Most people agree that Rome was the “Greatest Empire” the world has ever seen. Yet, others believe that the Roman Empire was what brought Rome’s decline and fall and that the Roman Republic was what made Rome great. Was the Roman Empire truly greater than the Roman Republic?
The Republic was a system that was based on the rule of law, and a balanced constitution that was not a written document. Instead, it consisted of an accord between the 3 elements, democracy, monarchy, and oligarchy. This system greatly helped to prevent the kind of tyrannical abuse of power that happens all too often in dictatorships and monarchies. No one was above the law, Rome was not ruled by any single man, and all free men were citizens with a stake in their future. All citizens could vote and it is this balance which gave ancient Rome its greatest strength.
The Republic though, contrasts with the Roman Empire, which was a system based on an emperor. One man had total, absolute power. Corrupt, insane tyrants like Nero, Caligula and Commodus often ruled the empire with incompetence and appalling cruelty. While Rome was under the empire, it slowly began to decline. By the time of the third century crisis, the empire was at the point of collapse. Fortunately, it was able to last another century and a half, due largely to a series of strong soldier-emperors. But, since it was largely a matter of luck of who came to the throne next, sooner or later weak emperors took power again, and Rome entered its final decline.
The Republic was Rome at its best. However, it should be noted that Rome as a civilization flourished under the Empire. The Roman Empire was in itself an incredible achievement in how it joined so many diverse lands and people together and maintained relative unity for so long.
Under the empire though, the people had no say. They couldn’t make laws, as they did under the Republic. They had no vote anymore. They couldn’t decide...