A deeper look into the Roman society
Struggle of the orders
The Romans society was deeply divided into 3 orders:
Initially the patricians (patres=fathers) held all the offices in the city.
- Knights (equites)
Initially a number of patricians who were obliged to bring their own horse(s) and equipment. In the late republic this could also be (rich) pleneians. Young men would make their military carreer as an eques. See for example Livius (21.46), where the young P.Cornelius Scipio served as a knight.
Everybody who did not belong to the patrician families or equestrians. Not to be confused with proletarians, the poor, who had not enough possessions to be allowed to serve in the army. There certainly were rich plebeians.
Bit by bit the plebeians would "conquer" the offices. I write conquer because these could be sometimes very vicious and violant actions (from both sides). In time there would arise plebeian nobles, who would hold offices like the patricians.
Elected Roman magistrates
During the republican era the Roman society was governed by elected magistrates.
Most of the magistrates who governed Rome were elected every year. Most of these functions were doubled: a direct consequence of the Roman aversion to kings and the fear of the return of a kingdom.
From the early republic on the priesthood was firmly in the hands of the patricians (Patres). Since the Roman people were very willing to listen to the will of the gods, all of the Roman society was "under control" of the patricians.
For example: When a consul was elected, his appointment needed approval of the gods by means of an augury.
see for instance Livius (22.33) or Livius (23.31)
At the eve of the battle of lake Trasimeno elected consul Gaius Flaminius left Rome to take command of his legions in Arretium, before the auguries had been held.
This was seen as a very bad prodigy and the senate was furious.
Struggle of the orders
In the late republic some of these priesthoods became also accessible for plebeians..
Roman society was very paternalistic. The pater familias was more than just the head of his family. The female members of this family were thought to be far less important and competent than the males. If a family wasn't totally poor it would have at leat one slave.
Did you know the society in the USA
is based upon the Roman example?
That started with the revolutionary war