plebs

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  • plebs
    • 'kept them quiet with games and money distributions'
    • social legislation reflected unemployment
      • no real industry in Rome- large numbers of unemployed citizens. even those in trade etc suffered from food shortages.
        • it had become an important part of social legislation to provide grain doles and free games- but the govt alone could not provide enough and so it was up to wealthy individuals. PATRONAGE
          • at the time of Augustus- around 2/3rds of the plebs urbana were recipents of the grain dole. he had reduced number eligible for ration of 5 modii a month from 250,000 to 200,000.
            • SUET: augutsus revised the roll of citizens, ward by ward and tried to obviate the frequent interruptions of their trade and business which the public grain distribution entailed.'
              • he handed out tickets three times a year for a four months supply of grain.
      • augustus attitude to those seeking handouts
        • many people attempted to survive purely on his public charity- sometimes when people demanded largesse he branded them 'shameless rascals'
      • games and shows
        • gladitorial games, beast hunts in the forum, amphitheatre and circus, athletic competitions etc even mock sea battle- excavated a river next to tiber.
          • majority given in his own name. but 23 were given on behalf of family members and other magistrates.
    • personal donations by Augustus to the plebs:
      • provision of grain was a great drain on the treasury.
      • he made frequent cash donations to the plebs as well as providing grain from his own granary.
    • political implications of donations
      • donations of 23 seem to coincide with his changed ocnstitutional position.
        • his distributions in 5 and 2 BC correspond to his sons being introdcued to official life.
          • despite this Suetonius states: 'show that he did all this not to win popularity but to improve public welfare.'
    • employment opportunities
      • augustus helped many of the plebs gain steady work- extensive building programme.
        • they regarded him as a benfactor
    • gradual loss of legislative power
      • plebs gradually excluded from political life. their function as tribunes wtc was no longer needed due to Augustus'' 'recommendation' of people.

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