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in ancient Rome the term seems originally to have encompassed the entire native population of the clan commune that constituted the Roman people (Populus Romanus Quiritium), as opposed to the plebeians. After the separation of noble aristocratic families from the tribe, the patricians became a clan aristocracy.
Beginning in the sixth century B.C., in the period of the formation of class society and the state, the patricians became the ruling class-estate of the Roman Republic. The economic foundation of their power was the exclusive right to use public lands (the ager publicus). After the plebeians were included in the Roman people and were granted equal rights with the patricians (the beginning of the third century B.C.), the top strata of the patricians—the patriciate—and plebeians merged to form the nobility. Under the empire, a new patriciate developed, consisting of the privileged members of the senatorial estate and natives of Italy and the provinces who were elevated to patrician status by the emperor.