So what’s a “client” in the Roman sense of the term ?

As the question as to what art is and isn’t, and what piefaces are and aren’t, came up recently in #bitcoin-assets, now seems like the appropriate time to fill in some history and to flesh out some background left unaddressed by MP in his seminal Ok, so what is Bitcoin disrupting ?, specifically :

IV. Art. Yes, it goes all the way. As discussed in ‘What is art,’ art merely exists as the manifestation of the power of the sovereign. The fact that Bitcoin became one just at the time everyone else lost the status practically means that every single piece you thought was valuable became worthless, and worthless items are now valuable. They’re all objectively just as worthless, of course, but that is entirely besides the point : the lordship lists enacts art, and unless you’re on that list, or a clientvi of someone on that list you’re not holding on to a piece of art, but to a piece of garbage.

Yes, you might be able to negotiate a place for historical artefacts in there, but learn from the failure of the “venture capitalists” : you must submit, humbly, abjectly, right now. If you delay, your garbage can go in a bin just as special as the one holding Andreessen Horowitz’ “business” paper.

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vi. In the Roman sense of the term.

Since MP’s articles aren’t exactly wanting for more length or for broader scope, it’s sometimes beholden upon people such as myself to fill in some of the gaps and patch up some of the holes ; not for the 5-10 readers who know exactly what he means every single time, but for the ~1000 just a step down from that. Not that the sails of Trilema don’t soar across the open seas all on their own, just that, with a little crafting, they can soar across the open seas for even more people. Not everyone, obviously, only an insane person would make that their objective, but just a very. few. more.

So what exactly is a “client” in the Roman sense of the term ? Let’s make a list :

  • A free man who pays daily court to his paterfamilias, his patron.
  • One who pays his patron a salutatio every morning.i
  • One who openly declares himself the client of a patron.

That’s it really. Now keeping in mind that becoming a client was a voluntary choice,ii as with anything respectable in this world, why should you bother to become a client at all ?

There are at least four main reasons :

  • You wish to make a career in public life and are counting on your patron for protection.
  • You wish to profit, through your own affairs, from the success of your patron’s political influence.
  • You are a poet, philosopher, or ‘artist‘ of some other description who relies on the generosity of your patron to keep your hands clean from the toils of physical labour.
  • You wish to benefit or be named in your patron’s will, particularly if your patron has no heirs.

So that’s being a client. It’s how Rome once worked, it’s how the Mafia always worked, it’s how the WoT now works, and it’s how the world will work for the foreseeable future.

Now you know.

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  1. Ave, patrone, ave!” was a common greeting for the client to make upon arrival at his patron’s home. Yes, back when geography was a thing, the client had to physically travel to his patron’s place of residence. How easy we have it now with our little improv sketch in the sky !
  2. Unless you were a former slave of your patron, that is, in which case your status as client was automatic despite your ‘freedom’ having been purchased or earned. This was an understandably complicated social arrangement to enforce – where the former servant becomes distinct from his master, not unlike a child who grows up and individuates from his parents, and in doing so kills the mother and father inside of him – so, in Roman times, that the results of the freedmen-as-forced-clients experiment were mixed should come as no great surprise.

6 thoughts on “So what’s a “client” in the Roman sense of the term ?

  1. […] than viewing history as a collection of approaches that actually worked in the past and, with a little updating, can work again […]

  2. […] their populist charades as if the Internet were some sort of representative democracy instead of a functioning aristocracy. Sure, what the hell, it’s worth a shot. What’s the worse that can happen, they hang […]

  3. […] 15 years ago, and even if I readily inferred the meaning of it in context, it wasn’t until far more recently that I came to truly appreciate the weight, significance, and historical use of the term […]

  4. […] that is, in the Roman sense of the term. Y’know, like client, etc. […]

  5. […] of p2p network are trivialised, even this mythology machine can’t constrain the tail-happy mob any more than the beer store cut-out of Tom Brady can come from behind to win Superblow […]

  6. […] be in the WoT for all their pretenses to representation. How not ? What other avenues for patron-client relations are there ? Let’s go through the list, shall we […]

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