PATRICIAN (Fr. patririen. from Lat. pa tricius, of the or dignity of the fathers. from pater, Gk. 7a7iip, pater, Skt. pitar. father; connected with Goth. fadar, OHG. fatar, Ger. Cater, AS. feeder, Eng. father). A name given to the members of the original Roman gentes, of whom the populus Romanus consisted, and to their descendants by blood and adoption. The amalgamation of the three tribes of Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres gave rise to a distinction between palms majorum gr»tium and putres mi norum gentium—the latter term being applied to families recently elevated to an equality with the old patrician class. On the establishment of the plebeians as a distinct order, sharing cer tain rights with the patricians. the patriciate became an aristocracy of birth, in the exclusive possession of a number of important privileges. A long struggle between the two orders ended in the attainment by the plebeians of a political equality, and the establishment of a new aris tocracy of nobiles based on wealth and office.
From B.C. 300 the out political distinction be tween patricians and plebeians had no real ex istence, except that patricians were ineligible to the tribunate of the plebs. The Empire made an end even of this relic of earlier days. Under Constantine the dignity of patririus became a personal title, not hereditary, but conferring, very high honor and certain privileges. It was created at Constantinople, and not confined to Romans or subjects of the Empire. but sometimes bestowed on foreign princes. These patricians, unlike the old Roman order, were distinguished in dress and equipage from the ordinary citizens. The popes in after times conferred the same title on eminent persons and princes, including many of the German emperors. In several of the Ger manic kingdoms the title of patrician was be stowed on distinguished subjects, and in some parts of Italy the hereditary nobility are still styled patricians. See ROME; PLEBEIANS.