Roman Government Polybius

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1) In book 6 of Polybius’ “Histories”, Polybius examines the Roman government and its “mixed” constitution. At the head of the Roman Republic are two elected officials, called consuls, who carry out the decisions of the Senate, lead the army, and generally hold the highest executive authority. Polybius describes the consuls as the monarchical element of the Roman government. The consuls' power, however, is tempered by the authority of the Senate, a small group of Roman political elites who form the aristocratic element in the Roman constitution. The Senate controls the treasury and the public building programs, passes judgment in certain cases of the highest importance (particularly treason), and handles foreign diplomatic affairs. Both the consuls and the Senate are controlled by the people. Since the people elect all public officials, the magistrates are ultimately responsible to them. The people also have power to accept or reject any law, to decide whether or not to go to war, and to ratify or reject all alliances and treaties. On top of these powers, the people have special magistrates, called tribunes, elected to look after their interests. The Roman government is thus a "mixed" constitution because it mixes elements of all three simple forms. This ensures the stability of the constitution because the three parts of the government keep each other in check, so that no one of them becomes arrogant and overbearing through abuse of power. The consuls cannot wage war unless the Senate votes them enough funds to pay for it. And after waging a war, the consuls still have to refer any treaties back to the people for ratification. The Senate cannot infringe on the rights of the people because the tribunes, the magistrates elected to protect the people, have the right of veto over any Senatorial decision. The Senate is not completely dominated, however,

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