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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.
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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 ?
Later, he and Plebs studied with such greats as Juan Carlos Copes of Tango Argentino fame.
Despite hard-won gender equality, gender stereotypes are alive and well among PLEBS, with just 28 percent of men able to hem a pair of trousers, and a mere 17 percent of women able to change a car tyre.
Ian Edwards, chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, said: "We hope that we can get to the bottom of the PC Pleb row and then put it behind us.
Why doesn't she just stick two fingers up at the world and scream "I'm richer than all you plebs and I love it.
London's Old Bailey heard how Keith Wallis, 53, claimed he saw Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell calling police officers plebs during his foul-mouthed rant near No10 in 2012.
WITH regards to Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell calling the police plebs - if that's the way he talks to and treats policemen, in what manner does he treat his colleagues, particularly junior colleagues, and in what way does he see his employers, i.
Yet if anyone dares to point it out when the Labour Party makes the worst possible decision for Coventry people, Cllr Mutton wants we mere plebs to shut up, because he's decided that it's not a party political issue.
There is no doubt that the majority of us plebs deserve what we get.
We, the plebs, have to find this money from somewhere.
I think it is important that true Tories who show the world what they really think should remain in post and not be replaced by duplicitous frauds who pretend not to hold us plebs in utter contempt, whilst holding the same frank and forthright views as Mr Mitchell.
Fair dos, though, having swish roads for the rich and lesser ones for the plebs fits in brilliantly with the coalition Government's vision of a two-tier nation, doesn't it?