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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.


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References in periodicals archive ?
But Schantz departs from Thompson's singular emphasis upon plebian culture, the so-called "new social history" that he initiated.
Intriguingly, the nuns who fought this long battle with the patriarch were not the noble women who had inhabited the convent for 760 years but the successors of those "base-born women, Greeks and plebians to boot" about whom the abbess had complained in the meeting before the Collegio that I discussed at the beginning of this article.
Overtly theatrical and obviously intended to stimulate the imagination, the odd scene does work very well, specially the burial of Caesar with Mark Antony in the gallery, the plebians lending him their ears next to the groundlings in the yard and the bloody corpse of Caesar centre stage between them.
media products normally transmitted through the tasteless Spanish-language television monopolies (both designed to keep the immigrant and annexed plebians in a perpetual state of ignorance).
Jogging mythical memory reveals, of course, that the Roman cult of Diana - goddess of the chase - was explicitly connected with the lower classes, plebians and slaves, who were responsible for her elevation into the pantheon.
In Borge's Babylon, plebians demanded inclusion in a mysterious lottery run by the "Company" and played only by the rich.
The plebians are constantly making claims on the patricians in the patricians' own terms - to be good patrons, to reward loyalty.
The Plebians point out that, although prior to the Rebellion scholars on the Left contended their way would produce the fairest outcome for each individual, the Left never identified an instance where the State's interest was more important than the individual's right to an exemption, except where the individual applying for the exemption was not a member of an "enlightened" group.
1) was reserved to patricians; though it appears that all vacancies in priesthoods were open to plebians in law (Cic.
It will not take the reader long to realize that even though the book is entitled Tokyo Rising, the author's nostalgic heart is with Edo's once popular quarters of shitamachi (translated by the author as Low City; originally implying the settlement below the castle where the merchants and plebians resided).
Patterson shows his comparative skills by drawing parallels between the free-born Roman plebians and African-Americans.