Civic status classification system

Status is always multidimensional. The status classification system we have adopted for the GDRG person records uses the main criteria in dominant Greco-Roman culture. Local or cultural specificities, as well as sub-specifications, are mentioned in the note field, but we haven’t tried to include them in the classification system. Persons are always classified according to their highest known or suspected status. In many cases status criteria cannot be established with certainty. Rather than devise a ‘weighted’ indication of (un)certainty we add a question mark. This effectively creates a binary classification within each criterion.

The classification system uses three dimensions, with further subdivisions:

  1. Legal status
  2. Civic status
  3. Military status

Legal status

We define three forms of legal status: freeborn (ingenuus), freed (libertus), and slave (servus), besides a fourth category for free persons of unknown status (incertus).

In addition we added a ‘servile affiliation’ field to indicate the indirect status that a slave or freedman could derive from his owner or patron. Here we distinguish between: imperial slaves/freedmen (liberti Caesaris/Augusti), public slaves (publici), slaves of non-public collectives (collegii), and private slaves (privati).

Civic status

Civic status is expressed through eight criteria, covering three dimensions:

  1. Citizenship
  2. Civic status
  3. Apparitorial affiliation


Citizen status is expressed with two criteria: Roman citizenship and local citizenship or ethnicity. The first distinguishes a Roman citizen (civis Romanus) from a non-citizen (peregrinus). We haven’t distinguished Latin citizens. Instead these are merely classified as Roman citizens. Stricto iure this is wrong. ‘Latin’ citizens are merely citizens of a non-Roman community that has ‘Latin rights’ (iura Latina). We have taken both together, however, because it is rarely possible to distinguish the two in inscriptions. In addition, within the same criterion, we distinguish slaves of Roman/Latin citizens (servus civis Romani) from others.

Civic status

Civic status is expressed through four criteria:

  1. Ordo affiliation
  2. Civic rank
  3. Honorary civic status
  4. Honorary positions
  • Ordines are officially recognized status groups. Roman legal sources distinguish three: senators (ordo senatorius), knights (ordo equester), and local council members (ordo decurionum). Members of these three (together with veterans) were considered the honestiores (the ‘more honourable classes’). The GDRG classifies also bouleutai or municipal magistrates in Greek poleis as members of the ordo decurionum, even if they are no Roman citizens. The fourth, the ordo augustalium is largely a modern construct (see Mouritsen 2006). It is a useful category, however, to distinguish members of local groups endowed with the insignia of civic office (lictores, fasces, sella curulis ...), without public authority but with extensive ‘duties’ to finance games, public works, building, and so on. Augustalitas conferred a lifelong dignity that was publicly recognized by local authorities.
  • Civic rank is the highest civic office achieved by a person (for instance duumvir quinquennalis).
  • Honorary civic status: Honorary titles and insignia that link a person symbolically to a civic office or an ordo. The most common are the insignia of city-council membership (decurionatus ornamenta), usually given to persons that don’t legally qualify for membership, such as freedmen after the Lex Visellia (26 CE).
  • Honorary positions: honorary titles not connected to a specific office or rank (for instance patronus municipalis, mater collegii, …).

Apparitorial affiliation

Apparitores are free and salaried civil servants. We distinguish between apparitores populi Romani (officially based in Rome) and apparitores municipales. Within each category the highest ranked office achieved is specified.

Military status classification

Military status is expressed through status and rank.

‘Status’ refers to the type of military force a person belonged to: a legion (legionarius), an auxiliary force (auxiliaris), the fleet (classicus), or the praetorian guard (praetorius). In the case of common soldiers and lower officers (up to the rank of centurio) we specify whether the person is a veteran.

The second criterion specifies the highest rank achieved (for instance tribunus militum, centurio, …).