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As with many cultures, a person’s quality of life depended in many ways on their rank within the social structure. Two Romans living at the same time in the same city could have very different lives.

Higher class[]

For wealthy Roman

Cossinius and Furius, two Romans.

s, life was good. They lived in beautiful houses – often on the hills outside Rome, away from the noise and the smell. They enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle with luxurious furnishings, surrounded by servants and slaves to cater to their every desire. Many would hold exclusive dinner parties and serve their guests the exotic dishes of the day.

Upper-class Romans are known as Patricians (fathers) or Nobiles (noblemen). Patricians were most specifically families whose lineage could be traced back to the founding of Rome. Originally, only members of the Patrician class were represented in the Roman Senate. But by the year 471 BCE, the lower classes took their first steps toward gaing political power in the Roman state with the establishment of the Concilium Plebis (Plebian Council). Soon, more families of Plebian origine would gain membership in the Senate. Those whom were successful enough to be elected to the office of Consul would be regarded as legitimate Nobiles ever after.

The second level of the Roman upper-class was the Ordo Equestor or Equestrian order, was the mercantile middle-class in Roman society, composed variously of the sons of Patrician class whom held no membership in the Senate (commerce was considered below the dignity of the Nobiles), enterprising Plebians and ambitious freedmen and their descendants thereof. In the early Republican era, men from this section of society were recruited as Equites, providing the bulk of Rome's cavalry during wartime. But during peace, many ran private businesses in shipping. Many would form Publicani firms (tax-farming) and with the expansion of Rome's empire overseas, many Roman and Italian Equestrians would migrate to the provinces as licensed Publicani, with the duty to collect taxes from the resident citizenry and Rome's foreign subjects. After the Marian Reforms of 107 BCE, Rome's cavalry arm would be increasingly filled by foreign auxiliaries, with many Equestrians becoming middle-ranking officers. Those Equestrians with ambitions to join the Roman Senate would seek election as Military Tribunes in the legions. Most such officers would be prefects in the Auxilia cohorts. Others who could not find the necessary vacancies might either use what influence they had with the nobilty to gain a commission as a centurion, or else served in the Eques Legionis Alae of the legion, which after the Marian Reforms was reduced to a hundred and twenty-strong formation to employed for reconnaissance and logistics.  

Working Class[]

Poorer Romans, however less priveleged lives. Not having much money, they lived in smaller houses or apartments. If times were hard, they might abandon newborn babies to the streets, hoping that someone else would take them in as a servant or slave. Poor in wealth but strong in numbers, they were the Roman mob, who relaxed in front of the popular entertainment of the time – chariot races between opposing teams, or gladiators fighting for their life, fame and fortune.

Although their lives may have been different, they did have some things in common. In any Roman family life, the head of the household was a man. Although his wife looked after the household, he controlled it. He alone could own property. Only he decided the fate of his children and who they would marry.

In 471 BCE, the Concilium Plebis or Plebian Tribal Assembly was established. The Conflict of the Orders in decades past had caused instances where the Plebians attempted to secede from the total authority the Patrician class had over the Republic of Rome. Thirty-three years earlier in 494 BCE, the Plebians had elected among their number the first Tribunus Plebis (Tribune of the Plebs) and two Plebians Aediles to represent the interests of their social class. The office of the Tribunate embodied the Plebian class and was considered sacrosanct, to the point that it was a capital offence to obstruct him in his duties.

In 445 BCE, the Lex Canuleia is successfully passed in the Senate. The author of the new law was the Plebian Tribune Gaius Canuleius, abolished the prohibition against the intermarriage between the Patrician and Plebian orders, with the children of such marriages inheriting their class from their paternal line.

In 376 BCE, the Lex Licinia Sextia by the Plebian Tribunes Gaius Licinius Stolo and Lucius Sextus Lateranus, which was meant to guarantee that one of the Consular positions would be granted to a Plebian senator.

In 287 BCE the Lex Hortensia which allowed the resolutions passed by Plebian politicians to be as binding as those of the Patricians order.


There were other traditions that all Romans shared. Whatever their individual circumstances, all Romans observed certain practices at dinner time, the main meal of the day. Although they might eat very different food, they ate it in roughly the same way.

And Romans of all classes made a point of visiting the baths after work each day. There they would mix freely with their fellow citizens, exercising, washing and chatting. To citizens, the baths made them feel superior to the rest of the world – they made them feel Roman.

In The Show[]

In the show, Romans are portrayed as being arrogant, diplomatic, patriotic and seeing themselves as above all others just from the fact that they are Roman. Despite this, there are a few Romans who display a sense of honour. Romans are also shown to be less physically capable and skilled in combat (Exceptions are made, however), though most are shown to be intelligent and resourceful in their dealings.

Notable Romans[]