Grievances of the Plebians

The grievances of the plebeians and their attempt to gain equality with the patricians in the internal history of the Early Roman Republic lasted for over 200 years. The plebeians and the patricians were two classes of citizenship can Ancient Rome, though they had very significant differences in their status. These variations came in the form of Political, religious, legal, social, economic and military status. Through 200 years these statuses began to blur as Ancient Roman laws were changed due to the increasing population of plebeians and wars that surrounded Rome.

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One of the many grievances the plebeians experienced was in the political sense, they were exposed to the authority of the Consuls, who had control of the lives of the citizens, and whose decisions there was no appeal for. Plebeians had no right to hold public office and were excluded from the Senate (an aristocrat body). In assembly, those who were not clients of a patrician were outvoted by patricians and their clients. For religion, plebeians were excluded from any part of the administration of the state religion and from significant priesthoods.

With matters involving legal status, all the civil and criminal law was in the hands of one’s patrician. The plebeians had no knowledge of the laws or access to the administration of the legal system. With social matters plebeians even had their own form of marriage. In the beginning they could not intermarry legally with patricians and if they had a child then that child will be automatically classed as a plebeian. In the economic sense, plebeians were only granted land to work for patricians; they also had to give economic and political support.

A lot of plebeians were in debt because of the wars which they had to fight. They also had to play tributum (military tax) in times of war, however patricians didn’t have to pay this tax. Plebeians also received no share in the distribution of public land and were also excluded from the use of public grazing land. In the military sense plebeians were treated poorly, you were arranged by wealth, those who had a bit of money were given a horse, while those who had little money were given a small item such as a slingshot.

The plebeians also had to get their son or someone else to take care of their land while they were fighting the war. They also received no compensation during this time. Sometimes when they got back from the war, if they survived, then their patrician might have a new plebeian so they would have to find somewhere else to go. In 494BC the plebeians began their struggle for power, they obtained the right to elect their own officials (tribunes), and tribunes possessed the right to prevent any action by the state that was against plebeian interest.

Then in 471BC plebeians gained their own assembly, who elected tribunes, they could not pass laws but resolutions called plebisicita. In 449Bc, the law of the twelve tables defined public and private codes of behaviour, which was inscribed in stone. Later in 445 BC intermarriage between plebeians and patricians was legalised but still didn’t occur frequently. Then in 367BC the laws were changed and at least one consul was required to be plebeian, also in this year the amount of the state’s public land a patrician could lease was restricted.

In 300BC plebeians were allowed to hold priestly offices in the state. Lastly in 287, the people’s assembly became a law making body and the tribunes influence was increased. All of these led to the equality of plebeians and patricians. These grievances of the plebeians and their attempt to gain equality with the patricians in the internal history of Rome lasted for over 200 years. They struggled to gain power in politics, religion, legal, social, economic, and military.

Plebeians and patricians were two classes of citizenship they varied greatly, but following the plebeians struggle for equality this was changed. They were almost seen as equals. Word count: 665 References: – Ancient Rome Using Evidence, Pamela Bradley, 1990 -The complete idiots guide to the Roman Empire, Nelson, E, 2002 – http://www. vroma. org/~bmcmanus/orders. html – http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Conflict_of_the_Orders – http://www. unrv. com/empire/struggle-of-the-orders. php

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