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James Lawrie

Infames: Social Acceptance?

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Regarding the early Augustan period in Rome;

Would an infames be permitted to be a client? 
Would it reflect poorly on the patrone?  
Would the patrone be necessarily of low status himself?

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As with everything the Romans were ambivalent. If the infames had no redeeming features then it was a matter of disdain. Strictly speaking that person could still be a client although the treatment handed out by the patron would be less than respectful. However, some actors and athletes achieved popularity and it was their success as performers that gave them some respect despite their social order. A top gladiator or charioteer might have been a slave - he was also a virile, successful male, and the Romans connected success with favour of the gods or in some cases elements of divine nature, though I do note in the latter case it would be unlikely that they would go that far with infames. If the slave was such an individual, the patron would wish to show him off, to allow him access to social functions, to gain some kudos from his connection with success. Patrons of all status indulged in such behaviour when it benefitted their careers. In a more wordly view, it should be remembered that gladiators and charioteers kept some of the prize money for victories themselves, and one fellow, Diocles, won so many chariot races he became absurdly wealthy - in modern terms, an estimate of around $15 billion is quoted. You would want him in your social group, surely? :D

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