Audioguide: Introduction exhibition Roman Republic
Dear visitor of the MoneyMuseum, today, we will take you to a different world of money, far away from our own reality. We will take you to Rome where through the two centuries before Christ the citizens defined themselves as a community of soldiers. Rome was trained to survive, which is why the militia was at the centre of attention.
The entire hierarchy of the society was based on the Roman militia. After all, a citizen's political privileges depended on his position in the army. And this position was defined by his property, which is why money was so important. If someone was wealthy, he could afford a horse and expensive weapons. As a consequence, he was assigned to one of the eighteen centuries of equites and thus belonged to the Roman nobility. If someone did not have as much property but was still prosperous, he was allocated to the eighty centuries of the first class and served as a heavily armed soldier. The Roman plebs of the fifth class, those unarmed have-nots, could only serve as cannon fodder.
Now, whenever people had to vote on bills or elect the highest officials, the Romans deployed according to centuries and the knight and the first class came first. Together, they outvoted all other citizens. Certainly, there were much fewer wealthy citizens than have-nots. Consequently, the vote of a rich person counted much more than the vote of a poor person. And of course, only rich people were eligible for political positions.
Rome had no permanent administration, after all. All officials had to supply their own staff. In order to do that, politicians needed clients. Only rich Romans commanded clients, since poor and rich were closely tied to one another in a network of social bond between patron and client. A good patron ensured that his client would get a reasonable subsistence. In exchange, the client did what his patron asked of him.
If a person wanted to climb all the way to the top in Rome, they had to have enough property. In theory, everyone could become part of the upper class if they had enough money. That is why money played such an important part in Rome. And since war was always the most important thing, Roman coins often show gods of war. Our two picture tours will tell you more about it.