The society of early Rome, the Rome before it became a Republic, was controlled by nobles and aristocrats, those who owned land, those who were not aristocrats and did not own land were most often bound to it in a feudal sense of “duty” or in order to work off support they had received from a noble. Even in early Roman society, there was slavery, but even those who were not slaves did not always have full rights. Among those who were free in Roman society, not even all of them were citizens. Citizens were originally formed into large groups (originally simply three), but as Roman society grew more complex and populous, the number of citizens in a group lessened and more groups developed (topping out at thirty-five).
Citizenship in early Roman society meant military service, which included fighting in the famed phalanx formation that the army of the Roman Empire would become synonymous with. Early Rome drew on some influences from Greece, including citizenship meaning military duty (Sparta) and the development of the phalanx (drawn on, though not precisely, from Greece). Apart from the military, early Roman society was similar to that of Greek societies because of the landowning nobles having control, and that form of wealth developing not only in material wealth but also influence for the entire family. Roman citizens were traditionally separated as citizens by having three names (“Gaius Julius Caesar”), which included the clan (or family) name.
Aside from, but not excluding, aristocrats, society seemed to be dictated by the granting of and repaying favors. One party (often nobles) would do favors or good deeds for another party (nobles, lower-class, or any Roman citizen), and in exchange the first party would gain the second’s support and loyalty, helping to increase their influence among their group and sometimes beyond. This social system was known as clientela, and, at least on the surface, its work becomes obvious when derived into the English word “clientele” or “client,” meaning patrons or the ones who were giving their loyalty in exchange for favors.
The highest ranking of the Roman social order were known as the Patriciate, who evidently had the highest status of all Roman citizens. The nobility of these Patricians appeared to be hereditary, and not only were they at the top of society as a whole but they were also the “aristocracy of the aristocracy,” being of the highest order even within the nobles. The term for this specific Order, Patricians, would survive into the later Roman eras and be the umbrella term for higher class and nobles of Roman society, whereas the lower class would be come to be known as the Plebeians (though it is not abundantly clear if this was used as a term during early Roman society).
Though kings of early Roman society were chosen by the nobles, the aristocrats controlled politics more than the king did. The king in early Roman society was in charge of the theocratic, judicial, and military branches of government as opposed to the more political aspects of government. These early kings were chosen by a senate of nobles and then approved by the vote of the (adult male) Roman citizens who met in the assembly. The citizens at the assembly met in the assembly known as the Curiate Assembly, a practice drawn heavily on from the earlier Greek society. With political matters being affected more by nobles than by the actual Roman king, the importance of the influence of aristocratic families cannot be understated concerning Roman politics.
“The Beginnings of Rome” by T.J. Cornell