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(Latin, plebs) Member of the general citizenry, as opposed to the patrician class, in the ancient Roman republic. Plebeians were originally excluded from the Senate and from all public offices except military tribune, and they were forbidden to marry patricians. Seeking to acquire equal rights, they carried on a campaign called Conflict of the Orders, developing a separate political organization and seceding in protest from the state at least five times. The campaign ceased when a plebeian dictator (appointed 287 BC) made measures passed in the plebeian assembly binding on the whole community.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on plebeian, visit Britannica.com.