1902 Encyclopedia > Patron and Client

Patron and Client

PATRON AND CLIENT. Clientage appears to have been an institution of most of the Grseco-Italian peoples in early stages of their history; but it is in Rome that we can most easily trace its origin, progress, and decay. Until the reforms of Servius Tullius, the only citizens proper were the members of the patrician or gentile houses; they alone could participate in the solemnities of the national religion, take part in the government and defence of the state, contract quiritarian marriage, hold property, and enjoy the protection of the laws. But alongside of them was a gradually increasing non-citizen population com-posed of slaves and clients. Some historians class amongst the latter, as clients of the state, those vanquished communities which, having made an unconditional submission, were allowed to retain a quasi-corporate existence under the protection of Rome. But the name (derived from cluere, KXVCIV, to obey) was common before Borne had made any conquests, and was usually applied to indi-viduals who had attached themselves in a condition of dependence to the heads of patrician houses as their patrons, in order thereby to secure a de facto freedom. The relationship was ordinarily created by what, from the client's point of view, was called adplicatio ad patronum, from that of the patron, susceptio clientis,—the client being either a person who had come to Rome as an exile, who had passed through the asylum, or who had belonged to a state which Rome had overthrown. According to Diony-sius and Plutarch, it was one of the early cares of Romulus to regulate the relationship, which, by their account of it, was esteemed a very intimate one, imposing upon the patron duties only less sacred than those he owed to his children and his ward, more urgent than any he could be called upon to perform towards his kinsmen, and whose neglect entailed the penalty of death (Tellumoni sacer esto). He was bound to provide his client with the necessaries of life ; and it was a common practice to make him a grant during pleasure of a small plot of land to cultivate on his own account. Further, he had to advise him in all his affairs; to represent him in any transactions with third parties in which, as a non-citizen, he could not act with effect; and, above all things, to stand by him, or rather be his substitute, in any litigation in which he might be-come involved. The client in return had not only gener-ally to render his patron the respect and obedience due by a dependant, but, when he was in a position to do so and the circumstances of the patron required it, to render him pecuniary assistance. As time advanced and clients amassed wealth, we find this duty insisted upon in a great variety of forms, as in contributions towards the dowries of a patron's daughters, towards the ransom of a patron or any of his family who had been taken captive, towards the payment of penalties or fines imposed upon a patron, even towards his maintenance when he had become reduced to poverty. Neither might give evidence against the other, —a rule we find still in observance well on in the 7th century of the city, when C. Herennius declined to be a witness against C. Marius on the ground that the family of the latter had for generations been clients of the Herennii (Plut., Mar. 5). The client was regarded as a minor member (gentilicius) of his patron's gem; he was entitled to assist in its religious services, and bound to contribute to the cost of them; he had to follow his patron to battle on the order of the gens; he was subject to its jurisdiction and discipline, and was entitled to burial in its common sepulchre. And this was the condition, not only of the client who personally had attached himself to a patron, but that also of his descendants ; the patronage and the clientage were alike hereditary. In much the same position as the clients, in the earlier centuries of Rome at least, were the freedmen; for originally a slave did not on enfranchisement become a citizen; it was a de facto freedom merely that he enjoyed ; his old owner was always called his patron, while he and his descendants were sub-stantially in the position of clients, and often so designated. In the two hundred years that elapsed before the Servian constitutional reforms, the numerical strength of the clients, whether in that condition by adplicatio, enfranchise-ment, or descent, must have become considerable; and it was from time to time augmented by the retainers of distinguished immigrants admitted into the ranks of the patriciate. That all these, concurrently with the un-attached plebeians, must have been admitted by Servius to nominal citizenship can hardly be doubted. They probably were included in the four urban tribes; but, being incapable as yet of owning land, they could have no admission to the higher centuries, paid no census-tribute, were not qualified to serve in the legion, and most likely ranked no higher than accensi. With the institution of the assemblies of the plebeians of the tribes they must, thanks to their numbers, have gained in influence politic-ally. But it was only with the enactment of the XII. Tables that their relations to their, patrons were sensibly affected. For, while that code still denied them, in common with the plebeians generally, the right of intermarriage with the patrician families, it conferred upon them most of the other private rights of citizens; in particular, it entitled them to hold and acquire property, to enter into contracts on their own responsibility, and to litigate in person on their own behalf. The relation of patron and client, it is true, still remained; the patron could still exact from his client respect, obedience, and service, and he and his gens had still an eventual right of succession to a deceased client's estate. But the fiduciary duties of the patron were greatly relaxed, and practically little more was expected of him than that he should continue to give his client his advice, and prevent him falling into a con-dition of indigence; sacer esto ceased to be the penalty of protection denied or withheld, its application being limited to fraus facta, which, in the language of the Tables, meant positive injury inflicted or damage done. So matters re-mained during the 4th and 5th centuries. In the 6th a variety of events, social and political, contributed still further to modify the relationship. The rapacity of patrons was checked by the Cincian law, which prohibited their taking actual gifts of money from their clients ; marriages between patron and client gradually ceased to be regarded as unlawful, or as ineffectual to secure to the issue the status of the patron father; political changes opened to the clients the rural tribes and the higher centuries, and qualified them for the legion, the magistracy, and the senate; hereditary clientage ceased when a client attained to a curule dignity; and, in the case of the descendants of freedmen enfranchised in solemn form, it came to be limited to the first generation. Gradually but steadily one feature after another of the old institution disappeared, till by the end of the 7th century it had resolved itself into the limited relationship between patron and freedman on the one hand, and the unlimited honorary relationship between the patron who gave gratuitous advice on questions of law and those who came to consult him on the other. To have a large follow-ing of clients of this class was a matter of ambition to every man of mark in the end of the republic ; it increased his importance, and ensured him a band of zealous agents in his political schemes. But amid the rivalries of parties and with the venality of the lower orders, baser methods had to be resorted to in order to maintain a patron's influ-ence ; the favour and support of his clients had to be purchased with something more substantial than mere advice. And so arose that wretched and degrading client-age of the early empire, of which Martial, who was not ashamed to confess himself a first-rate specimen of the breed, has given us such graphic descriptions ; gatherings of miserable idlers, sycophants, and spendthrifts, at the levees and public appearances of those whom, in their fawn-ing servility, they addressed as lords and masters, but whom they abused behind their backs as close-fisted upstarts,— and all for the sake of the sportula, the daily dole of a dinner, or of a few pence wherewith to procure one. With the middle empire this disappeared; and, when a reference to patron and client occurs in later times, it is in the sense of counsel and client, the words patron and advocate being used almost synonymously. It was not so in the days of the great forensic orators. The word advocate, it is said, occurs only once in the singular in the pages of Cicero; and by advocati was generally understood at that time the body of friends who stood by a litigant in a great cause to give him in any shape their countenance and support. The orator who then appeared in the comitia or before a judge was almost invariably called patron, though the name of client was not so commonly given to the litigant he represented. But at a later period, when the bar had become a profession,- and the qualifications, admission, numbers, and fees of counsel had become a matter of state regulation, advocati was the word usually employed to designate the pleaders as a class of professional men, each individual advocate, however, being still spoken of as patron in reference to the litigant with whose interest he was entrusted. It is in this limited connexion that patron and client come under our notice in the latest monuments of Roman law.

Literature.—On the clientage of early Rome, see Mommsen, "Die Romische Clientel," Mom. Forschungen, vol. i. p. 355 (Berlin, 1864); Voigt, " Ueber die Clientel und Libertinitat," in Ber. d. phil. histor. Classe d. Königl. Sachs. Gesellsch. d. Wissenschaften (1878, pp. 147- 219) ; Marquardt, Privatleben d. Momer, pp. 196-200 (Leipsic, 1879); Voigt, Die XII. Tafeln, vol. ii. pp. 667-679 (Leipsic, 1883). Earlier literature is noted in Willems, Le Droit Public Momain, 4th ed., ]). 26 (Louvain, 1880). On the clientage of the early empire, see Becker, Gallus, vol. ii., Excursus 4; Friedlander, Sitten-Geschichte Moms, vol. i. pp. 207-219 (Leipsic, 1862) ; Marquardt, op. cit., pp. 200-208. On the latest clientage, see Grellet-Dumazeau, Le Barreau Romain (Paris, 1851). (J. M*.)

The above article was written by: James Muirhead, M.A., Professor of Civil Law, University of Edinburgh.

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