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Tour of the Roman Senate House and Courthouse . Senate House – “ Curia ”. Courthouse – “ Basilica Julia ”. Roman Republic The Republic was broken into three branches of government . Executive two consuls (chief executives) 1 year terms elected commanded army

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Tour of the Roman Senate House and Courthouse

Senate House – “Curia”

Courthouse – “Basilica Julia”


Roman Republic

The Republic was broken into three branches of government.

  • Executive
  • two consuls (chief executives)
  • 1 year terms
  • elected
  • commanded army
  • directed government with advice of legislative branch
  • consuls could veto each other
  • Legislative
  • Senate and two Assemblies
  • wealthy citizens were members of the senate
  • all other citizens were members of the two assemblies
  • voted on laws and elected officials
  • Judicial
  • Praetors
  • oversaw the entire legal system
  • Elected officials
  • heads of the Roman court system

The division of power is an example of “Checks and Balances”



Here is a 3-D Model of the original senate house. The current one was rebuilt by Mussolini in the 1920s using original materials. The Curia is where the Roman Senators would meet and discuss politics.


These are the original senate doors that ancient Roman senators would walk through to get inside the senate house.

The senators were one of the three branches of the Roman Republic and were responsible for foreign and financial policies. In addition, the senators advised the two consuls (leaders) of Rome. The senate was seen as the most powerful of the three branches and was made up of wealthy landowners.


This is a model of the interior of the Curia (the senate house)

Besides the senate, the other groups in the legislative branch were the two assemblies. The assemblies consisted of all the “lower” class citizens. They were responsible for voting on laws and electing officials.


Judicial Branch

The Courthouse – Basilica Julia

A digital mock-up of what the courthouse looked like in ancient times.

Today this is all that remains

The duty of the Judicial branch was to carry out the laws of the Roman Empire in order to ensure peace, stability and order. 180 magistrates (judges) would oversee the court cases. They were broken into 4 court rooms, so there were 45 judges at each trial. The accused were allowed to have lawyers and the public was allowed to watch the trials. Oftentimes lawyers would hire crowds of spectators to applaud and jeer the opposing council. Thus, court cases were a form of entertainment for many Romans.


Digital representation of the interior of the Basilica Julia, the building was divided into four courts by simply putting up screens. The magistrates, lawyers, and accused would be on the bottom floor, while the spectators would be in the balconies above.


Roman Laws

The job of the judicial branch was to uphold Roman laws. These laws were based upon the concept of “natural law” which was first created by Greek philosophers. The main idea of natural law is that all humans possess the ability to reason, so if reason was common to all people, all people must be equal. If all human beings are fundamentally alike, they should all be subject to the same moral laws and principles. This is the basic principle that underlies the modern concept that people have natural rights that no government can deny.

If all humans must follow these laws, then the laws must be made public knowledge. In about 450 B.C. the Romans engraved their laws on tablets called the Twelve Tables. These laws were placed in the Forum for all to view. This was the first time the Romans had ever written down their laws, and these laws became the foundation of the Roman Republic.

In 521 AD – nearly 1,000 years after the Twelve Tables were written, Emperor Justinian ordered the compilation of all Roman laws from the time period of the Tables onward. This written record became known as the Justinian Code

To explore the Justinian Code you will be visiting the Basilica Julia and will complete the tasks on your handout.