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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
The PLEB gives the "username and password'' to the intended party but at the same time carefully screens those who want to gain access to the website.
REINVENTING CHARACTERS AS WELL as the Plebs' foray into the world of food and drink this series, there's an episode where they get free tickets to a spa - which they then decide they're never going to leave, so hatch a plan to use it as a squat.
EX-TORY minister Andrew Mitchell faces legal costs of PS3million after a libel case judge decided he did call police officers "plebs" in a row at the Downing Street gates.
But despite the remaining 15 percent of municipalities yet to have their own PLEBs, the DILG noted a 22 percent increase in the number of PLEBs in 2018 compared to the 1038 PLEBs in 2017.
BY definition, a pleb is a member of the common people - a term that applies as much to Mitchell as to any police officer.
'If anyone is hesitant to report abuses to police authorities, they can instead complain to the PLEB which is a civilian agency located in every local government unit in the country,' he said.
BIRMINGHAM politician Andrew Mitchell says he still hopes to return to the Cabinet - despite losing a highprofile libel action over claims he called police of-ficers "plebs".
They had a meeting with Mitchell in Sutton Cold-field after the "pleb" accusation had hit the headlines and gave a press conference afterwards, in which they claimed the MP hadn't answered their questions fully and called on him to resign.
A high court judge has now ruled that he believes that Mitchell did use the word pleb or something similar.
The article was based on a log written up by Pc Toby Rowland who claimed that Mitchell called him and his colleagues "f*** plebs".
The former chief whip yesterday lost his libel action against The Sun newspaper over their story claiming he called a policeman a "pleb" when leaving Downing Street through a gate.