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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
said this on Monday, as the agency launched the PLEB Online Database System that will allow improved status-tracking of cases filed by members of the community against police officers.
The spectral sensitivity function for dark-adapted specimens of Abyssorchomene plebs shows a major peak in the blue, with a minor sensitivity peak in the ultraviolet (UV).
In another facet of Zotto and Plebs's personae, they danced a slow and--yes--smoldering, but supremely elegant tango, in which Plebs slowly rubbed her leg down Zotto's.
The plebs is said to be 'nullis etiam tunc tuta tribunis' (663) at the time of the secessio of 494; this was technically true, since in the usual account it was only after that protest that the leaders of the plebs were officially constituted as tribuni (Livy 2.33.1-2), but the statement is given considerable prominence in its context.
Michelle jumped at the chance to do comedy on Plebs - which starts tomorrow on ITV2.
WELL PLAYED A SELF.CONFESSED fan of Plebs, Keegan admits she was "chuffed" to secure a part in the quirky comedy.
"I've done Drunk History and Plebs, so I've done something that's out of my comfort zone, but I do love the drama."
WELL PLAYED A self-confessed fan of Plebs, Keegan admits she was "chuffed" to secure a part in the quirky comedy.
Under the proposed ordinance, each of the six PLEBs will be composed of a city councilor of the district, a barangay (village) chair chosen by the Association of Barangay Captains in a special assembly convened by the Barangay Operations Center, and three residents of the district chosen by the city's peace and order council.
VICTIM: Andrew Mitchell MP quit as chief whip after it was claimed that he called police officers 'plebs'.
Parliament has ayes, nos and also abstentions, but the plebs have no such option.