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It appears that gens Foslia for example only produced one: Marcus Foslius Flaccinator in 433.
Are there examples of patrician families that produced no consuls?
Or is it that our knowledge of patrician families comes mainly from the lists of consuls in the first place? So that there may have been patrician families out there that never produced a consul and we would never know about them?
According to Titus Livius (Livy) the patrician families were founded during the reign of the first King of Rome, namely Romulus. Livy says of Romulus in his Ab Urbe Condita, 1.8:
He created a hundred senators; either because that number was adequate, or because there were only a hundred heads of houses who could be created. In any case they were called the "Patres" in virtue of their rank, and their descendants were called "Patricians."
From what I can deduce, these families did not necessarily come to be patrician because any of the individual members acquired the rank of consul, but came to be so due to their proximity to the first king as advisors. Their prominant position in Roman social life certainly gave them an advantage in acquiring the consulship as it was reserved solely for the patricians until the institution of the Lex Licinia Sextia in 367 B.C.
I had a look at a list of the known patrician families on Wikipedia and searched through the known list of consulships which confirmed the Foslia, Potitii, Pollii and Siccia gentes never produced a consul. So yes, it would appear that there were patrician families which never produced a consul and those families are bound to be more obscure in the historical records in comparison to those families which managed to maintain exclusive control of the office.
Roman Republic And Early Roman Empire Essay
In the 3rd century B.C.E. there were two great powers in the area surrounding the Western part of the Mediterranean Sea, The African/Spanish Empire of Carthage and the Italian Empire of Rome. Both empires were rapidly expanding their territory while ultimately avoiding each other. Carthage had conquests in South-West Europe in modern day Spain, while the Romans were working their way East into Macedonia. Rome and Carthage were both major powers controlling what to them was the entire world. These two
Ancient World History
The society of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire was made up of several levels. At the top were the patrician classes of senator and equestrian. The commoner classes of plebeians, freed peoples, and slaves had fewer opportunities in life. However, these social and political classes maintained order and structure in Roman culture. They created the first socially mobile culture in history.
The Roman emperor held the title of princeps senatus (chief senator) and could appoint new senators, preside over the Senate, and propose new legislation. The real power of the Senate was in its judicial functions, mainly its right to crown the new emperor.
Senators were considered a political class of citizen. The Senate was made up of 600 men who were either the sons of senators or Roman citizens over the age of 25 with military and administrative experience.
The senate class included all men who served in the Senate and their families. These were mostly nobles or families whose ancestors included at least one elected consul. The first male in each family elected to the position of consul was given the title novus homo, meaning "new man".
In order to be considered a senator a Roman citizen had to accumulate 1 million sesterces of wealth and property. Senators were granted special privileges, priority seating at sporting events and theater productions, and the right to hold the highest judicial offices.
Senators wore a gold senatorial ring and a tunica clava with a five-inch-wide purple stripe on the right shoulder. Children of these patricians often had private tutors to educate them. They even had their own bedrooms, toys, and slaves.
Families of senators usually had two homes, one in the city for business and one in the countryside for leisure, run by slaves. These homes usually had comforts such as running water, sewage, luxury furniture, and private baths.
Wealthy patricians would display gold drinking and eating vessels as well as intricate mosaics decorating the walls. They would entertain political and social guests at large banquets, often accompanied by music and dancing.
Despite these privileges senators had several restrictions placed on them. Serving the republic or the empire earned them no salary. They could not personally engage in nonagricultural businesses. They were also forbidden to practice trade or bid on public contracts.
Equestrians were the lower social group among the patricians. The basis for this class was economic in nature. A citizen had to possess 400,000 sesterces of wealth during the rule of Augustus Caesar to become an equestrian.
Emperor Augustus reorganized this social class into a military class. Equestrians were the "knights" of the Roman Empire’s cavalry and were granted a "public horse" with which to defend Rome.
Equestrians were either landed plebeians or the sons of senators who had not yet entered the quaestorship at 25 years of age. Citizens of this class also had special privileges that even the senators did not have: They were allowed to be merchants and commercial traders.
Equestrians held civil service jobs such as tax collector, banker, exporter, and administrator of public contracts. They displayed their rank on a white tunic with a one-inch-wide purple stripe over the right shoulder (the angusti clavi). Equestrians rarely became senators.
Plebeians were the lowest class of free citizens. They were the working class of Rome and the main taxpayers. Most jobs were hereditary, and they usually worked as subsistence farmers or as sharecroppers of wealthy patricians. They could also be bakers, artisans, masons, or carpenters.
None of these occupations paid very well, and most plebeians struggled to provide for their family. Plebeians usually lived in apartment homes called insulae. These homes were usually built of wood and were extremely susceptible to fire since running water was not available.
As the insulae were without kitchens, families would purchase meals consisting of coarse bread, bean or pea soup, porridge, and, if the family saved enough, chicken or rabbit once a month. Plebeians lived in very unsanitary conditions: Two families often shared one-room apartments, and chamber pots were often emptied out into the street below.
There were very few ways for a plebeian to advance socially. The first was to save enough sesterces to become an equestrian. Another way to advance was to be adopted by a patrician family.
Plebeians could earn equestrian titles by achieving any of the three highest military awards: Coronae Graminea, Civica, or Aurea. The final opportunity for social advancement was in politics.
Plebeians could seek election as a tribune of the plebs. He was elected by the Assembly of the Citizens and was the only plebeian allowed to participate in Senate meetings. After a six-month term, tribunes automatically became a member of the Senate and the equestrian order.
Roman social and political classes provided the world with new concepts of citizenship. These concepts included placing limitations on the upper class as well as opportunities for the lower classes to advance themselves. They revolutionized the way the Western world looked at society.
Conflict of the Orders: Patricians and Plebeians History
The Conflict of the Orders began as a result of the dissatisfaction felt by the plebeians regarding the status quo in Rome. Till then, political power was monopolized by the patrician class. The situation deteriorated further around the end of the 6 th century BC. In 509 BC, Tarquinius Superbus, the last Roman king was deposed, and the Roman Republic was founded. One of the consequences of this change from monarchy to republic was the increase in the power held by the patricians. An example of this is the loss of access by the plebeians to public land (which had been regal domain during the Roman Kingdom). In order to increase their wealth, the patricians seized these lands and either rented them out, or had slaves work on them.
Tarquinius Superbus makes himself King from The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (Posner / Public Domain )
The Paladin Chronicles
The area that Rome controlled was said to reach a peak in 117 AD, but it was during the Republic ( 510 BC till 27 BC) that Rome had its greatest growth, starting from a small fortified town surrounded by powerful neighbours, to become the foremost Western power.
It was also during the Republic that Rome overcome some of its greatest external challenges. While it lost a few spectacular battles, it always returned quickly to become stronger than ever.
|Death of Mus, Rubens (sacrificial charge 3rd Samnite war)|
By the end of the middle Republican period (133 BC), Rome was continuing to grow in wealth and power. Its arts and building programmes were the envy of the world. It faced no credible external threat and yet something deep in the beating heart of the Republic was dying.
It would cause the Republic to fall (even while Rome was already the greatest city of its time and was continuing to till growing).
The Republics fall can be seen from different aspects, but most agree.
The Republic was ruined by its own success.
To understand how this could have happened, we need to start with Roman society and culture in the early Roman Republic from its beginning in 509 BC and then trace it through the middle and late Republican periods.
I will attempt to be brief, but no discussion of Rome's history would be complete without at least some mention of her wars.
The culture, Early Republic (509 BC -264 BC)
An austere society based on an agrarian lifestyle
Romans, in common with most early people, mostly lived on small, self-sufficient farms that surrounded their town. It was the Roman farmers tilling their rich volcanic soil that formed the core of their citizen’s militia and Romans were inordinately proud of their agrarian roots.
In the late republic, Cicero declared "of all the occupations … none is better than agriculture, none more profitable, none more delightful, none more becoming to a free man." Cato the Elder, writing slightly later stated that the highest praise for an early Roman was being a “good husband (and a) good farmer”. He went on to say that “It is from the farming class that the bravest men and the sturdiest soldiers come.”
To the patricians, running a farm was the most worthy occupation and the success of the farm was a great source of pride.
Farming was the only activity that a senator could engage in, and there were several early legends of great heroes leaving their ploughs (sometimes reluctantly) to lead Rome.
|Cincinnatus leaves his plough (Juan Antonio Ribera)|
The early Roman character was also one of austerity.
Even in the midst of a military triumph, a victorious general must conduct himself with dignified humility at all times. The Roman moral code abhorred extravagance, and (during wartimes) laws were enacted to prevent Roman wives from wearing too much fine clothes and jewellery.
A militaristic society
From the very first, Rome was a militaristic society. Serving in the army was both a duty and a privilege. At first it was unpaid.
Poorer men might be drafted in extreme circumstance, and less well armed. This became less over time. Usually soldiers had to have a minimal level of wealth before they could join the army . This allowed them to provide their own equipment and pay for some of their expenses. Not only this, they had to pay an extra tax to fund the war they were fighting in.
The militia was central to civic life. Any patrician wanting a a career in administration had to serve ten years in the army. The people’s assembly (the comitia centuriata) was organised to parallel the civilian army, with most votes going to those who would be senior in the army.
The greatest achievement any Roman leader could aspire to was a ‘Roman Triumph’ decked out in a special toga and riding on a chariot in front of his army, captives, and the spoils of war (the ceremony followed by prayers to Jupiter, celebrations and games).
As was said, he had to conduct himself with dignified humility and it was traditional for the troops to call friendly insults to their general (to prevent overweening pride). The triumph was not just an individual's but the republic’s, dedicated to the gods and ancestors,
Cursus honorum (the ‘road to honours’)
Embarking on the path to senior public service started with ten years of military service (at least as an equestrian, if not a more senior officer) and then gaining election as a quaestor (treasurer to supervise financial accounts) and then on to more senior positions. At first one had to reach a certain age before being eligible to advance to the next step.
‘Just wars’, the Roman ideal.
This was overseen by special priests of Jupiter called fetiales.
‘Ius fetiale’ were the ancient rules for declaring a ‘just’ war and included self-defence, a broken treaty or being called to assist others.
Wars motivated by greed or wrongful treatment of allies could result in divine displeasure which would be disastrous.
‘Ius fetiale’ lead to the concept of ‘ jus ad bellum’, or ‘justice in making war’.
The accounts of Rome’s early expansion were written hundreds of years later and always cast Rome’s opponents in the role of aggressor so Cicero, writing in the late republic, claimed “our people, through repeatedly defending their allies, have ended up as master of the world.”
The Roman historian Livy wrote: “there was one nation in the world which would fight for the liberties of others at its own cost, with its own labour, and at its own danger. It was even ready to cross the sea to make sure there was no unjust rule anywhere and that everywhere justice, right, and law would prevail.”
Rome, an expansionist society.
There is more than a hint of Roman jingoism in the above views.
Some Romans even suggested their civilization and their political system was so superior that they were doing subject nations a favour by invading them, other Romans claimed they were so successful because their cause was always 'just' and favoured by the Gods .
The truth was that Rome was always looking for an excuse to conquer. In the world they lived in, it was not hard to find someone ready to attack them , or a border dispute.
If that didn't work, they were happy to be invited in to help in someone else's dispute.
Those on a losing side soon knew to appeal that they could appeal for Roman help. Of course, there was a cost. An ally (or even a distant city) in need would soon find both itself and it enemies under Roman domination (usually subject to an expertly designed treaty rather than directly ruled at first).
Some, amongst Roman leaders, became adept at bending their own self-imposed rules. Treaties were sometimes cleverly manipulated to put unfriendly neighbours at a disadvantage.
And, once Romans marched to war, resistance to their military was usually punished by sacking, a payment of gold, taking some citizens as slaves and a harsher treaty. If a subject nation rose in rebellion ( broke a treaty) it was punished particularly cruelly.
Having said all this, at least for a time, the Roman ideal of honourable war (enforced by the senate) put a limit on the worst of any manifest greed, abuse of power or desire for war.
Those cities that surrendered early ‘in good faith’ (trusting Roman fairness) or ‘before the ram reached the city gate’ were treated much more lightly. The Roman yolk on them was usually light with self-governance, reasonable taxes and providing troops to booster the Roman war machine.
Allies were treated honourably, especially at first.
Honour, the glue that held the early Republic together
For the early Romans, service was both a duty and an honour. T heir l eaders were expected to live up to the Roman ideal in both their private and public life.
'Auctoritas' and the t wo types of power
In the Early Republic, wealth alone did not bring prestige. Power alone did not bring prestige.
What early Roman politicians especially strived for was called 'auctoritas', a sort of moral authority, resulting in the people’s trust. In legends, the auctoritas their heroes projected had an almost mystic quality.
Protestas, was the legal power of a Roman magistrate (or the pater familias within a family) but protestas could not be exerted without auctoritas.
Much of the power of the senate came from its prestige as a body of elders. This authority was called auctoritas patrum, ‘father’s authority’.
Mos maiorum, ‘the way of the ancestors’.
The ideal of how a Roman man should behave was founded in ancestor worship, acting in line with what they believed were ancestral ideals.
Romans had shrines in their house for ancestors, special feast days and prayed to their ancestors for approval and advice. Upsetting the ancestors would usually result in serious misfortune (like a failed harvest, or a disaster in battle).
The Mos Maiorum, 'the way of the ancestors', was the ideals of discipline, dignity and self control , respect for the Gods, trustworthiness, virtue and honour.
It lead to Regimen Morum, the ‘mores’ of the Republic.
Romans took living up to these ideals (for those that led them) so seriously that enforcing the Regimen Morum (amongst the leaders and upper classes) became an important part of the work of what was called the Roman 'Censors'.
These two ‘magistrates’ (coming from the Roman word for ‘master’) were tasked with running the ‘census’ to determine the wealth of individuals. Along with social class, citizens needed minimum wealth to serve in certain groups within the army, (officer, knight, or infantry). It determined how much equipment they must supply, how much tax they paid, how much their vote counted in the people’s assembly and whether they were eligible for certain positions like the Senate.
The censors not only appointed senators, they were able to sanction (‘censure’) or even remove those from the senate, patrician or equestrian class who (in their opinion) did not live up to the Regimen Morum, the mores of the Republic.
|The blind Cieco, famous Roman Censor|
These unacceptable behaviours might not always be illegal or may have been already been punished by Roman courts but they included many things that we would recognise today as likely to offend public opinion.
They also included things like celibacy, neglect of one’s fields (or one’s horse for an ‘equestrian’), extravagant living, cruelty (towards slaves, dependents or clients) or excessive indulgence of children.
Carrying out a disreputable occupation like acting in theatres was unacceptable for nobles, and hence would result in punishment.
The censors were both judge and jury. The only limit to their power was that they had to both agree. For a time the office became very prestigious, usually awarded to former consuls.
Roman morality was inherently conservative, backward looking, and a major pre-occupation of the early ruling class.
A Patriarchal Society
Rome’s social organisation was based on tribe/extended family with a strong, patriarchal, head (usually the oldest living male of a clan) called the ‘pater familias’.
The main limit on patriarchal power over family members money and personal lives was not a legal one, especially not at first. It was the social and internal pressure for leaders to behave in accordance with the Roman concept of honour.
The almost absolute power over social inferiors (and the loyalty expected to these senior figures) carried through to the military, the civil ‘magistrates’, the senate and the aristocracy.
Patricians were members of the noble families.
It is no accident that the term patres means ‘father’ and refers to the many descendants of the legendary 100 founders of the Roman senate. ('Senate' comes from 'senex', the Latin word for ‘old man’). According to Rome’s founding legend, they were prominent elders, selected to advise the king.
There were three main patrician tribes divided into a total of thirty subdivisions with other prominent families added later.
Positions in the administration, senate, priesthood, senior positions in the military forces were (at first) reserved for patricians. In a way their families were seen as the fathers of Rome. They were the only ones who could vote in the comittia curiata, the (patrician) people’s assembly which was divided along clan lines.
They dressed to reflect their position.
Formal dress was the stola for women and the toga (impractical for military and other physical pursuits) for refined men. Senators, senior military figures and ‘magistrates’ had additional prestige as signalled by added purple cloth and wearing special rings.
‘Equites’ (Equestrians or Roman knights) were a lesser aristocratic and military class. Originally it was (often) a hereditary position (with a horse supplied) but during a crisis it was opened to wealthy plebes and others who had to supply their own horse.
‘Equites’ had certain advantages over ‘plebs’, though not as much as Patricians.
One advantage they had over senators was that they were allowed to engage in non agrarian commercial activities which gave them an advantage in gaining public and army contracts.
Plebians (commoners) were largest group of Roman citizens. A large number had small rural holdings and formed most of the infantry. At first, only patricians could be senior officers.
By 287 BC, after a struggle called the ‘conflict of orders’ , plebians (in theory) gained the same legal rights as patricians. It still remained difficult for someone from an unknown family to acquire high office or a senior position in the army.
Not only that, over time elections became expensive. Senators were not paid. ‘Magistrates’ were often not paid directly or not properly compensated for expenses. As a result, high offices were only accessible to wealthy plebians, who now joined the patricians (initially in small numbers) to form a new ruling class. The plight of the poor had not been solved.
Freed slaves ‘liberti’ became Roman citizens (plebians) but suffered social stigma. They carried a taint that might take several generations to overcome
This was an extension of the patriarchal Roman model (with revered and powerful ‘godfathers’) into the relations between the upper and lower classes.
Plebians had less opportunities and were at a significant disadvantage socially, in business or if they were in a dispute with a magistrate or a powerful patrician.
Many aspiring plebs (and some patricians of lower standing) sought the protection and opportunities provided by a 'patron'. Having many visible clients became a mark of prestige and power.
At the closest, ‘cliens’ would give their patrons familial loyalty, including following them to war. The more dependent clientela would meet at a daily morning reception at the home of the patron known as the ‘salutatio’ where they were given their duties, after which they might escort their patron to the forum.
As the Roman ‘magistrates’ began to directly govern conquered provinces, they brought this ‘patronage’ system with them. Local kings and other officials becoming dependent clients of the governor and his legions.
The number of Non-Roman citizens increased markedly as Rome gained success.
This included (Other) Latins who had limited rights but were not full Roman citizens and Peregrini , free-born foreign subjects.
Of course, there was a growing number of Slaves. They were mostly well treated at first, often being taken into the home, but they had few formal rights.
Governance of the republic, citizens assemblies.
The comitia centuriata
The main citizens assembly was called the comitia centuriata and was organised to reflect the initial organisation of the citizens army. It took over a lot of the functions of the patrician’s comittia curiata which continued in a less important form.
The comitia centuriata elected the senior roman ‘magistrates’. It passed some laws, and tried some serious cases. Only it could declare war.
The patrician seniors and the ‘equites’ voted first and their votes counted more than the votes of all other citizens. Poor people got no effective vote.
There were less powerful assemblies for communication, debating and campaigning for office and concilium (assemblies of specific group of citizens).
One such council, the Plebian council (Concilium Plebis) became much more powerful over time as plebian power grew.
Consuls, Praetors and censors
An elected public official was called a ‘magistratus’, ‘magister’ meaning master.
A single dictator could be appointed for brief periods In a military emergency. He needed to be nominated by the consuls on advice by the senate and confirmed by the comitia centuriata. He was given Imperium which was absolute or kingly legal power (it was also used to describe the power of a general in the military) .
The post of dictator became inactive after the second Punic war 218 BC after which the Republic no longer faced any credible external threats.
Sulla, the first Roman in the Republic to seize power by force, was elected dictator after his second march on Rome (82 BC). (This was during a time when the rule of law in Roman courts and politics was already falling apart).
Two consuls were the more usual senior ‘magistrates’, with powers like a king, but (at first) had yearly terms and an inability to be re-elected for another ten years. Each consul could veto the actions of the other so they had to rule by consensus, to further limit their powers. A consul was legally untouchable while in office as they were superior to all other magistrates.
This was still the model of a powerful patriarch (governed by honour and duty) but the Republic (after the experience with Rome’s last king) introduced ways to limit the power that a single man in Rome could get.
By law, consuls could only be patricians. During the conflict of orders when the plebians, for a period, insisted on the right to appoint the two ‘consuls’, they were called ‘ consular tribunes’.
As governing Rome began more complex, other lesser magistrates were appointed: ‘praetors’ (literally meaning 'leaders'), propraeters and finally quaestors (treasurers) the most junior rank.
Proconsuls were retiring consuls who were nominated to continue some of their duties perhaps managing a war (but they were answerable to the consuls).
Plebian Tribunes Part of the initial offer to resolve conflict at the very start of the Republic was the appointment of Plebian tribunes (by 449 BC there was a college of ten).
The body of a tribune was declared ‘sacrosanct’ which meant an offense against their person was an offence against the Gods. Not only that, the plebes also vowed to defend the person of each tribune ‘until death’.
At first plebes could not pass laws that applied to patricians but as they were declared sacrosanct, they could interpose their person (and then their will) to stop abuse of patrician power in the courts or the senate.
This was called the power of ‘veto’ (Latin ‘I forbid’).
They had to be physically present to do this, and their power ceased if they travelled more than one mile from the city.
Military expansion during the Early Republic
The last three kings of Rome were Etruscans and according to the founding legend, Etruscans were part of Rome from the beginning.
In the last quarter of the 6th century BC, the northern Etruscans were at their height, dominating the Latins and reaching as far as the Greek colony of Cumae in the south. By the time of the Republic, Etruscan power was waning and Rome had emerged as the strongest of the local Latins.
The Republic’s first two major wars were against Fidenae (435 BC), a town near Rome originally held by the Etruscans but sometimes held by Rome , and then Veii (396 BC) , an important local Etruscan town that had once held hegemony over Rome.
Then the Gauls sacked Rome (390BC) and it took Rome s few decades to regain her former strength.
The Latin league (in 340 BC) fought an unsuccessful war to establish their independence from a resurgent Rome.
Cumae (once the greatest Greek colony in Italy) had been already been sacked (by the Oscans and Samnites in 421 BC) and the conclusion of the Latin wars gave Rome dominance over the central part of the west coast as far as Cumae.
Following on this, Rome grew quickly with colonisation and conquest, pushing further south (along the coast) and north against the Etruscans.
Rome’s reasons for first going to war with the Samnites are highly suspect. Even Livy admits that they were an ally (and a rival) of Rome at the time. They were besieging the wealthy city of Capua (also not an ally of Rome) and seemingly were close to taking possession of it.
According to Livy, the city asked for Roman help and was rebuffed. Then they offered their city unconditionally to the Romans.
It was a very doubtful decision on moral grounds, but the Romans found it an offer too good to refuse. While the Romans sent emissaries (fetiales) to the Samnites, inviting them to withdraw, the Samnites were not pleased, not at all.
What followed were three hard fought wars (343 BC-290 BC), over half a century, where Rome with some lesser allies faced Samnites, Etruscans, Greeks, Sabines and others, even a few Gauls. It is not surprising that so many allied against what now seemed to be a dangerous predator, but Rome triumphed. The result gave Rome control of all central Italy from east to west. She was now the most powerful force in Italy.
The Pyrrhic wars (280 BC) then gave her all the remaining former Greek colonies and Southern Italy.
She had already began to move against the last major Etruscan power (Volsinii) in 310 BC and the next eight years saw her mopping up residual Etruscan resistance.
Now, mainland Italy (apart from a few Gauls (celts) on the Italic side of the alps) was all hers.
It was 264 BC and Rome was on the brink of launching the first war against the Carthaginians.
Next month’s blog will discuss the middle Republican period, beginning with an unjust war against Carthage . At the end, Rome had occupied Carthage, Macedonia and Greece. It had forced the large Seleucid Empire (one of the successors to Alexander the Great) out of Greece and the Greek cities along what is now the western coast of Turkey, forcing it to pay costly war reparations.
Despite this external success, Roman society was showing the signs of moral decay that would later spell the end of the Republic.
The Middle Republican Period ends in 133 BC and it doesn't end with another great war or battle. It ended with the murder of a single man.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a Plebian Tribune and a champion of the poor. He was trying to help the poor and army veterans with land reforms. Unfortunately most of the senators were large land owners, often illegally making use of public land and a large group of them opposed him at every turn.
Tiberius was not a man to back down and it ended with his murder during a staged riot.
(Later, his younger brother, Gauis, became a great orator and also an elected tribune. His reforms were even more ambitious than Tiberius's and he was no less stubbornly determined. He was said to have suicided whilst being relentlessly chased by armed enemies).
The third blog, and last of this series, deals with some of the events of the late republic. During this last hundred years or so (133 BC), Rome became consumed with the political use of the army, political murder, military coups, dictators and repeated civil wars.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog on the early Roman Republic. please check out my Amazon Authors page here or at your favourite e-book store.
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Cincinnatus became a legend to the Romans. Twice granted supreme power, he held onto it for not a day longer than absolutely necessary. He consistently demonstrated great honorability and integrity. The high esteem in which he was held by the later Romans  is sometimes extended to his compatriots. One legend from the end of his life claims a Capitolinus defended one of his sons from a charge of military incompetence by asking the jury who would go to tell the aged Cincinnatus the news in the event of a conviction.
By 462 BCE, the Roman kingdom was in trouble. Conflicts had escalated between the wealthy, powerful patricians and the lesser plebeians, who were fighting for constitutional reforms that would have placed limits on patrician authority. Dissension between these two groups eventually turned violent, weakening Roman power in the region.
According to legend, Cincinnatus's son Caeso was one of the most violent offenders in the struggle between the patricians and the plebeians. To prevent the plebeians from assembling in the Roman Forum, Caeso would apparently organize gangs to push them out. Caeso's activities eventually led to charges being brought against him. Rather than face justice, however, he fled to Tuscany.
In 460 BCE, the Roman consul Publius Valerius Poplicola was killed by rebel plebeians. Cincinnatus was called in to take his place in this new position, however, he apparently had only moderate success in quelling the rebellion. He eventually stepped down and returned to his farm.
At the same time, the Romans were at war with the Aequi, an Italic tribe about whom historians know very little. After losing several battles, the Aequi managed to trick and trap the Romans. A few Roman horsemen then escaped to Rome to warn the Senate of their army's plight.
The Struggle of the Orders
Roman imperium, or the power of law and command, was fully concentrated in the patrician class. The consuls were elected from among the patricians, as were the quaestors, praetors and censors. The ensuing class conflicts from the domination of political power by one class over another, in a virtual transfer of power from King to Senate, was called "the struggle of the orders". In effect, it was simply the recurring pattern of the patrician class attempting to hold onto power, while the plebeians worked to rise to social and political equality. The patricians, while mostly secure in their wealth and noble foundation, were also unable to exist without the plebeians. The plebeian class not only produced the grain and supplied the labor that maintained the Roman economy they also formed the recruiting basis as soldiers for the Roman republican legions.
In 494 BC, only 15 years after the founding of the Republic, a withdrawal of plebeians to the Sacred Mount outside Rome, ushered in a fundamental change to the Republican government. The plebes formed a tribal assembly, and their own alternative government, until the patricians agreed to the establishment of an office that would have sacrosanctity (sacrosanctitas). This was the right to be legally protected from any physical harm, and the right of help (ius auxiliandi), meaning the legal ability to rescue any plebeian from the hands of a patrician magistrate. These magistrate positions were labelled as Tribunes or tribuni plebes. Later, the tribunes acquired a far more formidable, and often manipulated power, the right of intercession (ius intercessio). This was the right to veto any act or proposal of any magistrate, including another tribune, for the good of the people. The tribune also had the power to exercise capital punishment against any person who interfered in the performance of his duties. The tribune's power to act was enforced by a pledge of the plebeians to kill any person who harmed a tribune during his term of office.
In 451 BC, another Plebeian withdrawal from the city led to the appointment of the decemvirate, or a commission of ten men. This eventually resulted in the adoption of the bronze engraved Laws of the Twelve Tables, and raised the number of plebeian Tribunes to 10. In 445 BC, the Canuleian law legalized marriages between patricians and members of the plebs. Along with later inter-class adoptions, plebeians were allowed additional class mobility and eventual inclusion into previous Patrician-only magistracies. In 367 BC the plebeians gained the right to be elected consul, and a year later in 366 BC the first was elected. Thereafter, the Licinian-Sextian laws demanded that at least one consul be a plebeian. After the completion of the term of consular office, the plebeian consul became a member of the Senate, resulting in the disintegration of the patrician hold on the Senate. Furthermore, in 300 BC, plebeians were allowed to serve at all levels of the priesthood, thus making them religiously equal to the patricians. Finally, the greatest achievement of power for the people, in 287 BC, the decisions and legislation of the plebeian assembly, Concilium Plebis or "Council of the Plebeians", became not only binding on the plebeians, but on the entire Roman citizenry.
All power was not shifted away from the patricians, however. While still maintaining significant power through clients and the prestige of their heritage, they were also able to turn the tables. Using the plebeian adoption methodology for upward mobility, some patricians used it to adopt into the plebeian class and become available to serve as plebeian-only Tribunes. While a rare occurrence, such mobility made the entire political spectrum open to the ruling classes.
This political upheaval brought about a new aristocracy, composed of patrician and wealthy plebeian families, and admission to the Senate became almost the hereditary privilege of these families. The Senate, which in its original function maintained no law making and little administrative power, became a powerful governing force. They oversaw matters of war and peace, foreign alliances, the founding of colonies, and the handling of the state finances. The rise of this new nobilitas ended the conflict between the upper echelons of the two orders, but the position of the poorer plebeian families was not improved. In fact, a class designation of equestrian (knight), originally composed of patrician senatorial families, developed into one including plebes that signified a particular level of wealth, and further separated the plebeian elite from the common people. The decided contrast between the conditions of the rich and the poor led to struggles in the later Republic between the aristocratic party and the popular party. These struggles developed into one of several major factors in the eventual collapse of the Republican system.
In the early Roman Republic, did every patrician family have at least one consul? - History
For 500 years Ancient Rome was governed by the Roman Republic. This was a form of government that allowed for people to elect officials. It was a complex government with a constitution, detailed laws, and elected officials such as senators. Many of the ideas and structures of this government became the basis for modern democracies.
Who were the leaders of the Roman Republic?
The Roman Republic had a number of leaders and groups that helped to govern. Elected officials were called magistrates and there were different levels and titles of magistrates. The Roman Government was very complicated and had lots of leaders and councils. Here are some of the titles and what they did:
The Roman Senate by Cesare Maccari
Consuls - At the top of the Roman Republic was the consul. The consul was a very powerful position. In order to keep the consul from becoming a king or dictator, there were always two consuls elected and they only served for one year. Also, the consuls could veto each other if they didn't agree on something. The consuls had a wide range of powers they decided when to go to war, how much taxes to collect, and what the laws were.
Senators - The Senate was a group of prestigious leaders who advised the consuls. The consuls usually did what the Senate recommended. Senators were selected for life.
Plebeian Council - The Plebeian Council was also called the Peoples Assembly. This was how the common people, plebeians, could elect their own leaders, magistrates, pass laws, and hold court.
Tribunes - Tribunes were the representatives of the Plebeian Council. They could veto laws made by the Senate.
Governors - As Rome conquered new lands, they needed someone to be the local ruler. The Senate would appoint a governor to rule the land or province. The governor would be in charge of the local Roman army and would also be responsible to collect taxes. Governors were also called proconsuls.
Aedile - An Aedile was a city official who was responsible for the maintenance of public buildings as well as public festivals. Many politicians who wanted to be elected to a higher office, like consul, would become aedile so they could hold big public festivals and gain popularity with the people.
Censor - The Censor counted the citizens and kept track of the census. They also had some responsibilities to maintain public morality and to look after public finances.
The Roman Republic did not have a precise written constitution. The constitution was more of a set of guidelines and principals that were passed down from generation to generation. It provided for separate branches of government and balances of power.
Were all people treated equally?
No, people were treated differently based on their wealth, gender, and citizenship. Women did not get the right to vote or hold office. Also, if you had more money, you got more voting power. Consuls, Senators, and Governors only came from the rich aristocracy. This may sound unfair, but it was a big change from other civilizations where the average person had no say at all. In Rome, the regular people could band together and have considerable power through the Assembly and their Tribunes.
In the early Roman Republic, did every patrician family have at least one consul? - History
Romans dismantled the monarchy giving the power to the Senate and Assembly, thus, creating the Republic. Until its demise in 44 BCE, its history would be one of almost constant warfare.
They did have a constitution outlining their traditions and institutions, but it was not a written document. During the early founding of Rome the governing body consisted of two consuls, patricians, and a member of the aristocracy elite in early Republic, elected for one year. The two consuls were given the supreme power or imperium. They also initiated legislation, were head of the judiciary and military, and were chief priests. Due to the fact that there were two, the imperium was limited either could block the other with a veto.
In addition, a consul served on the Senate after his elected term ended, which lead to cooperation with the governing body. These limitations, however, stifled creativity. The early Republican government was conservative and careful. In 325 BCE, proconsuls, consuls whose terms were extended usually because of warfare, were added.
The Transition in Action
The imperium (supreme power) belonged to the patricians because all high Roman officers were elected from that class. Not surprisingly, the plebeians came to resent this. In a situation similar to that facing Solon in Greece, Roman peasants were falling into deep debt and were forced to sell their families into slavery. The resulting plebian protest, called The Conflict of the Orders, came when plebeians refused to participate in the military. Rome was at war, and the patricians could not fill the ranks. Between 494–287 BCE, plebeians engaged in five separate strikes led by wealthy landowners of their class, slowly earning the right to elect their leaders, called tribunes, who brought grievances to the consuls and Senate. They could also veto new laws.
In republican Rome every plebian chose a patrician as his patron, whose duty it was to represent the plebian in any matter of law. This paternalistic relationship – which we call patronage – reflected the family’s center role in Roman culture. The pater, “father,” protected not only his wife and family but also his clients, who submitted to his patronage. In return for the pater’s protection, family and client equally owed the pater their total obedience – which the Romans referred to as pietas, “dutifulness.” So embedded was this attitude that when toward the end of the first century BCE the Republic declared itself an empire, the emperor was called pater patriae, “father of the fatherland.” (Sayre, 2013, p. 78)
Furthermore, by 450BCE, Roman law was codified and displayed in public. The new governing body was called the 12 Tables, it governed public and private behavior and was “generally seen as the beginning of European law” (Hooker, 1996). According to Halsall, among the laws are the following (1998):
Let them keep the road in order. If they have not paved it, a man may drive his team where he likes. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment. Marriages should not take place between plebeians and patricians. Whatever the people had last ordained should be held as binding by law.
During early Roman Republic days most wars were considered defensive strategy. However, due to their experience with the Etruscans, they set out to create a buffer zone and by 265 BCE, they controlled the entire peninsula. Over the next century from roughly 264 – 146 BCE Rome and the North African country of Carthage would engage in warfare now termed the Punic Wars. This was primarily because Carthage, to the southwest Rome, was considered a threat since they could invade Rome by sea also due to having built a powerful empire extending to Spain. After three separate wars carried out over more than a century and numerous new territories being conquered Rome would emerge victorious from the Punic Wars. However, this time period of warfare would create a type of cultural class with Roman society.
The Punic Wars devastation of the Roman countryside, carried out by Hannibal, had dramatic results on the country. Wealthy patricians remained safe in Rome while plebeians saw their property destroyed. With ravaged land and no work, the plebeians flooded into the major cities. The entire situation was exacerbated since the wars brought in an abundance of new slaves. Around 200 BCE, most people in Italy were slaves, which eventually caused a depression of wages and opportunity. The result was a population of free but angry Romans, which erupted in civil war in 133 BCE when tribune, Tiberius Gracchus, proposed redistribution of land, legislation that was blocked by the landowning patricians via the tribune Octavius, whom Tiberius Gracchus promptly removed from office. When Tiberius stood for reelection, manifestly unconstitutional, he was assassinated by a group of senators in what was the first political bloodshed in Roman history.
Tiberius Gracchus is among the most important of Roman politicians but not for his murder. He sought political change outside cooperation with the patricians and turned to the masses creating a new kind of politician, the populace. Traditional politicians became known as optimates, meaning the best. This societal change would have a lasting impact on the Republic.
In 123 and 122 BCE, Tiberius’ brother, Gaius, was elected tribune. Enormously popular with the people, he stabilized grain prices by building storehouses for excess, which kept prices low enough so the poor did not starve but allowed small farmers to continue to sell and survive. In a law “that provoked the most opposition, he proposed citizenship be granted to all Italians (in order to increase his power base)” (Hooker, 1996). The two laws threatened the power of the patricians and in 121 BCE, Gaius Gracchus was declared an enemy of the state by the Senate. In the final confrontation, Gaius committed suicide rather than be captured, and many of his followers were executed.
The chaos and murder continued when four generals, Gaius Marius, Sulla Crassus, and Pompey, all rose to prominence over the next 40 years. The first general rising to power, Marius, created a new situation for Rome where victorious generals with loyal armies could govern areas of Rome at will. Sulla, on the other hand, was from an old but poor patrician family and was a committed patrician. He would eventually defeated Marius on the battlefield in 86 BCE and massacred Marius’ supporters. The Senate, fearing plebian uprising, made Sulla the dictator (traditionally a 6-month position). He alone held the imperium until his death in 78 BCE. Sulla reformed the government by cutting the power of the Assembly and handing it to the Senate in an effort to restore what he considered the original Republic. However, in doing so, Sulla continued to murder opponents provoking violent reaction. By the time of his death, the Senate faced armed rebellion.
The other two general appeared in history around 70 BCE, Crassus and Pompey. Both were ambitious generals and allied to repeal Sulla’s reforms standing against the Senate, but the alliance was tenuous. Pompey would become the most popular man in Rome because of his military victories and the expansion of territories to the East (70–63 BCE). Crassus, a millionaire, was universally unpopular. In an effort to gain more power, he allied himself with a brilliant general named Gaius Julius Caesar, who used his new ally’s money to his advantage.
Caesar came from an old patrician family and had fought extraordinary campaigns in Spain and Gaul (France). Upon his return from Spain, he demanded a triumph (victory parade), but he was refused because the Senate feared his popularity. Caesar’s ambitions would not be quashed. He quickly realized the way to power in Rome was through military conquest providing a general with loyal army, wealth, and prestige in Rome. Therefore, he took his army to Gaul seeking glory.
There was no reason for Rome to conquer northern Europe: the people there were tribal, seminomadic, and no threat. Caesar conquered them anyway bringing northern France, Belgium, and southern Great Britain into the fold. When he returned to Rome, the Triumvirate was over Crassus was dead and Pompey, now the only consul (which was illegal), had turned the Senate against Caesar. He was declared an enemy of the state and told to hand over his governorship, provinces, and army.
Caesar’s troops were intensely loyal. In 49 BCE, they crossed the Rubicon River into Italy, breaking the law. War erupted again. Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in Greece in 48 BCE, and Pompey was assassinated shortly thereafter. Caesar turned his attention to Asia Minor in a conquest so quick he famously commented, “Vini, vedi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered). The civil war continued until 45 BCE.
As popular as Caesar may have been with the masses, he was resented by many in the Senate for his usurpation of power and arrogance. Even the greatest Roman orator, Cicero, was opposed to Caesar. About two years before his death, he reportedly said, “It is more important for Rome than for myself that I should survive. I have long been seated with power and glory but, should anything happen to me, Rome will enjoy no peace. A new Civil War will break out under far worse conditions than the last” (Halsall, 1998).
He had ruled only 2 years, and his killers believed the Republic would return. It turned out that Caesar had been right.
Three new men stepped up to form the Second Triumvirate. They were Marc Antony (consul), Lepidus (a high official), and Octavian (Caesar’s grandnephew). Civil war again racked Rome. By 37 BCE, what little stability remained was gone. Marc Antony was married to Octavian’s sister but had also entered into some kind of marriage contract with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, thus, defiling the important Roman familial bonds and making a bitter enemy of Octavian. Antony and Cleopatra’s navy was defeated in 31 BCE, and the couple committed suicide, forever immortalized by Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Lepidus survived but because he had supported Antony, he was stripped of most of his offices. Octavian stood as the sole master of Rome, and the Republic was, for all intents and purposes, dead.
Octavian intended to restore order and provide equity to the Empire. He changed his name to Augustus Caesar in 27 BCE, and his reforms were many. He rid the government of more dubious (e.g., anti-Augustan) men and trimmed the Senate from 1,000 to 800 members. He extended citizenship to all Italians, then rigged elections so the best candidates (often handpicked) would win. Augustus and his reforms were so popular that he was made tribunicia potestas, which means a tribune for life.
However, the reforms did not come easy. Augustus had to compromise between inherited tradition and economic, political, and social realities. In doing so, he displayed typical Roman practicality, certainly saved the Empire, but also “spelled the death of representative institutions” (Hooker, 1996).
Augustus embarked on reform. He consolidated the borders, pulling back in some areas and strengthening what remained. The army’s size was shrunk and sent to the borders and provinces. Augustus resettled soldiers on farmland and made the army a professional one, doing away with the volunteers loyal to a single general. Anyone who served more than 20 years in the military received a cash payment from the state.
However, there was one last reform. Augustus embarked on a building project of restoring temples or creating new buildings. He would famously say, “I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” The result was the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), which would be the hallmark of the Augustan Age and lasted nearly 200 years despite some emperors who were less than able.
In the early Roman Republic, did every patrician family have at least one consul? - History
THE PATRICIAN ORDER
Excerpted from Secret History of the Witches (forthcoming). Copyright 2011 Max Dashu
The founding myth of Rome shows a woman coerced by a usurper who feared her children would overthrow him. Tradition called Rhea Silvia the first Vestal Virgin. Her uncle Amulius deposed her father and brothers and seized the throne. He forced his niece into the temple to ensure her virginity, thus preventing her from bearing any heirs to challenge his kingship. [Briffault, 422-26] The legend says that Mars then raped Rhea Silvia. Her uncle found out she was pregnant and imprisoned her. His daughter Antho persuaded him not to kill her instead he sends her into exile and had her twin sons thrown into the Tiber. But they washed ashore and were nursed by a she-wolf. So Romulus survived to overthrow his great-uncle. But first he killed his brother Remus in a quarrel over whose name their new city would bear.
Having set the tone with fratricide, Romulus fortified his new state with new warriors by giving asylum to outlaws. But his new settlement lacked women. The Romans conspired to invite the neighboring Sabines to the Consualia festival, then abducted the young women. The sham battles at Roman weddings commemorated these captures, and so did the customary nuptial cry, Thalassio. It derived from soldiers trying to deliver the most beautiful Sabine captive to a powerful official and, because men kept trying to grab her, having to shout again and again that she was &ldquofor Thalassius.&rdquo [Livy 1.9.11] To recover the virgines raptae, and to avenge the treacherous attack on guests at a religious festival, the Sabines declared war on Rome. A woman named Tarpeia threw open the city gates to the Sabine warriors.
Conflicting legends explained why Tarpeia betrayed Rome. The main account claimed that Tarpeia was bribed to admit the Sabine warriors, who promised her what was on their arms. This was a trick they did not give Tarpeia golden armbands, but used their shields to crush her. [Livy 1.11, (46)] Another account says that Tarpeia agreed to open the gates in return for what was on their left arms&mdashtheir shields&mdashso that they would fall before Roman swords. Both of these stories play on armae (armor) and armillae (armbands). Another account says the Sabine warriors killed the woman by hurling her off the high Tarpeian rock, which became a place of executions carried out in this way. Still others say that the name came from Tarpeia&rsquos burial at the rock. the Capitoline hill where the rock was located used to be called after her, the Tarpeian hill, according to the Roman historian Varro.
Tarpeia is described as a general&rsquos daughter, but nothing is said about who her mother might have been. Was she a Sabine? Tarpeia&rsquos act has been explained as treachery, greed, gullibility, or hopeless love. No one suggested that her act might have been a bold and decisive attempt to free the captive Sabine women. Maybe her disloyalty was to patriarchy rather than to Rome. An elegy of Propertius hints at that, putting evocative words in her mouth: &ldquodon&rsquot let the Sabine women have been ravished unavenged.&rdquo However, he buries that under his own notion of Tarpeia as a Vestal helplessly in love with the Sabine king, ever since she saw him while drawing water for the goddess. Propertius even has her imploring Tatius to ravish her. [Elegy 4.4, tr by Jacqueline Long, Online: <www.luc.edu/depts/classics>] Ovid, on the other hand, does not even bother to name Tarpeia, and goes back to the traditional legend of her bribery with golden armlets. In Roman men&rsquos accounts, Tarpeia was dishonored, beneath contempt, and they delighted in recounting her downfall.
Interesting parallels to this story appear in the Irish epic Aided Cu Rói. A warrior took the princess Bláthnat captive&mdash&ldquohe threw her under his arm&rdquo&mdashand treated her, along with cows and a cauldron, as his spoils of war. Because of a dispute over the division of loot, Cu Rói carried her off from her first captor, and made her his own slave and concubine. Later, Bláthnat met her original captor and arranged to have him help her escape after she gave an agreed-upon signal. She tied her rapist&rsquos hair to the bed, took his sword, and &ldquothrew open the stronghold.&rdquo Cu Rói was killed in the attack, but Bláthnat did not get her freedom. His druid seized her and holding her tight, leaped off a cliff to avenge her &ldquobetrayal.&rdquo The medieval Irish monks were unable to understand Blathnat&rsquos break for freedom: &ldquoan incredible deed for a wife to betray her man. On account of it, judgement went against her.&rdquo [Olmsted, 56] As far as they were concerned, she was captured fair and square, and should have accepted her status as sexual chattel. Tarpeia herself was not abducted, but both of these tales turn on marriage-by-capture followed by a woman throwing open the gates to an avenging army.
At first, the captive and traumatized Sabine woman bore no children. (Doubtless they used every contraceptive method they knew.) The oracle of Juno, Roman goddess of marriage, gave a remedy: &ldquoLet the sacred he-goat go in to the Italian matrons.&rdquo Romulus' spin on this was to whip the women with goat-hides. That ritual flogging was commemorated in the Lupercalia, when naked youths struck any woman they passed with strips of goat-hide. The whipping was said to make them fertile. [Olmsted, 144-8] The women did have children, and this led them to act as peacemakers.
Famously, the war with the Sabines ended when the Sabine mothers, led by Hersilia, rushed between the warriors to stop the fighting and prevailed on them to make a treaty. It was agreed that the Sabine king Titus Tatius would co-rule with Romulus. Some sources say that Rome's thirty curiæ (wards) were named after the abducted Sabine women, for their intervention that brought peace between the two tribes. [Dionysos of Halicarnassus II. 47] But all written Roman accounts except that of Livy ignore their action as mediators who averted a destructive war. Instead &ldquothe majority of the sources emphasize the passivity of the women.&rdquo [Hersch, 139] Their peoples too were treated as lesser. The Sabines and other conquered tribes formed the bulk of Rome&rsquos plebeian class.
As Roman historical legend tells it, the early kings were succeeded, not by their sons, but by their daughters&rsquo husbands, or by sons of the royal women. It was the woman of the lineage who carried the sovereignty in the monarchic period, though they did not rule. The Sabine king Titus Tatius was succeeded by Numa, who had married his daughter. Numa&rsquos daughter (or rather his wife's daughter) Pompilia had a son who became the fourth king. His father was unknown, according to Cicero, or at least irrelevant. [De Re Publica, 2.33] Next came the Etruscan kings of Rome. Whether or not these successions reflect a remnant of matrilineage, &ldquothere was no formal queenship. &rdquo As Fay Glinister reminds us, &ldquoThere is no example of a woman ruling alone, in her own right.&rdquo No woman even acted as a regent, except for the legendary Lavinia, widow of Aeneas. However, women had more scope to influence events under the monarchy than in the subsequent Republican period. [117-20]
Another rape caused the overthrow of Roman monarchy. Around 510 bce, the last king Sextus Tarquinius violated the patrician matron Lucretia. Livy&rsquos highly mythologized account starts with a contest among the patrician men over who had the best wife. They drop in unannounced at night, and find Lucretia hard at work with her spinning, in contrast with the Etruscan princesses, who were partying. One of the men was Sextus, who conceived a plan to rape the virtuous wife. He came back several days later, was received with due hospitality, and waited until the household was asleep.
Then he took up his sword and went to Lucretia's bedroom, and placing his sword against her left breast, he said, &lsquoQuiet, Lucretia I am Sextus Tarquinius, and I have a sword in my hand. If you speak, you will die.&rsquo . Finally, before her steadfastness, which was not affected by the fear of death even after his intimidation, he added another menace. &lsquoWhen I have killed you, I will put next to you the body of a nude servant, and everyone will say that you were killed during a dishonorable act of adultery&rsquo. [History of Rome, LVII, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/livy-rape.asp]
Having been taught to fear dishonor even more than rape, Lucretia yielded. Livy says that she summoned her father and husband, told them of the attack, and urged them to avenge her. Then she pulled out a knife and killed herself. For this act she was celebrated in Roman legend, self-destruction being considered as the only honorable response for a raped woman.
Plebians and patricians
The majority of Romans were called plebes, literally the &ldquopeople.&rdquo Livy repeated a saying that they did not know their fathers. This means that the strictures on women were less, and that the plebeians still tended toward the old Etruscan mother-right. [Livy x, 8 Briffault, 427] In Roman law, the child of a full legal marriage took its status from the father only, but otherwise status came from the mother. [Ogilvie, 131] Common women had a low social rank, but they had the run of Rome's streets and markets, and most earned their own bread.
The patricians were named for their male supremacy, literally &ldquothose of the fathers,&rdquo and formed the ruling class of Roman society. These landholding aristocrats claimed descent from the first 100 senators (also called &ldquofathers&rdquo) appointed by Romulus. They controlled the all-male government, and had a monopoly on political offices and the priesthoods. The patricians still controlled the calendar and the laws, which they kept secret. This gradually changed under strong pressure from below, though the patricians never lost their dominant position.
The plebians fought a prolonged struggle against patrician domination. They seceded from Rome in 494, demanding two plebeian tribunes to protect the common people. In 471 they established an assembly of the tribes. By mid-century, the plebians succeeded in getting the Twelve Tables of the Law published and the prohibition of marriage between commoners and patricians repealed. The tribune Canuleius told the assembled plebes that such laws reflected &ldquothe depth of contempt in which you are held by the aristocracy.&rdquo He added that &ldquorape is a patrician habit.&rdquo [Livy, 4.3-4 (271-4)]
The Twelve Tables have only survived in fragments recorded by later sources. The Eighth Table had to do with torts, including magic spells, and its prescription of the death penalty for maleficium cast a long shadow over European law for two millennia. The already patriarchal social structure deepened, as the old usus marriage (based on cohabitation) was replaced with the more prestigious coemptio (based on sale of the bride). [Thomson, 93 Johnston, 127ff] Even the usus marriage made a woman her husband&rsquos property, but there was a loophole: if she absented herself three nights in a row every year, she could legally circumvent his usucapio (ownership based on long usage). [Twelve Tables, VI, 5]
The ruling patricians built Roman law on the base of patria potestas, the life-and-death power of the father over his wife, children and slaves. This privilege was enshrined in the Twelve Tables of the Law, not to be rescinded until the 2nd century CE. [Lyttleton/Werner, 83] Legally, the Roman word familia referred, not to a family of kin, but to slave holdings. It was derived from famuli, &ldquoslave,&rdquo and paterfamilias meant &ldquofather of slaves.&rdquo [Palmer, 117 Thomson, 92]
Roman law imposed a pronounced sexual double standard in rights and behavior. Table V placed women under tutela: male guardians held them in mano, &ldquoin the hand.&rdquo The rationale for this male control (manus) offered in the Twelve Tables was female &ldquolevity of mind.&rdquo [Lefkowitz and Fant, 174] The state left judgement and punishment of women to their male relatives. This did not mean lenient treatment traditional punishments included beating with rods, and it was legal for the paterfamilias to execute family members. He literally had the right to decide their life and death (jus vitae et necis). [Sawyer, 20]
Women moved into the husband's household, usually as young teenagers or even preteens, and adopted their husbands' ancestors. Only fathers were allowed to carry out the rites of the patrilineal ancestors. [Rouselle, 303] The Twelve Tables denied women the right to divorce (this changed in the Republic era) while allowing men to repudiate their wives on several counts: for adultery, copying the household keys, or &ldquofor the use of drugs or magic on account of children.&rdquo For a wife to copy the keys implied that she was involved in adulterous affairs or secret drinking from the locked wine cellar. [Spaeth, 59] The last provision was directed against contraception and abortion not approved by the husband. [Lefkowitz and Fant, 173-4] As in Greece, husbands could unilaterally order abortion and infanticide (often by infant exposure). The mother had no say, and her female babies were most at risk. [Harris, William. V. &ldquoChild-Exposure in the Roman Empire,&rdquo The Journal of Roman Studies 84 (1994): 1-22]
The modern romantic custom of the husband lifting his bride over the threshold began as a commemoration of the capture-marriages of the Sabine women. Wedding ceremony reenacted their rapes, because they &ldquohad turned out so well for Romulus.&rdquo [Festus 364-5, in Hersch, 136]. The bride&rsquos hair was parted using a spear, symbolizing phallic dominance, and a man wrested the bride from the arms of her kin. Both Festus and Plutarch saw these customs as asserting the husband&rsquos power over his wife. The latter added that this power was so great that the husband had the power to give or loan his wife to a friend. [Lives, 22, 63 Hersch 136] She herself had no such rights over her own person. A modern historian remarks, &ldquoThe wedding took the form of a legal rape in which the woman emerged &lsquooffended with her husband.&rsquo&rdquo The groom was not supposed to break the bride&rsquos hymen on the first night. So, as Martial and Seneca show, it became customary for him to sodomize her instead! Whatever her husband did, a wife had no right to protest. [Veyne, 35]
Patrician women were trained to self-restraint, obedience to fathers, husbands and guardians, and to reserve &ldquoin speech, act and gaze.&rdquo Plutarch again: &ldquogreat modesty was enjoined on them all busy intermeddling forbidden, sobriety insisted on, and silence made habitual.&rdquo [Lives, 63] They were not to speak in public. [Livy 34.2.10 Valerius Maximus 3.8.3-8] Men warded off dishonor by denouncing their daughters or wives in public, and punishing them in private. [Veyne, 39] When they went out (in early times a disapproved act) they had to veil, covering their heads and bodies rather than their faces. Conversely, veiling was forbidden to women not considered respectable, as well as to unmarried maidens, who had to wear tunics. [Assa, Janine. The Great Roman Ladies, New York: Grove, 1960. p. 92]
The social ideal was the domina lanifera, domiseda, univira: a stay-at-home, wool-working lady who is faithful to one husband all her life. Female patricians were expected to practice abstinence, sexual and otherwise, while tolerating their husbands&rsquo promiscuity. [Rousselle, 321-3] Early Roman law forbade women to drink wine (the preferred beverage) except on set festival days. Wine was the sacred medium of divine communion, reserved for gods and men. At one time in Roman history, women faced the death penalty for drinking wine, as Plutarch, Cicero, and many others attest. Egnatius Mecennius beat his wife to death with a cudgel for drinking wine, reported Varro, who noted that Romulus acquitted him. [Brouwer, 333 L/F, 176] Valerius Maximus commented that &ldquono one even criticized him, because the husband was making an example to other women.&rdquo [Schottroff, 71]
Five centuries after this famous execution, Cato upheld men's legal power to kill their wives: &ldquoIf you should take your wife in adultery, you may with impunity put her to death without a trial but if you should commit adultery or indecency, she must not presume to lay a finger on you, nor does the law allow it.&rdquo [Pomeroy, 153 On the Dowry, in Lefkowitz/Fant, 175] Men also punished their wives for lesser breaches of the sexual double standard. Valerius Maximus approvingly cited cases of patrician men who divorced their wives for being outdoors with head unveiled, or for speaking to a freedwoman in public, or for attending the games without masculine permission. Again, his paramount concern was that other women be intimidated from doing likewise. [Lefkowitz/Fant, 176 Schottroff, 238 fn16]
Cicero admitted the laws were &ldquofull of injustice toward women,&rdquo but still believed that giving females equal rights was as unthinkable as freedom for slaves or animals. [De Re Publica, 3.17 1.67, in Schottroff, 26] As in so many other patriarchal societies, rape was treated as a property offense against the male guardian, not the female victim. [Brundage, 48] Gay sex was utterly legal and normal for males of any status, though the penetrated partner was despised. But married women could be charged with adultery for lesbian sex: &ldquo. both the Elder Seneca and Martial refer to lesbian activities as adultery, the former suggesting that the death penalty was appropriate when the two were discovered in the act by a husband.&rdquo [Boswell, 82]
All these strictures were resisted by women, who gradually threw many of them off over the centuries. In 216 BCE, when the country was shaken by Hannibal's invasion, a patrician backlash enacted the Oppian laws. The Senate forbade females to wear multi-colored dresses, especially purple, or own more than a half ounce of gold or ride in carriages. More seriously (and less frequently mentioned), it required widows, single women, and women under wardship to deposit their money with the state. The numbers of such women had swollen because of increased deaths of men in the Punic War. [Sawyer, 22] Consequently women controlled more wealth than at any time in Roman history.
The pretext for the Oppian laws was Rome&rsquos state of emergency. But decades after the fall and destruction of Carthage, which brought unprecedented wealth into the city, these laws remained in effect. At last, in 195 BCE, Roman women poured into the streets to demand their repeal. Livy wrote that the matrons blockaded all the streets and the entrances to the Forum. The female crowd grew larger every day, pouring in even from the suburbs and villages. Women approached the consuls, praetors and other officials, urging them to overturn the laws. [Livy xxxiv, 1] This &ldquoinsurrection of the women&rdquo occasioned Cato's famous diatribe defending the patriarchal order:
Our fathers have willed that women should be in the power of their fathers, of their brothers, of their husbands. Remember all the laws by which our fathers have bound down the liberty of women, by which they have bent them to the power of men. As soon as they are our equals, they become our superiors. [Briffault, 428]
Women were the most dangerous class of all, insisted Cato, if permitted to assemble and consult with each other. [in Livy, xxxiv, 2-3] Cato said that there would be no problem if husbands asserted their power over their wives at home. But since they had failed to do so, &ldquofemale violence&rdquo was trampling male liberty underfoot at home and even in the male space of the Forum. As he passed the protestors in the Forum, Cato demanded of them, &ldquoCould you not have made the same requests, each of you of your own husband, at home?&rdquo (Several centuries later, Christian scriptures reiterated this quintissentially Roman requirement, in the famous demand that women not speak in church but ask their husbands at home.)
Lucius Valerius defended the women&rsquos cause by citing their contributions during the Sabine, Volscian, Gallic and Punic wars. He pointed out that women were allowed no offices, no triumphs, no spoils of war at least they should have their adornments. He said the law was unjust: &ldquoShall we forbid only women to wear purple? When you, a man, may use purple on your clothes, will you not allow the mother of your family to have a purple cloak, and will your horse be more beautifully saddled than your wife is garbed?&rdquo [Livy, xxxiv, 7] He did not convince the men, and the tribunes vetoed the motion to repeal the Oppian laws. But it wasn&rsquot over yet the matrons forced them to yield by beseiging their houses. [Lefkowitz/Fant, 179-80] Victory came, not from male paternalism, but from what Valerius Maximus called &ldquothe unusual alliance&rdquo of women, and the valiant stand they made. [Schottroff, 70]
After this turning point, if not before, Roman women began to breach the harshest shackles of tradition, finding ways around old legal and customary barriers. They drove a trend away from manus marriages and toward free marriages in which the bride retained rights over her dowry in case of divorce, which also became more common. Though easier divorce freed many women, fathers retained legal rights over the children, so that ex-wives lost custody (and often lost a degree of social honor as well.) Roman women, who used to sit while men reclined, now began taking the liberty to recline, as Varro and Valerius Maximus lamented.
An increasing number of women became emancipated, legally sui juris, with &ldquorights over self&rdquo and over their own property. Male tutelage was considerably weakened to a legalistic formality and, combined with the longstanding custom of marrying young teens to older men, resulted in a growing number of wealthy and independent widows. By the first century, many women were engaged in trade, some acquiring their own fortunes. Women were now running shipping companies, factories, and other businesses and trades. They did not shy away from defending their property rights. Hortensia, daughter of a famous orator, led another female protest in 42 bce against the Triumvirate&rsquos appropriation of the wealth of women married to men in the opposing faction. [Sawyer, 23]
In the imperial period, elite women exerted influence over government from within ruling families. The empress Livia wielded great political power behind a mask of wifely virtue. Seneca sneered at mothers &ldquowho, because women cannot seek office, seek power through their sons.&rdquo [Sen. Helv. 14.3, in Glinister, 1997: 120] Later on, things had opened up to the point that Julia Domna could exercise her considerable clout more openly. Severus Caecina complained to the Senate that women used to be controlled by the Oppian and other laws, &ldquonow, loosed from every bond, they rule over our houses, our tribunals, even our armies.&rdquo [Tacitus, Annals, 3.33] Of course, he was exaggerating by a long shot, but women had created change.
Another backlash occurred in the last years of the Republic. Divorce had become frequent, and the birth rate dropped. Seneca blamed Roman women for the divorces, and it is likely that women had initiated most of them, because now they had options. Horace's ode at the Secular Games, and the speeches of Cicero, show that men were blaming various social problems on female wantonness. Juvenal&rsquos Satires, the pulse of his time, were loaded with misogyny. The poet Catullus moved from praising his female lovers to trashing them in the most explicit and scurrilous terms designed to publicly humiliate them as oversexed, castrating monsters.
In 18 bce, an Augustan law intervened in sexual politics on several fronts, using one carrot and many sticks. It rewarded women who bore three or more children with freedom from male tutelage (ius liberorum). But it also made female adultery a felony, forced husbands to divorce straying wives, and reiterated the paternal privilege of killing a daughter and her lover. The law now defined sexual infidelity by concubines as adultery (by definition this was one-sideded) and men could legally punish them as they did their wives, although concubines had none of a wife's rights. The state even went so far as to prosecute family and neighbors for not turning in adulterers. [Lefkowitz/Fant, 181 Rouselle, 113-4 Brundage, 43]
This law of Augustus was named Lex Julia after his daughter, Julia Augusta. She herself fell victim to it. Her father sent her into exile on a distant island, where she died in destitution twenty years later. [Tacitus, Annals, 4.20 1.52] What happened? First, look at Julia&rsquos life. On the day of her birth Augustus divorced her mother and took her away to be raised under the strictest control. [Dio Cassius, 48.34.3] Her designated role was to marry the men her father chose as his heirs, one after the other, and to bear children. She was accused of a drunken orgy in the Forum and packed off to Pantaderia under close guard. The old controls were once again in force. As of old, Julia was explicitly forbidden to drink wine. Her ordeal did not end with the death of her father. Her ex-husband Tiberius then confined her to a single room and prevented her from having any visitors.
The Lex Julia was unpopular, needless to say, and in time women overcome some of its strictures. Their angry protests &ldquoforced Augustus to recognize a longer period of widowhood before forcing them to marry again.&rdquo To get around the law&rsquos requirement that male guardians must approve legal and economic transactions, some elite women even registered as prostitutes. The state continued to back families&rsquo power to force women to marry with extreme force. One imperial edict &ldquocondemned all women who refused marriage to be raped or sent to a brothel.&rdquo [McNamara, 11-13, 26, 32]
Female infanticide was rampant in patrician families, as Dio Cassius observed: &ldquo. among the nobility there were far more males than females.&rdquo As a result, men found a shortage of marriage partners in their own class, and Augustus was obliged to remove the ban on their marrying freedwomen. Conversely, after 52 CE, Roman women who had sex with slaves (without the master&rsquos consent) were themselves subject to legal enslavement. [Rousselle, 311]
In spite of the changes women had compelled, marriage still institutionalized male dominance. Augustus told the Senate &ldquoto admonish and command your wives as you wish that is what I do.&rdquo [Dio Cassius 54.16] As the empire grew, men continued to exemplify Romanness itself: &ldquothe masters of the human race, the people who wear the toga.&rdquo [Virgil Aeneid, 1.282] Not only did women not wear this garment, but neither did plebeian men, except perhaps by tribunes and other officials, and the enslaved were forbidden to wear it.
The Latin word sacerdos (priest or priestess) was gender neutral, but official Roman culture privileged patrician males as priestly officiants. Male flamines presided over the great majority of temples, as legendarily ordained by king Numa Pompilius. Men controlled all temple functions of the state, with the notable exception of the Vestals. They controlled even most of the goddess temples only in the temples of Bona Dea, Fortuna Muliebris, and Diana (Aventine and probably Nemi as well) did priestesses have full rein. [Scheid, 378, 390] (Ceres is a more complicated case, as the state-sanctioned flamen cerealis was replaced by priestesses due to popular pressure.) It was customary for temple sacrifices to begin with a priest calling out: &ldquoAway with the foreigner, the prisoner in chains, the woman, the girl!&rdquo All these people were forbidden to attend the sacrifices. [Paulus Diaconis, in Scheid, 379]
In addition, Rome had two priestly couples. The Flamen and Flaminica Dialis were dedicated to Jupiter, and the Rex and Regina Sacrorum represented a vestige of the old sacred kingship. Both the Vestals and the Flaminica Dialis wore the bridal coiffure and veil, but the veil of the Flaminica was bright red. This flammeum signified vital power. [Festus on flammeo, senis crinibus] The Flaminica was robed in purple, her tall bun tied with purple strands, covered with a white cloth and pomegranate wreath, then a large purple mantle, and the blazing flammeum atop it all. She sacrificed a ram in the marketplace every week. The Flaminica was also a sacred weaver who used a special ritual knife, and she alone could weave her husband&rsquos clothing. She herself could wear shoes made only from sacrificial animals. This priestly couple was hedged around with many other ritual taboos. Their marriage was indissoluable, carried out by the patrician rite of confarreatio (bread-sharing), and required her virginity. The Flamen Dialis had to resign if his wife died first, so crucial was her role in Rome&rsquos sacred marriage.
Old female-oriented or matrilineal customs survived as quirks in the system. For example, women carried their sisters' children into the temple of Mater Matuta. The names of paternal relatives were never pronounced in the precincts of Ceres, even though the male flamen cerealis presided&mdashfor a time&mdashover her state cult. [Briffault, 429] Ancient Italic inscriptions show that priestesses had originally led the rites of Ceres, and by the 3rd century BCE the infusion of Eleusinian mysteries from southern Italy once again put a female sacerdos cerealis at the head of a congregation of women celebrants. Roman sources emphasize this as a female office. [Spaeth, 3, 20, 59, 103-4]
Rome's official priestesses, the Vestal Virgins, were the priestesses of the city&rsquos ceremonial hearth. This institution exemplified the code of patria potestas, with the pontifex maximus representing the state as paterfamilias. This high priest &ldquocaptured&rdquo future Vestal Virgins from groups of twenty aristocratic girls, pointing to his choices with the words, &ldquoI seize you, beloved.&rdquo They could not refuse. Their hair was cropped and hung as a sacrifice on a tree in the grove of Juno Lucina. [Palmer,19] The pontifex maximus had the right to punish Vestals for infractions, above all for breaking the code of virginity. This was regarded as a threat to the welfare of the state.
The six Vestal priestesses served thirty-year terms. They learned during the first ten years, performed the rites in the next ten, and taught their successors in the final years. Only then were the women free to leave or to marry. The office of high priestess (Virgo Vestalis Maxima) rotated among those who chose to remain. Varro named the first Vestals as Gegania, Veneneia, Canuleia, and Tarpeia (yes, that Tarpeia). [Grimm, 275] Tacitus tells us that Occia presided over the Vestals for 57 years. In time, as it got harder to recruit Vestals from patrician families, plebian girls were admitted, then daughters of freed slaves. [Young Worsfold, 21-3]
The Vestals enjoyed privileges denied to other women. Freed from their fathers&rsquo authority, they were empowered to own property and manage their affairs without a male warder, to make wills and to vote. They could testify in court without taking an oath. They were entrusted with the guardianship of treaties, wills, important documents, and treasure. They attended sacrifices that otherwise barred women, and played an essential role in consecrating the victims. They were given front seats at the games. A person going to execution was spared if he met a Vestal on the way. Vestals also had the unique right to be buried in the city. But for some this burial was involuntary, carried out while they were still alive. [Worsfold, 46-51]
For the Vestals also had severe liabilities. The high priest had the power to strip and flog the priestesses for lesser violations of the code, such as allowing the fire to go out. As Plutarch reported, &ldquosometimes the Pontifex Maximus gave them the discipline naked, in some dark place and under cover of a veil but she that broke her vow of chastity was buried alive by the Colline Gate.&rdquo [Worsfold, 59-60] The priests tightly wrapped the condemned Vestal in veils that muffled her protests, bound her into a litter, and carried her to the city walls. There, in the &ldquoField of Sin,&rdquo they immured her in an underground cell, removed its steps, and mounded the earthworks over her. [Goodrich, 270-76 Worsfold, 60]
This form of execution was said to have begun with Roman king Tarquinius Priscus who buried alive the Vestal priestess Pinaria. Another tradition held that early Vestals at the old capital of Alba Longa were whipped to death for having sex. This looks like a back-projection, since Rhea Silvia, the ancestral mother of Rome, was simply imprisoned by her uncle after her chastity was breached. Later, whipping with rods sometimes preceded the immuration, as was done to Urbinia in 471 BCE. [Worsfold, 62]
Records show at least 22 vestals were accused of breaking the chastity vow. Eighteen of them were buried in the city wall, two committed suicide. There is no record of death for the others. A few accused priestesses were acquitted. Some cleared themselves through ordeals Tuccia established her innocence by carrying water from the Tiber in a sieve. [Augustine, De Civitate Dei, X, 16, in Worsfold, 69] Spurious accusations were leveled at Vestals for a variety of reasons. Minucia fell under suspicion for her rich dress, and so did Postumia, who also got in trouble &ldquofor her wit&rdquo unbefitting a maiden, according to Livy. Postumia was sternly warned &ldquoto leave her sports, taunts and merry conceits,&rdquo but Minucia was buried alive. [Worsfold, 62, 66 Goodrich 283]
In imperial times, rulers violated the sanctity of the Vestals through direct sexual force. Nero raped the vestal Rubria. The mad emperor Heliogabalus forced another to marry him, then cast her off. Less powerful men were put to death for having relations with Vestals. [Worsfold, 71-3] The status of the office had by this time declined to the point where Aemilia, Licinia, and Martia were executed after being denounced by the servant of a barbarian horseman.
In times of disaster and crisis, Romans blamed impure behavior by the Vestals for the city's calamities. As Hannibal was advancing on Italy, two Vestals were accused of sexual offenses. One was put to death and the other forestalled a horrific death by committing suicide first. [Takács, 368] Their horrific executions acted as symbolic purgations, much like witch burnings. Emperors found the spectacle politically useful. Domitian ordered the High Vestal Cornelia to be buried alive in 81 CE, refusing to allow her to defend herself, and had another vestal executed. As Pliny the Younger explained,&ldquoDomitian hoped to make his reign illustrious by such an example.&rdquo Caracalla (211-17) also buried Vestals alive &ldquopretending they had lost their virginity.&rdquo [Herodian, in Worsfold, 61, 71-2 McNamara,15, on second by Domitian]
These official murders give little reason to wonder at Plutarch's report that Roman priests performed rites in the &ldquoField of Sin&rdquo to placate the spirits of executed vestals.
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