Roman Senate vs. the U.S. Congress

By Ian Ziller

Political Science Major


Roman-senateWhen we think of democracy we often look back to the Romans, and by the same extension, we think of the Roman senate as being the equivalent of the U.S. Congress. However, the truth is very different.  At the heart of the Roman political system were the consuls who were senators elected by the people of Rome. They had the power to appoint people to the senate and then they served for life. The idea behind this was to have a group of wise lawmakers who would make the best choices for ruling. The Romans elected the consuls each year so that there was a new one each year, and once elected a consul could not be elected for another 10 years.

On the other hand, however, the U.S. Congress is elected by the people and serves a set amount of years before they have to run for reelection, so this way there is a greater degree of accountability to the people. In the U.S. Congress, both houses make laws that are signed by the president. There is the House of Representatives, which serves as the body closer to the people and is elected every two years, and the U.S. Senate, which is less connected to the people and serves as the leaders who are less concerned about public opinion and more about what is in the best interest of the nation.  Senators serve for six years.

The United States Congress is the better model because it mixes Roman ideas of indirect democratic rule and serving the people, with the democratic theory of pure democracy of ancient Greece.  With that said, it is important to have good leaders and so citizens should elect people who they feel are the best people to represent them. They should elect people who have a strong sense of morals who shall serve the people and not their own ends.


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