Chapter

The nobility, ‘élite of the human race’

Menno Fenger and Paul Henman

in Rome in Late Antiquity

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2000 | ISBN: 9780748612390
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651009 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748612390.003.0006
The nobility, ‘élite of the human race’

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The existence of a rich and powerful nobility in Rome was nothing new – it went back to the earliest times of the republic and lasted throughout the imperial era. Generations succeeded one another, wealth and magistracies accumulated, simultaneously building the power and prestige of these great gentes (clans). These families, whose political expression was the Senate, embodied the values of their milieu. The most sacred order of the amplissimi, or most distinguished, was nothing other than the élite of mankind. Roman nobles saw in their midst the rapid growth of a process that had started long before: the rise of Christianity – which, if sometimes at odds with the mos maiorum, nevertheless failed to weaken the cohesion of this very powerful social group. Proof of this lies in the fact that they endured, without great mishap, through the periodic sacks of their city and, in the sixth century, the domination of the Ostrogoths.

Keywords: nobility; Rome; gentes; Senate; amplissimi; élite; mankind; Christianity; mos maiorum; Ostrogoths

Chapter.  7341 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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