509 BCE: Birth of the Roman Republic

The Romans swearing an oath over Lucretia’s body. Detail from S. Botticelli’s The Story of Lucretia, c. 1500. (Public Domain)


According to Roman legends, the Republic is born in 509 BCE when the Romans expel their last king and swear never to be governed by a tyrant again.


Liberty or libertas and equality before the law are cherished cornerstones in the Roman republic. According to the Roman historian Livy:


“the Romans… valued liberty first… no man stood above the law. They valued their liberty so much precisely because their last king had been so great a tyrant…”
– Livy, History of Rome 2.1