Lowie goes on to show that, although the nobility of this region is composed of descendants of conquerors, the former or original nobility evolved into a minstrel clique, becoming confidantes of the rules, "at times even browbeating them by their ability to rattle the family skeletons, and also acted as educators of noble youths." 40 Here again is seen the social rigidities that overcome, in part, even the dislocations of conquest. Not all classes of the population are enslaved or crushed by the conquerors, as a rule. The upper classes retain, in this instance, a semblance of prestige and influence.Next Page
One must conclude that some African tribes are stratified, and in some cases these distinctions are strictly fixed for the generations to come. Absolution is, of course, more characteristic of kingly power in Africa than among most other primitive peoples. This lessens the influence of the classes there.
The main line of Occidental history. As man emerged from primitive conditions into the light of human history, as it is known to Europeans and Americans, he entered with what may be correctly characterized as a high state of social organization. By the time of the arrival of the Sumerians man knew the nature of business enterprise, of government, of distributed social power, of exclusiveness. Except for technology, life was essentially modern.
It may be said of the class system that it was even more exactly arranged at the time of the early Temple Towns than it has ever been since, except perhaps at the highest of the feudal period.
Aristocrats at the time of Herodotus could frequently trace their genealogies back five centuries, 41 which is not only a commentary on the rigidity of class distinctions but also upon the importance these considerations had in the earliest days of civilization.
Both Rome and Greece entered the era of recorded time with more formal class structures than were theirs to display to the world in their hours of magnificent glory, even though the disparity between the rich and the poor was greater in the centuries crowned with fame.
In the earliest days of Rome servants, called clients, were hereditarily attached to patrician families; they could not rise; there was no pater among their ancestors. 42
Fustel de Coulagnes succinctly summarizes the situation at the beginning of town life thus: 43
The ancient city, like all human society, had ranks, distinctions, and inequalities. We know the distinction originally made at Athens . . . at Sparta . . . and in Kuboea . . . . The history of Rome is full of the struggles between the Patricians and Plebeians, struggles that we find in all the Sabine, Latin, and Etruscan cities. We can even remark that the higher we ascend in the history of Greece and Italy, the more profound and more strongly marked the distinction appears -- a positive proof that the inequality did not grow up with time, but that it existed from the beginning, and that is was contemporary with the birth of cities.
Also at the peak of its development Greek civilization was still class bound. There are those who believe that at the time of Salon birth gave was to wealth (although it is not shown how those without status could readily acquire wealth), but one reads of the aristocratic spirit which reigned in Greek society at the time of the wars with Persia, and that "birth still seemed the supreme good." 44
Only in Lacadaemon did the aristocratic spirit fail to respond even slightly to the demands for less rigidity. There the opposite trend took place; the oligarchy of peers shrank in number. 45 To the bitter end the Spartan system of distinctions were maintained.
Although, as will be shown in detail in a later chapter, many old and honored families were broken up both in Greece and Rome, at the time of the height of their civilizations, the class system remained intact.
40. Loc. cit.
41. J. B. Bury, et al., editors, Athens, 478 - 401 B.C., vol. V of the Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge, 1927) p. 404.
42. N. D. Fustel the Coulanges, The Ancient City, tenth edition, tr. Willard Small (Boston, 1901) pp. 302 - 303.
43. Ibid., p. 301.
44. Ibid., p. 334.
45. J. B. Bury, A History of Greece (London, 1920) p. 535.