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Power to the People?
citizen, plebeian, patrician, Senate
Ancient Rome Unit
What should we learn about next? Tigers? Ice cream? History? Video games? Let's take a vote to decide what should be taught in schools. Let's see . . . that's twelve votes for video games . . . And I will vote for history. History wins! Oh, are you mad? Right. I forgot to tell you that we're in the year 500 B.C.E. (before the current era), in the Roman Republic. Not all people are treated equally. Not all people get to vote.
Now, now, before you get too mad, I should tell you this doesn't mean you aren't important. As someone who lives in Rome, you get to do a whole bunch of stuff. A citizen is someone who can live, work, pay taxes, and vote in the place they live. Wait! So being a citizen means you can vote? Well . . . that was back when we were in the United States. In the Roman Republic, there are different kinds of citizens . . .First, let's talk about the kind of citizen everyone wanted to be. A patrician was a person of power in the Roman Republic and got to do all of the things a citizen in the US can do today, including vote. In order to vote, you needed to be old, be a man, not come from another country, own some land, and not be owned by someone else. As you might have guessed, this leaves out a LOT of other people.
Fun Fact! The word patrician comes from the Latin word "patres" which means father. They got this name because they chose the senators, or the "fathers" of the state.And I do mean a LOT of people. 19 out of 20, in fact! A plebeian is a citizen of the Roman Empire who could not vote. These people were the women, children, slaves, and men who did not own any land. These were the people who ran shops, made clothing, and worked. You might know them as peasants. "I am not a peasant!" you might say. Are you under eighteen? Then in the eyes of the Roman Republic, you would be.
Fun Fact! The word plebeian comes from the Latin word "plebe" which means many. Y'know, because there were a lot of them.So what do you get to do if you were a patrician? Did you get to decide what everyone did all the time? Not really. The patricians did not want to make all the decisions. They still had jobs! Instead, they wanted choose the people who made the decisions. The Senate was a group of 300 men who made the laws of the land and were voted in by the patricians. As a plebeian, if you do not like the laws, you can be mad at the senate. Or the patricians who voted them in.
So, it looks like we'll be studying history for a long time. Or at least until you are old enough to vote otherwise. Under the law of the Roman Republic, only patricians, wealthy male landowners could vote. The rest of the people -- women, children, slaves, the poor -- had no say, even though they still had to pay taxes and fight in the wars. Think this is all really unfair? Then perhaps you should pay extra close attention to these history lessons and figure out how all this stuff works. Then maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to change it.References:
History for Kids. "Republics" historyforkids.org, 2012. THHS. "The Rise of the Roman Republic" tths.qc.edu, 2013.