When the Peasants Went On Strike: Ancient Rome’s Secessions Of The Plebs

By | August 30, 2019

test article image
Plebeian farmers interacting with Roman Patricians. From Hutchinson's History of the Nations, published 1915. Source: (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In ancient Rome, there was a strict class structure. The upper classes of society—the senators, patricians, and the equestrian classes—were the wealthy elite who could afford to live lives of leisure and prosperity. Below them—far below—were the plebs. In the absence of a middle class, there were stark contrasts between the upper elite and the lowly plebs. The plebian class, however, greatly outnumbered the elite, and a few times in Roman history, they banded together to use the power of their numbers. Occasionally, they even went on strike, leaving the spoiled wealthy elite to fend for themselves. These events became known as the Secessions of the Plebs. 

test article image
The Plebeian class was the lowly working class of Roman society. Source: (en.wikipedia.org)

Who Were the Plebs?

The plebeian class was the working class in ancient Roman society. They were one step above slaves on the social hierarchy. Plebs were free Roman citizens, but they were stuck at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. These were the farmers, common laborers, bakers, and builders of society. They toiled long hours to earn enough money to support their families as well as the elite class, to whom they paid taxes.