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Roman Social Structure

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Victoria Wohl

CLA 160 March 5, 2014 Roman Social Structure • Romans would wear costumes to reflect their ranks in the social order • Male citizen wore a toga over a tunic • Only citizens were allowed to wear togas • This distinguished romans and citizens from slaves and foreigners • There were a lot of subtleties, the normal toga was un-dyed wool, senators wore wide purple stripes on their tunic and on their toga • You could tell immediately that they were senators, they also wore gold rings with their seals on them that showed their family crest • No one else was allowed to this • Equestrian class wore two narrower purple stripes on their tunic • There were other types of tunics for different classes of people • All of this was legislated by law and it was illegal to wear an outfit that was forbidden by your rank • Social structure became visible was through the system of patronage o Widespread and fundamental to roman society and to roman psychology o Individual would find another person who was more powerful/rich and he would go to that person for advice, support, protector o Protector was called the patronus o Subordinate person was called the cline o Patron would give advice and help with lawsuits, business, financial support o In exchange the client would give loyalty (fiedas) o They would do services for them, work for political campaign, be a part of his public entourage o Patron gets to show off how many clients he has o Shows that he is a good guy who helps a lot of people o Also shows how wealthy he is o Arelationship that has continued in the mafia, where you have the lord and everybody comes and kisses his ring and asks him for help o This shows the difference in rank and you can see this just by walking through the street o Way of maintaining the superiority of the elite o The elite show off and go through the street with their purple stripes and gold rings, with their clients as their entourage o The poor start feeling resentment because of this o When there is resentment, there is potential for class strife  They create personal bonds between client and patron to help combat class strife  This was a way of creating a personal bond between the elite and the plebians, bonds that would last generations • This was a personal relationship of responsibility of the patronus and the respect of the client (loyalty was very important to the romans) • Arelationship bound together by mutual duty (pietas) • The system of patronage displays the class structure and binds the classes together though personal relationships • The bigger the crowd, the bigger person you were • People would notice how many clients other people have, this would indicate their status • Patronage system works similarily as the funeral system, displays not just wealth but benefices o Look how many of my ancestors have served the state through patronage o Patron/client relationship is showing how many people he helps (what he does with the money, not how much money they actually help) o Superior vitues • The relationship isn’t simple, it is tied with personal relationships o If you were a middle level senator you were doing favours to people below you but you are are occasionally asking favors of people above you o Most people were in this position of generosity and a position of dependency o The privilege of patronus and humiliation of being a client o Complexity of roman social relations • The elite and the demos o TheAthenians didn’t like talking about class difference o It was a democracy, the ideal was that everyone was equal o So they pretended that there was no difference o Romans raised class distinction to a fine art o It was complex yet subtle • Legal status had to do with social relations o Complex society and one in which that social differences were nuanced (micro distinctions) o Hierarchy matters to the Romans and yet determining that could be complicated and subtle o There is a lot of room for negotiation and anxiety, partly explains how roman status is displayed • No standing police force in Rome, because people were nervous having people armed in the city that they called home o The point is that is the whole society was finely hierarchized o People felt that they didn’t need a standing police because their society was so well organized through social hierarchy • Patronage system was widespread and gave romans an experience of being superior of subordinate, hierarchy began at home in the family o The familia included the nuclear family but as well as the slaves and random dependents o The household was governed with an iron fist by the father (pater familias) father of the family o Absolute legal control of the lives of all his descendants (patria petestos) o Power was valid until the father’s death (father had power over life/death) o First he had the decision whether to raise the infant or not, or will I leave them out to die (if the child had a birth defect or if it was a girl – sometimes-) o You still had the right to kill a grown full child, but there are examples of fathers using this extreme right and power over their sons o Brutus who was the first consul of Rome, after Brutus established the republic, there was a counter revolution and his own sons participated in it-he ordered his sons executed o Father who forbade his son to engage with the enemy, son disobeyed and won a great victory and the father had him executed for disobedience o Offered as examples of severity and were very rare o Pietos went both ways in this relationship, son had to obey and the father had the duty to support and educate his son o Strong bond of affection of support between father and son but the fact remains that the father had huge control over his son and all of his children o Power to approve or refuse the sons choice of bride, refuse or demand a divorce for one of his children, controlled his sons political career o The father controlled all of the property for his entire life, son did not inherit property while the father was alive o Son could not legally own property in his own name o Life expectancies were lower, but this gives the father an extraordinary amount of power of the sons o The fathers would have their sons run their estates when they are away and help them in their businesses, but legally it all still belonged to the father o He had the ability to disinherit his son if he felt the need o Age of 18 is the age of majority but they still remained subordinate until their father dies- very serious business o Mutual obligations that are a moral ideal and a virtue, but it has to be understood against a legal backdrop  If you don’t obey your father he could disown you (led to conflict) o Trapped in a state of permanent adolescence o Ideal of support and respect from son to father but also clearly a lot of room for resentment and anxiety • Slaves and ex-slaves o Most Romans were slave owners, they would have at least one or two o Some landowners had hundreds of slaves o Slaves helped with domestic aspects as well as d
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