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date: 26 March 2023



  • Barry Nicholas


The Romans made a broad distinction, which was at first social but acquired in the Principate and thereafter an increasing number of legal consequences, between an upper class usually termed honestiores and a lower class of humiliores. No legal definition of the two classes is found, and the allocation of an individual to one or the other was probably at the discretion of the court. The legal consequences lay in part in the private law, but were most marked in the criminal law, honestiores being subject to milder penalties than humiliores (rarely the death penalty, never death by crucifixion or bestiis obicere; *relegatioin insulam in place of forced labour in the mines, etc.). The distinction is not the same as that drawn in the later empire between potentiores and tenuiores. The legal relevance of the latter distinction lies not in privileges conferred on the potentiores, but on the contrary in the restrictions which the legislator attempted to impose on their abuse of their wealth or position.


  • Roman Law

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