Patrons, Clients, Slaves and Freedmen

One of the main institutions of Roman life was that of a patronus with his cliens (patron-client). A Roman politician would provide protection and assistance to lower class citizens in return for the loyalty of the citizen - who was now his client. The client entered a dependent relationship with his patron and was expected to cast his vote for his patron in any election in which the patron was a candidate. The client was also required to present himself at the house of his patron every morning to greet him and/or present petitions. In return, the patron would provide assistance in the form of money or food as well as general protection. A patron and client could not testify against eachother in the lawcourts, and the offspring of the original patron and client inherited the same relationship.

In this way, the politicians of Rome gained prestige according to the extent of their clientelae. Furthermore, a client need not be a Roman citizen, and as the empire of Rome expanded there were enormous opportunities for a conquering general to accrue even more clients as well as having the first pick of slaves. Rome was, of course, a slave owning society, and the increased empire meant that wealthy politicians could employ large numbers of slaves to work on his estates to provide agricultural labour and shepherds (leading to the rise of the so-called latifundiae and the decline of the traditional citizen farmer), house servants, pottery makers and even teachers of grammar and oratory (many slaves would have been educated individuals from the Greek east). However, because a Roman slave was given a wage, it was possible for him to save up and buy his freedom, otherwise the slave owner had the power to free his slave any time he chose. The slave then became a freedman and automatically became a client and his former owner became his patron. As well as this, the freedman became a Roman citizen and was entered into the census and assigned to a voting tribe (but the tribe to which freedmen were assigned was a continued bone of contention among politicians).


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Etrusia - Romans Information

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