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Roman Republic vs. Roman Empire: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 8, 2023
The Roman Republic was a period of ancient Roman civilization with elected leaders, while the Roman Empire was a subsequent era of autocratic rule by emperors.

Key Differences

The Roman Republic was characterized by a system of elected officials and checks and balances, lasting from 509 BC to 27 BC. In contrast, the Roman Empire, beginning in 27 BC with Augustus, marked a shift to autocratic rule by emperors.
During the Roman Republic, power was vested in the Senate, assemblies, and elected magistrates. The Roman Empire centralized power in the hands of the emperor, diminishing the roles of other political bodies.
The Roman Republic was known for its political and social structures, which included the participation of Roman citizens in governance. The Roman Empire, however, was marked by a more hierarchical and top-down governance structure, focusing on the emperor's authority.
The Roman Republic's period witnessed significant military and territorial expansion, often managed by generals who were elected officials. Under the Roman Empire, these military expansions continued, but they were directed by the emperor or his appointed generals.
In the Roman Republic, legal and cultural developments were influenced by a broader group of the ruling class and citizenry. The Roman Empire saw a greater consolidation of cultural and legal authority under the emperor, shaping the empire's identity around his persona.

Comparison Chart


Elected officials and Senate
Autocratic rule by an emperor

Political Structure

Checks and balances among various bodies
Centralized power in the hands of the emperor

Citizen Participation

Active role in governance through assemblies
Limited political participation for citizens

Military Leadership

Military commanded by elected generals
Military directed by the emperor or his appointees

Cultural and Legal Authority

Influence from ruling class and citizenry
Consolidated under the emperor's authority

Roman Republic and Roman Empire Definitions

Roman Republic

The Republic was characterized by its shared political power.
The Roman Republic allowed citizens to participate in assemblies.

Roman Empire

The Empire saw reduced political roles for traditional bodies like the Senate.
In the Roman Empire, the Senate's power was largely symbolic.

Roman Republic

It was a period where legal and cultural development involved citizen input.
The Roman Republic's laws evolved with significant input from the citizenry.

Roman Empire

Military conquests in this era were directed by the emperor.
The Roman Empire expanded its borders under the strategic commands of its emperors.

Roman Republic

The Roman Republic was a period of ancient Rome with elected governance.
The Senate played a crucial role in the Roman Republic's political system.

Roman Empire

Cultural and legal developments were shaped by the emperor.
The Roman Empire's cultural identity was often a reflection of the emperor's vision.

Roman Republic

This era saw the expansion of Rome's territories through elected generals.
In the Roman Republic, military victories greatly expanded Roman influence.

Roman Empire

It featured a top-down governance structure.
The Roman Empire's governance was heavily influenced by the emperor's decisions.

Roman Republic

It represented a complex system of checks and balances.
The Roman Republic's consuls were balanced by the authority of the Senate.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire was marked by autocratic rule by emperors.
Under the Roman Empire, Augustus centralized political power.


How was power distributed in the Roman Republic?

Through elected officials, the Senate, and assemblies.

Did the Roman Republic have a single ruler?

No, it operated under a system of elected officials.

What marked the beginning of the Roman Empire?

The reign of Emperor Augustus in 27 BC.

How did the Roman Empire differ in military leadership?

Military leadership was centralized under the emperor.

When did the Roman Republic exist?

From 509 BC to 27 BC.

Who held the ultimate authority in the Roman Empire?

The emperor.

Did the Roman Empire continue territorial expansion?

Yes, but under the direction of the emperor.

Were there significant cultural differences between the two eras?

Yes, the Empire often reflected the emperor's influence more strongly.

How did military strategy change from the Republic to the Empire?

It became more centralized and strategically aligned with the emperor's goals.

What happened to the assemblies in the Roman Empire?

Their role and influence significantly diminished.

How did the transition from Republic to Empire affect Rome's citizens?

It led to reduced political participation and changes in social and legal structures.

Was the Roman Empire more centralized than the Republic?

Yes, particularly in terms of political power.

Did the Roman Republic have a clear succession plan for leaders?

No, leaders were elected rather than having a hereditary system.

Were citizens involved in governance during the Roman Empire?

Citizen participation was significantly reduced compared to the Republic.

What was a consul in the Roman Republic?

A consul was one of the highest elected officials in the Republic.

How did the role of the Senate change from the Republic to the Empire?

It became largely symbolic in the Empire.

What kind of legal system existed in the Roman Republic?

A more participatory legal system with input from citizens.

Was the Roman Empire more stable than the Republic?

Stability varied, but the Empire had periods of significant internal and external challenges.

Did the Roman Republic have emperors?

No, it was governed by elected officials and a Senate.

How did public works projects differ between the two periods?

They were often larger and more imperial in scale during the Empire.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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