Aristocracy (class)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The aristocracy are, generally, people that a particular social order considers in the highest social class of that society. Specifically, in monarchies, the aristocracy are a class of people (aristocrats) who either possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch or are related to such people. In some societies—such as Ancient Greece, Rome, and India—aristocratic status may derive from membership of a military caste, although it has also been common for aristocrats to belong to priestly dynasties in lieu of this, as is the case in polities all over the continent of Africa. Aristocratic status can involve feudal or legal privileges. They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy.

The term aristocracy derives from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia), ἄριστος (aristos) "excellent," and κράτος (kratos) "power". In most cases, aristocratic titles were and are hereditary, passing on death to another family member, typically the eldest son or eldest child.

Origins of the notion

The term "aristocracy" (ἀριστοκρατία) was first given in Athens to young citizens (the men of the ruling class) who led armies from the front line. Because military bravery was highly regarded as a virtue in ancient Greece, it was assumed that the armies were being led by "the best". From the ancient Greeks, the term passed on to the European Middle Ages for a similar hereditary class of military leaders often referred to as the "nobility". As in Greece, this was a class of privileged men and women whose familial connections to the regional armies allowed them to present themselves as the most "noble" or "best."

Europe

Historically the status and privileges of the aristocracy in Europe were below royalty and above all non-aristocrats.

The French Revolution attacked aristocrats as people who had achieved their status by having been born in a wealthy family rather than by merit, and this was considered unjust. In the United Kingdom and other European countries, such as Spain and Denmark, in which hereditary titles are still recognised, aristocrat still refers to the descendant of one of approximately 7,000 families with hereditary titles, many still in possession of considerable wealth.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Aristocracy (class)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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