/pli bee"euhn/, adj.1. belonging or pertaining to the common people.2. of, pertaining to, or belonging to the ancient Roman plebs.3. common, commonplace, or vulgar: a plebeian joke.n.4. a member of the common people.5. a member of the ancient Roman plebs.[1525-35; < L plebei(us) of the plebs (plebe(s) PLEBS + -ius adj. suffix) + -AN]Syn. 3. lowbrow, low, ordinary, popular.
* * *(Latin, plebs) Member of the general citizenry, as opposed to the patrician class, in the ancient Roman republic.Plebeians were originally excluded from the Senate and from all public offices except military tribune, and they were forbidden to marry patricians. Seeking to acquire equal rights, they carried on a campaign called Conflict of the Orders, developing a separate political organization and seceding in protest from the state at least five times. The campaign ceased when a plebeian dictator (appointed 287 BC) made measures passed in the plebeian assembly binding on the whole community.
* * *member of the general citizenry in ancient Rome as opposed to the privileged patrician class. The distinction was probably originally based on the wealth and influence of certain families who organized themselves into patrician clans under the early republic, during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Plebeians were originally excluded from the Senate and from all public offices except that of military tribune. Before the passage of the law known as the Lex Canuleia (445 BC), they were also forbidden to marry patricians. Until 287 BC the plebeians waged a campaign (Conflict of the Orders) to have their civil disabilities abolished. They organized themselves into a separate corporation and withdrew from the state on perhaps as many as five or more critical occasions to compel patrician concessions; such a withdrawal was termed a secessio. The plebeian corporation held its own assemblies (concilia plebis), elected its own officials (tribunes and plebeian aediles), who were usually more well-to-do plebeians, and kept its own records. An important step in the plebeian campaign was the achievement of inviolability of their tribunes.The Conflict of the Orders was finally resolved in the final secession of 287 BC when a plebeian dictator, Quintus Hortensius (Hortensius, Quintus), was appointed. He instituted a law (Lex Hortensia) making plebiscita (measures passed in the plebeian assembly) binding not only on plebeians but also on the rest of the community. In the later republic and under the empire (after 27 BC), the name plebeian continued to be used in the sense of commoner.
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