Early social organization in central Italy was centered around the gens, (clan), an "aristocratic lineage or group of lineages and some of their lesser followers and dependents" . Inscriptions from the 7th century BCE show names consisting by that date of praenomen (identifies the individual) and nomen (identifies the gens) .
Membership of a gens is hereditary: a Roman child is in the gens of his or her father. Some ancient gentes claimed that all their members were descended from a common ancestor, but this was perhaps never true; in any case it was not true by the middle of the ancient republic.
Nonetheless, in ancient times many noble gentes maintained close internal ties of kinship and support, and members of the same gens were often political allies. Many gentes also had shared religious traditions (sacra gentilicia), and it was socially unacceptable for members of the same gens to marry.
- ↑ 1.1 1.2 Boatwright, M., Gargola, D., Talbert, R. (2004), "The Romans From Village to Empire", Oxford University Press