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Patrician

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Definition:

The patricians were the upper class of Rome. Two Latin terms are used to designate them, patres and patricii. Where exactly they come from is not known, but many people have theorized about it and repeated what traditions claim. Here you'll read about a few of these ideas.

Patricians may have originally been relatives of the patres 'fathers', the heads of the families of the old tribes of Rome. Patres could refer to members of the senate, since during the Republic, the senators were referred to as patres et conscripti 'conscript (and) fathers,' whether or not they were patricians.

On the other hand, Patres sometimes referred not to the senate but to patricians.

Staveley says that traditionalists have no sense of confusion. "For them the original Senate of Romulus, which derived its collective title patres from the fact of its being an assembly of patres familiae, was itself all-patrician." The plebeian element of the Senate was found in the conscripti, as distinct from the patres. Patres et conscripti may have later been used to distinguish the senators created in the regal period from ones added later or it may have distinguished hereditary senators from non-hereditary ones in the Regal period. However, the term patricii also designates the hereditary senators.

The Old Tribes

The old patricians were thought to have been divided into 3 tribes, Tities, Luceres, and Ramnes. Each tribe consisted of 10 curiae. Patricians lost privileges over time, but patrician status and parentage remained necessary for the confarreatio type of marriages, ceremonial positions, and ancient priestly functions, including the vestal virgins.

The patricians as a group are sometimes referred to as the patriciate.

Reference:

  • "patricians" The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Ed. M.C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • "The Nature and Aims of the Patriciate," by E. Stuart Staveley; Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 32, H. 1 (1st Qtr., 1983), pp. 24-57.

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