The plebeians and the patricians were two distinct classes of Roman citizens. The rich upper class individuals that made up the patricians. The rest were regarded as plebeians.
In the early Roman Empire, the patricians were the ruling elite. You had to be born into one of a select group of families to belong to the patrician class. The patricians retained all the power despite making up a very small portion of the Roman populace.
The rest of Rome’s residents were all Plebeians. Roman farmers, artisans, laborers, and soldiers were known as plebeians.
The plebeians’ privileges were limited in early Rome. Patriots occupied all of the leadership positions in both the government and the church. The patricians controlled the government, owned the lands, and commanded the army. Both the ability to hold public office and the ability to marry a patrician were denied to plebeians.
The Plebian Uprising
The plebeians first rebelled against the patricians’ power in about 494 BC. This conflict is referred to as the “Conflict of the Orders.” More rights were granted to the plebeians during a period of about 200 years. As a form of protest, they went on strike. They would temporarily abandon the city, refuse to go to work, or even refuse to serve in the military. The ability to marry patricians and run for office were among the rights that the plebeians eventually attained.
The Twelve Tables of Law
The Law of the Twelve Tables was one of the plebeians’ earliest victories over the patricians. The Twelve Tables were a set of laws that were visible to everyone. No matter their social level, they safeguarded a few fundamental rights for all Roman citizens.
The plebeians were eventually permitted to choose their own government representatives. They chose “tribunes” to stand in for the common people and defend their rights. The Roman senate could not pass new laws without their approval.
The legal distinctions between the plebeians and the patricians gradually diminished. Plebeians had the opportunity to run for senate seats and even become consuls. Marriage was also possible for plebs and patricians. Rich plebs were admitted to the Roman nobility. The patricians always controlled the majority of the money and power in Ancient Rome, notwithstanding changes in the rules.
Plebeians and Patricians: Interesting Facts
Slaves made up a third social class in ancient Rome. Slaves made up almost a third of the population in Rome.
Cicero, one of Rome’s most illustrious senators, was a plebe. As the first member of his family to be elected to the senate, he was referred to as a “New Man.”
Plebeians and patricians did not typically interact on a social level.
Despite being a patrician, Julius Caesar was occasionally regarded as a champion of the underclass.
The chosen tribunes served as the Plebeian Council’s leaders. The Plebeian Council enacted several new legislation since the processes were less complicated than in the senate. After the Roman Republic was overthrown, the Plebeian Council lost its authority.
In American military schools, first-year students are known as “plebs.”
The most well-known patrician families include Valeria, Cornelia, Fabia, Claudia, Julia (Julius Caesar), and Cornelia.