previous next

Nobĭles, Nobilĭtas

The aristocracy of office, which, at Rome, took the place of the patrician aristocracy of birth, after the admission of the plebeians to all the offices of State and the levelling of the distinction between patricians and plebeians consequent thereon. It comprised those patrician and plebeian families whose members had held one of the curule magistracies. These families, for the most part the most illustrious and wealthy, had the influence and money, which afforded them the necessary means to canvass for and hold an office. Thus, in spite of the theoretical equality of rights now existing, they almost completely excluded from the higher magistracies all citizens who had neither wealth nor noble relatives to support them. It was quite exceptional for a man who did not belong to the nobility to be fortunate enough to attain to them. If he did so, he was styled a novus homo (“new man,” “parvenu”), and his condition novitas. It was one of the privileges of the nobility that they enjoyed the right (ius imaginum) to possess images of their ancestors, and this was the chief external distinction between the nobiles and the ignobiles. See Imagines.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: