Something that there is still much debate to, is what exactly where the origins of these two groups and what led to their struggle? We know that there certainly were clear distinct differences between the two consisting of mainly privileges that the Patricians had bestowed upon themselves. Among them the fact that only certain offices or other powerful positions could be only held by members of Patrician families and that the Senate only consisted of Patricians. But where exactly do Patricians and Plebeians trace their roots back to? Are we to give credit to the tradition told by Livy that Romulus himself created and divided the Patricians who had underneath them their clients? By answering these question we get a better look at the reasons and motives behind the Plebeians push for change in the social structure of the Roman Republic.
While traditional thoughts such as racial distinction being the factor for the division between the two can be dismissed. There was a general line of distinction when it came to wealth; the rich tended to be Patricians and the poor Plebeians. However even this was not completely concrete as there were several Plebeian families that rose to be prominent.
To help us get an understanding of how the Patricians were able to establish themselves we can take a look at the Latin word that they derive from, Patres (fathers). This according to Jean-Claude Richard, in the Social Struggles in Archaic Rome: New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders (which offers a vast collection of essays by Professors and Historians on the subject), tells us two things. First it tells us that the Patricians were likely from the “founding Fathers of Rome” among which Romulus appointed and were the original members of the Senate. Second, Richard states that the term referred not merely to the individuals but to the family of the Patrician making this a matter of lineage. Because of this Patrician families fervently sought to secure their position and prestige within Roman society. In the 5th Century BC Patricians closed off their ranks in an effort to centralize and control their power.
There is more difficulty when it comes to determining the origins of the Plebeians. It was thought that all non-Patricians were what made up the masses of the Plebs. This appears to not have been the case though and that the Plebeians were a distinctive group of their own. Arnaldo Momigliano, in Social Struggles, helps to clarify this point. He says by analyzing the term populus plebesque from looking at the work of Livy it can be inferred that the Plebs were separate from the general populus (people at arms) that made up the masses of Rome and served as the foot soldiers in the Roman Army.
In turn the two groups were drastically divided in position, wealth, and power in the Roman Republic. Patrician greed to hold onto the power and position while attempting to keep the Plebeians in place would led to secessions and demands for change. The Plebeians would soon unite their voice together in a call that the Patricians could not ignore.