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Society

The Roman Empire was remarkably multicultural, with "a rather astonishing cohesive capacity" to create a sense of shared identity while encompassing diverse peoples within its political system over a long span of time. The Roman attention to creating public monuments and communal spaces open to all—such as forums, amphitheaters, racetracks and baths—helped foster a sense of "Romanness".
 
Roman society had multiple, overlapping social hierarchies that modern concepts of "class" in English may not represent accurately. The two decades of civil war from which Augustus rose to sole power left traditional society in Rome in a state of confusion and upheaval, but did not effect an immediate redistribution of wealth and social power. From the perspective of the lower classes, a peak was merely added to the social pyramid. Personal relationships—patronage, friendship (amicitia), family, marriage—continued to influence the workings of politics and government, as they had in the Republic. By the time of Nero, however, it was not unusual to find a former slave who was richer than a freeborn citizen, or an equestrian who exercised greater power than a senator.
 
The blurring or diffusion of the Republic's more rigid hierarchies led to increased social mobility under the Empire, both upward and downward, to an extent that exceeded that of all other well-documented ancient societies. Women, freedmen, and slaves had opportunities to profit and exercise influence in ways previously less available to them. Social life in the Empire, particularly for those whose personal resources were limited, was further fostered by a proliferation of voluntary associations and confraternities (collegia and sodalitates) formed for various purposes: professional and trade guilds, veterans' groups, religious sodalities, drinking and dining clubs, performing arts troupes, and burial societies.
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