CHAPTER V. THE ROMAN CONSTITUTION.
The Roman people - Romanus populus - under the kings, the original citizens, were the warriors who built Rome, and conquered the surrounding cities and districts. They were called patres, which is synonymous with Patricians. [Footnote: Cicero, De Repub., ii. 12 Liv., i. 8.] They were united among themselves by kindred and by political and religious ties. They supported themselves by agriculture although engaged continually in war. They consisted originally of three tribes, which gradually were united into the sovereign people. The first tribe was a Latin colony, and settled on the Palatine Hill; the second were Sabine settlers on the Quirinal; the third were Etruscans, who occupied the Caelian. They were distinct, at first, and were not united fully till the time of Tarquinius Priscus, himself an Etruscan. [Footnote: Dionys., ii. 62.] As there were no other Roman citizens but these patricians, they had no exclusive rights under the kings, and hence there was then no aristocracy of birth. Each of these three tribes of citizens consisted of ten curiae, and each curia of ten decuries, or gentes. The three tribes, therefore, contained three hundred gentes. A gens was a family, and the gentes were aggregates of kindred families. [Footnote: Nieb., Lect. V.] The name of a gens was generally characterized by the termination eia or ia, as Julia, Cornelia, and it is to be presumed that each gens had a common ancestor. But with the growth of the city it came to pass that a gens often included a great number of families; we read of three hundred Fabii forming the gens Fabia in the year 275. These families composed, ultimately, the aristocracy. They were the people who filled all offices, and alone had the right of voting in the assemblies. As the gentes were subdivisions of the three ancient tribes, the populus alone had gentes, so that to be a patrician and to have a gens were synonymous. With the growth of Rome new gentes or families were added which did not claim descent from the ancient tribes. The powerful gens of the Claudia came to Rome with Atta Claudius, their head, after the expulsion of the kings. Tullus Hostilius incorporated the Julii, Servilii and other gentes with the patricians. This ruling class, the descendants of the conquerors, became a powerful aristocracy, and ultimately learned to value pride of blood. There are very few names in Roman history, until the time of Marius, which did not belong to this noble class. What proud families were the Servilii, the Claudii, the Julii, the Cornelii, the Fabii, the Valerii, the Sempronii, the Octavii, the Sergii, and others. [Footnote: Liv., i. 33. Dionys., iii. 31.]
The Equites were originally elected from the patricians, and were cavalry soldiers, and did not form a distinct class till the time of the Gracchi. They were composed of rich citizens, whose wealth enabled them to become judices. They had the privilege of wearing a gold ring, and had seats reserved for them, like the Senate, at the theatre and circus. They increased in number with the increase of wealth, and formed an honorable corps from which the highest officers of the army and the civil magistrates were chosen. Admission to this body was an introduction to public life, and was a test of social position. It was composed of rich plebeians as well as patricians, and was based wholly on wealth. Pliny says, "It became the third order in the state, and to the title of Senatus Populusque Romanus, there began to be added, et Equestris ordo."
[The Roman plebs.]
[Gradual increase of their power.]