The Elite of Early Roman Corinth: Social Origins, Status and Mobility

This paper outlines in brief the evidence for the three main constituent groups of Early Roman Corinth’s elite: freedmen, free-born Romans, and members of the provincial elite. Particular attention is paid to the freedmen and the apparent conflict between their obvious political and social success at Corinth in contrast to their relatively low status within Roman society more generally. While this contrast might constitute prima facie evidence for social mobility, their origins and connections, when closely examined, instead suggest that their status as ex-slaves was not their defining social characteristic; furthermore, the numerous examples of multiple generations of the same families holding office indicate that Roman Corinth’s political system was just as closed, and its elite just as self-perpetuating, as elsewhere in the Roman world.