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patrōnus


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At Rome, was a man who gave assistance and protection to another person, Roman or non‐Roman, who thereby became his client. In return clients gave their patrons respect, deference and services, which included personal attendance and political support. The social prestige and political influence of a Roman noble (see nobiles) was made evident by the size and standing of his clientele, and competition for political office among the republican élite was partly a matter of obtaining the support of other powerful individuals and their personal followings. Under the empire patronage was the means by which imperial appointments were dispensed, and was fundamental to the working of the administration (see further cliens).

A special type of patronage (which was clearly defined by law) was exercised by a slave‐owner over his freedmen. He retained a certain amount of domestic jurisdiction over them and inherited their property if they died childless or intestate. Patrons and freedmen were often buried together, and inscriptions (esp. from the 2nd cent. ad onwards) suggest that genuine feelings of friendship often existed between them.

Under the later republic patrons also helped litigants by appearing in court to speak on their behalf (advocāti; see advocacy). This practice became increasingly professionalized, as skilled orators (such as Cicero) were rewarded for their support in ways that circumvented a law of 204 bc that forbade the payment of fees to patrons for such services.

Roman generals assumed a diffused patronage over peoples conquered by them, and this patronage was transmitted to their descendants. The Claudii Marcelli undertook to look after the interests of Sicily (conquered in 210 bc by Claudius Marcellus 1 ). The patronage of Pompey extended widely over the empire; in 83 he raised three legions of clients in his home region of Picenum, and his son Sextus Pompeius could get help in Spain and Asia from his family's clients. It is probable that the emperors too exercised a patronage of this type over the provinces.

A similar form of patronage, which became common under the empire, originated in the action of Roman municipalities, which appointed one or more influential Romans to defend their interests in Rome and to provide them with personal access to the emperor. During the same period many collēgia (see clubs, roman) appointed leading men as their patrons in the same way as the municipalities.

See patronage, non‐literary.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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