The position of Rome was superior to that of the other towns in the Latin Confederacy. Situated on the Tiber, at the head of navigation, she naturally became a commercial centre. Her citizens prospered and grew wealthy, and wealth is power. Her hills were natural strongholds, easily held against a foe. Thus we see that she soon became the most powerful of the Latin cities, and when her interests conflicted with theirs, she had no scruples about conquering any of them and annexing their territory. Thus Alba was taken during the reign of Tullus Hostilius, and his successor, Ancus Marcius, subdued several cities along the river, and at its mouth founded a colony which was named OSTIA, the seaport of Rome.

At this time (about 625) the Roman territory (ager Románus) comprised nearly 250 square miles, being irregular in shape, but lying mostly along the southern bank of the Tiber and extending about ten or twelve miles from the river. It was not materially increased during the next two centuries.

The original founders of Rome and their direct descendants were called PATRICIANS, i. e. belonging to the Patres, or Fathers of the families. They formed a class distinct from all others, jealously protecting their rights against outsiders. Attached to the Patricians was a class called CLIENTS, who, though free, enjoyed no civil rights, i. e. they had no voice in the government, but were bound to assist in every way the Patrician, called PATRON, to whom they were attached. In return, the latter gave them his support, and looked after their interests. These clients corresponded somewhat to serfs, worked on the fields of their patrons, and bore the name of the gens to which their patron belonged. Their origin is uncertain; but they may have come from foreign towns conquered by the Latins, and whose inhabitants had not been made slaves.

In addition to the clients there were actual slaves, who were the property of their masters, and could be bought or sold at pleasure. Sometimes a slave was freed, and then he was called a LIBERTUS (freedman) and became the client of his former master.

As Rome grew into commercial prominence, still another class of people flocked into the city from foreign places, who might be called resident foreigners, corresponding in general to the Metics at Athens. Such were many merchants and workmen of all trades. These all were supposed to be under the protection of some patrician who acted as their patron.

These three classes, clients, slaves, and resident foreigners, were all of a different race from the Romans. This should be constantly borne in mind.

We have learned that Rome, as she grew in power, conquered many of the Latin towns, and added their territory to hers. The inhabitants of these towns were of the same race as the Romans, but were not allowed any of their civil rights. Most of them were farmers and peasants. Many of them were wealthy. This class of inhabitants on the ager Romanus, or in Rome itself, were called Plebeians (Plebs, multitude). Their very name shows that they must have been numerous. They belonged to no gens or curia, but were free, and allowed to engage in trade and to own property. In later times (from about 350) all who were not Patricians or slaves were called Plebeians.


Until the time of Servius Tullius (about 550) the army was composed entirely of patricians. It was called a Legio (a word meaning levy ), and numbered three thousand infantry called milites, from mille, a thousand, one thousand being levied from each tribe. The cavalry numbered three hundred at first, one hundred from each tribe, and was divided into three companies called Centuries.

During the reign of Servius the demands of the plebeians, who had now become numerous, for more rights, was met by the so called SERVIAN reform of the constitution. Heretofore only the patricians had been required to serve in the army. Now all males were liable to service. To accomplish this, every one who was a land-owner, provided he owned two acres, was enrolled and ranked according to his property. There were five "Classes" of them. The several classes were divided into 193 subdivisions called "Centuries," each century representing the same amount of property. In the first class there were forty centuries in active service, composed of men under forty-six, forty centuries of reserve, and eighteen centuries of cavalry.

In the second, third, and fourth classes there were twenty centuries each, ten in active service, and ten in reserve. The fifth class had thirty centuries of soldiers, and five of mechanics, musicians, etc.

The first four ranks of the troops were made up of the infantry from the first class. All were armed with a leather helmet, round shield, breastplate, greaves (leg-pieces), spear, and sword. The fifth rank was composed of the second class, who were armed like the first, without breastplate. The sixth rank was composed of the third class, who had neither breastplate nor greaves. Behind these came the fourth class, armed with spears and darts, and the fifth class, having only slings.

Each soldier of the infantry paid for his own equipments; the cavalry, however, received from the state a horse, and food to keep it.

This new organization of both patricians and plebeians was originally only for military purposes, - that the army might be increased, and the expenses of keeping it more equitably divided among all the people. But gradually, as the influence of the wealthy plebeians began to be felt, the organization was found well adapted for political purposes, and all the people were called together to vote under it. It was called the COMITIA CENTURIÁTA, i.e. an assembly of centuries. The place of meeting was on the CAMPUS MARTIUS, a plain outside of the city.

In this assembly each century had one vote, and its vote was decided by the majority of its individual voters. The tendency of this system was to give the wealthy the whole power; for since each century represented the same amount of property, the centuries in the upper or richer classes were much smaller than those in the lower or poorer classes, so that a majority of the centuries might represent a small minority of the people. The majority of the wealthy people at Rome were still patricians, so the assembly was virtually controlled by them. In this assembly magistrates were elected, laws made, war declared, and judgment passed in all criminal cases.