Difference between Plebeians and Patricians by on Prezi
Kids learn about the plebeians and patricians of Ancient Rome including the rise of plebeian powers, early Rome, the Law of the Twelve Tables, officers, nobles. As stated in the background, Patricians always had more power in Rome than the Plebeians because they were the true desendents of the original people in. Roman political institutions reflected Roman society, which was divided into two classes: the patricians, wealthy elites, and the plebeians, the common people.
The grandi will eventually raise up a prince or enlist a foreign power to further their inexhaustible efforts to oppress the people, or the latter will resort to such measures themselves as protection against or in retaliation for persistent aristocratic abuse. A popular army, another, albeit more indirect, means of elite accountability, is the externally directed institution that Machiavelli endorses as an institutional prerequisite for the freedom and security of republics.
Over the course of Roman history, two to five to ten plebeians would serve as tribunes for one-year terms. The plebeians elected the tribunes in their assembly, the concilium plebis, which may have been the tribal assembly, the comitia tributa, convened in the absence of patrician citizens. Machiavelli judges this practice to be less pernicious than the Senate's efforts to extend the terms of consuls so as to send armies farther away from Rome D III. Machiavelli's accounts of the tribunate's creation and restoration during episodes of plebeian secession give credence to his view of the reactive quality of popular behavior, conduct that he initially contrasts with aggressively proactive noble behavior D I.
In this spirit, the powers of the tribunes, generated and revived during these episodes, were, in many ways, powers of response rather than of initiation. The tribunes could veto most official acts through the intercessio—in particular, policies favored by the noble-dominated Senate and about to be enacted by their agents, the consuls.
Relatedly, the tribunes wielded a power, the auxilium, akin to habeas corpus, by which they could demand the release of individual plebeians who had been seized—for failing to pay debts or for any reason whatever—by nobles or magistrates.
They increasingly avail themselves of the procedural avenues of protection afforded by the tribunate. Indeed, the less than exclusively reactive quality of the tribunes and the people is already evident when Machiavelli explicitly emphasizes the following proactive powers: Historical evidence confirms that the people availed themselves of tribunician authority in these capacities to prosecute former consuls for having levied troops in an oppressive manner and to pass legislation permitting citizens to vote via secret ballot.
They must impose more than simply negative constraints on the elites who rule; they must do more than simply refrain from engaging in rule themselves. Through the tribunes and in their assemblies, Machiavelli demonstrates unequivocally that the plebeians participate in rule.
For instance, when senators or consuls could not reach agreement they were known to consult with the tribunes. Thus, the people arbitrated potential conflicts among elites at two levels: Moreover, the tribunes served as agents of magistrate accountability in a system, unlike contemporary democracy, in which the prospect of immediate reelection was not an inducement to good behavior.
Through public accusations, the tribunes could punish consuls for poor conduct in office once their term was over, even if consuls could not be removed from office during their tenure except by the dictator under the direst circumstances.
The promise of being accepted by and the hope of getting along with prospective senatorial colleagues must have inclined magistrates toward behavior pleasing to that set of actors. This is, no doubt, one of the reasons why the Roman people considered the consuls to be the agents of the nobility and sought to have plebs elect the consuls by simple majority vote and to serve as consuls themselves. In addition, reputation for good behavior in office was important if former magistrates wanted to be considered for prominent positions in the future, such as the dictatorship or additional terms in the consulship.
Senate—tribune relations are a more complicated and more important issue for Machiavelli. One might argue that this tended to discourage their collusion with the nobles. The opening of the Senate to former tribunes roughly coincided with the growing power of the concilium, the assembly in which the plebeians, as a whole, were exerting considerable influence over the republic.
We might speculate that these developments offset each other, such that the tribunes were not co-opted to a significant extent by the nobility, once they were eligible to enroll in the Senate, since they still had to consider the potency of the popular assemblies. No institution is beyond potential misuse, Machiavelli insists, and no political actor should be able to direct or obstruct the workings of government unilaterally D.
He thereby called forth the nobility's ultimate recourse in protecting their political and material advantage: This statement undermines a serious charge frequently leveled against the tribunes by aristocratic Roman optimates and still hurled by certain contemporary interpreters. Specifically, the claim is made that the tribunes are merely wannabe grandi—individuals with an appetite to oppress—who happen to emerge from the ranks of plebeians; or, more crudely, that the tribunes are merely out for themselves and have no desire to advance the cause of plebeian citizens.
In any case, Machiavelli is insistent that no one institution, not even one such as the tribunate, which in some significant sense embodies the people's desire not to be dominated, should operate beyond veto or appeal in his own model of popular government, even if these institutional checks open further avenues for patrician intrigue D I.
Generally, how effective were the tribunes at protecting the plebeians from patrician oppression? Very effective, Machiavelli suggests, but not perfectly so. Machiavelli writes repeatedly that the tribunes successfully helped hold back the insolence of the nobility D I. Indeed, so successful were the tribunes at shielding the plebeians from domination at home that the Senate was willing to subordinate itself to Appius Claudius's tyranny rather than see the tribunate reinstated D I.
Machiavelli also notes the following with respect to the Senate's military agenda: Besides the avarice, therefore, that motivated the Senate to send troops farther from Rome, Machiavelli emphasizes its desire to oppress the people directly in their persons while away from the city on the field of battle.
The Roman Republic
Machiavelli observed that, when the tribunes sought to curtail the nobility's exacerbation of economic inequality through agrarian legislation, the Senate sent troops farther and farther away from Italy to maximize its economic advantages D I.
In the passage cited above, Machiavelli notes that, because the tribunes so successfully defended the people's bodily integrity and legal entitlements within the city, the nobles sought to lead them outside its walls in order to inflict harm on them there. In light of these observations, we can begin to observe the following: Republics without tribunes, Machiavelli suggests, succumb either to military defeat, due to their inability to arm the people, or to fairly immediate princely usurpation, due to their inability to prevent the grandi from visiting harm upon the popolo.Patricians vs Plebeians
However, the empire won by Rome's military success allowed the grandi to indirectly reimport domination of the plebs back into the domestic life of the republic in a form against which the tribunes had little recourse and the result of which was ultimately princely usurpation on a larger scale, Caesarism.
In addition to tribunes, then, what a tribunician republic requires to preserve its liberty and longevity is the external presence of other tribunate republics capable of containing its imperial expansion. After all, Machiavelli wrote not for one particular republic but, rather, for republics in general. One could imagine that a single tribunician republic might hope to maintain its liberty indefinitely—indeed, perhaps perpetually D III.
The conundrum of class in the Roman assemblies Roman assemblies, in Machiavelli's account, function more like the Athenian ekklesia than the centuriate assembly of historical fact because: Machiavelli seems to acknowledge some distinction between the comitia centuriata and the concilium plebis. He calls the former the comizi consolari D I.
Alternately, Machiavelli seems to refer explicitly to the concilium when he juxtaposes the publico consiglio to the Senate D III. Machiavelli establishes a rather sharp contrast between the popolo and grandi in Rome, the many and the elite D I.
The episodes discussed on several occasions, where Machiavelli recounts how the plebeians elect all patricians to consular office even though the former had been made eligible for it D I. In other words, unless plebeians have it within their power—by sheer force of numbers and without obstructionist property provisions that inflate the voting prowess of patricians or the wealthy—to elect one of their own to the office, then the example is less than useful to Machiavelli.
This praise would be misplaced if the electoral system were weighted in Machiavelli's model such that the grandi could effectively elect whomever they liked through ballot-counting procedures that seldom or never reached common citizens, as often happened in the actual centuriate assembly. It is worth reiterating the following: General eligibility for an office, under conditions of even the widest suffrage conceivable, will most often result in the election of wealthy and prominent citizens—even without the special weighting of rich voters favored by, for instance, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Another ambiguity concerning Machiavelli's account of Roman assemblies is whether or not his concilium, his plebeian-dominated assembly, actually excludes patricians. He writes of the assembly over which the tribunes presided: The sentence is vague in the following respect. Or, does it apply literally to any citizen such that this description must include patricians? If the latter, then this statement implies that they, too, participate in the concilium.
Or, for that matter, does Machiavelli's sentence refer to any one assembly in particular? Perhaps the discussion and disputes over laws take place, not in the plebeian-specific environment of the concilium, but, rather, in the informal assemblies reserved for public deliberation, the contiones or concioni, which Machiavelli frequently invokes D I.
However, if it is, in fact, the concilium of the plebs that Machiavelli describes in this instance, it is unlikely to include patricians for this reason: Machiavelli insists—contra Francesco Guicciardini in his own day, and Rousseau centuries later—that public deliberation should occur in close proximity to voting.
Historically, the presiding magistrates of deliberative assemblies or concioni, whether a tribune, a consul, or a lower curule magistrate, had the discretion to recognize whomever they liked as speakers, a practice that invariably favored prominent individuals. But Machiavelli insists that anyone entitled to attend an assembly—from a senator in the Senate to a plebeian in a concione—must be entitled to speak within it D I.
This was a controversial recommendation in Machiavelli's own time, as prevailing wisdom, typified by Guicciardini's writings, insisted that popular assemblies were best reserved for ratifying or rejecting, not for initiating or deliberating over, policy proposals.
In short, while Machiavelli presents a somewhat confusing account of Roman assemblies, he certainly provides a genuine voice for common citizens in most of them. The patricians and the wealthy constitute the Senate; all citizens attend the comizi, which, in Machiavelli's version, favors the wealthy through the aristocratic effect of unweighted elections; and the plebeians attend their own assembly, the concilium or publico consiglio, presided over by their own magistrates, the tribunes, an assembly that generates real laws, the plebiscites.
Every citizen who is eligible to attend these particular assemblies enjoys free speech within them, just as all citizens generally do in the informal concioni. In no Machiavellian assembly are the proceedings formally and disproportionately weighted toward wealth as is, most notably, Rousseau's appropriation of actual Roman practice. Alternately, plebeians and the poor, on the one hand, and patricians and the wealthy, on the other, may be excluded from a particular assembly, but no one is treated inequitably within any specific assembly.
Rousseau may insist that each citizen must be eligible for every assembly but, in a manner largely ignored by scholars who appropriate his political philosophy for radically democratic or republican political agendas, 21 he also recommends that citizens be organized hierarchically, that is, according to wealth, within them. Rousseau's theory of assemblies is egalitarian in principle, but not in practice; Machiavelli's is explicitly inegalitarian in a way that, counterintuitively, may produce more egalitarian outcomes—or, at least, results that are more intensely contestatory of power and privilege.
For Machiavelli, a republic, a mixed regime, must be mixed in an appropriate way; that is, there must be institutions monopolized separately by wealthy and poorer citizens. The former cannot dominate all of them, either overtly or covertly, if every kind of citizen is to exercise and enjoy the liberty promised by a free or civic way of life.
Two polities, one republic? Quite strikingly, then, Machiavelli's reconstruction of the Roman Republic is a tale of two cities: The former serves as the latter's mirror, its negative image. The grandi deliberate policy in the Senate, the plebs in the concilium and both in the concioni.
They protected some basic rights of all Roman citizens regardless of their social class. Plebeian Officers Eventually the plebeians were allowed to elect their own government officials. They elected "tribunes" who represented the plebeians and fought for their rights.
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They had the power to veto new laws from the Roman senate. Plebeian Nobles As time went on, there became few legal differences between the plebeians and the patricians. The plebeians could be elected to the senate and even be consuls. Plebeians and patricians could also get married. Wealthy plebeians became part of the Roman nobility. However, despite changes in the laws, the patricians always held a majority of the wealth and power in Ancient Rome.
Around one third of the people living in Rome were slaves. One of Rome's most famous senators, Cicero, was a plebeian. Because he was the first of his family to be elected to the senate, he was called a "New Man. Julius Caesar was a patrician, but he was sometimes considered a champion of the common people.
The Plebeian Council was led by the elected tribunes. Many new laws were passed by the Plebeian Council because the procedures were simpler than in the senate.
The Plebeian Council lost its power with the fall of the Roman Republic. Freshmen students in the United States military academies are nicknamed "plebs. Activities Take a ten question quiz about this page. Listen to a recorded reading of this page: