ethos essay

ethos essay - 1 The ethos of the Roman aristocracy evolved...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
1 The ethos of the Roman aristocracy evolved out of a heady sense of entitlement by birth to public recognition. Above all other considerations, they valued public life and the image engendered by accomplishment in the political sphere. As a result, Roman history is one of the outward manifestations of the culturally driven ambitions of powerful individuals. The eventual overthrow of the Republican system of government in favor of an imperial model was the direct result of the increasing drive of the Roman aristocracy to achieve even higher levels of prestige within the context of the state power construct. Once the Etruscan kings had been removed from Rome in approximately 510 BC, authority passed into the hands of a small group of wealthy property-owners. Despite the emerging Republic’s image as a popular government, power was consolidated in the hands of a narrow ruling elite made up of members of the Senatorial class. Success, in the form of high office, was only possible for members of this group. Every Roman who “aspired to win fame and to practice virtue” was regarded as influential only “according to the offices of state…held during his lifetime” (Polybius, 6.53). Though the Republic did include an assembly body in which citizens could vote on policy, weighted voting based on property ownership only furthered the domination of the wealthy. Through their monopoly on high office, the Senatorial class controlled the legislative, judicial and military branches of government almost exclusively. Political heritage became the core of individual identity as near cult-like worship for the “renown of those who have served their country well [became] a matter of common knowledge and heritage for posterity” (Polybius, 6.53) through public processions and funeral
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
2 orations. For a young, ambitious aristocrat “the sight of their ancestor’s portrait masks fired their hearts with an ardent desire to merit honors” (Sallust, Jug ., p. 37); these wax funeral masks of accomplished politicians were kept by the relatives of the deceased as symbols of their pedigree and worn by actors at the funerals of other distinguished family members. Nevertheless, competition even within this limited class context became increasingly intense as the static nature of class membership coupled with a system based on favoritism and patronage made for a highly dynamic and unstable environment in which rivalries and intrigue flourished. The first real challenge to the dominion of the elite was the century-long struggle between the patrician and plebian classes of the 5 th century BC. Membership in the elite patrician class was inflexible and based exclusively on lineage. However, many wealthy and influential plebians resented their exemption from influential political positions as well as the patricians’ abuse of debt laws within the system of patronage that resulted in the essential enslavement of many members of the lower classes. Eventually, plebian demands for codified legislation resulted in the creation of the Twelve Tables in 451 BC;
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/24/2008 for the course HIST 205 taught by Professor Johnson during the Fall '08 term at McGill.

Page1 / 7

ethos essay - 1 The ethos of the Roman aristocracy evolved...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online