Patricians were the wealthy influential upper class Romans, whereas the rest of the people were considered to be plebeians, the lower class.


To be a patrician, a person had to be born in a certain family. Being the ruling class in the Roman Empire, patricians had all the power to themselves. One example of a typical patrician was a senator. They were almost always considered as upper class, they lead the armies, owned the land, etc. Plebeians were the majority of the Roman population at the time: farmers, soldiers, builders, craftsmen. They did not have many rights and privileges, they were not allowed to hold public office, and even plebeian/patrician marriage was against the law.

The origin of the word “patricians” goes to when Rome was founded. After that a hundred men were chosen to create the Roman Senate, which would rule the city. Due to their status, the members of the Senate were called ‘patres’ (which meant ‘fathers’), and their descendants were the first patricians. As the influential upper class, they were treated to plenty of privileges. Patricians were the ones who held all positions in the government and religion. They owned big beautiful houses, could afford rich meals. They were in charge of making the laws, leading the troops; they owned the lands as well. One of the most famous patricians was Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor.

Plebeians enjoyed less rights and privileges; they could only be included in the military tribune. The only force that accessible to them was their number: there were far more civilians than upper class representatives. Because of their everyday struggle to survive in impossible conditions created by the patricians, plebs went on riots. They could refuse to fight or work, protesting against the unfair rules of patricians. This was known as “Conflict of the Orders.” With time they have gained certain rights, among which was election of their officials who were called the Plebeian Tribunes. From then on they could also marry patricians and hold public office.

As plebeians largely outnumbered patricians, they used that advantage to gain more rights. Their secession always forced the elite to negotiate any demands the lower class had at the time. One of these resulted in a law that allowed plebeians and patricians marry each other – the Canuleian Law. Also, the upper class had to grant the simple folk with The Laws of the Twelve Tables, which were posted publicly and helped to protect the civilians no matter their social class and status.

Another secession forced patricians to pass the Hortensian Law: each resolution that was the Council of Plebeians passed served for all Roman citizens; therefore the upper and lower class were on the same ladder.

As time went on, some more changes took place. The plebeians were allowed to get elected to the Senate. Cicero, one of the most famous Roman senators, was a plebeian. In fact, he was the first in his family who was elected to the Senate. Wealthy plebeians could be Roman elite. However, even with the changes that had already happened, the patricians were always the most powerful and wealthy part of the population among the Ancient Rome social classes.