Abstract and Keywords
From a patron’s vantage point, slaves, freedmen, clients, and parasites constituted his circle of power. The power an aristocrat had was measured by the number and quality of people belonging to it, and by their status. The composition of this circle changed over time: the proud aristocracy of the Roman Republic, which had ample powers over its dependants, was replaced under the Empire by a ‘service aristocracy’ which had to tolerate imperial meddling into its domestic affairs. Imperium (command) was replaced by beneficium (favour) as the catchword of the time. The most important of all beneficia, manumission, contributed to enhancing and completing the aristocratic circle of power.
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