It's obvious that people in the Senate or people with political power would be considered of higher status, while ordinary plebs, such as farmers, would have a lower status. However, where exactly would specialized workers, such as blacksmiths, jewelers etc. have fit in society? Would they have had more/less privileges or around the same as another social class?

  • Ancient Greece wasn't as cohesive as Ancient Rome, even during the Hellenistic period. Each city state had its own societal structure, and although there were many similarities, there were also many distinct differences. Would you mind making this question only about Ancient Rome, and asking a new one about Ancient Greece?
    – yannis
    Dec 7, 2012 at 9:08
  • @YannisRizos Sure. Dec 7, 2012 at 13:21
  • Ok then, I've edited this question to only be about Rome, ping me when you ask another one about Ancient Greece, I might have a good answer for you.
    – yannis
    Dec 10, 2012 at 13:11
  • @YannisRizos I started a new topic at history.stackexchange.com/questions/5902/… Dec 10, 2012 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


There were essentially 3 classes of Roman -

Patrician, an elite wealthy group of families, who mostly formed the senate

Plebeian, free land owning citizens, some with a right to vote, some without depending on whether they lived in Rome or outside it and

Slaves, who were considered property and had no rights.

Specialised workers therefore could have fallen into either of plebeian or slave. Plebeian if they worked for themselves and slave if they undertook the work on behalf of an owner.

Privilege was earnt by right of status and/or wealth rather than what work you undertook.

The wealthier you were the more status and influence you would have and this characteristically brought wealthy non-patrician plebeians into conflict with less wealthy patricians.

  • 2
    This answer is correct for a particular time period - the early Republic, say the 5th century BCE. Later the patricians and the wealthy plebeians were merged to form a new social upper class - the nobiliate. (The distinction persevered but it mattered very little). The main principle, though, remained valid: there was no middle-class in the modern sense of the term in Rome. Dec 5, 2012 at 12:15
  • Any information on ancient Greece? Dec 5, 2012 at 12:16
  • However, another qualification must be made: in a number of generations families could rise and join the ranks of the nobility. This was mostly true during the Empire (even the Antonine Senate hardly had any members from the old nobility, and that before the crisis of the 3rd century which wiped out many noble families), and in a much weaker form during the Republic when the phenomenon of homo novus existed (look it up in wikipedia). Dec 5, 2012 at 12:17
  • @FelixGoldberg - What relevance would the nobiliate have to specialised manual workers? I'm not a fan of over-complicating answers to the point that the original question gets lost. There's too much of that on here already, I'm not going to add to it. Dec 5, 2012 at 12:27
  • @Reliable Source - I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about Greece to offer an answer. As far as I'm aware they had a similar system of upper class citizens who didn't work, middle class non-citizens who probably undertook the types of work you mention and lower class non-citizens who were probably ex-slaves and slaves. Dec 5, 2012 at 12:32

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