In return, patroni received respect and political favors. During the empire, cliens were required to offer daily greetings to their patroni, and the number of these greeters helped determine social status.On the frontiersof the empire, Roman generals served as patroni for the people they conquered, while Roman provinces or cities often sought out an influential senator to act as patroni and oversee their interests in Rome.
Membership of the equestrian class was not restricted to Italian-born citizens, so letting equestrians into the Senate was a big step. Over time, the Senate would be open to Roman citizens from outside Italy. By the end of the first century, even the emperor himself would be born abroad.
The boundaries between the different classes were strict and legally enforced: members of different classes even dressed differently. Only theemperorwas allowed to wear a purple toga, while senators could wear a white toga with the latus clavus, a broad purple stripe along the edge.Equestriantogas had a narrow purple stripe (clavus augustus).
Although the classes were strictly defined, there was a lot of interaction.Slavesand somefreemenworked the in homes of the upper classes, like thesenatorsandpatriciansSoldiersalso mixed with their officers.
Despite the inflexibility of Roman society, advancement was always possible for the select few. Wealth and property were well-known routes to social advancement, as was patronage by the emperor at one point,Caligulaeven made a horse a senator.
The social structure of ancient Rome was based on heredity, property, wealth, citizenship and freedom. It was also based around men: women were defined by the social status of their fathers or husbands.Womenwere expected to look after the houses and very few had any real independence.
Roman society also involved a system of patronage. Members of the upper classes the patroni offered protection to freedmen orplebeians, who became their cliens. Patronage might consist of money, food, or legal help. Traditionally, any freed slaves became the cliens of their former owner.
Traditionally, Roman society was extremely rigid. By the first century, however, the need for capable men to run Romes vast empire was slowly eroding the old social barriers.
Over time, society did become more fluid.Augustusexpanded the equestrian order and hired them into senior administrative positions. By the end of the first century, equestrians were recruited into the Senate.