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Download e-book for kindle: A History of Roman Religion by Franz Altheim

By Franz Altheim

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Vanderbroeck, in his study of popular leadership in the late republic, accepted the idea of a small group of people regularly participating in meetings and assemblies. 8 The theory of a politically active section of the plebs made up of independent freedmen is, on the other hand, based on a combination of a few scattered references to freedmen in the contiones (see p. 9 The existence of this category, likely as it may be, does not alter the fact that most freedmen probably had fairly close ties with their patron.

71 Economically their lot was a precarious one. 72 In order to survive, the Roman plebs had to earn its own living. Political activity was therefore an economic sacri®ce for the working population of Rome. In Sallust's description of the plebs' support for Marius, this point is made explicitly: `Finally the commons were so excited that all the craftsmen and farmers, whose prosperity and credit depended on the labour of their own hands, left their work and attended Marius, regarding their own necessities as less important than his 67 68 69 70 71 72 Stanton (1996).

The fact that contiones were open to all citizens, but able to accommodate only a fraction of the urban population, puts the spotlight on the small minority that did take part. Was the audience a miniature version of the populus Romanus, representing the views and moods of the populace as a whole? Did there, in other words, exist a particular plebs contionalis, a mixed group of citizens regularly turning up for meetings and assemblies, as has been suggested by some modern scholars? 5 The idea of the plebs contionalis as a small topographically concentrated crowd of traders raises practical problems.

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A History of Roman Religion by Franz Altheim


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