Learn more about Gens

Jump to: navigation, search
For the Sega Genesis emulator, see Gens (Emulator).

In ancient Rome, a gens (pl. gentes) was a clan, or group of families, that shared a common name (the nomen) and a belief in a common ancestor. In the Roman naming convention, the second name was the name of the gens to which the person belonged. The term has also been used to refer to families within a clan system in other contexts, including tribal clans.

The origins of the gentes are unclear, although they are probably not as ancient as the Romans themselves thought; although some were associated with particular cults or ceremonies, all were primarily personal and familial in nature, with no specific political or public duties. Also, the gentes did not usually have legendary founders that were worshipped, and the gentile assemblies are not recorded to have passed any sort of legally binding resolutions. Few of the names have clear Indo-European etymologies, and some have been traced to Etruscan names.

Nevertheless, the relationships of the gentes was a major factor in politics; members of the same gens were "family", and therefore frequently (though not always) political allies.

Gentes did have a legal standing in republican Rome. The gens as a legal entity owned property, including a family burial ground. There was a gens chief, more formally in early Rome and less formally in later Rome; in fact, some notable members of patrician gentes had themselves adopted by plebeian families in order to run for offices not open to the patricii. Members of a gens had a legal obligation to help one another when asked. A gens was exogamous; that is, individuals could not seek marriage partners from within the gens.

A gens was patrilineal and patriarchal. However, such customs were not necessarily inherited from the Italics; the Etruscans could have exercised them also. By the time of republican Rome, Etruscan culture as a whole was fast assimilating to the Italic. The gentes were probably mixed.

Originally the plebeians and patricians were not allowed to intermarry, and several patrician families had collapsed as a result, until the Lex Canuleia, allowing intermarriage, was passed.

Among the patrician gentes there were two categories, the gentes maiores, and the gentes minores. The maiores were the leading families of Rome: these were the Aemilii, Claudii, Cornelii, Fabii, and Valerii, and they claimed special religious and secular privileges.


es:Gens fr:Gens it:Gens nl:Gens sv:Gens


Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.