In this light the reasons which led to the substitution of consuls for kings in Rome need no explanation. The organism of the ancient Greek and Italian polity developed of itself by a sort of natural necessity the limitation of the life-presidency to a shortened, and for the most part an annual, term. Simple, however, as was the cause of this change, it might be brought about in various ways; a resolution might be adopted on the death of one life-ruler not to elect another--a course which the Roman senate is said to have attempted after the death of Romulus; or the ruler might voluntarily abdicate, as is alleged to have been the intention of king Servius Tullius; or the people might rise in rebellion against a tyrannical ruler, and expel him.
Expulsion Of The Tarquins From Rome
It was in this latter way that the monarchy was terminated in Rome. For however much the history of the expulsion of the last Tarquinius, "the proud," may have been interwoven with anecdotes and spun out into a romance, it is not in its leading outlines to be called in question. Tradition credibly enough indicates as the causes of the revolt, that the king neglected to consult the senate and to complete its numbers; that he pronounced sentences of capital punishment and confiscation without advising with his counsellors; that he accumulated immense stores of grain in his granaries, and exacted from the burgesses military labour and task-work beyond what was due. The exasperation of the people is attested by the formal vow which they made man by man for themselves and for their posterity that thenceforth they would never tolerate a king; by the blind hatred with which the name of king was ever afterwards regarded in Rome; and above all by the enactment that the "king for offering sacrifice" (-rex sacrorum- or -sacrificulus-) --whom they considered it their duty to create that the gods might not miss their accustomed mediator--should be disqualified from holding any further office, so that this man became the foremost indeed, but also the most powerless in the Roman commonwealth. Along with the last king all the members of his clan were banished--a proof how close at that time gentile ties still were. The Tarquinii thereupon transferred themselves to Caere, perhaps their ancient home,(1) where their family tomb has recently been discovered. In the room of the one president holding office for life two annual rulers were now placed at the head of the Roman community.
This is all that can be looked upon as historically certain in reference to this important event.(2) It is conceivable that in a great community with extensive dominion like the Roman the royal power, particularly if it had been in the same family for several generations, would be more capable of resistance, and the struggle would thus be keener, than in the smaller states; but there is no certain indication of any interference by foreign states in the struggle. The great war with Etruria--which possibly, moreover, has been placed so close upon the expulsion of the Tarquins only in consequence of chronological confusion in the Roman annals--cannot be regarded as an intervention of Etruria in favour of a countryman who had been injured in Rome, for the very sufficient reason that the Etruscans notwithstanding their complete victory neither restored the Roman monarchy, nor even brought back the Tarquinian family.
Powers Of The Consuls
If we are left in ignorance of the historical connections of this important event, we are fortunately in possession of clearer light as to the nature of the change which was made in the constitution. The royal power was by no means abolished, as is shown by the very fact that, when a vacancy occurred afterwards as before, an "interim king" (-interrex-) was nominated. The one life-king was simply replaced by two year-kings, who called themselves generals (-praetores-), or judges (-iudices-), or merely colleagues (consules).(3) The principles of collegiate tenure and of annual duration are those which distinguish the republic from the monarchy, and they first meet us here.
The collegiate principle, from which the third and subsequently most current name of the annual kings was derived, assumed in their case an altogether peculiar form. The supreme power was not entrusted to the two magistrates conjointly, but each consul possessed and exercised it for himself as fully and wholly as it had been possessed and exercised by the king. This was carried so far that, instead of one of the two colleagues undertaking perhaps the administration of justice, and the other the command of the army, they both administered justice simultaneously in the city just as they both set out together to the army; in case of collision the matter was decided by a rotation measured by months or days. A certain partition of functions withal, at least in the supreme military command, might doubtless take place from the outset--the one consul for example taking the field against the Aequi, and the other against the Volsci--but it had in no wise binding force, and each of the colleagues was legally at liberty to interfere at any time in the province of the other. When, therefore, supreme power confronted supreme power and the one colleague forbade what the other enjoined, the consular commands neutralized each other. This peculiarly Latin, if not peculiarly Roman, institution of co-ordinate supreme authorities--which in the Roman commonwealth on the whole approved itself as practicable, but to which it will be difficult to find a parallel in any other considerable state --manifestly sprang out of the endeavour to retain the regal power in legally undiminished fulness. They were thus led not to break up the royal office into parts or to transfer it from an individual to a college, but simply to double it and thereby, if necessary, to neutralize it through its own action.
Term Of Office
As regards the termination of their tenure of office, the earlier -interregnum- of five days furnished a legal precedent.