Cicero and Livy bear testimony to the disappearance of a free plebs from the country districts and its replacement by gangs of slaves working on great estates.
They were the true populus Romanus, alongside of whom grew up a secondary Roman people, the plebs or commons.
As new settlers came, as the people of conquered towns were moved to Rome, as the character of Romans was granted to some allies and forced upon some enemies, this plebs, sharing some but not all of the rights of citizens, became a non-privileged order alongside of a privileged order.
A series of struggles raised this new people, the plebs, to a level with the old people, the populus.
The plebs, like the English commons, contained families differing widely in rank and social position, among them those families which, as soon as an artificial barrier broke down, joined with the patricians to form the new older settlement, a nobility which had once been the whole people, was gradually shorn of all exclusive privilege, and driven to share equal rights with a new people which had grown up around it.
On the whole it seems most likely that, while the kernel of the Roman plebs was rural or belonged to the small towns admitted to the Roman franchise, the Attic demos, largely at least, though doubtless not wholly, arose out of the mixed settlers who had come together in the city, answering to the p rotKot of later times.
Only at Rome, where there was a plebs to be striven against, these distinctions seem to have had a tendency to die out, while at Sparta they seem to have had a tendency to widen.
The plebs did not gather round the patres, neither were they conquered by the patres; the patres were developed by natural selection out of the plebs, or, more strictly, out of the ancient populus.
Milo was tribune of the plebs in 57 B.C. He took a prominent part in bringing about the recall of Cicero from exile, in spite of the opposition of Clodius.
Thus has been preserved an absolutely unique historical document of great importance, recounting (I) the numerous public offices and honours conferred on him, (2) his various benefactions to the state, to the plebs and to his soldiers, and (3) his military and administrative services to the empire.
71) he distinguishes this ordo from the Christian plebs or laity.
Presently other settlers, perhaps not always Greek, gathered round the original Syracusan people; they formed a distinct body, Siiµos or plebs, personally free, but with an inferior political franchise or none at all.
In 495 he was consul, and his cruel enforcement of the laws of debtor and creditor, in opposition to his milder colleague, P. Servilius Priscus, was one of the chief causes of the "secession" of the plebs to the Sacred Mount.
The decemvirate, one of the triumphs of the plebs, could hardly have been abolished by that body, but would naturally have been overthrown by the patricians.
By these means, and by the lavishness of his expenditure on public entertainments as aedile, he acquired such popularity with the plebs that he was elected pontifex maximus in 63 B.C. against such distinguished rivals as Q.
Of the two latter titles, the first is derived from the name of Venus Genetrix, the ancestress of the Julian house, the second indicates that the colonists were drawn from the plebs Urbana.
"The main results," says Leonhard Schmitz, "arrived at by the inquiries of Niebuhr, such as his views of the ancient population of Rome, the origin of the plebs, the relation between the patricians and plebeians, the real nature of the ager publicus, and many other points of interest, have been acknowledged by all his successors."
It was, therefore, a word that might be employed to denote an organized gathering of a portion of the Roman people such as the plebs, and in this sense is contrasted with comitia, which when used strictly should signify an assembly of the whole people.
But its aristocratic organization, based as this was on property qualifications which gave the greatest voting power to the richest men, prevented it from being a fitting channel for the expression of plebeian claims. Hence the plebs adopted a new political organization of their own.
The tribunate called into existence a purely plebeian assembly, firstly, for the election of plebeian magistrates; secondly, for jurisdiction in cases where these magistrates had been injured; thirdly, for presenting petitions on behalf of the plebs through the consuls to the comitia centuriata.
The stages of the process (marked by the Valerio-Horatian laws of 449 B.C., the Publilian law of 339 B.C., and the Hortensian law of 287 B.C.) are unknown; but it is probable that the two first of the laws progressively weakened the discretionary power of senate and consuls in admitting such petitions; and that the Hortensian law fully recognized the right of resolutions of the plebs (plebiscita) to bind the whole community.
Its utterances (plebiscite) had the full force of law; it elected the tribunes of the plebs and the plebeian aediles, and it pronounced judgment on the penalties which they proposed.
Hence the plebs had an interest in securing their decisions against undue influence.
The only other central authority in the state was the king's council or court (Pend, witan, plebs, concilium).
The formation (according to the traditional dating in 495 or 471 B.C.) of the tribus Clustumina (the only one of the earlier twenty-one tribes which bears a local name) is both a consequence of an extension of territory and of the establishment of the assembly of the plebs by tribes, for which an inequality of the total number of divisions was desirable (Mommsen, History of Rome, i.
Their political constitutions were aristocratic; that is, the franchise was confined to the descendants of the original settlers, round whom an excluded body (Ffflos or plebs) was often growing up. The ancient kingship was perhaps kept on or renewed in some of the Siceliot and Italiot towns; but it is more certain that civil dissensions led very early to the rise of tyrants.
In 462 B.C. a tribune proposed that the appointment of a commission to draw up a code expressing the legal principles of the administration was necessary to secure for the plebs a hold over magisterial caprice.
But their rule then became violent and tyrannical, and they fell before the fury of the plebs, though for some reason, not easily understood, they continued to have the support of the patricians.
The priestly board of decemvirs (sacris faciundis) was an outcome of the claim of the plebs to a share in the administration of the state religion.
It superseded Babylon as the industrial focus of Babylonia and counted some 600,000 inhabitants (plebs urbana) according to Pliny, N.H.
The logical consequence of this view is that the plebs as an order in the state is of considerably later growth than the beginning of the city, the patricians being originally the only freemen and the only citizens.
It may therefore be assumed that long before the clients obtained the right to hold land in their own names and appear in the courts in their own persons there was a free plebs existing alongside of the patricians enjoying limited rights of citizenship. But it is equally certain that before the time of Servius Tullius the rights and duties of citizenship were practically exercised only by the members of the patrician clans.
At the time of the Servian reforms both branches of the plebs had a plausible claim to recognition as members of the state, the clients as already partial members of the curia and the gees, the unattached plebeians as equally free with the patricians and possessing clans of their own as solid and united as the recognized gentes.
They were excluded from the tribunate and the council of the plebs, which had become important instruments of government, and were only eligible for one place in the consulship and censorship, while both were open to plebeians.
Such a distinction of caste is regarded by Ballanche as the original state of historical society; and history, as a whole, he considers to have followed the same course as that taken by the Roman plebs in its attempts to attain equality with the patriciate.
Further, C. Scribonius Curio, Caesar's general in Africa, had openly proposed, 50 B.C., when tribune of the plebs, that Numidia should be sold to colonists, and the king reduced to a private station.
The Spartans answer to the patricians, the 7reploLKOC to the plebs; the helots are below the position of plebs or demos.