What Does The Word "plebeian" Mean?

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What Does The Word "plebeian" Mean?
What Does The Word "plebeian" Mean?

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Video: What is the meaning of the word PLEBEIAN? 2022, December

The word "plebeian" contains a fair amount of disdain. So it is customary to call - especially in an aristocratic environment - a native of the lower classes, a commoner, someone who does not have a "noble" origin and noble title.

Ancient Roman plebeians did not have their representatives in the Senate
Ancient Roman plebeians did not have their representatives in the Senate

In the modern world, the division of people into classes depending on their origin no longer has the same meaning as it was attached to back in the 19th century. In modern colloquial speech, the word "plebeian" most often means an ignorant and rude person, because these are the qualities the aristocracy traditionally attributed to commoners.

But the original meaning of the word "plebeian" is still associated with the division of people depending on their origin.

Plebeians of Ancient Rome

Throughout its history, the Roman Empire "grew in breadth", replenishing its territory and population through conquests. Of course, no one has ever put on a par with the indigenous inhabitants of the empire and the population that came from the conquered territories. On this basis, the population of Rome was divided into patricians and plebeians.

Not immediately the word "patrician" became an aristocratic title, originally the whole people of Rome were called that way - more precisely, all those who came from primordial Roman families. Even the very word "patrician" means "descendant of the fathers."

The alien population was called a plebs. This name comes from the Latin word plere, which means "to fill" - after all, these people "filled" Rome, probably to the delight of the indigenous people who looked down on them. The representatives of the plebs were called plebeians.

The position of the plebeians

One should not think that the border between patricians and plebeians was based on the principle of wealth and poverty: there were not very rich patricians (in the original meaning of the word), and very wealthy plebeians. But the plebeian, even if he was very rich, did not have the political rights that a patrician possessed.

The plebeian did not have the right to use the communal land and participate in religious rituals. In the middle of the 5th century. BC NS. even marriages between patricians and representatives of the plebs were forbidden, however, such a law existed for no more than a year. And most importantly, the plebeians could not become members of the Senate, therefore, no one defended their interests.

The situation changed in 494 BC. e., when the plebeians received the right to elect their representatives who would defend their rights before the patrician magistrates. Such people were called tribunes. To overturn the decision of the magistrate, displeasing the plebeians, the tribune had to personally appear to him and say "Veto" (forbid).

Gradually, the "impassable chasm" between patricians and plebeians lost its significance. From 287 BC NS. plebiscites - decisions of plebeian assemblies have become binding on all Roman citizens.

The word "plebeian" did not come out of use with the fall of Rome - in medieval Europe, this was the name of the urban poor. Preserved in modern language and such a term as "veto", as well as a plebiscite - the designation of one of the varieties of a referendum.

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