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Roman society

ROMAN SOCIETY

The changes in the Roman government affected the social classes and rights

gradually became more equal among the people of Rome. New laws and new leaders

tried to make society become closer in equality through reforms. It was a long and

difficult process to be freed or to become a citizen of Rome and not many

accomplished it. Plebeians and woman were thought of as worthless citizens in society,

but through time they gained more rights. To show that this is true, I will be

addressing four topics: plebeians versus. patricians, women, merchants and artisans,

and slaves and non-citizens.

When Rome established a republic in 509 B.C., two major classes developed.

The patricians controlled the government with a Senate, made up of 300 elected

officials. The senate chose two consuls to administer the laws of Rome. The only

power that plebeians had in the government was with a popular assembly, which

approved the choice of consuls. Plebeians could not hold public office or marry into a

patrician family. During the time of the Republic to the time of the empire, plebeians,

who fought in many wars to help Rome gain power, demanded more rights. The

government slowly began to change to appeal to plebeians who out-numbered everyone

else in population.

Around 494 B.C., an Assembly of Centuries and an Assembly of Tribes

rly of Centuries and an Assembly of Tribes

replaced the popular assembly. The Assembly of Centuries represented the Roman

Army and all the classes that were included in it and they elected the consuls. The

Assembly of Tribes was made up of ten elected plebeians and spoke for the plebeians

interests, but had little influence on the government.

In 445 B.C, plebeians won the right to marry patricians. The Assembly of

Tribes gained the right to pass laws and veto any government action that threatened the

rights of the plebeians. By about 300 B.C., plebeians had earned the right to hold all

major political and religious posts. In 366 B.C., they won the right to consulship.

When Rome took over the control of an empire, the discrimination between the classes

became indistinct.

Julius Caesar was one of the many emperors that tried to bring the rich and poor

closer tothe poor by limiting the wealthy

peoples' land ownership.

During the early republic, the woman of Rome had few legal rights. A male

was always responsible for the care and support of the family's women. The question

of women as heirs was irrelevant. Like all plebeians, even women patricians could not

vote or hold public office. They were usually married off around the age of 14 to be

housewives.

Even though women didn't have many rights, thethe poor by limiting the wealthy

peoples' land ownership.

During the early republic, the woman of Rome had few legal rights. A male

was always responsible for the care and support of the family's women. The question

of women as heirs was irrelevant. Like all plebeians, even women patricians could not

vote or hold public office. They were usually married off around the age of 14 to be

housewives.

Even though women didn't have man Rome, especially if their husbands or fathers held

public office. Examples of these women would be Messalina (wife of emperor

Claudius), Livia (second wife of Augustus), and Julia and Julia (daughter of Augustus

and granddaughter of Augustus).

During early Rome, the Merchants and artisans were included among the

common people. But, as the republic changed to an empire, it helped them out a lot.

With the empire expanding and the need to spread the Roman culture, merchants and

artisans became more important than ever. The artisans spread the Roman culture by

sending their many crafts and "masterpieces" to the newly conquered lands. The

merchants, with all of this new land under Roman power, were free to trade along any

route as Rome controlled most of them. Most of this rising of the merchants and

artisans status happened during the Pax Romana. Grn Ron Rome, especially if their hu0Aclass and some rich merchants and artisans joined the upper class.

At the bottom of all of the classes were the slaves and non-citizens. Neither of

them had very many rights. Slaves were usually prisoners of war from countries that

the Roman empire had taken over. They were used as gladiators along with criminals

(some freedmen did volunteer, though, for these "murderous Games" also). In

addition, slaves were used as actors in early Roman plays and were owned by the

managers who produced the plays. Some laws even specified that only slaves might be

tortured. But later, freemen could also be tortured in cases of treason. It was the right

of the master to offer his slaves for torture in order to prove his own innocence or to

discipline them. It was also his right to free any slaves that he owned if they showed

their honor to him in a time of crisis, which he would have to prove. The right to

torture slaves was not removed in Roman law until in 240 A.D.

Many non-citizens were also treated as if they were slaves. They usually were

from some land conquered by the Romans, and were trying to make a better life in one

of the cities. Intermarriages among the citizens and non-citizens of Rome were not

allowed. The only way people were granted citizenship was if someone of high power

gaveure ure slaves was not removed in Roman law until in 240 A.D.

Many non-citizens were also treated as if they were slaves. They usually were

from some land conquered by the Romans, and were trying to make a better life in one

of the cities. Intermarriages among the citizens and non-citizens of Rome were not

allowed. The only way people were granted citizenship was if someone of high power

gave it to them. Soon the lands surrounding Rome under Roman Power were

considered provinces of Rome, therefor the people that lived in them werhe rights among the people of Rome

through long and difficult processes, became closer to equality. All of the social

classes went through individual changes. Some, like the patricians, lost more in the

end than what they started out with. Others, like non-citizens gained more rights with

laws that affected them. Overall, they each were effected by the government of the

Roman empire.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1) World History, Patterns of Civilization. New Jersey: Burton F. Beers, 1993

2) Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1993

3) The World Book Encyclopedia Chicago, London, Sydney, Toronto, 1985

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