Talk:Roman aristocracy

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Category:Ancient Rome vs. Category:Ancient Romans vs. Category:Ancient Romans by class vs. Category:Ancient Roman equites[edit]

Category:Ancient Roman equites is a category within Category:Ancient Romans by class which is a category within Category:Ancient Romans which is a category within Category:Ancient Rome. — Robert Greer (talk) 23:36, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Long captions are long[edit]

Is there a reason why the captions are so long? The first image, for example, goes into detail into Pliny without making a reference as to why the image is relevant to the article. Please note WP:CAPTIONS, which also says captions should be succinct. hateless 03:22, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

I agree with this nearly two-year-old suggestion. I've never seen such long captions on WP. They're informative and relevant, but I wonder whether there isn't a better way to incorporate them. Cynwolfe (talk) 00:33, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

"Knight" is an anachronism[edit]

I would eliminate the word "knight" from the description. Knights are a phenomenon from way later European feudal societies and are therefore an anachrosism when referretd to the Roman antique time. It is only acceptable to state, that the Equites are often erroneously referred to as knights.

There is a full set of reasons, why equites may not be charachterised as knight.

1. Source of income Knights lived from the land they posessed. Equites lived from trade. The senatores were the wealthy landowners of teh Roman republican society.

2. Legal status Knights were low aristocracy. Equites may be well referred to as aristocracy too. The important difference is, that this status gave different benefits in the feudal society of the European middle ages and different in the way more egalitarian Roman society: Peasants in the middel ages were obliged by law to work in serfdom for their landlords i.d. knights. Nobody was obliged by law to work for equites, except slaves, especially not the peasants which were Roman citizens as the equites. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 88.71.54.72 (talk) 14:29, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

We don't invent names, we use names used by historians and scholars and these guys translate 'equites' with 'knights'. Flamarande (talk) 16:38, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree with the first poster. Knight is anachronism. If used in any text referring to a Roman era equites, it is a gross misunderstanding of the medieval knightly class (whether a single scholar did so, or anyone else: still remains a misunderstanding of the term). Not only the points already made above set these two apart, but also the specific ethos of the medieval knight (check Maurice keen, Chivalry, Yale: 1984, a standard work on the knightly class and ethos) and the point that you could only become a knight when born into the noble class - it was not dependent on a particular income, as with the equites. The term is an anachronism - suggesting there might be a link between the Roman equites and the medieval knights. Why not keep "equites" as the way to refer to this class? It worked for the Romans. gadifere (talk)

Latin in general worked for the Romans, but we're writing in English, and actually, some would argue that there is a historical link between medieval and Roman "knighthood", particularly in the way in which equestrian rank may have combined with the native Celtic tradition of "knighthood" in ancient Gaul to influence early medieval France. For instance, certain members of the class that Caesar describes as equites among the Gauls are likely upon obtaining Roman citizenship to have qualified for the equestrian order. And there are perfectly sound sources by classical scholars that translate equites as knights. There's no magic wall separating late antiquity from the early medieval period; society evolved over time. I'm not arguing for the use of the word "knight," mind you, because I recognize that the more familiar meaning is likely to influence the reader. Just saying it isn't as off as it may strike most people. Cynwolfe (talk) 16:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I get the need to translate, yet I still don't see why the word "knight" specifically is chosen (perhaps someone can point me to an article on this??). And although there is indeed no magic wall separating the early middle ages and antiquity, the knights, as they evolved in the 9th-11th c. to what their typical appearance, etc. is, owed more to barbarian tribes and warrior culture than their Roman counterparts, as is clearly visible in their worldview and ethics, so I don't see how that would justify the translation of equites into knight.
My biggest objection to the use is that, although (as pointed out above, thank you!) it is used by scholars, there is no need to use an already very confusing term when explaining what equites were: it would immediately call up an image of the quitessential medieval knight, or what we perceive it to be, and would confuse more than it could possibly explain. gadifere (talk) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 145.53.0.242 (talk) 18:53, 11 August 2011 (UTC)


The problem as I see it is that the use of "knight" is vague. I don't mind the term being used. It simply is not apparent as to what it means in a Roman context. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.223.19.171 (talk) 20:19, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

I found the usage of knights to be confusing. Mainly, because the article just starts using the term after establishing members of the order are called equites. I noticed that Jona Lendering uses the term extensively, however, Encyclopedia Britannica makes no use of term in its article on the equestrian order. Granted Websters lists Eques as synonymous with knight, but because it leads to less confusion and eques is in the dictionary and the term defined in this article, lets stick with it. Tinynanorobots (talk) 10:08, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
The practice of referring to members of the Roman Equestrian Order as 'knights' has scholarly precedent and, on the grand old principle that 'if a thing aint broke don't fix it' I would say leave well enough alone. However, I personally prefer the term 'Equestrian' as representing better usage - I pray in aid the example of Prof. Potter ('The Roman empire at Bay' etc.). I will continue this idiosyncratic practice until it is expressly forbidden. Pjbjas Pjbjas (talk) 16:31, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
I strongly suggest changing it to equestrian, and add that since it is "broke" in another way, you might as well fix two problems at once instead of just one: in English (though not Latin from what I've seen), titles such as knight should not be capitalized unless referring to a specific person along with that person's name: "the senators" vs. "Senator Doodlebug."
Plus, "equestrian" is parallel to the other terms; it increases the level of internal consistency in the article as it follows the model of the other terms as you can see laid out below:
  • patricii (the Patricians)
  • ordo senatorius (the Senatorial Order)
  • ordo equester (the Equestrian Order) or simply equites (the equestrians)
A few more points:
  • If there are parallel historical Latin terms for "simply the Senators" or "the Order of Patricians" (ordo patriciani or something like that?), those should be found and added to the first mention in the intro & any etymology section.
  • The use of the word "knight" for equestrian should be mentioned upon the first use in the intro & any etymology section.
  • The intro is too long.
As I often have to say, sorry all I can do is point this out. Plus, my chronic illness might not let me get back here again. If you want my input, please try my talk page, but even that I don't remember to check often, although the notifications help. Thanks in advance! --Geekdiva (talk) 23:57, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

Regal era needs fixing[edit]

The section on the regal era needs to be fixed. The mess is partly due to confusion in the ancient sources. A good article to help correct it can be found here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Equites.html

I don't have the energy right now...so if someone else can do it that would be great! --Urg writer (talk) 21:19, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

The lead book[edit]

There is an entire article in the lead. It is huuuuuuggggeee. If no one takes a crack at it soon, I plan to wield the editorial axe.User talk:Unfriend12 01:02, 16 March 2012 (UTC)

Equites Were Not An Order, Nor Were Patricians Exactly A Class[edit]

This article opens by describing the Equestrian "Order" as the lower of the two Roman aristocratic classes, the higher one being the Patrician "class". I believe this contains two errors: 1] It confuses Roman Orders with Roman social class (Equites were not an Order, nor were Patricians a class), and 2] the aristocratic group which was nominally the Equites' superior was not the Patrician Order but was the Senatorial class — and even that distinction was codified only later in ancient Roman history.

Explanation: My understanding, which comes from several sources but relies heavily on Garrett Fagan, is that both the origin of the Patricians and the significance of their place in Roman society is murky to historians. Some think they descended from early Roman priests, others from the city's earliest inhabitants. There are other theories but nobody is sure. We do know that the Patricians were a privileged group but we also know that they were not the only privileged group. Ancient Roman Society was comprised of two, and only two, Orders: Patricians and Plebeians. And from the earliest days of Rome there were Plebeian families which were every bit the Patricians' aristocratic equal. Many Roman gens had both Plebeian and Patrician branches, and some of Rome's most noble and most ancient houses were Plebeian. The Casii for instance, a family supposed to have descended from the Roman kings and arguably the most ancient of all the important noble families, was a Plebeian house.

What is clear to modern historians is that following ancient Rome's Struggle of the Orders, membership in one or the other Order was irrelevant to aristocratic status (though each Order did continue to have slightly different political privileges and the Plebeian Order surely contained more ordinary people.) The true aristocrats though — those of the highest social rank — were the Nobiles, the top social, economic and political class comprised of both Orders on equal footing. Of those powerful Romans whose histories have come down to us today, it can be hard to discern whether their heritage was Plebeian or Patrician because it is virtually irrelevant to their aristocratic standing.

So much for Orders. As to social classes, during the shank of the Republican period, the Senatorial and Equestrian classes were essentially the same class, the principal distinction being that Senators engaged in politics while Equites were less involved. In later years, a distinction came to be made between those ranks based on wealth, which is how modern historians have come to regard the Equites as the lesser of those aristocratic classes.

Conclusion: The first sentence should be changed to say that the Equites were the class of ancient Roman aristocracy second not to the Patrician Order, but rather to the Senatorial class. SteveMacIntyre (talk) 03:00, 3 December 2012 (UTC)Steve MacIntyre — Preceding unsigned comment added by SteveMacIntyre (talkcontribs) 12:58, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

"Order" is meant to be a translation of Latn ordo (ordo equester and ordo senatorius); see Roman Empire#Census rank.
This is indeed a murky topic, and the article, for all its prodigious detail, gets some things wrong—or rather, asserts as fact the views of certain scholars with which other scholars disagree. Meaning, there are points at which we have to acknowledge that the facts are unrecoverable, and then present the information in the form of the scholarly questions that are answered variously. You are right that many editors on Wikipedia are confused about what "plebeian" meant during the Republic; they don't quite get the concept of "noble plebeian," which is what somebody like Lucullus or Crassus was (see nobiles). Our articles also have trouble with the fact that Republican Rome had multiple, overlapping social hierarchies; for reference, see the beginning of our deplorable article on Social class in ancient Rome. WP editors tend to refer to "patricians" when they mean nobiles, itself a murky, non-technical designation in the Republic. In Republican Rome, you were either born a patricius or you weren't (though you could be adopted into a patrician gens); it was perhaps the one distinction you couldn't compete for, but the prerogatives of the patricians had all but disappeared after the Punic Wars, except for a few priesthoods. Increasingly during the Empire, you could be made a patricius as a honorary title. Some of these problems in our articles have to do with thinking of "ancient Rome" as one thing throughout its thousand year history, without recognizing how these kinds of designations of social position changed. Cynwolfe (talk) 18:05, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Quite right. (And forgive my lack of WP editing fluency if this is formatted sideways.) It's a little troubling that a reader interested in the subject comes to this page and learns that the two top orders/classes in ancient Rome were the patricians and the equites. I'd like to see the lede changed without major surgery to the body of the piece. SteveMacIntyre (talk) 02:58, 3 December 2012 (UTC)Steve MacIntyre

I'll try to fix that, but I've tried before and found it not as simple to fix that one point as I thought, because the rest of the article furthers the misconception. I respect the diligence that went into the article, so that makes it harder to make corrections (you can't just bulldoze). At the same time, the sources used seem mostly not the major scholars who examine the complexities of defining the equestrian order. The intro is far too detailed, and as I said above, asserts as fact that which scholars in fact debate: Arnaldo Momigliano is not alone in asserting that the equites of the earlier period can't have been patrician. M. implies (though I'm not sure he says this explicitly) that the equites as a privileged rank or order originate as the king's mounted bodyguard, his personal force, so that after the monarchy was overthrown, the governing class (the patres or the senate) were faced with the problem of what to do with them: these warriors had to be given some kind of special status so they'd go along with the political changes that potentially diminished their standing. This is in M.'s article "Procum Patricium," Journal of Roman Studies 56 (1966) 16–24. The best summary (well, that I know of) of the problems of defining the equestrian order from its beginnings through the Principate is T.P. Wiseman, "The Definition of Eques Romanus in the Late Republic and Early Empire," Historia 19.1 (1970) 67–83. H. Hill's series of articles from the early 20th century aren't used for the article, and neither is Nicolet's book (though I don't think it's been translated from French). I have strong feelings that an encyclopedia article should not read like the name-dropping first chapter of a dissertation, so it would require a monumental feat of digestion to get a handle on all the divergent views well enough to produce an article that summarizes the questions without resorting to the "Puddinhead said X, but Diddledum said Y" strategy which infects so many well-researched articles. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:42, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, chaps. But I think that calling the equites "Knights" is the best policy, as well as a common practice in modern works. The reason is that in Latin eques can also mean a common cavalryman, or indeed any rider. Here we need to distinguish between the equites who constituted the Roman cavalry (almost none of whom were Knights after 200 BC) and the equites who were members of an aristocratic order. I propose to return to the previous nomenclature. EraNavigator (talk) 19:59, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Equites article gone[edit]

Why don't the equites deserve their own separate article, rather than a combined article with with patricians etc? They were a very important part of Roman society, particularly during the late republic. Has this move been debated elsewhere? --Urg writer (talk) 21:16, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

I agree with Urg writer. While there may have been some merit in discussing the roles of the various elements of the Roman ruling classes in a single text, I feel that this article lacks some important elements of the former article (on the Roman equestrian order) on which it seems to have been based. From my point of view as a contributor of articles on Equestrian commanders of vexillationes I regret the loss of the section in that article on the equestrian hierarchy to which I constantly needed to refer: I feel that those articles now need to be extensively revised to supply the deficiency. I am considering whether or not to reinstate the material concerned in the present article as a better alternative, although I fear that it might thereby become unbalanced. I think that a change so significant in the format and coverage of the original article should at the very least have been put to the WP Greek and Roman group before a final decision was made if only as a matter of courtesy. Pjbjas92.17.192.172 (talk) 16:13, 26 April 2014 (UTC)