Rome was a hierarchical and sexist society dependent on slave labor. Slaves comprised about 10–15% of the population across the Roman Empire overall and about 35–40% of the population in the wealthy area of Italy, the heart of the empire. Slaves did not have legal status as persons, though they did have a few rights.
Above the slaves were plebians, free Roman citizens. Above them was the patrician class, which had its own graduations. About 1.5% of Romans were very wealthy patricians who owned much of the land.
Women could be Roman citizens, but beyond that, they had few rights. The cornerstone of social organization was the paterfamilias or head of the household. This was the oldest male in the household, who was given complete power over the members of his household, including his wife, children, extended family, and slaves. By giving one male power over all the individuals living with him, the Romans believed they could achieve social order.
This clearly was a...
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