The formation of ancient Roman society is romantic, so also its evolution. It consisted of several tribes and classes.
In due course of time, the Roman Society was divided into two classes Patrician and Plebian. The class struggle between the two determined the course of Roman society.
The Early State of Roman Society:
‘Rome was not built in a Day’. The Roman society took years to grow. It consisted of Aquians, Volscian Etruscans, Samnites, Lucanians, Umbrians, Brutians and Italians Greeks. In 753 B.C. when Remulus and Remus established Rome, ‘The land of Seven Hills’, then began the process of social formation.
As per the sayings of the people, after building Rome, Remulus invited rich, poor, slave, robber and other varieties of people to live in that city. He brought the Sabian ladies by force and accomplished their marriage with the natives of Rome. Thus, the Romans were born from the combination of Sabians and Latinians.
As the first king of Rome, Remulus divided his subjects into two classes—the Patrician and Plebian. After hims seven kings ruled over Rome from 717 B.C. to 510 B.C. Among those kings, the last king Tarquinies Superbus framed cruel laws for his subjects who banished that king from Rome. This was known as ‘Expulsion of the Tarquins’ or ‘Regifuagium’ which took place in 510 B.C. Right from that time began the historic age in Rome.
Class Division in Roman Society:
After the end of monarchy began the republican experiment the Rome. This social division furthered the process of democracy in Rome.
The Roman society was classified as such:
The nobles of the Roman society were known as Patricians. They were aristocrats and more landed property. The cultivation of these lands yielded more crops thereby making the Patricians rich. They constituted a small yet influential section of the Roman Society. They were considered socially superior to the common mass. They were regarded as a vital aprt of the government.
They could only be member of the Senate. The occupied the lucrative posts in the government. They only married among their own community. They did not keep matrimonial relation with the common people. The symbols of aristocracy were perfectly reflected in them. The Patricians infact occupied high position in the society.
The common people of Rome were known as Plebs or Plebians. They were deprived of political liberty. They were landless and poor. They worked in the field of Patricians and produced bumper crops. The Patricians became the owner of that crop and the Plebians had to lead a life of misery.
They became poor and poorer in the society. They were grossly exploited by the Patricians. The Plebians became the most neglected and exploited class in the society. The social disparity between the Patricians and Plebinas led to the ‘Class Struggle’ in the Roman society.
The Class Struggle in Roman Society:
With the gradual march of time, the Plebians were exploited and oppressed by the Patricians. So, they decided to leave Rome and to take shelter in other parts of Italy. The Patricians took steps to disuade them from their decision. This clean struggle between the two passed through three phases.
The First Phase (510 B.C.-449 B.C.):
The tyranny of the Patricians grew day by day. After the end of the Latin War they, instead of helping the Plebians, made their life miserable with the burden of loan. When they demanded more interest from the Plebians, the social life of the later dwindled away. They led a miserable life. They began their struggle against the Patricians to get their legitimacy.
They left Rome and settled three miles away from the city in the ‘Sacred Mountain’. They dreamt of building a new city there. Life of the Patricians came to a standstill after the departure of the Plebians from Rome. They promised to accept the demands of the Plebians and Persuaded them to return Home.
This was a golden opportunity for the Plebians. They were freed from the bondage of loan. The Plebians who worked as slaves were freed. They were given opportunity to assert their claim. They were also empowered to elect the Magistrate or Tribune. They were also given power to apply ‘Veto’ against the wrong decision of the Tribune. Thus, in the first phase of the class struggle, the Plebians got some of their demands fulfilled.
The Second Phase (449 B.C.-366 B.C.):
The Patricians could not free themselves fully from the clutches of the Plebians although some of their demands had been fulfilled. So, they began their struggle against the Patricians to get equal social and political rights. By this time, the Patricians totally declined to accept the claims of the Plebians.
Then again the Plebians left Rome and went upto the Sacred Mountain. The Patricians went there and persuaded the Plebians to return on the promise for further concession. In 445 B.C. the; famous ‘Canuieian Law’ was passed which legalised marriage between Patricians and Plebians. It paved the way for social equality in Roman society.
The Third Phase (366 B.C.-267 B.C.):
In this phase, the patricians surrendered the remaining privileges to the Plebians. The two orders now felt themselves as one people. Of Course, this achievement of the Plebian was not smooth. After the could of Gaul’s attack on Rome disappeared, the Patricians began their tyranny over the Plebians.
The moment they went to the Patricians for loan, the letter demanded heavy interest. This brought greater dissatisfaction among the Plebians who appointed a Tribune or Magistrate among themselves named Camillus. There after a Plebian named Cextius was appointed as Consul. This made the Plebians powerful.
Already Tribunes were appointed to safeguard the interest of the plebians from the tyranny of the Patricians. Then laws were codified in 12 bronze tablets which were famous as ‘Laws of Twelve Tablets’. Those twelve tablets were regarded as the ‘Magna Carta’ of the Plebians. Now both Patricians and Plebians stood on equal footing in Roman society.
Results of the Class Struggle:
The results of the class struggle in Rome were far reaching. These results influenced the course of Roman history in later times.
At first, the struggle between the Patrician and Plebian ended in the fusion of the two classes in Roman society. This was an auspicious sign for the future of Rome.
Secondly, the unity between the two classes brought stability in the Roman society. This stability contributed a lot for the prosperity of Rome.
Thirdly, the unity among the Patricians and Plebians led the expansion of Roman Empire in future. Being united, they became victorious in the battle fields of Italy, Gaul and Sammite. Ruthelessly, they defeated the nomadics of Gaul and Italian Greeks. These vocitroies paved the way for the growth of Roman Empire.
At last, the class struggle ended with giving more confidence to the Plebians. They began to enjoy power. The senate became more powerful due to the presence of the Plebians. Those were the results of the class struggle in Rome.
Social Life and Economy:
The Roman society was largely an agricultural society. In due course of time, they paid attention towards trade and commerce. As Rome was situated only twelve miles away from the confluence of Tiber River, trade and commerce grew rapidly. Coming in contact with Greeks, the Romans knew the use of weights, measures and coins.
They also knew about the building of ships. By establishing trade and commercial relation with outside world, they became prosperous. This economic prosperity galvanised the cultural activities of the Romans.
Roman Society and Religion:
Religion formed an integral part of the Roman society. There was not a special priestly class in the Roman society. From among the citizens of Rome, a few were choosen to perform the works of the priests. A few persons appointed in the field of administration in Rome performed this work. They were known as Pontif.
The chief among them was known as Pontiffex Maximus. In one course of time, the Roman kings used that title Even today, Pope, the head of Christianity bears this title. The Romans worshipped various powers of nature. The Chief god of the Romans was ‘Jupiter’. They first worshipped the trio—’Mars-Jupiter-Qurinus’. Later on, they worshipped the triad-‘Mars-Juno-Minarva’.
‘Mars’ was the god of war and ‘Juno’ was the wife of Jupiter. The chief divinites of the household were ‘Janus’, the spirit of the door way, ‘Vesta’ was the spirit of the fire on hearth, ‘Penates’ were the guardian spirits of the store chamber, ‘Genius’ was the guardian spirit of the life of the family as a whole, ‘Lar Familiaris’, the spirit of the cultivated land, and ‘Lares’, the protecting spirit of the house. Thus, the Romans worshipped many gods and goddesses.
Roman Society and Education:
The Romans were careful for increasing the standard of their education. They established primary schools. In due course of time, Latin was used as the medium of education. The students were taught to lead an ideal life. The students were taught philosophy, oratory and human rights in the school.
In case of need, the teachers were brought from outside countries and employed in schools for bringing improvement in the career of the students. This shows the love of Romans for education.
Thus, the history of the ancient Roman society was heart touching. The struggle between the Patricians and Plebians had determined the course of the Roman society. Unity was achieved when struggle between the two classes came to an end. Their combined effort led to the expansion of the Roman Empire. The Latin language brought unity among the Romans. Religion, Economy and Education were other aspects of the Roman society which enhanced its glory.