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Non-elite Honor

Early twenty-first century scholarship has taken issue with the notion that slaves had no claim to honor. An earlier formulation held that the very purpose of the slave in the social scheme was to be "dishonored," and so to provide their owners, and indeed all free people, with enhanced status in contrast to the slave's abasement. In fact, however, studies have shown that the Africans who became part of slave society worked within the honor system and absorbed its values. Thus slaves often made claims on honor, and also used their honorable status—as married persons, for example—to make claims for justice.

Plebeians, too, once thought to be outside the reach of codes of honor, regularly made claims to honor and defended this status quite vigorously. Although plebeian men and women could not produce illustrious genealogies, they were very much aware of their status as derived from the legitimacy of their relationships. They also derived status from relative affluence within the ranks of plebeians. Finally, the external reputation for honorable conduct was extremely important to plebeians because it was their way of assuring credit. Small loans between market women or artisans were only possible for those whose conduct was unblemished and thus honorable.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Heterodyne to Hydrazoic acidHonor - Early Conceptualizations Of Honor, Public Expressions Of Honor, Honor And Gender, Honor And Violence