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date: 22 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The legal categories under the Roman law of persons tell us relatively little about social status. The impact of social status on law is best understood through an examination of elite views of rank and social status. Rank and social status were closely connected as these elite markers of social esteem were requirements for admission to elite ranks. Social status bore a complex relationship to legal status: possession of the legal statuses of citizenship and free birth was a prerequisite for certain ranks, which conferred social status. Legal rules helped guide the behaviour of the social elite. Social status, rather than legal status, conferred advantages in the law, both in the structure of the legal system and through the monopoly of members of the social elite over the application of the law. These advantages could be mitigated by recourse to the patronage or petitioning of an official or the emperor.

Keywords: legal status, social status, rank and order, access to justice, petition, legal procedure, legal privilege, legal disadvantage, citizenship

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