Stratification in Caphiria
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The concept of stratification in the Imperium of Caphiria is incredibly complex and diverse, encompassing both legal and social status. Stratification is generally hierarchical, but there are multiple and overlapping social hierarchies, and an individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another. There are three distinct concepts that go into establishing one's place in Caphirian society:
- Power (Potestas): A citizen's ability to do what they want despite resistance from others.
- Status (Dignitas): A citizen's prestige, popularity and honor or how highly society regards them.
- Class (Ordo): A citizen's legal and economic position in society.
At the peak of the social pyramid (pyramidis societas) is the Imperator. An Imperator has the highest dignitas, potestas, and is of the highest ordo in Caphiravian society. If sociologists do not recognize any absolute standard for these ordinal measures than the Imperator is the relative standard to which the qualities of other residents in the empire are compared. Power and Status are generally perceived to be directly tied to a person's social standing, whereas Class is a person's legal status.
Stratification by ordo starts at birth where the child is given his or her father's standing in society - patrician, equite, plebeian, indigeni or peregrini. Intermarriage is discouraged by costing the higher class family dishonor but does happen on occasion. Appeals can be made to praetores or the Imperator on the basis of wealth to advance but these are rewarded only in extraordinary circumstances and almost never to citizens who aspire to join the aristocratic order of patricians. Conversely, a member of the upper classes can move down by having him or her self adopted into a family of lower class, an act viewed as tremendously disgraceful.
The Patricians are the ruling class of Caphiria. They are wealthy and elite families and historically had more privileges and rights than the rest of society as they were usually prominent politicians and members of society. At the top of the Patrician class are the ten Imperial Houses of Caphiria, which can directly trace their lineage to a previous Imperator. Competitions for power between these ancient clans shaped the political landscape of Caphiria for the last two and a half hundred years - since its foundation as a Republic. Marriage outside the Patrician class by members of these clans has consistently resulted in disinheritance. Members of Imperial Houses tend to dominate Caphirian politics and policy, publicly and privately. They are viewed as second to only the Imperator and his family.
While a mere 11,390 patricians belong to Imperial Houses and 177 to the greater imperial family, more than 9.3 million citizens count themselves among the aristocracy. Prominent families within the Patrician class may use the term Noble Family as a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the class, though the term carries little additional weight.
Advantages to membership in the nobility, aside from natural dignitas, are invulnerability to sentences of execution (except under orders of the Imperator), resistance to imprisonment, ability to freely enter government facilities (unless prohibited), special placement at venues like the theater and market, and the right to follow the cursus honorum, a path through the entire political spectrum of the Imperium from minor offices to Senate. Nevertheless, patricians obey the same laws, pay the same proportional rate of taxes and have the same vote as lower class citizens.
Below Patricians are the Equite class, making up the "upper class" for those not born in the aristocracy. Attainable by accumulating over $500,000, the equestrian rank is enjoyed by nearly 156.9 million citizens who make up most of the top 8% of earners in the Imperium. Lacking the dignitas of the nobility, many equites are still wealthier than their upperclassmen. The equestrians are renowned for a work ethic that is the envy of other countries, bringing them wealth through their own hard work. For this common trait, some of the largest corporations are owned by an equestrian rather than a patrician. The very richest of these corporate magnates is Alexandus Venio II, with a net worth of $70.4 billion from his ownership of Quicksilver Industries, Caphiria's largest and most valuable company.