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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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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.
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Paribeni, R. Le origini e il periodo regio: La Republica fino alla conquista del primate in Italia. Bologna, 1954.


References in periodicals archive ?
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.
When asked to confirm he had heard Mitchell use the word pleb in private, he added, uncomfortably: "I think I did, but not in a bad context" - quite what a good context might be was left unanswered.
During the launch event in Mr Mitchell's constituency members sold PC Pleb T-shirts and unveiled adverts which feature on billboards across the West Midlands.
A mere pleb may have been nicked in such circumstances, but the Cabinet minister was allowed to go on his way.
Shadow International Development Secretary Ivan Lewis told delegates: "I can tell you as a pleb with a ringside seat, these Tories may think they were born to rule, but as the British people now know, they aren't fit to govern.
In the simple words which we plebs are fond of using, he should be sacked.
But the sort of aspirational pleb who thinks that swearing is unacceptable and is also well educated enough to know that anyone who calls him or her a pleb almost certainly intends it as an insult.
The 56-page document sheds more light on the controversial incident but does not pass judgement on the key allegation - that Mr Mitchell told a police officer in Downing Street: "You're f*** plebs.
So there is the issue about whether the word pleb had been used.
He should have made it absolutely clee-yuh that he didn't call the copper a pleb.
Earlier officers wearing Tshirts emblazoned with the slogan 'PC pleb and proud' gathered outside Mr Mitchell's constituency office in Sutton Coldfield.