Patrician (ancient Rome): Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This page is about the social and political class in ancient Rome. For other uses of the term see Patrician.

The term patrician (Latin: patricius, Greek: πατρίκιος) originally referred to a group of elite citizens in ancient Rome, including both their natural and adopted members. In the late Roman Empire, the class was broadened to include high council officials, and after the fall of the Western Empire it remained a high honorary title in the Byzantine Empire. Medieval patrician classes were once again formally defined groups of elite burgher families in many medieval Italian republics, such as Venice and Genoa, and subsequently "patrician" became a vaguer term used for aristocrats and elite bourgeoisie in many countries.

Contents

Etymology

The word "patrician" is derived from the Latin word patricius (plural patricii), which comes from patrēs, the plural of the Latin word pater ("father"). Pater was one of the terms applied to the original members of the Roman Senate. The word comes down in English as "patrician" from the Middle English patricion, from the Old French patrician. In modern English, the word patrician is generally used to denote a member of the upper class, often with connotations of inherited wealth, elitism, and a sense of noblesse oblige.

Origin

According to Livy, the first 100 men appointed as senators by Romulus were referred to as "fathers" (patres)[1], and the descendants of those men became the Patrician class [2].

Roman Republic and Empire

Advertisements

Status

Patricians were bestowed special status as Roman citizens. They were better represented in the Roman assemblies. The Comitia Centuriata, the main legislative body, was divided into 193 voting centuriae (centuries). The first two classes (which consisted largely of patricians) together had 98 centuriae, a number which was enough to obtain a majority, despite the fact that they were fewer in number. That meant that if the patricians acted in concord, they could always determine the result of the voting of the people's assembly. So, although it was not forbidden for plebeians to hold magistracies, the patricians dominated the political scene for centuries.

In the beginning of the Republic, all priesthoods were closed to non-patricians. There was a belief that patricians communicated better with the Roman gods, so they alone could perform the sacred rites and take the auspices. This view had political consequences, since in the beginning of the year or before a military campaign, Roman magistrates used to consult the gods. Livy reports that the first admission of plebeians into a priestly college happened in 300 B.C. [3] when the college of Augurs raised their number from four to nine. After that, plebeians were accepted into the other religious colleges, and by the end of the republic, only minor priesthoods with little political importance like the Salii, the Flamines and the Rex Sacrorum were exclusively filled by patricians.

In the list of the names of the Romans who held magistracies (the Fasti), very few plebeian names appear before the 2nd century B.C. The turning point were two laws, the Licinian - Sextian law of 367 B.C. that ascertained the right of plebeians to hold the consulship, and the Genucian law of 342 B.C. that made it compulsory that one at least of the consuls be a plebeian.

The ancient patrician gentes whose members appear in founding legends of Rome disappeared as Rome started becoming an empire and new plebeian families rose to prominence, such as the Decii and the Sempronii. Families such as the Horatii, Lucretii, Verginii and Menenii seem to vanish after the 2nd century B.C. Others, such as the Julii reappear only at the end of the Republic. There are some cases where the same gens name was shared by patrician and plebeian clans (for example the Appii Claudii were patricians and the Claudii Marcelli were plebeians).

Patricians vs. Plebeians

The distinction between patricians and plebeians in Ancient Rome was based purely on birth. Although modern writers often portray patricians as rich and powerful families who managed to secure power over the less-fortunate plebeian families, most historians argue that this is an over-simplification. As civil rights for plebeians increased during the middle and late Roman Republic, many plebeian families had attained wealth and power while some traditionally patrician families had fallen into poverty and obscurity.

Historian Adrian Richard states that patrician families were initially those who held positions within the priesthoods, and that the ancient Senate, composed of patricians, was a religious advisory body. The Senate, acting as a council of religious elders, had political power because it was necessary to have their assent on new laws. The priestly class would confirm that the new laws were in keeping with mos maiorum and would give their auctoritas to the measures that could then be enacted.


2 Consuls Head of Government PATRICIANS 1 year term Consuls chose the Senators Ran the government, overseeing the work of other government officials. Directed (commanded) the army Acted as judges In an emergency, consuls could choose a dictator – a single ruler to make quick decisions. Both consuls had to agree on their decisions. Each had the power to Veto the other. In Latin, veto means “I forbid.”


Senate (300 members)

PATRICIANS Life term

Advised the consuls. Advised the Assembly. Directed spending, including tax dollars Approved or disapproved laws made by the Assembly Made decisions concerning relationships with foreign powers


Assembly PLEBEIANS

Elected the 2 Consuls Elected government officials including judges.

Voted on laws suggested by government officials Declared war or peace

Patrician families

The following gentes were regarded as patrician, although they may have had plebeian members or branches.

A number of other gentes originally belonged to the patricians, but were known chiefly from their plebeian branches.

Gentes maiores et minores

Amongst the patricians, certain families were known as the gentes maiores, the greatest or perhaps the most noble houses. The other patrician families were called the gentes minores. Whether this distinction had any legal significance is not known, but it has been suggested that the princeps senatus, or speaker of the senate, was traditionally chosen from the gentes maiores.

No list of the gentes maiores has been discovered, and even their number is entirely unknown. It has been suggested that the Aemilii, Claudii, Cornelii, Fabii, Manlii, and Valerii were amongst them. The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology suggests that the gentes maiores consisted of those families that had settled at Rome in the time of Romulus, or at least before the destruction of Alba Longa. The noble Alban families which settled at Rome in the time of Tullus Hostilius then formed the nucleus of the gentes minores; these included the Tulii, Servilii, Quinctii, Geganii, Curiatii, and Cloelii.

However, Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities suggests that the Alban families were also included amongst the gentes maiores, and that the gentes minores consisted of the families admitted to the patriciate under the Tarquins and in the early years of the Republic. In any case, the distinction cannot have been based entirely on priority, because the Claudii did not arrive at Rome until after the expulsion of the kings.[4][5][6][7]

Late Roman and Byzantine periods

Patrician status still carried a degree of prestige at the time of the early Roman Empire, and Roman emperors routinely elevated their supporters to the patrician caste en masse. The prestige and meaning of the status gradually degraded, and by the end of the 3rd-century crisis, patrician status, as it had been known in the Republic, ceased to have meaning in everyday life. The Emperor Constantine reintroduced the term as the empire's senior honorific title, not tied to any specific administrative position.[8] The historian Zosimus even states that in Constantine's time, the holders of the title ranked above the praetorian prefects.[9] In the Western Empire, the title was sparingly used and retained its high prestige, being awarded, especially in the 5th century, on the powerful magistri militum who dominated the state, such as Stilicho, Constantius III, Aëtius, Boniface, and Ricimer.[8] In the East Theodosius II also barred the eunuchs from holding it, although this restriction had been overturned by the 6th century. Under Justinian I (r. 527-565), the title proliferated and was consequently somewhat devalued, as the emperor opened it up to all those above illustris rank, i.e. the majority of the Senate.[10]

In the 8th century, the title was further lowered in the court order of precedence, coming after the magistros and the anthypatos. However it remained one of the highest in the imperial hierarchy until the 11th century, being awarded to the most important stratēgoi (provincial governors and generals) of the Empire.[8] The eunuch patrikioi enjoyed higher precedence, coming before even the anthypatoi.[11] According to the late 9th-century Klētorologion, the insignia of the dignity were ivory inscribed tablets.[12] During the 11th century, the dignity of patrikios followed the fate of other titles: extensively awarded, it lost in status, and disappeared during the Komnenian period in the early 12th century.[8] The title of prōtopatrikios ("first patrician") is also evidenced in the East from 367 to 711, possibly referring to the senior-most holder of the office and leader of the patrician order (taxis).[8][13] The feminine variant patrikia (πατρικία) denoted the spouses of patrikioi; it is not to be confused with the title of zostē patrikia ("girded patrikia"), which was a special dignity conferred on the ladies-in-waiting of the empress.[8]

The patrician title was occasionally used in Western Europe after the end of the Roman Empire; for instance, Pope Stephen II granted the title "Patrician of the Romans" to the Frankish ruler Pepin III.[8] The revival of patrician classes in medieval Italian republics, and also north of the Alps, is covered in Patricianship.

References

  1. ^ Kenny Zeng, 2007, A History Of Ancient and Early Rome
  2. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:8
  3. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 10.7.9
  4. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  5. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 30, ii. 16.
  6. ^ Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, Second Edition, Harry Thurston Peck, Editor (1897)
  7. ^ Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1970).
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Kazhdan (1991), p. 1600
  9. ^ Zosimus, Historia Nova, II.40.2
  10. ^ Bury (1911), p. 27
  11. ^ Bury (1911), p. 124
  12. ^ Bury (1911), p. 22
  13. ^ Bury (1911), p. 28

Sources

  • Bury, John B. (1911). The Imperial Administrative System of the Ninth Century. Oxford University Publishing.  
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.  
  • Kurt Raaflaub, ed. Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders (Blackwell Publishing, 2005)
  • Gary Forsythe, 2005, A Critical History of Early Rome. University of California Press.
  • Kenny Zeng, 2007, A History Of Ancient and Early Rome

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message