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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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Sassui presents herself as Plebian, which is highest degree of humility and meekness.
While the shrewd Helm pursues only resisters, a stereotypical Prussian General Arnim von Dahnwitz--replete with flashing monocle--has been implicated in the plot to kill Hitler but is known to the plebian resistance as the "murderer of Kharkov." The movie's introduction of Nazi atrocities in Russia--the novel's repeated description is "Victor of Kharkov"--reflects Bessie's leftwing condemnation of "Junkers, Industrialists, and their Nazi gangsters." (7) But it was also a modernized vilification of Prussian officers as Nazis, a fact confirmed by later documentation of German Army involvement in SS mass murders of Jews and Communists.
One princeling told a Western diplomat of their contempt for the previous plebian leadership.
And yet Hal in a tavern, simply to "drive away the time till Falstaffcomefs]" (2.5.24-25)--to relieve boredom, in other words--callously plays a painful trick upon one of these plebian "brothers," Francis, a waiter.
The company, which specializes in medicines for people with neurodegenerative diseases, hematologic conditions, and autoimmune disorders, commissioned an artistic collaboration between the design firm Hypersonic and technological sculptors Plebian Design to capture the essence of how to make a scientific breakthrough.
It reflects back on the foundational works that shaped the contours of the Bolivian "social imaginary" across the better part of the twentieth century, as its lettered elites tried to apprehend and cope with the country's heritage of cultural heterogeneity, especially in those historic breakpoints when its plebian "multitudes" suddenly became the principal driver of history.
The rise of vernacular political elites spearheading plebian politics proved instrumental in the increasing role of the vernacular media in regional and national politics.
I definitely was trying to shake off this guitar legend thing, which I thought was so plebian. It was such a pedestrian way of looking at things.
And, if there's one gun above all others that I have obsessed over, it has to be the plebian, yet highly functional and utterly reliable Makarov pistol.
Nothing can be more plebian, in seeming, than this Joe Smith.
Koch was ideally plebian, though also sang like a god.
(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).