chapter  11
21 Pages

The Twelve Tables

The Greek historian Polybius, writing in the middle of the second century BC, described the Roman constitution as a balanced mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. This excellent system, he believed, was the product of a historical process of trial and error which culminated in the Valerio-Horatian Laws of 449 BC. From that moment, he tells us, the Roman political system continued to progress, until it reached perfection at the time of the Hannibalic War (6.11.1). This idea, that the events of 449 BC marked the end of the formative stage of Rome's political development, was not dreamed up by Polybius, but was already well rooted in the Roman historiographical tradition. It was certainly in Cato's Origines, from where it was borrowed by Cicero.! As far as the Romans were concerned, the revolution that created the Republic as they knew it was not the overthrow of the monarchy at the end of the sixth century BC, but the upheaval that occurred in the middle of the fifth.