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According to Polybius, what are the three elements of the Roman constitution? What are some the powers of each element?

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The Romans, according to the Histories of Polybius, had three forms of government, though the Roman constitution was never codified as a written document. All the functions were distributed among the three so equitably that it was impossible to establish whether Rome’s government was monarchic, aristocratic or democratic.

Polybius shows which functions pertain to each form of the government. Thus, the Consuls represent the monarchic element, the Senate the aristocratic, and the people the democratic. This state of affairs was characteristic of the golden age of Rome and, with some changes, persisted to Polybius’s times.

All people and all officials, except the tribunes of the people, are in subjection to the Consuls. They report to the Senate on all matters, present envoys to the Senate, and are responsible for carrying out the Senate’s decrees (Book 6, chapter 12). They also convene assemblies and have unlimited authority in matters of war. They can subject to punishment anyone under their authority and can spend the public money as they see fit.

The Senate is primarily responsible for managing the treasury. All crimes committed in Italy that require public investigation (such as treachery, conspiracy, mass poisoning, and gang murder) are within the Senate’s jurisdiction (Book 6, 13). Also, the Senate’s job is to send missions outside Italy and receive missions from other lands. Polybius stresses that the people have no share in any of the above-mentioned functions.

However, the people do have a very strong influence on the Roman state, because they control rewards and punishments. (Book 6, 12). In Polybius’s views, these factors are so important as to determine the whole of human life:

There is no other provision within the constitution for these functions, but without them human life itself has no coherence, let alone governments and constitutions (Book 6, 14).

The people’s prerogative is to deal with cases when the penalty of the offense is a substantial fine, especially when the accused are high-ranked officials, and all death penalty cases. The people also decide whether to go to war, and they ratify or abrogate alliances (Book 6, 14).

Polybius’s goal is to show that there is equipoise between these three forms, because, by competing, they balance one another. In his portrayal, Rome is a state with an ideal government.

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The Roman government was separated into three groups, centuries before the United States government was conceived of. The idea was that separate groups would be able to balance the power between them more effectively and prevent any one group from taking control.

The Consul was the first group in the Roman constitution, ruling over judicial and administrative matters. This group held control over the courts and legislation, much like the judicial and legislative branches in American government.

The Senate was the next group, and it was responsible for financial matters in the nation. Essentially, it acted as keeper of the treasury and would finance wars and projects as needed, while also maintaining taxes on the citizens.

The constitution set out the People as a fundamental, final party. The voting masses of Rome would be consulted for severe cases. They also voted on and elected their leaders and would vote on major policies and whether laws should be repealed and treaties confirmed.

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According to Polybius, there were three elements of the Roman constitution. These elements included the Consuls, the Senate, and the people. Each group had different powers and responsibilities.

The Consuls were responsible for administration. They had power over all of the magistrates, except the Tribunes. They would bring foreign ambassadors to the Senate and introduce them. They also would bring issues that needed to be discussed to the Senate, and then be sure any orders were carried out. They had complete power in preparing for war and carrying out a war plan.

The Roman Senate was responsible for the treasury. The Senate controlled expenditures, including those dealing with the construction or the repair of buildings. The Senate also was responsible for examining all serious crimes. The Senate determined how foreign ambassadors would be received and what answers would be given to them.

The people also had a role in the Roman constitution. The people would decide cases involving issues of life and death. They also elected leaders and were involved in making and repealing laws. The people also discussed matters of war and peace. They also determined if treaties would be ratified.

This division of power kept any group from gaining too much power.

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According to Polybius in his work Histories, the Roman Constitution has three powers; the Consuls, the Senate and the People.  Each reserves powers unto themselves separate from the other creating a situation where it is difficult for "even a native" to determine if it is "an aristocracy or democracy or despotism".

The Consuls are the leaders of the Roman legion.  When in Rome they are also responsible for the administration of the government.  They bring matters before the Senate, run the military, summon popular meetings and enforce decrees upon the population.

The Senate has control of the treasury and controls public investigation of infamous crimes.  They also work with the Consuls to send ambassadors abroad and regulate to some degree Italy's role in foreign affairs.

The People reserve control of "honour and punishment".  They are the court to decide matters of life and death.  They also weigh in on civil matters when the sum of money is "sufficiently serious".  The People also have the role of voting for the Senators and voting for declarations of war.

The division of powers was designed to keep any one group from gaining absolute control over the Empire.  However, each group maintained almost absolute control in their own areas of concern. 

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