to veto legislation made that put the people at a disadvantage.


The magistrates were your UK cabinet ministers, or the presidents of the European Union, except the magistrates were elected. With the primary magistrates including Consuls, Aediles, Praetors, Tribunes and Quaestors. These were elected by the people, but all candidates, excepting the Plebeian Tribunate, were aristocratic. Thus, conflict of interest was highly likely, but held in check by the Tribunes of the Plebs.


The Senate was comprised of aristocratic Roman citizens, such as Cicero, whose works including Pro Sestio (For Sestius), have enlightened historians on their political viewpoints and terminology of democracy that the senators used. These senators had power over all fiscal policy, minor magistrates, public judicial affairs and even in Roman religion, with the ten Pontiffs and leader – Pontifex Maximus all deriving from senatorial positions. Therefore, the Republican constitution may seem like a ‘democracy, a kingdom and an aristocracy’; a conglomerate of these three political identities that formed a government capable of allocating their manpower and treasury extremely efficiently, whilst fully representing all her citizens.


The republican constitution seems to be more fitting for many western countries today. As we have gathered from sources such as Livy and Cicero, political debates and legislation were mainly centred around either resolving the struggle between the Patricians and the Plebs or directed on civilising and strengthening under-developed areas of the Empire. This would disincentive the exacerbation of party-political struggle, in fact remove it completely, leaving the senate to serve the interests of the aristocracy, the magistrates the interests of the nation and the people to serve themselves. Indeed, the closest advocate of the republican constitution, the USA, has become stale. Bernie Sanders, the shill in the senate crowd, has proven through his urges to undermine the successful American aristocracy that the senate no longer represents the aristocrats, with the Supreme Court, proving that their patrons are the Democrats through the blocking of a replica travel ban to Obama’s in 2012 and the overemphasis of the Comey case. A modern Roman republican constitution would ensure the prevention of corruption reaching modern politics, due to the checks imposed on one-another and, what the Romans didn’t have – the internet.


Servitude of the civil servants for the best interests of their nation is no longer the major concern of western governments. The necessity for political correctness and the consideration of large corporations that has been placed in front of the preservation of the sanctity of the state in government policy has started to and will kill the west. The introduction of migrants into Europe in the name of tolerance and diversity has marked the beginning of a crisis that scarily runs parallels of the Gothic migration across the Danube in the 4th century AD, under the Roman empire. Maybe the introduction of a republican constitution reminiscent of Rome’s would be the saving grace of the west, from the ‘treacherous greed’ of these economic migrants.


Overall, we would see through the Roman republican system the introduction of a political body that would enact the most desirable combination of legislation through full representation of all economic classes, with checks on each-other’s power when any proposed legislation does not represent a single class. It would also leave us with more concise nations, focused on the preservation and their continued long-term success, while also maintaining a realistic foreign policy. Despite corruption being a huge problem leading to the downfall of the republic, modern checks such as the internet and the media would mean that the chances of corruption in all three pillars would be extremely low, especially when the Gini coefficient of western countries is rising exponentially. Who wouldn’t want a constitution that offers so much for the state?


By Nick Johnson


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s