Unsorted collection of quotes and such.

PROLETARIUS, civil law. One who has no property to be taxed; and paid a tax only on account of his cliildren, proles; a person of mean or common extraction. The word has become Frenchified, proletaire signifying one of the common people. (from Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856 Edition, http://www.constitution.org/bouv/bouvier_p.htm.)

“the fourth sort or classe amongst us,” says Sir Thomas Smith (de Repub. Anglorum, ch. 34), “is of those which the old Romans called ‘capite sensu proletarii or operarii,’ day laborer, poor husbandmen; yea, merchants or retailers which have no free land, copy-holders, and all artificers, as tailers, shoemakers, carpenters, brick-makers, bricklayers, masons, etc. These have no voice nor authoritie in our commonwealth, and no account is made of them but only to be ruled and not to rule others,” etc. (p. 66 of the ed. of 1640). (Note 37, here http://www.dinsdoc.com/sherman-1.htm)

The other century not belonging to the classes, and erroneously called the sixth class by Dionysius, comprised all -those persons whose property did not amount to that of the fifth class. This century, however, consisted of three subdivisions according to the amount of their pro­perty, called respectively the accensi velati> the proletarii and capite censi: the accensi velati were those whose pioperty was at least 1500 asses, or originally 300 asses, and they served as supernu­meraries in the army without arms, but ready to take the arms and places of such as might fall in battle: the proletarii were those who had at least 375 asses, or originally 75 asses, and they were sometimes armed in pressing danger at the public expense: while the capite censi were all those whose property was less than the sum last mentioned, and they were never called upon to serve till the time of Marius.


The preceding account of the centuries has been taken from Livy (i. 43) and Dionysius- (iv. 16, foil.), who agree in all the main points. The account of Cicero (de Re Publ. ii. 22) cannot be re­conciled with that of Livy and Dionysius, and owing to the corruptions of the text it is hopeless to make the attempt. (William Smith’s 1870 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Online here – http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/.) All re-copied lamely from here and here.

Proletarii. The name in the Roman centuriate system (see centuria) of those citizens who were placed in the lowest of the five property-classes, and who were exempt from military service and tribute. They took their name from the fact that they only benefited the State by their children (proles). Another name for them is capite censi, i.e. those who were classed in the list of citizens at the census solely in regard to their status as citizens (caput). Afterwards, the richer among them were taken to serve in the wars : these were then called proletarii; and those without any property at all, capite censi. In and after the time of Marius, when the levy of troops was no longer founded on the census, the Roman armies were recruited by preference from the last class. (Seyffert, Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. http://www.ancientlibrary.com/seyffert/0523.html)

About the year 100 b.c. Marius procured the admission of the capita censi, or classes without property, to military service (Entry for ‘Dilectus’, Seyffert, Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. http://www.ancientlibrary.com/seyffert/0189.html)

CAPUT, the head. The term ” head ” is often used by the Roman writers as equivalent to ” per­son,” or ” human being.” (Caes. Bell. Gall. iv. 15.) By an easy transition, it was used to signify ” life:” thus, capite damnari, plecti, &c. are equivalent to capital punishment.

Caput is also used to express a man’s civil con­dition ; and the persons who were registered in the tables of the censor are spoken of as capita, somer times with the addition of the word civium, and sometimes not. (Liv.iii. 24, x. 47.) Thus to be registered in the census was the same thing as caput habere : and a slave and a films familias, in this sense of the word, were said to have no capiit. The lowest century of Servius Tullius comprised the proletarii and the eapite censi, of whom the latter, having little or no property, were barely rated as so many head of citizens. (Gell. xvi. 10 j [Gell. means Gellius.] Cic. De Rep. ii. 22.)

He who changed his condition for an inferior one was said to be capite minutus, deminutus, or capitis minor. (Hor. Carm. iii. 5. 42.) The phrase se capite deminuere was also applicable in case of a voluntary change of condition. (Cic. Top. c. 4.) The definition of Festus (s. v. deminutus) is, ” De-minutus capite appellatur qui civitate mutatus est; et ex alia familia in aliam adoptatus, et qui liber alteri mancipio datus est: et qui in hostium potes-tatem venit: et cui aqua et igni interdictum est.” There has been some discussion whether we should use capitis deminutio or diminutio, but it is indif­ferent which we write.

There were three divisions of Capitis deminutio — Maxima, Media, sometimes called Minor, and Minima. The maxima capitis deminutio consi’sted in the loss of libertas (freedom), in the change of the condition of a free man (whether ingenuus or libertinus) into that of a slave. The media con­sisted in the change of the condition of a civis into that of a peregrinus, as, for instance, in the case of deportatio under the empire ; or the change of the condition of a civis into that of a Latinus. The minima consisted in the change of the condition of a pater familias into that of a films familias, as by adrogation, and, in the later law, by legitimation ; and in a wife in manu, or a filius familias coming into mancipii causa ; con­sequently, when a filius familias was emancipated or adopted, there was a capitis deminutio, for both these ceremonies were inseparably connected with the mancipii causa (cum emancipari nemo possifc nisi in imaginariam servilem causam deductus. Gaius, i. 134, 162). This explains how a filius, familias, who by emancipation becomes sui juris, and thus improves his social condition, is still said to have undergone a eapitis deminutio ; which ex­pression, as observed, applies to the form by which the emancipation is effected.

Capitis minutio, which is the same as deminutio, is defined by Gaius (Big. 4. tit. 5. s. 1) to be status permutatio; but this definition is not suf­ficiently exact. That capitis deminutio which had the most consequence was the maxima, of which the media or minor was a milder form. The minima, as already explained, was of a technical character. The maxima capitis deminutio was sustained by those who refused to be registered at the census, or neglected the registration, and were thence called incensi. The incensus was liable to be sold, and so to lose his liberty ; but this being a matter which concerned citizenship and freedom, such penalty could not be inflicted directly, and the object was only effected by the fiction of the. citizen having himself abjured his freedom. Those who refused to perform military service might also be sold. (Cic. Pro Caecina, 34 ; Ulp. Frag. xi. 11.) A Roman citizen who was taken prisoner by the enemy, lost his civil rights, together with his liberty, but he might recover them on returning to his country. [postliminium.] Persons con-demned to ignominious punishments, as to the mines, sustained the maxima capitis deminutio. A free woman who cohabited with a slave, after notice given to her by the owner of the slave, be­came an ancilla, by a senatus-consultuin, passed iii the time of Claudius. (Ulp. Frag. xi. 11 ; com­pare Tacit. Ann. xii. 53, and Suet. Vezy. 11.} (Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Entry for “Caput” http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-dgra/0246.html.)

The military system of king Servius Tullius made the infantry the most important part of the military forces, instead of the cavalry as heretofore. The five classes in­cluded in the census (q.v.) were obliged to serve in the army at their own expense ; those who were not comprised in these classes, viz. the proletarii, were freed from service, and, when they were enlisted, re­ceived their equipment from the State. The iunlores, those who were from 17 to 46 years old, were appointed for field service, and the seniores, those from 47 to 60, for the defence of the city. (Seyffert, Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Entry for Legion. http://www.ancientlibrary.com/seyffert/0349.html

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