Aristocracy (class)

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Aristocracy (NYPL Hades-463685-1255228).jpg
French aristocrats, c. 1774 Le bal pare.jpg
French aristocrats, c. 1774
A castle, the symbol of the rule of aristocracy in medieval Europe (Krasna Horka in Slovakia). Krasna Horka 1.JPG
A castle, the symbol of the rule of aristocracy in medieval Europe (Krásna Hôrka in Slovakia).

The aristocracy [1] is 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. [2] 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. [3] They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy. [4] 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. [5]

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Etymology

The term aristocracy derives from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία ( aristokratia from ἄριστος (aristos) "excellent," and κράτος (kratos) "power." [6] 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.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Gentry people of high social class, in particular of the land-owning social class

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

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Nobility Official privileged social class

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.

References

  1. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/aristocracy, Definition of Aristocracy
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aristocracy, Definition(2) of Aristocracy
  3. The aristocrats: a portrait of Britain's nobility and their way of life today, by Roy Perrott, (London 1968), page5-10
  4. https://www.lairdofblackwood.com/british-aristocracy/, Native Wood Preservation Ltd, on British Aristocracy and Hierarchy
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/aristocracy, Modern European societies and the nobility of aristocracy
  6. The Oxford Companion to British History, John Cannon (Editor), Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN   978-0-19-866176-4