Social class in Italy began early on in Ancient Rome, and this article comprises more or less how it is today.[ clarification needed ]
A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.
In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed. The Roman empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117.
Roman society is largely viewed as hierarchical, with slaves (servi) at the bottom, freedmen (liberti) above them, and free-born citizens (cives) at the top. Free citizens were themselves also divided by class. The broadest, and earliest, division was between the patricians, who could trace their ancestry to one of the 100 Patriarchs at the founding of the city, and the plebeians, who could not. This became less important in the later Republic, as some plebeian families became wealthy and entered politics, and some patrician families fell on hard times. Anyone, patrician or plebeian, who could count a consul as his ancestor was a noble (nobilis); a man who was the first of his family to hold the consulship, such as Marius or Cicero, was known as a novus homo ("new man") and ennobled his descendants. Patrician ancestry, however, still conferred considerable prestige, and many religious offices remained restricted to patricians.
Slavery in the ancient world, from the earliest known recorded evidence in Sumer to the pre-medieval Antiquity Mediterranean cultures, comprised a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war.
A freedman or freedwoman is a former slave who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, slaves were freed either by manumission or emancipation. A fugitive slave is one who escaped slavery by fleeing.
The patricians were originally a group of ruling class families in ancient Rome. The distinction was highly significant in the early Republic, but its relevance waned after the Conflict of the Orders, and by the time of the late Republic and Empire, membership in the patriciate was of only nominal significance.
A class division originally based on military service became more important. Membership of these classes was determined periodically by the Censors, according to property. The wealthiest were the Senatorial class, who dominated politics and command of the army. Next came the equestrians (equites, sometimes translated "knights"), originally those who could afford a warhorse, who formed a powerful mercantile class. Several further classes, originally based on what military equipment their members could afford, followed, with the proletarii, citizens who had no property at all, at the bottom. Before the reforms of Marius they were ineligible for military service and are often described as being just barely above freed slaves in terms of wealth and prestige.
The censor was a magistrate in ancient Rome who was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government's finances.
Voting power in the Republic was dependent on class. Citizens were enrolled in voting "tribes", but the tribes of the richer classes had fewer members than the poorer ones, all the proletarii being enrolled in a single tribe. Voting was done in class order and stopped as soon as a majority of the tribes had been reached, so the poorer classes were often unable even to cast their votes.
Allied foreign cities were often given the Latin Right, an intermediary level between full citizens and foreigners (peregrini), which gave their citizens rights under Roman law and allowed their leading magistrates to become full Roman citizens. While there were varying degrees of Latin rights, the main division was between those cum suffragio ("with vote"; enrolled in a Roman tribe and able to take part in the comitia tributa) and sine suffragio ("without vote"; unable to take part in Roman politics). Some of Rome's Italian allies were given full citizenship after the Social War of 91–88 BC, and full Roman citizenship was extended to all free-born men in the Empire by Caracalla in 212. Women shared some basic rights with their male counterparts, but were not fully regarded as citizens and were thus not allowed to vote or participate in politics.
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables, to the Corpus Juris Civilis ordered by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. Roman law forms the basic framework for civil law, the most widely used legal system today, and the terms are sometimes used synonymously. The historical importance of Roman law is reflected by the continued use of Latin legal terminology in many legal systems influenced by it, including common law.
The Social War was a war waged from 91 to 88 BC between the Roman Republic and several of the other cities and tribes in Italy, which prior to the war had been Roman allies for centuries. The war was begun by the Picentes because the Romans did not want to afford them Roman citizenship, thus leaving the Italian groups with fewer rights. The war resulted in a Roman victory. However, Rome granted Roman citizenship to almost all of its Italian allies, to avoid another war.
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance.
A hierarchy of social class rank in Italy today.
The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.
Tribune was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome. The two most important were the tribunes of the plebs and the military tribunes. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs acted as a check on the authority of the senate and the annual magistrates, holding the power of ius intercessionis to intervene on behalf of the plebeians, and veto unfavourable legislation. There were also military tribunes, who commanded portions of the Roman army, subordinate to higher magistrates, such as the consuls and praetors, promagistrates, and their legates. Various officers within the Roman army were also known as tribunes. The title was also used for several other positions and classes in the course of Roman history.
The plebs were, in ancient Rome, the general body of free Roman citizens who were not patricians, as determined by the census. The precise origins of the group and the term are unclear, though it may be that they began as a limited political movement in opposition to the elite (patricians) which became more widely applied.
The legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people who had the final say regarding the election of magistrates, the enactment of Roman laws, the carrying out of capital punishment, the declaration of war and peace, and the creation of alliances. Under the Constitution of the Roman Republic, the people held the ultimate source of sovereignty.
In ancient Rome, a gens, plural gentes, was a family consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps. The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the period of the Roman Republic. Much of an individual's social standing depended on the gens to which he belonged. Certain gentes were considered patrician, others plebeian, while some had both patrician and plebeian branches. The importance of membership in a gens declined considerably in imperial times.
The Conflict of the Orders, also referred to as the Struggle of the Orders, was a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic lasting from 500 BC to 287 BC, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the Patricians. It played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. Shortly after the founding of the Republic, this conflict led to a secession from Rome by Plebeians to the Sacred Mount at a time of war. The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians.
The Concilium Plebis was the principal assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians (commoners) could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian Council was originally organized on the basis of the Curia. Thus, it was originally a "Plebeian Curiate Assembly". The Plebeian Council usually met in the well of the comitium and could only be convoked by the Tribune of the Plebs. The assembly elected the Tribunes of the Plebs and the plebeian aediles, and only the plebeians were allowed to vote.
Social class in ancient Rome was hierarchical, but there were multiple and overlapping social hierarchies, and an individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another. The status of freeborn Romans during the Republic was established by:
Capite censi were literally, in Latin, "those counted by head" in the ancient Roman census. Also known as "the head count", the term was used to refer to the lowest class of citizens, people not of the nobility or middle classes, owning little or no property; thus they were counted by the head rather than by their property. Initially capite censi was synonymous with proletarii, meaning those citizens whose property was too small to be rated for the census. Later though, the proletarii were distinguished from the capite censi as having "appreciable property" to the value of 11,000 asses or less. In contrast, the capite censi are assumed to have not owned any property of significance.
A tribus, or tribe, was a division of the Roman people, constituting the voting units of a legislative assembly of the Roman Republic. The word is probably derived from tribuere, to divide or distribute; the traditional derivation from tres, three, is doubtful.
The constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of unwritten norms and customs, which together with various written laws, guided the manner by which the Roman Republic was governed. The constitution emerged from that of the Roman kingdom, evolved over the almost five hundred years of the Republic, and was transformed into the constitution of the Roman Empire.
The socii were the autonomous tribes and city-states of the Italian Peninsula in permanent military alliance with the Roman Republic until the Social War of 91–88 BC. After this conflict, all Rome's peninsular Italian allies were awarded Roman citizenship and their territories incorporated in the Roman state. The Romans themselves referred to their confederates as the socii Latini, although most were not members of the Latin tribe strictly speaking, but members of various other Italian tribes and city-states. In everyday usage, the word socius could mean "associate" or "partner" in general.
Marxian class theory asserts that an individual’s position within a class hierarchy is determined by his or her role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is determined by class position. A class is those who share common economic interests, are conscious of those interests, and engage in collective action which advances those interests. Within Marxian class theory, the structure of the production process forms the basis of class construction.
The history of the Constitution of the Roman Republic is a study of the ancient Roman Republic that traces the progression of Roman political development from the founding of the Roman Republic in 509 BC until the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 BC. The constitutional history of the Roman Republic can be divided into five phases. The first phase began with the revolution which overthrew the Roman Kingdom in 509 BC, and the final phase ended with the revolution which overthrew the Roman Republic, and thus created the Roman Empire, in 27 BC. Throughout the history of the republic, the constitutional evolution was driven by the struggle between the aristocracy and the ordinary citizens.
The Tribal Assembly was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (tribus).
The constitutional reforms of Lucius Cornelius Sulla were a series of laws enacted by the Roman Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla between 82 and 80 BC, which reformed the Constitution of the Roman Republic.
The Servian constitution is the military and political organization of ancient Rome attributed by Roman tradition to the semi-legendary sixth king of Rome, Servius Tullius. Most of the Servian reforms extended voting rights to certain groups, in particular to Rome's citizen-commoners who were minor landholders or landless citizens hitherto disqualified from voting by ancestry, status or ethnicity—collectively, the plebs as distinguished from the hereditary patricians. These reforms thus redefined the fiscal and military obligations of all Roman citizens. The so-called Servian constitution probably represents a long-drawn, complex and piecemeal process extending from Servius' predecessors, Ancus Marcius and Tarquinius Priscus, to his successor Tarquinius Superbus, and into the Middle and Late Republic. Rome's military and territorial expansion and the consequent changes in its population made franchise regulation and reform an ongoing necessity. The wholesale attribution of these measures to Servius "cannot be taken at face value".
The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.
Elections in the Roman Republic were an essential part to its governance, with participation only being afforded to Roman citizens. Upper class interests, centered in the urban political environment of cities, often trumped the concerns of the diverse and disunified lower class; while at times, those already in power would pre-select candidates for office, further reducing the value of voters’ input. The candidates themselves at first remained distant from voters and refrained from public presentations, but they later more than made up for time lost with habitual bribery, coercion, and empty promises. As the practice of electoral campaigning grew in use and extent, the pool of candidates was no longer limited to a select group with riches and high birth. Instead, many more ordinary citizens had a chance to run for office, allowing for more equal representation in key government decisions.