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Daily Life in Ancient Rome - Research Paper Example

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Ordinary Romans (140 B.C. to 180 A.D.) Much has been written about the Roman Empire: it’s rise and fall, the conquests and wars, it’s political structure, the lives of Senators, leaders and generals. Yet there is a dearth of information concerning the lives of ordinary people, citizens and non-citizens of the Empire of no renown…
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Daily Life in Ancient Rome
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"Daily Life in Ancient Rome"

Download file to see previous pages According to John R. Clarke in his book “Roman Life,” (S)o much of what we know comes from classical literature, written by elite men. Naturally, the texts give the mindset of the upper classes of Roman society. There's not a single woman writer, nor are there any literary texts written by slaves, former slaves, or freeborn workers.1 It wasn’t until the Fifth Century BC that Romans were divided into classes during the census for the purpose of determining eligibility for military service.2 The lowest classes were slaves seized during conquest and just above them the proletariat or proletarii, the landless and unemployed poor who could not afford military equipment. Proletarii were not considered Roman citizens because of their landless status and thus could not vote or serve in the military. It wasn’t until 212 AD that all free men were counted as citizens, but not women or slaves. The Marian Reforms after 107 BC provided that the proletariat and freed slaves could serve in the military with equipment provided by the state.3 This was mostly out of need, since the ranks of the military, typically drawn from landowners and merchant classes, were stretched thin by foreign wars. Marius changed the structure of the military in revolutionary ways, discarding the Greek-influenced fighting cohort and strategy.4 Marius further granted Roman citizenship to all who served in the military.5 As landless poor, the proletariat class had nothing to return to after a military campaign and often remained in the military as career soldiers for many years. Some became wealthy owing to the spoils of war. Reforms affecting the lower classes were also proposed by the Gracchus brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, between 133-126 BC.6 Their proposed agrarian reforms would give the plebian masses a small parcel of land to work and make them eligible for military service. They were responding to the threat of an uprising among the landless poor who thronged to Rome as slaves now did the work they had once performed and they were thus unemployed with no means of earning a living.7 Where the older brother, Tiberius, failed, the younger brother, Gaius, succeeded. Unfortunately, Gaius was a bit too liberal in his intent to give citizenship to all Italians and the Senate put him down. As the mobs of plebians revolted, over 3000 were executed and Gaius had a slave kill him. The condition of the proletarian plebes hadn’t changed much by the time of Roman satirist Juvenal (55-127 AD). He opined that the masses looked to just two things, bread and circuses.8 This referred to the free grain and the many games and holidays provided by the elites in government to keep the unemployed masses of Rome from rising up and to guarantee their loyalty to their patrons.9 Since most unemployed plebians were illiterate and often uninformed on the issues, they usually sold their vote to the candidate offering the most to them.10 Thus the legislative assembly of the Plebian Council lost much of its populist power and the masses resorted to occasional mobs and violent uprisings to make their voices heard. There were essentially only two political parties. The populares, or people’s party, and the optimates, or senatorial party.11 The populares were for the distribution of land and cancellation of debt. The ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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