Roman history begins with the kingdom. The individual kings are legendary rather than historical personages, and the whole history of this period is vague and uncertain. The overthrow of the kingdom is placed at 509 B. C, and the date may be taken as approximately correct, although no credit can be given to the historical accounts of the causes for this change in government. The king was superseded by two consuls, elected annually. These consuls possessed practically all the powers formerly belonging to the kings, and were elected by the patricians from their own numbers. Only patricians were members of the only popular assembly in existence at this period, the comitia curiata.

The overthrow of the kings was probably of no benefit to the lower classes of society, but almost immediately after this time we see the beginning of the long contest between the patricians and the plebeians. The patricians were the descendants of the early inhabitants of Rome, while the plebeians were the descendants of those who came later, perhaps combined with the descendants of the early slaves or serfs of the city. The internal history of Rome from the overthrow of the Tarquins in 509 B. C. to the passage of the Licinian Act in 367 B. C, mainly centers around the contest of the plebeians for political and civil rights. Starting with no political and few civil rights, we see this class emerge from the contest the equal of the patricians before the law in all respects.