Patron (n.) - Become a Patron!
What is a patron and how can patronage save free speech today?
We’ll investigate the history and meaning of the word Patron.
A person who provides money or other assistance to an artist, writer, charity, cause or in my case an independent content creator.
History and Etymology
Before we go on, I’d like to thank my own patrons over on patreon.com. The word patron was nominated and selected by Mark Sperring my first patron. If you’re interested in becoming a patron please follow the link in the description.
The history of the word patron goes all the way back to the Latin word pater meaning father. As the legends go Romulus, founder of Rome selected 100 fathers of influential families to form the senate and in the same stroke creating a class system. From pater the romans derived the word Patronus, which means protector or guardian. You probably recognize that word from Harry Potter where it refers to spirit that can be summoned to protect the caster, but in Rome a real Patronus was a person that had a responsibility towards their cliens. The relationship of patronus to cliens was usually between someone of a higher class to someone in a lower class or between a freed slave and his former master. This relationship would go both ways. The Patronus would be expected to provide financial support for his cliens, and the cliens would be required to provide services such as political campaigning and physical labor.
Into the medieval and renaissance period in france and other European countries this become the system of patronage. Rulers, nobles, and very wealthy people would support artists to bolster their own political ambitions, social positions or prestige. This wasn’t limited to artist, patrons would also support early science, writers, alchemist, astrologers, scholars, and many other professions. Over time this system continued though the funds were provided through different sources ranging from the church, charitable foundations, and governments.
The word patron and the system of patronage found it’s way into english both through French patron and Latin patronus, and maintained it’s meaning.
Samuel Johnson the writer of the first comprehensive English dictionary added some humor to some of the entries in his dictionary. Some of them made his opinions very clear. He didn’t always get along with his patrons who were supporting his dictionary projecting.
His definition for patron went as follows: One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.
And today in this new world of social media and independent content creators patronage has transformed. No longer is it solely the domain of the elites and the wealthy. Thanks to technology patronage has become distributed, and anyone can help support the content, science, arts, music and more, that they love.
Websites like Patreon, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and PayPal have made it possible for large numbers of regular people to individually contribute a small amount of money. When those small individual contribution come together it can be enough to support an artist, musician, independent content creator, charities, or even a lexicographer.