Many causes contributed to bring about the fall of the Roman Republic in the first century before Christ. The vast extension of territory rendered the system of popular government inadequate for existing conditions, and the development of the idea of an elected representative government (the only system which renders a free government over a large area possible) was still thirteen centuries in the future. A second great cause was the vast inequalities of wealth which arose in Rome, and all efforts to remedy which, met with complete failure. From the time of the fall of the Gracchi, and the failure of their proposed reforms, the fate of the Republic was settled, although its final overthrow was postponed for two generations. The changes which created the empire were greater in reality than in theory, the early Emperors were life consuls and life praetors, and retained most of the old offices and popular assemblies, long after their independence and real authority had passed away.