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Group 5 : Class structure BY: Phylicia, Tati, and Dahlia. Essential Question:. How was the Roman government's class structure organized?. Rome's Social Structure.

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Group 5 : Class structure

BY: Phylicia, Tati, and Dahlia


Essential Question:

How was the Roman government's class structure organized?


Rome's Social Structure

Ancient Rome's social structure was based on heredity, property, wealth, citizenship and freedom. Men played the lead role in this society; women were classified by their fathers or husbands. Rome was highly hierarchical and a very class-conscious society.

Slaves were placed at the bottom, freedmen above them, and freeborn citizens at the top. Hierarchy further divided these main categories into more specific sections.


To have a hierarchical structure means that it consists of multiple levels. The chain of command resembles a pyramid- like shape; with large amounts of workers representing the base, who are supervised by the higher level above them. The top of the pyramid has the most power and control. Vice versa - The bottom has the least.

What does it mean to have a hierarchical structure?


The Top:

  • On the very top of the society was the Emperor. Commonly known as the empire's "first citizen". Since different classes even had to dress differently, only the Emperor was allowed to wear a purple toga.
  • Second in line of command were the Senators. There was about 600 of these men, they were the empire's wealthiest citizens. Senators were expected to wear white togas with the latus clavus and broad purple stripes along the side.

The Top:

  • Equestrians are basically plebeians that have gained nobility by entering the Senate. Sometimes they were also referred to as Equites or Knights. This was the wealthy landed Plebeian merchant class. They were granted a "Public Horse" ,by the State so they could act as the Republic's calvary. They wore a slim purple stripe down the right of their tunics on the front and back. This signified their noble status. Equestrians ended up becoming a very important human resource.

The Middle:

  • Plebeians made up Romes working class. Individually they had little power, but when they stood together they could form strong mobs, so they had to be handled carefully for that reason. The term plebeian refers to all free Roman citizens that were not members of the patrician,senatorial or equestrian classes.

The Bottom:

  • Slaves mostly foreigners and, unlike more modern times, slavery wasn't based off of race. Slaves in Rome may have been prisoners of war, captured and sold by pirates, or slaves that had been bought outside of the Roman territory. Although very uncommon, sometimes Roman citizens even had to sell their children into slavery in order to raise money.
  • Life as a slave was harsh. They were often cruelly mistreated by being branded and whipped. Their owners were even allowed to kill them for any reason, without even facing punishment
  • Slaves worked in things like, private household, mines, farms, engineering projects. Their occupations somewhat resembled the Plebeians.

Key term!:

  • Manumission was another difference in Roman slavery. This term meant that the slaves could possibly have the ability to be freed. Even though this was very hard to overcome, it encouraged most slaves to be hardworking and respectful towards their masters. If they were freed, they could work in the same exact jobs as the plebeians did.


Formal manumission was performed by a magistrate and it allowed freedmen to have full Roman citizenship. Although they were considered full Roman citizens, they were not allowed to hold office in government. Any children born to freedmen, after their formal manumission, were given full citizenship and the right to hold office.

Informal manumission, unlike formal manumission, did not give citizenship to informally freed slaves. They were given a lot less rights, and any wealth or property went to their former owners after they passed away.


Some Sources: