In ancient Rome, a "gens" (pl. "gentes") was a clan, caste, 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 worshiped, 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.

ee also


External links

* [ The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gens — 1. (jan ; l s se lie : des jan z aimables ; quelques personnes font sentir l s : des jans ; mais c est une mauvaise prononciation) s. pl. 1°   Nom collectif signifiant en général un certain nombre de personnes ; dans ce sens, gens est, suivant l… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • gens — Gens. Personnes. En cette signification il n a point de singulier. Il est masculin quand l adjectif le suit, & feminin quand il le precede. Voilà des gens bien fins, ce sont de fines gens. ce sont des gens fort dangereux, de fort dangereuses gens …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • GENS — (émulateur) Gens …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gens — Gens …   Википедия

  • Gens — (j[e^]nz), n.; pl. {Gentes} (j[e^]n t[=e]z). [L. See {Gentle}, a.] (Rom. Hist.) 1. A clan or family connection, embracing several families of the same stock, who had a common name and certain common religious rites; a subdivision of the Roman… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gens — Gens, 1) (röm. Ant.), Stamm, Geschlecht; begriff die einen gemeinschaftlichen Geschlechtsnamen (Nomen) führenden Personen (Gentīles). Die Gentilen waren entweder vollberechtigte od. untergeordnete, wie Clienten u. Freigelassene, welche nur… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • gens — gèns s.f.inv., lat. TS stor. in Roma antica, gruppo di famiglie appartenenti a un unico ceppo {{line}} {{/line}} ETIMO: lat. gens, cfr. gignĕre generare …   Dizionario italiano

  • Gens — die; , G’entes [...te:s] <aus lat. gens, Gen. gentis »Geschlechtsverband, Sippe«> altröm. Familienverband …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • gens — 1847, in reference to ancient Rome, tribe, clan, house (of families having a name and certain religious rites in common and a presumed common origin), from L. gens (gen. gentis) race, clan, nation (see GENUS (Cf. genus)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • gens — gȅns m DEFINICIJA 1. pov. u antičkom Rimu zajednica više obitelji povezanih imenom, podrijetlom, tradicijom i kulturom 2. sociol. prvobitan oblik društveno ekonomske organizacije u primitivnoj zajednici, temelji se na krvnom srodstvu i… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Gens [1] — Gens (lat.), die Genossenschaft derer, die durch gemeinsame Abstammung miteinander verbunden sind. Zu Rom bildeten die Gentes die Unterabteilungen der Kurien und den eigentlichen Stamm des römischen Volkes; an sie, die Patres oder Patricii,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”