When the city was built, in the first place, Romulus divided all the multitude that were of age to bear arms into military companies, each company consisting of three thousand footmen and three hundred horsemen. Such a company was called a
‘legion,’ because the warlike were selected
out of all. In the second place, he treated the remainder as a people, and this multitude was called
‘populus’; a hundred of them, who were the most eminent, he appointed to be councillors, calling the individuals themselves
‘patricians,’ and their body a
Now the word
‘senate’ means literally a Council of Elders, and the councillors were called
‘patricians,’ as some say, because they were fathers
of lawful children1
; or rather, according to others, because they could tell who their own fathers
were, which not many could do of those who first streamed into the city; according to others still, from
‘patronage,’ which was their word for the protection of inferiors, and is so to this day; and they suppose that a certain Patron, one of those who came to Italy with Evander, was a protector and defender of the poor and needy, and left his own name in the word which designates such activity.
But the most reasonable opinion for any one to hold is that Romulus thought it the duty of the foremost and most influential citizens to watch over the more lowly with fatherly
care and concern, while he taught the multitude not to fear their superiors nor be vexed at their honours, but to exercise goodwill towards them, considering them and addressing them as fathers
, whence their name of Patricii.
For down to the present time foreign peoples call the members of their senate
‘chief men,’ but the Romans themselves call them
‘conscript fathers,’ using that name which has the greatest dignity and honour, and awakens the least envy. At first, then, they called them simply
‘fathers,’ but later, when more had been added to their number, they addressed them as
By this more imposing title Romulus distinguished the senate from the commonalty, and in other ways, too, he separated the nobles from the multitude, calling the one
‘patrons,’ that is to say, protectors, and the other
‘clients,’ that is to say, dependants. At the same time he inspired both classes with an astonishing goodwill towards each other, and one which became the basis of important rights and privileges. For the patrons advised their clients in matters of custom, and represented them in courts of justice, in short, were their counsellors and friends in all things;
while the clients were devoted to their patrons, not only holding them in honour, but actually, in cases of poverty, helping them to dower their daughters and pay their debts. And there was neither any law nor any magistrate that could compel a patron to bear witness against a client, or a client against a patron. But in later times, while all other rights and privileges remained in force, the taking of money by those of high degree from the more lowly was held to be disgraceful and ungenerous. So much, then, on these topics.