Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inauguration Day Approaches

On January 20th, Inauguration Day, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office and become the 44th president of the United States.

The Romans did not elect presidents, but citizens did vote at times during their history.

From 753 B.C. to 510 B.C., Rome was a monarchy. There were seven kings of Rome: Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullius Hostilius, Ancus Marcus, L. Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and L. Tarquinius Superbus. The Romans grew tired of their kings and overthrew Tarquinius Superbus (otherwise known as "Tarquin the Proud.") As the Romans were wary of once again concentrating too much power in the hands of one person, they agreed to name two consuls, elected to one year terms. In times of war, if the consuls could not agree, there was provision for a single-man dictatorship. This emergency power was limited to six months only.

Rome was considered a Republic from 509 B.C. to 27 B.C.

According to William Smith, in his School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, the consuls originally began their duties in October. The official inauguration date was then moved to different times of the year (August, then the Ides of December, often the Ides of March) until finally in 153 B.C., the Romans settled on January and this month remained permanent until the end of the Republic.

Smith points out some features of the Roman inauguration celebration. There was a parade of the senators, knights and citizens from the home of the consuls to the capitol. The consuls offered up sacrifices and then went to the Curia, the place where the Senate met, where each gave a speech about matters important to the Republic. The consuls took a solemn oath and promised to keep the law of the Republic. There was typically a banquet, to which the new leaders invited friends and colleagues.

In 27 B.C., the Augustan Age began and Rome became an empire. The Roman Empire lasted until around 535 B.C.