ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Patricians and Plebeians

Updated on November 24, 2009

In Roman history the distinction between patricians and plebeians is first noted in the period following the expulsion of the kings (i.e. the 5th century B.C.). The word patrician comes from pater, father, the Roman Senate being known as patres. The patricians therefore were the clan which monopolized membership of the Senate whilst the plebeians formed the rest of the citizen body of Rome. The two clans were not racially different, and the origin of the division is difficult to conjecture. Perhaps the patricians had accumulated possession of most of the land, like the Eupatrids in Athens and the Spartiates at Sparta.

The struggle of the plebs to gain political equality is known as the 'Struggle of the Orders'. The chief landmarks in this conflict were: the creation of the office of Tribune and the popular assembly in 493 B.C.; the publication of the law in 451 B.C.; concession of the right of intermarriage between patricians and plebeians, in 445 B.C.; admission of plebeians to the quaestorship (421 B.C.), consulship (366 B.C.), dictatorship (356 B.C.), censorship (351 B.C.), and praetorship (337 B.C.). Finally in 287 B.C. it was recognized that formal decisions of the plebs (plebiscita) were legally binding on the whole body of the citizens, including patricians. In theory the popular assembly became the sovereign body in Rome; in practice the Senate, now open to plebeians, retained control of affairs.

The plebeians were able to extort all these concessions because they formed the backbone of the army, and because they organized themselves, as a state within the state, to take advantage of the power which their principal weapon, the threat of secession, gave them. During the 3rd century, the distinction between plebeians and patricians became less important, though patricians continued to take pride in their distinguished ancestry. Plebeians could assume the traditionally patrician magistracies, but patricians were not allowed to become tribunes, unless they were adopted into a plebeian family. Thus Clodius, the violent tribune of the late republic, was born a member of the patrician gens Claudia.

Alongside the decline in political importance of the patricians went a decline in their number. There are about 50 patrician gentes known in the 5th century B.C., 22 in 367 B.C., and 14 by the end of the republic. Most of these had died out by the time of Vespasian. Constantine reintroduced the title 'patrician' as a mark of distinction for loyal service.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      shaedee matson 

      7 years ago

      what is a dolphin


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)