Civilization in Ancient Rome

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Civilization is defined as a complex society characterized by social stratification, urban development often imposed by the cultural elite in the society, the symbolic systems such as writing and is seen as a separation as well as domination over the natural environment. There are five main key elements that makes a society advanced and thus considered a civilization.

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They include:

  • centralized government,
  • organized religion,
  • job specialization and social classes,
  • arts,
  • architecture and infrastructure
  • writing.

This paper will look at the patronage/client relationship that existed in Rome, classes, political organization ad literature on how it reflected the upper class.

Citizens in roman empire were divided in two main categories: the wealthy aristocrats and commoners who were referred to as plebs. Patrons were the wealthy and they often provided support to their clients who in turn offered them services and were actually loyal to them. The number of clients that a patron had as well as their status brought prestige to the patron. A patron would often protect their clients by offering legal advice, according them help as well as their family including financial needs, and in turn the patron owed his vote to their patron. Patronage/client relationship was not just random where a patron picked up a client to offer them financial help. The clients were at times plebs but they never had become slaves. One common practice between the clients and the patrons weather greetings (salutation), that the clients had to greet their patrons every morning. The aim of this relationship was for the elite to provide support to a few who were not really rich and in turn, the clients offered loyalty and other services to the patrons. Freed slaves for example automatically became clients of their patrons who would the accord them financial help (Raaflaub, pg. 34-126).

In Rome there existed social classes and each class had its privileges. the highest class often referred to as patricians were decedents of powerful noble families most who were landowners and from noble families. Aristocrats were able to maintain the classes by passing of the status from one generation. When one was born to a noble family, then they automatically were part of the upper class and their status was an ascribed one. Children of the slaves were automatically slaves or plebs as their class was referred. When the monarchy was abolished members of the senate and magistrates were now part of the elite group and considered the upper class (Gagarin, pg. 123). Members from the lower class who were not slave could move to the upper class by acquisition of wealth. Plebs were reliant on the upper class because they had vast wealth. The ruling class new that in order to exercise power and domination ten thy had to have larger number of dependents who would then exercise loyalty. A pleb would receive all help from their patrons including financial needs and not only to them but also to their family members. The plebs were satisfied with the patrons as long as they provided al the necessary help they needed. other reason plebs depended on the patrons was because the system had been set that way. There had to be the upper class and the plebs and they thus did not have a choice. All one could hope for was that they end up with a good client

There were several advantages from the clients-patron relationship. The first was that the patron was able to accord all help to his client including protection to their family. Consideringmost of the plebs were poor, they were lucky that someone could offer them food, give them money and accord any other help that they needed. It also created a sense of identity and provided opportunities for the plebs as some would later be lucky to work in offices which was rare. The patrons got political loyalty, votes and the clients also worked for them from this relationship. The disadvantage to this relationship was that at times one needed to support your patron especially his political ideas even when you do not agree with them. The slaves were at mercy of their masters and were capable of punishing. Not all patrons were good and while some provided everything to their clients some were not as generous. The system was appropriate for that particular period. In ancient Rome, the gap between the rich and the poor was extremely huge, this relationship helped in bridging the gap and helped the plebs acquire some of the wealth. This allowed for negotiations and most obligations were mutual. Most government in modern world work in client-patron relationship. Find elected leaders will most often come from the rich families. The people or citizens mostly from middle class will have to obey and pay their allegiances to them, vote for them while they themselves can never get an opportunity to vie unless they also acquire wealth (Mousourakis, pg. 87).


Some of the earliest work still being read even today give details on Roman empire, their military and their conquest. There are literary evidence and physical ones that have been uncovered of the social classes that existed in Rome social classes. There is evidence df seating at the colosseum. There were also tombs for he working class which was completely different from those of the plebs. In the book Satyricon by Petronius, Trimalchio is a freedman who really works hard in order to attain social class and power. This are examples of how people were determined to be part of the upper class.

Works Cited

  1. Mousourakis, George. A legal history of Rome. Routledge, 2007.
  2. Raaflaub, Kurt A., ed. Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
  3. Gagarin, Michael, Elaine Fantham, and Hippocratic Corpus-Mosaics. ‘Ancient Greece and Rome.’ Psychology 52 (2007): 3-32.
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Civilization in Ancient Rome. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from

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