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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XI - The Government and the Governed


The Original Greek New Testament

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 51

Rise of a City Rabble

At length the rabble of clients assumed a position, formally of equality and often even, practically, of superiority, alongside of the class of independent burgesses. The institutions out of which it sprang were of great antiquity. From time immemorial the Roman of quality exercised a sort of government over his freedmen and dependents, and was consulted by them in all their more important affairs; a client, for instance, was careful not to give his children in marriage without having obtained the consent of his patron, and very often the latter directly arranged the match. But as the aristocracy became converted into a special ruling class concentrating in its hands not only power but also wealth, the clients became parasites and beggars; and the new adherents of the rich undermined outwardly and inwardly the burgess class.

The aristocracy not only tolerated this sort of clientship, but worked it financially and politically for their own advantage. Thus, for instance, the old penny collections, which hitherto had taken place chiefly for religious purposes and at the burial of men of merit, were now employed by lords of high standing--for the first time by Lucius Scipio, in 568, on occasion of a popular festival which he had in contemplation--for the purpose of levying on extraordinary occasions a contribution from the public.

Presents were specially placed under legal restriction (in 550), because the senators began under that name to take regular tribute from their clients. But the retinue of clients was above all serviceable to the ruling class as a means of commanding the comitia; and the issue of the elections shows clearly how powerfully the dependent rabble already at this epoch competed with the independent middle class.

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