The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Patricians

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PATRICIANS (Latin, patricius, from pater, father), the name given by the Romans to the members and descendants by blood or adoption of the original gentes of which the Roman people was composed, until the plebeians became a distinct class of citizens. The other sections of the Roman population, the clients and slaves, did not belong to the populus Romanus. During the first centuries of the republic there was an almost uninterrupted struggle between the patricians and plebeians, in which the former fought hard to retain their exclusive rights, but which ended in the establishment of the political equality of the two orders; only a few insignificant offices remained the exclusive privilege of the patricians. The formation of a new aristocracy, founded on wealth and on the holding of the offices of consul, prætor and curule ædile, made the patricians of still less account. When the seat of government was removed to Constantinople, Constantine the Great, desirous of restoring the ancient Roman ranks, instituted a new patrician dignity, which was a mere personal title, and which could be acquired only by high birth and distinguished merits. Under the Carlovingians and the succeeding emperors the title of patrician denoted an exalted rank, and was connected also with the government of Rome and its provinces, and the support of the Papal See. Charlemagne assumed the title of a Roman patrician before he was declared emperor, and Henry IV, as such, deposed Pope Gregory VII. In modern times a few noble families in the imperial cities were called patricians, because they were especially entitled to certain high offices. In some Italian cities the title of patrician is still used to denote a member of the nobility. Consult Botsford, G. W., ‘The Roman Assemblies’ (New York 1909); Bryce, ‘Holy Roman Empire’ (New York 1911); Burg, J. B., ‘Later Roman Empire’ (London 1899); Foltz, ‘Beitrage zur Geschichte des Patriciats in den deutschen Städten’ (Marburg 1899). See Rome; Plebeians.