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Ancient Rome is often cited as a republic/democracy, and one of the earliest examples of a civilisation enforcing some degree of human rights. However, it's no secret that slavery was present in Rome. So, I want to know the rights that various classes of people held during the Republican era (c. 500 - 27 B.C.), e.g. slaves, women, artisans, etc.

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Which period of time do you want to know about? Depending on how you define Roman you could include Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire as well as The Roman Empire and Republic. –  Sardathrion Oct 19 '11 at 8:27
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@Sardathrion is right. Okay, so you pretty obviously don't mean the Holy Roman Empire (which isn't Roman in any sense really), but even the classical Roman Empire spanned a period of about half a millennium! –  Noldorin Nov 6 '11 at 20:42
    
@Sardathrion,@Noldorin: I meant the Roman republic roughly from 500 BC to 27 BC. –  apoorv020 Nov 7 '11 at 11:43
    
Could you edit your question to make this clear? –  Sardathrion Nov 7 '11 at 20:42
    
Edited for him. :-) –  Noldorin Nov 7 '11 at 21:53
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There's a pretty good discussion of this here: http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/socialclass.html

Briefly, in the early republic, the populace was divided into the plebs (common people) and patricians (aristocracy) with most public offices reserved for the patricians. Over time, this evolved into more layers, with the senatorial class (highest) followed by the equestrians, commons, freedpeople, and slaves. By the time of the late republic, some of the most powerful offices (eg., tribunes of the plebs) were open to commoners (although they were often occupied by members of the equestrian class, who had the resources to campaign for election).

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It's also probably worth mentioning that the late republic had a somewhat murkier division between classes. By that point, there were a lot of rich plebeian families, and it wasn't all that uncommon to see them in high offices. While some positions still depended on pleb/patrician status, it wasn't really a clear cut common vs aristocracy issue in the late republic. –  ricree May 24 '12 at 0:18
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