History of Rome,
politics had been a
between the power of
(Patricians) and the
plebeians). This was
known as the
Struggle of the
Orders. The final
century BC saw the
Government: The Senate (debates issues and puts
forward proposals for laws (leges)
The Assemblies (votes on the senate’s
proposals and passes laws but doesn’t have
the ability to make laws)
The nobility (Patricians)
The Knights (Equites)
The people (Plebians)
non citizens & slaves
Artists view of Senate proceedings
CONSULS (2): chief civil and military
magistrates; invested with imperium
PRAETORS (2-8): administered civil law at
AEDILES (2): In charge of religious festivals,
public games, temples, upkeep of city,
regulation of marketplaces, grain supply.
QUAESTORS (12-20): financial officers and
administrative assistants (civil and military); in
charge of state treasury at Rome; in field,
served as quartermasters and seconds- in-
TRIBUNES (10): charged with protection of
lives and property of plebians; had power of
veto (Lat. "I forbid") over elections, laws,
decrees of the senate, and the acts of all other
magistrates (except dictator);
CENSORS (2): elected every 5 years to
conduct census, enroll new citizens, review roll
of senate (ex- consuls only) -- enormous
prestige and influence (auctoritas).
n As the previous diagram showed the equites
(knights) did not have a place in the workings of
government but the distinction between the
Patricians and the Equites is not always apparent
from historical events and needs to be clarified.
n Some patricians represented the interests of the equites
while some equites were happy to maintain the status quo.
n The equites were essentially the financiers of the
n They organised the collection of taxes and acted as
bankers to the empire.
n This sort of work was beneath the senatorial classes
who gained their wealth from the ownership of land
and so the two classes worked in tandem. The
senators running government and controlling the
land and the equites controlling the commercial side
n The was movement between the classes but it was
very difficult for someone from the equestrian class
to become a senator.
n Those who held the rank of senator were very
protective of their position of privilege and rarely
extended their rank beyond those whose family were
n As with most things the equites interests were
represented by senators such as M Crassus and
Julius Caesar (in exchange for financial backing and
political support in elections).
A political career
n A man of senatorial rank would start their career
early, possibly working in the law courts or for one of
the city administrators.
n They would then go to the provinces and hold a very
n Military and political careers went hand in hand. Glory and
prestige on the field of battle were essential qualities in a
n Upon returning to Rome they would stand for
election to one of the smaller administrative posts
such as Aedile.
n After which it would be back to the provinces but this
time one could expect to hold a more influential post
in command of a sizeable force.
n The career would continued to jump between Rome
and the provinces with each successive step
requiring greater influence, prestige and ability and
as such offered much stiffer competition until one
reached the consulship and then went onto become a
governor in the provinces.
n All the time behind this was the idea that the senate
itself controlled who got what post and when. By
doing so they made sure that they all had an equal
chance of holding posts and exploiting the system
while also controlling anyone who got too powerful.
n It is important to know how Roman politics
worked if we are to fully understand the driving
force behind many of the actions taken by
politicians during this period.
n Power and Wealth were the two driving forces
behind any politicians career. There was no sense
that government was for the interests of the
people or that there was a moral obligation to run
government in the interests of the people.
n One of the more peculiar aspects of the Roman society was the
relationship between a client (clientela) and his patron
(patronus). This was a complex system of interdependency by
which a wealthy patron gave to his less fortunate clients one
or more of the following:
n legal counsel, legal aid
n their sportula (a regular monetary handout, "the dole")
n free meals in their homes
n other gifts and/or resources (land, livestock, right to grow crops on
n and the client reciprocated by providing to the patron:
n political support
n an escort if their patrons wished to walk around the city or go on a
n financial support
n other services
THE CLIENT PATRON SYSTEM
Tax collectors, merchants, traders (not just citizens)
Middle class CITIZENS
Lower class CITIZENS
n The higher up the scale one was the more clients you
had to look after. Equally you could control the
clients of your clients and their client also etc.
n Consequently a senator who wanted to win an
election would ask his clients to vote for him. They
in return would ask their clients to vote for the
patron and so on down the line.
n This way a senator could count on thousands of
votes while only having direct contact with a
manageable number of clients.
n But the expectations of patrons were matched by the
expectations of their clients and to ensure a loyal
client base patrons would distribute their wealth
n Each morning, at daybreak, the patron's house would be
opened for salutatio, when the patron would hold court
in the atrium of his house. During this time unofficial
business would be conducted, favors requested, political
support lined up for votes on important issues, and each
client would receive his sportula(a regular monetary
n Once the relationship was established it was maintained
n Consequently although the financial system was
inherently unequal the client-patron system ensured
that a significant amount of the empire wealth that
went into the hands of the privileged few managed to
find its ways down through the system, especially at
election time (which, for many posts, was an annual
n And it wasn’t just at election time that the client-
patron system worked. When the assemblies voted
on laws they had to be cajoled into voting for the
laws put forward by the senators.
n Not forgetting that these laws would always enact
measures that favoured the senatorial classes.
n For the people to vote for these laws there had to be
something in it for the people.
know what these are and use
n Mos Maiorum
n Gravitas READ ROMAN PATHS
n Fides TO POWER.
n Pietas There will be a test on it
n Find the meanings of next week