Did the Roman Senate have political parties? – Similarities between the Romans and America


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[There are many aspects of the awesome Roman Empire that I've wondered about and tried to find out about. At the source link below you'll also see a diagram that helps to show things. Notice the many similarities to the USA. America IS based on the Roman Empire. Jan]

What were the political parties during the Roman Republic? And what were they like as compared to modern day parties?

I always teach that one should imagine Rome like they imagine Modern America. Politically speaking, the two are just very similar

Broadly speaking there are 2 significant similarities between the modern US and ancient Rome politically.

There were 2 major political parties/factions that controlled the government

Each party was helmed by a number of uber-famous statesmen who had amassed great fortunes and loyal followers

There is 1 key difference between modern politics and Roman politics.

You see in Rome there were 2 bodies of power. First were the Magistrates. These were guys in specific offices that held specific powers for a specific term- kinda like a President. Here is a chart that explains it all. It’ll take time to dig through. Suffice to say there were many offices- each had its own powers and duties.

From this chart, you notice that the most powerful jobs, like Consul and Praetor, were elected by the Centuriate Assembly which favored the rich. So the rich got to elect the “tops dogs”. For smaller offices, everyone got to vote. Then we have the Tribune of the Plebs. 10 Plebs were elected by the Plebs to propose legislation and veto anything that would harm the common man unfairly. This veto power made them extremely powerful.

Let’s start with the parties, of which there were 2.

First, we have the Populares. Now the Populares were populists and reformers. They appealed to the common man with legislative goals like
Land reform
More welfare
More power for the common people

Now obviously they appealed to the masses and the majority of Romans were Populares. The support base for the Populares was the Plebians- the command man, the veteran, the tradesman.

Then we have the Optimates. The Optimates were conservative traditionalists that favored the nobles and rich with stuff like
Limited the power of the Plebians
Locking off rights to Plebians
Limiting corruption

The power base of the Optimates was the wealthy and noble people of Rome.

So 1 party supports the common man and the other party supports the rich. In reality, this meant the Populares were radically more popular in terms of manpower.

However, the Roman voting system was rigged. Elections for the “top spot” favored the rich and powerful and so these jobs went to the friends of the rich and powerful. This means Consuls and Praetors were almost always Optimates.

The Tribune of the Plebs was another powerful office that was controlled by the Plebs. So Tribunes always were Populares. Some questors and Aediles were Populares too.

The Senate itself was made up almost entirely of Patricians (nobles) and so while not absolute, the Optimates did have control over the Senate as a whole.

I don’t think I need to spell out the similarities right?

Source: https://www.quora.com/Did-the-Roman-Senate-have-political-parties

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