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The paper examines the significance of political crises (seditiones, certamina civilia, secessiones) in the history of the Early and Late Republic. Its main contentions are as follows. (1) The plebeian organization, created by a part of the ‘hoplite class’ (classis) as a syndicate of self-defence against what they considered persecution by the state authorities, became the champion of the Roman poor only after the viritane assignation of the ager Veientanus Capenas, which, by depriving the great landowners, i.e. the patricians, of the client labour force made debt-slavery an acute socio-political problem. Tribunes’ auxilium offered in 380 to the insolvent debtors led to a prodigious growth of the plebeian organisation which by 367 broke the patricians’ monopoly on political power. (2) The military revolt of 342 and the resulting upheaval of 341–339 fixed the democratic formula of the Republic’ empire, the principle of constant participation of the whole community in profits it generated, thus making possible the acceptance of horrible losses which went with continuous imperial expansion. (3) The third secession of 287/286 was a part of a revolutionary period when the plebeian organisation reverted to its original position of a counter-state, inherently antagonistic to the state institutions, winning for the tribunes unrestrained political initiative (lex Hortensia) and giving them an instrument for paralysing actions of state authorities aiming at thwarting it or putting in peril social, economic and political gains of the preceding century (re-formulation of the tribunes’ intercessio as their right to veto actions of the magistrates and resolutions of the senate they found harmful to the plebs’ interests).