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The aristocracyis a social class that a particular society considers its highest order. In many states, the aristocracy included the upper class of people (aristocrats) with hereditary rank and titles. In some, such as ancient Greece, Rome, and India—aristocratic status came from belonging to a military caste, although it has also been common, notably in African societies, for aristocrats to belong to priestly dynasties. Aristocratic status can involve feudal or legal privileges. They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy. In modern European societies, the aristocracy has often coincided with the nobility, a specific class that arose in the Middle Ages, but the term "aristocracy" is sometimes also applied to other elites, and is used as a more generic term when describing earlier and non-European societies.
The term aristocracy derives from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία ( aristokratia from ἄριστος (aristos) "excellent," and κράτος (kratos) "power."In most cases, aristocratic titles were and are hereditary.
The term "aristokratia" was first used in Athens with reference to young citizens (the men of the ruling class) who led armies at the front line. Due to martial bravery being highly regarded as a virtue in ancient Greece, it was assumed that the armies were being led by "the best." This virtue was called arete (ἀρετή). Etymologically, as the word developed, it also produced a more political term: aristoi (ἄριστοι). The term aristocracy is a compound word stemming from the singular of aristoi, aristos (ἄριστος), and the Greek word for power, kratos (κράτος).
From the ancient Greeks, the term passed to the European Middle Ages for a similar hereditary class of military leaders, often referred to as the nobility. As in Greece, this was a class of privileged men and women whose familial connections to the regional armies allowed them to present themselves as the most "noble" or "best" of society.
Aristocracy is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best'.
Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is an informal, varying code of conduct developed between 1170 and 1220, but never decided on or summarized in a single document. It was associated with the medieval Christian institution of knighthood; knights' and gentlewomen's behaviours were governed by chivalrous social codes. The ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, especially the Matter of Britain and Matter of France, the former informed by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written in the 1130s, which popularized the legend of King Arthur. All of these were taken as historically accurate until the beginnings of modern scholarship in the 19th century.
The Swedish nobility has historically been a legally and/or socially privileged class in Sweden, and part of the so-called frälse. The archaic term for nobility, frälse, also included the clergy, a classification defined by tax exemptions and representation in the diet. Today the nobility does not maintain its former privileges although family names, titles and coats of arms are still protected. The Swedish nobility consists of both "introduced" and "unintroduced" nobility, where the latter has not been formally "introduced" at the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). The House of Nobility still maintains a fee for male members over the age of 18 for upkeep on pertinent buildings in Stockholm.
The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth.
Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and among geographic regions, the following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.
The Russian nobility originated in the 14th century. In 1914 it consisted of approximately 1,900,000 members.
Originally, the Aristoi were tightly-knit families who had noble lineage, such as the Bacchiadae in ancient Corinth.
Aristoi is a 1992 science fiction novel by American writer Walter Jon Williams. It was one of the preliminary candidates for the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Novel in a particularly competitive year. The cover art for Aristoi was nominated for the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Original Artwork.
The Armenian nobility was a class of persons which enjoyed certain privileges relative to other members of society under the laws and customs of various regimes of Armenia. Governments which recognized or conferred nobility were the Kingdom of Van, Satrapy of Armenia, ancient Kingdom of Armenia, Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia (885-1045) and the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (1198-1375). The Armenian kingdoms of Vanand (963-1065), Syunik (987-1170), and Lori (978-1113) had a system of nobility that was similar to the nobility of Cilicia.
Ennoblement is the conferring of nobility—the induction of an individual into the noble class. Currently only a few kingdoms still grant nobility to people among them Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Vatican. Depending on time and region, various laws have governed who could be ennobled and how. Typically, nobility was conferred on individuals who had assisted the sovereign. In some countries, this degenerated into the buying of patents of nobility, whereby rich commoners could purchase a title of nobility.
The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were permanently abolished. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.
Croatian nobility was a privileged social class in Croatia during the Antiquity and Medieval periods of the country's history. Noble families in the Kingdom of Croatia included high ranking populates from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Istria, Bosnia and Republic of Ragusa. Members belonged to an elite social hierarchy, normally placed immediately behind blood royalty, that possessed considerably more privileges or eminence than most other classes in a society. Membership thereof typically was often hereditary. Historically, membership in the nobility and the prerogatives thereof have been regulated or acknowledged by the monarch. Acquisition of sufficient power, wealth, military prowess or royal favour enabled commoners to ascend into the nobility. The country's royalty was heavily influenced by France's nobility resulting members of the Royal Courts to assume French titles and practices during French occupation. The controversial assumption of French practices contributed to wide spread political and social elitism among the nobles and monarch. The nobility regarded the peasant class as an unseen and irrelevant substrata of people which lead to high causality revolts and beheadings as well as sporadic periods of intense domestic violence.
Landed nobility or landed aristocracy is a category of nobility in various countries over the history, for which landownership was part of their noble privileges. Their character depends on the country.
The structure of social class in Cambodia has altered several times throughout its history. The traditional hereditary elites were marginalised in the 1970s, when military leaders gained prominence, before the Khmer Rouge attempted to dramatically eliminate existing class structures in the late 1970s. Since the emergence of peace in the early 1990s social inequality has increased in Cambodia.
A kakistocracy [kækɪ'stɑkrəsi] is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the seventeenth century.
The chungin also jung-in, were the upper middle class of the Joseon Dynasty in medieval and early modern Korean society. The name "chungin" directly means "middle people". This privileged class of commoners consisted of a small group of petty bureaucrats and other highly educated skilled workers whose technical and administrative skills enabled the yangban and the royal family to rule the lower classes. Chungin were the lifeblood of the Confucian agrarian bureaucracy, for whom the upper classes depended on to maintain their vice-like hold on the people. Their traditions and habits are the forerunners of the modern Korean administrative systems in both North and South Korea.
Gentry are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry, the majority of the land-owning social class who were typically armigerous, but did not have titles of nobility. Gentry, in its widest connotation, refers to people of good social position connected to landed estates, upper levels of the clergy, and "gentle" families of long descent who never obtained the official right to bear a coat of arms. The historical term gentry by itself, so Peter Coss argues, is a construct that historians have applied loosely to rather different societies. Any particular model may not fit a specific society, yet a single definition nevertheless remains desirable. Linguistically, the word gentry arose to identify the social stratum created by the very small number, by the standards of Continental Europe, of the Peerage of England, and of the parts of Britain, where nobility and titles are inherited by a single person, rather than the family, as usual in Europe.
Georgian feudalism, or patronqmoba, as the system of personal dependence or vassalage in ancient and medieval Georgia is referred to, arose from a tribal-dynastic organization of society upon which was imposed, by royal authority, an official hierarchy of regional governors, local officials and subordinates. It is thought to have its roots into the ancient Georgian, or Iberian, society of Hellenistic period.
Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto noblesse oblige, nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.
The term edelfrei or hochfrei was originally used to designate and distinguish those Germanic noblemen from the Second Estate, who were legally entitled to atonement reparation of three times their "Weregild" (Wergeld) value from a guilty person or party. Such knights were known as Edelfreie or Edelinge. This distinguished them from those other free men or free knights who came from the Third Estate social hierarchy, and whose atonement reparation value was the standard "Weregild" (Wergeld) amount set according to regional laws. In the Holy Roman Empire, the "high nobility" emerged from the Edelfreie during the course of the 12th century, in contrast to the so-called ministeriales, most of whom were originally unfree knights or Dienstadel.
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