Roman patron and client relationship

Patronage in ancient Rome - Wikipedia

roman patron and client relationship

"Patron-client relationship" redirects here. For a political practice, see Clientelism. Patronage (clientela) was the distinctive relationship in ancient Roman society between the. Clentela (the patron-client relationship) was, at its heart, a system of hierarchical relationships that structured the social networks of those in. patron-client relationship The roots of the patron-client relationship have been traced by some to the dependence of plebians on patricians in the Roman Empire.

This passage, then, has little historical value as explaining the origin of the clients. Still something may be extracted from the passage, though it is impossible to reconcile it altogether with all other evidence.

The clients were not servi: Consistently with what Dionysius says, they might be Roman citizens in the wider sense of the term civis, enjoying only the commercium and connubium, but not the suffragium and honores, which belonged to their patroni.

roman patron and client relationship

Such a body, if it existed, must have been powerless; but such a body might in various ways increase in numbers and wealth, and grow up into an estate, such as the plebs afterwards was.

The body of clientes might include freedmen, as it certainly did: Besides, it cannot be true that a patron had the power of life and death over his freedman, who had obtained the civitas, any more than he had over an emancipated son. There is also no proof that the clientela in which liberti stood was hereditary like that of the proper clients. The body of clientes might, consistently with all that we know, contain peregrini, who had no privileges at all; and it might contain that class of persons who had the commercium only, if the commercium existed in the early ages of the state.

The relation of the patronus to the cliens, as represented by Dionysius, has an analogy to the patria potestas, and the form of the word patronus is consistent with this.

But if a cliens died with heirs, could he make a will? He might have all this consistently with the statement of Dionysius, and yet be a citizen non optimo jure; for he had not the honores and the other distinguishing privileges of the patricii; and consistently with the statement of Dionysius he could not vote in the comitia curiata.


It is not possible to prove that a cliens had all this, and it seems equally impossible, from existing evidence, to show what his rights really were. So far as our extant ancient authorities show, the origin of the clientela, and its true character, were unknown to them.

roman patron and client relationship

There was a body in the Roman state, at an early period of its existence, which was neither patrician nor client, and a body which once did not, but ultimately did, participate in the sovereign power: The clientes also existed in the earliest period of the Roman state, but our knowledge of the true condition of this body must remain inexact, for the want of sufficient evidence in amount, and sufficiently trustworthy.

It is stated by Livy II.

Patronage in ancient Rome

It may be doubted whether Dionysius understood them to have the suffragium at the comitia centuriata; but if such was the legal condition of the clientes, it is impossible that the exposition of their relation to the patricians, as given by some modern writers, can be altogether correct. It would appear, from what has been stated, that patronus and patricius were originally convertible terms, at least until the plebs obtained the honores. From that time, many of the reasons for a person being a cliens of a patricius would cease; for the plebeians had acquired political importance, had become acquainted with the law and the legal forms, and were fully competent to advise their clients.

Herod the Great killed the children in Bethlehem because he suspected a rival would arise from that town. Paul, though a Roman citizen, was kept in jail in Caesarea for almost two full years because the ruler, Felix, was hoping for a bribe Acts In fact, the process to gain rights has been slow and hard fought. Article 39 stated that rulers could not imprison and punish people without a lawful trial.

King John was basically forced to sign it, but immediately sent it on to the Pope, who declared it null and void, and for extra measure, excommunicated the barons.

Ancient biblical societies functioned on a patron-client basis. As a result, the client needed the resources that the patron could offer.

The patron needed or found useful the loyalty and honor that the client could give him. This article is only a brief introduction to the subject of the patron-client society, which deserves much deeper study.

It is important that we as modern readers really understand the patron-client society. That was not the case in ancient society, where access to goods and power was not considered free and equal to everyone, and people were not considered fundamentally equal. It was part of the fabric of society that such access to power and influence was channeled either through individuals or special groups.

Not only was it essential, it was expected and publicized! Take, for example, John That is a good example of reading our culture and ideas back into the biblical text.

The huge difference between the rich and powerful and the poor and needy in the ancient world set the stage for another cultural aspect of the patron-client relationship, which is that patrons were honor bound to help their clients.

patron-client relationship |

The first-century Christians would not have had the same problem. They understood that God was honor-bound to support them, and especially so since He was love, and they were doing what He asked them to do.

roman patron and client relationship

On the other hand, like any ancient patron, those who are proud and arrogant will not get the blessings from God they could have otherwise received. Once we understand the patron-client relationship, it seems to be everywhere in the pages of the Bible.