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INGENUUS Ingenuus, like most Roman terms signifying a personal status, has had a history of its own. Its meaning is only distinctly expressed for us in the later developments of Roman law; but we have strong reasons for believing that the meaning there given was not the earliest it bore. If we presume that the term originated when the community of Roman citizens was a purely patrician community, and was applied to members of this community, it would have signified, as Ortolan expresses it, “one who was born in a gens, one who had a genealogy, one who could show a line of descent free to its fountain source from every taint of vassalage” (Ortolan, p. 27, E. T.). This conjecture, it is true, receives no confirmation from the passages (Liv. 10.8; Cincius, ap. Fest. p. 241) quoted to support it, which have, as will be shown, a wholly different bearing; but, if the word found a place in the nomenclature of the Roman patrician community, it could have signified no more and no less than gentilis, only emphasising that side of gentilitas which insists on a perfectly pure descent as a necessary qualification for the status. Later, however, with the growth of plebeian privileges, ingenuus came to be used as denoting a distinction within the plebeian community. Free men (liberi) are divided into ingenui and libertini (Gaius, 1.10). Such a distinction could only have been of importance within a circle in which the taint of vassalage was found; that is, not in the patrician community, which of necessity excluded this taint, but only within the plebeian. (Liv. 6.40, “nec ex patricio sanguine ortus, sed unus Quiritium quilibet, qui modo me duobus ingenuis ortum sciam.” ) Ingenuus will now be defined by the definition of libertines: and the stages of meaning which this latter word passed through will necessitate different stages of meaning in the word ingenuus in this second period of its history. The term libertini, we are told, was originally used to cover, not merely manumitted slaves, but their descendants in the first degree (Suet. Cl. 24). It was employed, therefore, to signify one who was born of free, but not of freeborn parents. Ingenuitas denoted the opposite status to that of a libertinus, and ingenuus must therefore at this time have denoted one who was sprung from freeborn parents. The sons of libertini were subsequently placed on an equality with the other Roman burgesses, and were from this time onwards ingenui. During the period, therefore, in which we can with some degree of certainty trace the history of this word, ingenuus first denoted one who had free ancestors in the second degree, and freeborn ancestors in the first degree; later it denoted one who had free ancestors in the first degree. In this later sense, the sense in which it is found defined in the Institutes, it denotes one who is “born in a state of freedom,” “qui statim ut nascitur liber est” (Just. Inst. 1.4): and this is the sense in which it is said by Livy and by Cincius to be equivalent to the original meaning of patricius. The statements, “patricios eos appellari solitos, qui nunc ingenui vocantur” (Cincius ap. Fest. p. 241), and “patricios primo esse factos, qui patrem ciere possent, id est nihil ultra quam ingenuos” (Liv. 10.8, 10), are simply statements of a theory which is probably correct, that the word patricii originally denoted the sole free citizens of Rome. It may be remarked that the word ingenuus, although it always signified “born in a state of freedom,” did not necessarily signify “born in the possession of citizen rights.” The citizen who is made a citizen is yet an ingenuus, provided he be a freeborn man; throughout its history, as applied to the mixed plebeian community, the word has libertini as its main antithesis. There is only one reason that would make us regard libertinus as not having been always the sole antithesis of ingenuus. For it is probable that, in the early period, one born out of due wedlock was not an ingenuus, a restriction which was removed in the course of the development of Roman law (Gaius, 1.11; Marcianus, “nec interest justis nuptiis conceperit an vulgo” ). But there is nothing to show that children born out of wedlock, though perhaps originally not ingenui, were ever called libertini.

At the time of Justinian all that was necessary to constitute ingenuitas in the child was that it should be the son of a free mother. It was ingenuus whether it was conceived or born while the mother was in a state of freedom, the status of the father not being taken into consideration, and the condition of marriage not being required (Just. Inst. 1.4). Ingenuitas was on the whole a gift of birth, and a libertinus could not by adoption become ingenuus (Gel. 5.19). But under the empire ingenuitas or the Jura ingenuitatis might be acquired by the favour of the princeps. It could be acquired in two ways, indirectly by the gift of the gold ring (jus aureorum anulorum), or directly by the natalibus restitutio. The gold ring had long been the mark of equestrian rank, and the conferring of the gold ring on a libertinus carried with it, in the early principate, not merely ingenuitas, but admission to the equestrian order. At the time when this symbol raised a libertinus to the rank of knighthood it [p. 1.1010]was sparingly employed, generally for the purpose of raising the position of the freedmen of the emperor's household (Mommsen, Staatsr. iii. p. 519, n. 1); and the gift, when it carried these consequences with it, must have asserted the fullest ingenuitas, involving a dissolution of all the rights of the patronus. From the time of Commodus, however, the gift of the gold ring ceased to denote admission to the equestrian order (Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. p. 893), and became merely a means for the conferring of a partial ingenuitas. It merely granted the enjoyment of the rights implied in ingenuitas during the lifetime of its possessor, and did not destroy the patronal rights (Dig. 38, 2, 3, “hic enim vivit quasi ingenuus, moritur quasi libertus” ). The other mode of conferring ingenuitas was by the direct method of the natalibus restitutio; this was considered by a legal fiction to be a restoration to one of the primitive rights of man, the right of being born in a state of freedom (Dig. 40, 11, 2, “in quibus initio omnes homines fuerunt, non in quibus ipse nascitur, cum servus natus esset” ). When such a restitutio was granted to a libertinus, the patronal rights were lost: and consequently the patron was usually consulted, and his consent obtained, before the change was made (Dig. l.c.). The possession of ingenuitas was sometimes a matter of dispute, and we find the mention of a Judicium ingenuitatis for the decision of this question (Tac. Ann. 13.27). (Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, iii. p. 72 sq., pp. 518, 519; 2.2, p. 518.)


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