The Patron Client Relationship in Ancient Rome

Written by Henry Young. Posted in Relationships

There were some days when it was very hard to trust people, especially when it came to building a patron client relationship. No matter how honest and sincere a person could appear to be, you could never know what his real intentions were.

The roots of the patron client relationship were traced in ancient Roman society. The relationship described a hierarchical system in which each part had to fulfill its obligations. The patron was considered the sponsor and protector of the client who belonged to an inferior social class.

However, they could have held the same social position, but the patron had the advantage of possessing bigger riches or prestige which gave him the opportunity to become what he was. Due to his great power he could do favors for his client and he could support him in all his activities.

Business support, legal representation in court and loans of money were just a few of the advantages that a client could benefit for. In return, he had to be available for any job the patron had for him, so he had to offer his services in order to give all the support he could. If you want to understand better the patron client relationship, you can analyze the relationships that exist between a conqueror and a dependent colony, or a general and his army.

There were times when Roman slaves were manumitted by their owners, but that didn’t mean that their obligations stopped. The former owners became their patrons, so they had to support them in many situations. They had the moral responsibility to show the patrons social support such as campaigning in his behalf in different elections and accomplishing requested tasks.

The client was offered material security and legal support. Otherwise, the patron risked to be perceived as a man with no dignity and that could affect his prestige. So, the client also enjoyed many benefits from his owner. The most important one was legal security, especially because they were forbidden to sue each other, or to act like witnesses against each other.

The late Republic changed the meaning of the patronage relationships, and the terms patron and client were used in am more restricted way than friendship, because they included political amity and alliances. No matter what others might say, clients represented the dominant force in Roman elections because they were the main source of votes when the patrons were candidates for certain offices.

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