Roman Social Classes

Topics: Social class, Roman Empire, Ancient Rome Pages: 5 (1834 words) Published: May 2, 2006
Ancient Rome was one of the most influential historical societies on our world today. From architecture to the basic way that the government was set up, they created a new era of thinking that set the standard for countries in the future, including how social classes were organized. Rome was an empire that was built upon its social classes with clearly defined roles that allowed for limited social mobility. There was a large gap between the wealthy upper class and the lower classes as well as slaves. Three main factors decided one's class, including wealth, freedom, and Roman citizenship. A person's social class determined what education, pastimes, and occupations were available to them. These classes included the elite upper class, a small middle class, and a majority of the population of lower class status, and slavery. The most powerful class in Rome consisted of the elite upper class of aristocrats, government officials, and their families. Most men inherited their prestigious position within the upper class. Government positions including senators, consuls, and nobles, were usually handed down from generation to generation and those men who were the first in their family to be elected consul were called "new men" . The members of this top class in the Roman Republic were called Patricians and included all political and top military positions in society. The equestrian class was also included in the lower parts of the upper class division and were considered Patricians. The basis of power was economic and a man could be enrolled as an equestrian if he could prove that he had a stable minimum amount of wealth and land ownership. By extension, his family members were also considered equestrians. If an equestrian gained position in the senate, then he moved up to the senatorial class, along with his family, although this was uncommon. Women of the upper class were born into and inherited their social position through their father. Women were arranged to marry men of the same status and class as their family, although slave women were not allowed to wed. Women were also limited in their rights to governmental positions and were not allowed hold senatorial or other political positions. This is not to say, however, that women within the society were not given some of the same rights as men. Women were allowed to get an education along with men; but the continuance of this education for women was primarily reserved for women from aristocratic families. Although aristocratic women enjoyed many freedoms within their high status, they were still considered to be subordinate to men. The head of the family was called the pater, or father, and had complete control over his family. For the aristocratic father, this meant living a life of luxury. Many of the elite lived in the main city of Rome and owned large estates in the country, which were maintained by slaves. The benefits that this provided included the freedom to attend social events within the city as well as having a secluded place of retreat. The social structure of the Roman Republic created an extremely small middle class, something that is much different from society today. The majority of the population had a low standard of living and many occupations that would today place one in the middle class would have put them in the lower class in Rome. The few that did belong to the middle class were mostly business men and investors. Most people in Roman society could only make enough money to cover their basic family living expenses. This meant that even the middle class lived tightly. Those that owned stores may have been considered middle class simply because ownership of a business did give one a property value above that of a man who had no money to invest, and the small businessman might therefore be viewed as a separate category of the lower class. The largest group in society, despite being ruled by the few elite, was the lower class that consisted...

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