less than 1 minute read


Prepolitical Usages

In late Roman and early medieval texts, natio was less frequently used than gens, which also meant groups of common descent, though emphasizing kinship and family rather than race. Another group noun, populus, referred to the assembled citizens of a city-state. (Plebs referred to people in the negative sense of the masses.) This meaning translated from Greek city-states to the Roman Republic and then to the Roman Empire. Romans used gens and natio to describe other peoples perceived as extended kinship groups or subjects of quasi-religious dynasts.

Such groups were given specific names. Tacitus (c. 55–c. 117) in Germania (98 C.E.) named the people (gens) of "Germania," differentiating distinct nations and subnations. However, there was no consistency in relating general labels to specific names. This ethnography was taken over by the late Roman Latin-writing intellectual elite and continued by their successors, the Roman Catholic clergy. The names given to certain territories (England, France, Germany) derive from Latin labels.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotideNation - Prepolitical Usages, The Nation And Political Authority, 1000–1500, Making Politics National, 1500–1800, New Ways Of Thinking About The Nation