Those among these elite Patrician families who had filled any superior office, were considered noble, and possessed the right of making images of themselves, which were transmitted to their descendants, and formed part of their domestic worship. The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Patricians.
Status of the Patricians
Patricians were bestowed special status as Roman citizens. At the beginning of the Roman Republic all priesthoods were closed to non-patricians which was based on the belief that patricians communicated better with the Roman gods, so they alone could perform the sacred rites and rituals and take the auspices.
History of the Patricians and Clients
Following the founding of Rome by Romulus the Roman people consisted only of Patricians and their Clients. The Patricians formed the Populus Romanus, or sovereign people, the elite Romans. They alone had political rights; the Clients were entirely dependent upon them. A Patrician had a certain number of Clients attached to him personally. To these he acted as a Patronus or Patron. He was bound to protect the interests of the Client both in public and private, while the Client had to render many services to his patron. A client had property of their own and freedom. As the number of clients increased this early group were absorbed into the class called the Plebieans.
The Tribes of the Patricians
The Patricians were divided by Romulus into three Tribes; the Ramnes, or Romans of Romulus; the Tities, or Sabines of Titus Tatius; and the Luceres, or Etruscans of Caeles, a Lucumo or Etruscan noble, who assisted Romulus in the war against the Sabines. Each tribe was divided into 10 curiae (political subdivision), and each curiae into 10 gentes (gentes was a family clan). The 30 curiae formed the Comitia Curiata, a sovereign assembly of the Patricians. This assembly elected the king, made the laws, and decided in all cases affecting the life of a citizen. Each of the three tribes was bound to furnish 1000 men for the infantry and 100 men for the cavalry. Thus 3000 foot-soldiers and 300 horse-soldiers formed the original army of the Roman state, and were called a Legion. The number of tribes was afterwards increased to thirty-five.
Patricians and the founding of the Senate
To assist him in the government Romulus selected a number of aged men, forming a Senate, or Council of Elders, who were called Patres, or Senators. It consisted at first of 100 members, which number was increased to 200 when the Sabines were incorporated in the state.
Patricians and the Right of Images
Patricians whose ancestors or themselves had been a Consul, Praetor, Censor or Curule Edile, were called nobiles (nobles)and had the right of making images of themselves, which were kept with great care for their posterity, and carried before them at funerals. These images were merely the busts of persons down to the shoulders, made of wax, and painted, which they used to place in the courts of their houses, enclosed in wooden cases, and seem not to have brought out, except on solemn occasions. There were titles or inscriptions written below them, pointing out the honors they had enjoyed, and the exploits they had performed. Originally this right of images was peculiar to the Patricians; but afterwards, the Plebeians also acquired it, when admitted to the office of a high ranking magistrate.
The Patricians and the Plebeians
The people of Rome were at first only separated into two ranks; the Patricians and Plebeians. The Plebeian order was composed of the lowest class of freemen. Those who resided in the city, were called “Plebs urbana;” those who lived in the country, “Plebs rustica.” But the distinction did not consist in name only, the latter were the most respectable. The Plebs urbana consisted not only of the poorer mechanics and laborers, but of a multitude of idlers who chiefly subsisted on the public bounty, and whose turbulence was a constant source of problems to the government. There were leading men among the Plebeians who were kept in pay by the corrupt magistrates in order to influence the 'mob'.
The Patricians, Plebeians, Knights and Slaves
The Patricians and Plebeians were originally the only two classes of Romans but afterwards the Equites or Knights were added; and at a later period, slavery was introduced, making in all, four classes:
- Knights or Equites