Late Roman and Byzantine Periods
Patrician status still carried a degree of prestige at the time of the early Roman Empire, and Roman emperors routinely elevated their supporters to the patrician caste en masse. The prestige and meaning of the status gradually degraded, and by the end of the 3rd-century crisis, patrician status, as it had been known in the Republic, ceased to have meaning in everyday life. The Emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306–337) reintroduced the term as the empire's senior honorific title, not tied to any specific administrative position, and from the first limited to a very small number of holders. The historian Zosimus even states that in Constantine's time, the holders of the title ranked above the praetorian prefects.
In the Western Roman Empire, the title was sparingly used and retained its high prestige, being awarded, especially in the 5th century, to the powerful magistri militum who dominated the state, such as Stilicho, Constantius III, Aëtius, Boniface, and Ricimer. The eastern emperor Zeno (r. 474–491) granted it to Odoacer to legitimize the latter's rule in Italy after his overthrow of the rebellious magister militum Orestes and his pretender son Romulus Augustulus in 476. In the Eastern Empire, Theodosius II (r. 408–450) barred eunuchs from holding it, although this restriction had been overturned by the 6th century. Under Justinian I (r. 527-565), the title proliferated and was consequently somewhat devalued, as the emperor opened it up to all those above illustris rank, i.e. the majority of the Senate.
In the 8th century, the title was further lowered in the court order of precedence, coming after the magistros and the anthypatos. However it remained one of the highest in the imperial hierarchy until the 11th century, being awarded to the most important stratēgoi (provincial governors and generals) of the Empire. In the court hierarchy, the eunuch patrikioi enjoyed higher precedence, coming before even the anthypatoi. According to the late 9th-century Klētorologion, the insignia of the dignity were ivory inscribed tablets. During the 11th century, the dignity of patrikios followed the fate of other titles: extensively awarded, it lost in status, and disappeared during the Komnenian period in the early 12th century. The title of prōtopatrikios (πρωτοπατρίκιος, "first patrician") is also evidenced in the East from 367 to 711, possibly referring to the senior-most holder of the office and leader of the patrician order (taxis). The feminine variant patrikia (πατρικία) denoted the spouses of patrikioi; it is not to be confused with the title of zostē patrikia ("girded patrikia"), which was a unique dignity conferred on the ladies-in-waiting of the empress.
The patrician title was occasionally used in Western Europe after the end of the Roman Empire; for instance, Pope Stephen II granted the title "Patricius of the Romans" to the Frankish ruler Pepin III. The revival of patrician classes in medieval Italian republics, and also north of the Alps, is covered in Patricianship.
Read more about this topic: Patrician (ancient Rome)
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