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Framing the Early Middle AgesEurope and the Mediterranean, 400—800$
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Chris Wickham

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199264490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264490.001.0001

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(p.152) (p.153) 4 Aristocracies
Framing the Early Middle Ages

Chris Wickham

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the regional aristocracies in the post-Roman world. An aristocrat is a member of the political elite who could wield some form of power simply because of who he is. In England, six different criteria are used as guides to the membership of a broad aristocratic stratum: distinction of ancestry, landed wealth, position in the official hierarchy, imperial or royal favour, recognition by other political leaders, and lifestyle. Societies privilege different combinations and hierarchies of criteria at different times. There were periods of crisis in which ancestry was relatively unimportant. The importance of office also waxed and waned depending on the fortunes of public power. The chapter looks into Roman imperial hierarchies from Gaul to Francia, Italy and Spain, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Keywords:   aristocrat, aristocracies, Roman imperial hierarchies, distinction of ancestry, landed wealth, criteria for aristocrat, royal favour

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