The Gentes Maiores
In the last fifty years, the imperial house and the aristocracy regained their inherited station and honour. A monopoly of military glory paraded down the Via Sacra cannot be concealed from the plebeians. The great houses delight in occasions to display their rank and privilege, be it the statues in the Temple of Mars Ultor or the political favouritism fallen upon their sons.
Cainites can hardly resist the lure of the great houses, who wield as much authority in their respective social domains as the Triumvirs over the Eternal Senate. She who influences a Cornelius politician or an Aemilii engineer holds the world in her palm. Lasombra, Malkavian, and Ventrue have long-established associations with certain clans, although Camillus' edicts forbid any interference with the Julio-Claudian dynasty itself on pain of final death. Vampire meddling comes at a cost, however.
Note: The entries below represent the commonly accepted public view of each great house. The vampiric clan represents who holds influence over the gens. Focus abilities and areas of interest apply to the Dignitas background.
In a martial nation, defeat ennobles a man no less than victory. These patricians' bloody history at the forefront of battlefields and politics gives testimony to their wisdom and valor. Roman memory affirms the Aemilii as resolute defenders ready to give their all, to the last breath, for their country. No great house boasts as many political or military distinctions. They scarcely require the legendary descent to the duaghter of Trojan prince Aeneas and Lavinia; or a son of wise King Numa to establish their credentials. Through marriage, adoptions, and prestigious alliances, the gens has ties to the senatorial and equestrian families of any significance and the Julio-Claudian dynasty itself. Triumvir Marcus Aemilius of the Lepidi branch faithfully served Julius Caesar and Octavian in the Second Triumvirate; a son and a daughter of this generation married into the imperial family.
The air of majesty surrounds the Claudii, a sprawling patrician clan who can make the incomparable claim that a scion of their line sits upon the imperial throne. "Claudian" is a watchword for pride and aristocratic arrogance among Romans; the family is renown for despising the lowest castes to the point they have never openly adopted an outsider into the family. Other Gentes Maiores often work in opposition to their ambitions. Everlasting fame follows exploits of heroic ancestors from the family's founder, Appius Claudius, who ended the Sabine War and the general Marcus Claudius Marcellus, victor of the Second Punic War and famous for slaying the Gallic king Viridomarus in single combat. With Emperor Claudius in power, they wield tremendous influence among their senatorial and equestrian peers. Claudii devote themselves wholeheartedly to reinforcing aristocratic privileges and earning more favours from their clients. Political ambitions flow through their blood, as well as a talent for blocking ambitious "new men" or plebs.
No patrician clan matches the illustrious careers of the Cornelii or the respect they receive from Roman commoners and nobility. The most esteemed branches collectively hold high office and command over legions more often than any other. Glowing reports of family and career compliment a long record of public service, and the names of its finest members echo down the years. Scipio the Great is unquestionably one of the foremost men in Roman history, and his daughter Cornelia, "Mother of the Gracchi," as renown for her virtue. Exemplary behaviour and unwavering loyalty are cemented into the Cornelii young, though their conservative values suffer in debauched times. They continue to hold substantial office and wide political influence, and the family name commands respect from Iberia to Lycia.
While their descent from Hercules is a fable, the Fabii family deserves its lauded reputation for military exploits and tactical excellence. Fabian generals won impressive victories against the Carthaginians and Macedonians the epoch of the conquering Republic. A solemn annual holiday honours the three hundred Fabian sons slain in an ambush while defending the city. Clan privileges include exclusive religious duties and holidays, most notably the sacred rites of the Lupercalia festival. Later scions have pursued patronage of high arts and literature with the same focus as their martial forebears. Fabii magistrates sponsor policies favourable towards kinder treatment towards the commonfolk after plebeian revolts, earning favour from the mob and the lasting enmity of the Claudii.
The Valerii's murky origins among the Sabines place them among the oldest patrician families, and rivals to the Cornelii as the most decorated. Honours and privileges reserved for this celebrated lineage declare their special place at the forefront of public affairs. Valerian sons held consulships and magistrates by the boatload throughout the Republic and jealously guard their political inheritance into the Nights of Antiquity. Their greatest heroes include Marcus Valerius Corvus, famed for victories in the Samnite War and charming a raven to defeat a Gaul in single combat, and Manius Valerius, who defended Sicily during the First Punic War. One branch of the family famously has a tradition advocating for the rights of the plebeians, and their network of clients among the commonfolk is unsurpassed.