1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Plebs
PLEBS (from the root seen in Lat. plenus, full; cf. Gr. πλῆθς), the “multitude,” or unprivileged class in the early Roman state. For the origin and history of this order see Patricians and Nobility. Its disqualifications were originally based on descent; but after the political equalization of the two orders the name was applied to the lower classes of the population without reference to their descent. Under the empire the word is regularly used of the city proletariate, or of the commons as distinct from knights and senators.