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(plĕbz) or


(plĭbē`ənz) [Lat. plebs=people], general body of Roman citizens, as distinct from the patricianpatrician
, member of the privileged class of ancient Rome. Two distinct classes appear to have come into being at the beginning of the republic. Only the patricians held public office, whether civil or religious. From the 4th cent. B.C.
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 class. They lacked, at first, most of the patrician rights, but with the establishment of the tribune of the people in the 5th cent. B.C., they gradually achieved political equality with the patricians. First marriage of plebeians with patricians was validated, then plebeians were admitted successively over several decades to the quaestorship, the consulate, the dictatorship, the censorship, and the praetorship; they finally obtained the important priestly offices of the pontificate and augurship in 300 B.C. With the blurring of the distinction between the two classes, from this time the name plebs passed to the lowest ranks of the people.


See K. Raaflaub, ed., Social Struggles in Archaic Rome (1986).



an estate of free men in ancient Rome. Until the third century B.C. plebeians were not part of the clan commune and did not have the right to use the communal land, the ager pub-licus. They could hold plots of land only as private property. In addition to farming, they engaged in handicraft production and commerce. As the plebeians grew poorer, the amount of land in their possession decreased. Their difficult economic situation was made even worse by the lack of political and civil rights. The plebeians’ stubborn struggle against the patricians from the early fifth through early third centuries B.C. secured their inclusion in the Populus Romanus Quiritium as part of the Roman nation. They achieved equality with the patricians in civil and political rights and won the abolition of debt slavery. Wealthy plebeians, who gained the right to hold higher magistracies, came to constitute the nobilitas together with the patrician aristocracy. In the third and second centuries B.C. the term “plebeian” came to denote a full citizen of nonaristocratic origin.


Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Kovalev, S. I. “Dve problemy rimskoi istorii.” Vestnik Leningradskogo un-ta, 1947, no. 4.
Kovalev, S. I. “Problema proiskhozhdeniia patritsiev i plebeev.” In the collection Trudy iubileinoi nauchnoi sessii LGU, sektsiia istorick nauk, 1948.
Mashkin, N. A. Istoriia Drevnego Rima, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Gunter, R. “K razvitiiu sotsial’noi i imushchestvennoi differentsiatsii ν drevneishem Rime.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1959, no. 1.
Nemirovskii, A. I. Istoriia rannego Rima i Italii. Voronezh, 1962.
Niebuhr, B. Romische Geschichte, vol. 1. Berlin, 1873.
Paribeni, R. Le origini e il periodo regio: La Republica fino alla conquista del primate in Italia. Bologna, 1954.


References in periodicals archive ?
According to Jeff Lieberman, founder of Plebian Designs, the sculpture has an entirely analog control system.
45) The plebian Gulch says of his work, shown as childishly silly in the play: 'Well fellowes, I never heard happier stuffe, / Heer's no new luxurie or blandishment, / But plenty of old Englands mothers words' (C1v).
You are probably wise in retiring it as a hunting rifle in favor of a more plebian piece.
One thing is certain; luxury fixtures and fittings were not available in the plebian market.
Possibly it is Will, a young plebian baker, who is the agent of change for Dana.
Two centuries later, a baronet such as Sir John Lubbock might be descended from plebian roots through successful bankers.
Because Cecilia's mother objects to the plebian and obviously native Irish sound of O'Donoghoe, Glenthorn agrees to take his wife's name--Delamere.
He said the difference between a royal who inherits power and a plebian who achieves it - `she used the world `plebian' without a grain of self-consciousness - `is that the royal is tutored in the arts, in social graces, in subtlety.
More artists should (and many do) enter this populist, heterogeneous, and communal sphere, not as missionary work, or plebian slumming, but as an act of translation that has the goal of being humbled, recombined, and shared.
Everything in this boot-shaped country is done to elevate the most plebian experience into a work of art.
Most were reserved for the rich and famous, but others had a more plebian quality.
17) Although the story of an Ottoman sultan chasing crows in a vegetable patch was unheard of before the publication of The Black Book (after all, saving the family plot from ravagers is an activity reserved for the plebian class), the Turkish public is well aware of Ataturk's history of chasing crows with his sister during a brief period in his childhood.