From the earliest beginnings of Rome the basic unit of Roman society was the family. Within the family units, the father was to all intents and purposes “owner” of his wife, children and slaves to the same extent that he owned his sword and other material possessions. The head of the family could do whatever he wished with the other members of his direct family, including selling them off as slaves or putting them to death. In the very beginning there were no laws to govern the rights of individuals within the family.
The families were grouped up into clans or “gens“. Each gens claimed a common ancestor and they came to make up the aristocracy of Rome. The head of each gens/clan was called “pater” (father) and all the members of these aristocratic families became known as “Patricians“.
All the clans (gens) were grouped into ten broader groups called “curiae” (communities), making a total of 30 curiae. Each of ten curiae were in their turn grouped up into three territorial super-groups called “tribes” (tri=3). The first tribes were called “Tities”, “Ramnes” and “Luceres”. In later years, as the population of Rome grew the number of tribes was increased to 21 and later to 35 (4 in the city and 31 rural tribes).
The Tribes were governed by a council and each tribe had to contribute specific sets of military forces. This council of the tribes slowly became a military council.
The citizens, which in the early days were Patricians only, took part in government through the assembly of the (30) curiae known as the “comitia curiata“. Each of the 30 curiae had one vote.
Distinction between gens and the masses in general were built around the concept of “founding fathers” (of Rome) as well as wealth, which in the earliest times was based on agriculture and bartering. Money and coinage didn’t make an appearance until the 4th century BC, roughly at the same time as great social unrest.