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Ancient Rome Social Structure

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Lilo Bean

on 31 March 2014

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Transcript of Ancient Rome Social Structure

Ancient Roman Social Structure
By Lilo Bean
Citizens vs. Non citizens
Upper Class/ patricians:
LOWER Class/ plebeians:
The Commons
Equites (otherwise known as equestrians) were ranked below senators. They were descended from Roman Calvary officers, and acted as business men.
Senators were powerful members of the government who served in the Senate. There judgements were valued highest in criminal and civil courts. And they also had other privileges besides their political power. They had reserved seating at ceremonies and games. Plus, they got to wear special togas called the "latus clavus".
The Commons (or Commoners) were the working class of Ancient Rome. They were typically bakers, farmers, builders, or craftsmen. The Commoners had the right to legally marry another Roman citizen and bare children that were legitimate Roman citizens.

Emperor Augustus issued a law that said that all Commoners were to be given bread so they wouldn't starve and entertainment to keep them form rioting. Even though this is a form of bribery, the law passed and it successfully kept the lower class out of the Patricians hair.
As the Roman army was the main source of power in Ancient Rome, there were many soldiers. Soldiers trained at special camps and schools until they were ready to serve the legion. A soldier had to serve for 20 years to retire. When they retired they were rewarded for their lifetime of service with a plot of farmland. Soldiers also had the basic rights of the Commoners.
Slaves served rich families in Ancient Rome. They received no rights and had no freedom. Life for slaves was tough in Rome, they were often beaten and could be traded or replaced often.

A slave could save up money and buy their own freedom. They could also be released by their owner (which was highly unlikely). Once a slave was free, they would work and live in the same lifestyle as Plebeians. Some slaves would attach themselves onto the family they had previously been serving. If this happened, the slave would visit their protector family (their patron) for food and money. In return, the "ex-slave" would give his (or her) patron political and social support.

Provincials were foreigners from outside of Rome. They didn't have the full rights of Romans either. They had to pay taxes while full citizens did not. Children of Provincials could jot become full citizens .
and where they fit in...
Lower Class Women-
(Commoners and Slaves)
Higher Class Women-
In the higher classes, a women's status was determined by the men in her life (Before she was married, it was determined by her father. After she was married, her status was determined by her husband).

The higher class women would stay at home and take care of the family. Lots of women would support and organize their husband's political career if they were involved in politics.
Lower class women determined their own status. Most of these women had jobs such as cloth makers, maids, slaves, midwives, or even female gladiators. Some women were dancers or acrobats, but these jobs weren't considered respectable.
In ancient Rome, a husband had the right to divorce his wife if she:
Became to ugly
Argued to much
Or was unfaithful.
(Sometimes the wife was sentenced to death instead of just being divorced if she was unfaithful).
Women could divorce her husband if they deserted her, joined the army, or became a prisoner of war.
A piece of ancient writing in Latin, preserved due to the Roman invention of a book binding.
Time Frame
The main reason we know about the ancient roman social structure is because of literature. Ancient Rome is the birth-place of the modern book binding. This way, they could document and preserve their history and daily lives better.
Roman Kingdom

(27 BCE- 467 CE West
330 BCE- 1453 CE East)
As Rome grew into an empire, it conquered more and more land. When this happened, they realized that they would need more government officials to control and organized Rome's new land. This caused Rome to let slightly poorer or middle class men become involved in the government and earn high-ranking positions previously reserved only for the wealthiest. This gave lots more power to the ordinary people of Rome.

(509 BCE- 27 BCE)
Roman kingdom
Roman Republic
Roman Empire
During the Roman Republic, was one of the events that dramatically changed Roman society. In 494 B.C.E. the Plebeians got tired of the "bread and circuses" act issued by Augustus Ceaser. They didn't want to be ignored by the Patricians any more. All of the Plebeians rose up and demanded the same rights as Patricians. After about 200 years of struggle, the Patricians finally granted the Plebeians the right to run for political offices and even become senators.
Some other reasons why we know about the social structure in ancient Rome is because of:
Art that showed how the society was organized
The ashes of Pompeii (which preserves many things in Rome)
Poems describing the different times and eras of Rome
Documents of laws and events regarding socials classes and rights
During the Roman Kingdom the laws and boundaries between society were very strong. People did not have much social mobility; slaves rarely became free; and women could not do anything. Toward the later times of Rome (such as the Republic or Empire) Rome became more lax about society and women.
There was not a lot of freedom to move around the social pyramid in the Roman Kingdom.
Roman Empire
Roman Republic
(753 BCE- 509 BCE)
The social structure of ancient Rome influence many other civilizations social structure/ societies to come. Some cultures who based their social structures off Rome are:
The Medieval (almost an exact copy of the roman social structure)
The United States (Had slaves like Rome did)
(Rome had contact with China and India through trade and influenced them that way).

Rome also influenced:
How we treat women (the right to own property and control money)
Governments that believe in "Natural Law" (we all have rights)
And other cultures that had slaves
Roman Social Structure
Medieval Social Structure
Chinese Social Structure
Indian Social Structure

1. What were the two main classes of the Roman citizens?
2. What is one reason we know about how the Roman social structure was organized?
3. What is the "Bread and Circuses" act?


Matz, D.
Voices of Ancient Greece and Rome: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life
In-text: (Matz, 2012, pp. 1-268)
The roman social structure greatly influenced:
how Romans dressed
who Romans could marry
what kind of jobs they could have
what foods Romans ate
how Romans did their hair
More about the clothing-
Married Women
All Romans had to follow a very strict dress-code about what they could wear. This way, people could identify a person's gender, social class/status, weather or not they were married, how old they were, and maybe even job by what they were wearing (All of these things had to do with a person's social status).

Usually the more "bedazzled" and "decked out" a Roman's toga/clothes were, the higher up on the social ladder they were. For instance, only senators and higher had stripes on their togas. Also, married women wore a cloak called a "stola" that unmarried women couldn't wear.
Women in cloak (stola)
Senator in striped toga
(tunica laticlavia)
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