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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. “Dve problemy rimskoi istorii.” Vestnik Leningradskogo un-ta, 1947, no. 4.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Others simply believed, and still believe, that even without using the word pleb, the fact that he had sworn in the presence of police officers doing their duty was enough to require his resignation.
Aidan Jones, Executive Director of WorldSkills London warned Britain's PLEBS were setting themselves up for "very serious" problems later in life.
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.
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.
I am sure you would be hard-pressed to find a 50-something Welsh politician calling anyone a pleb.
The one thing that puts me off unreservedly recommending The Thick Of It to everyone is the unremitting foulness of its language, which is calculated to offend a certain sort of pleb.
PLEB row Tory Andrew Mitchell has blasted No10 over its botched probe into the rant against two officers which cost him his job.
The fly felt so important, much more than just a pleb, And eagerly logged on to the spider's brand new web.
Anne E Colin The word pleb is irrelevant, he's admitted swearing at and abusing a serving police officer, charge him under the public order act and let a court sort it out.
BRITAIN'S top cop last night hit back at pleb row Tory Andrew Mitchell over suggestions he is not up to investigating allegations of police corruption.
Pleb He told his eight cooks 'F *** ing well done' when they served all 70 diners after three disastrous nights.