Two posts in one day?! I AM ON A ROLL.
Whoa. And I’m actually getting started on the Roman Virtues thing that I promised. Almost two months ago. Yeah.
So, first thing’s first. This short post is dealing with a little thing called auctoritas.
I’m sure you can think of an English cognate. Strain your brain for a second, and you’ll come up with one: authority. The English authority takes its meaning from the Latin auctoritas.
Oxford Dictionaries Online gives these definitions for authority:
“The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience,” or, “the power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something“.
The Latin auctoritas is related to the office of the auctor, a political position in which some high-ranking official would recommend a legislative measure to be taken. If this measure was approved by the Senate before being voted on by the people, then it became known as a senatus auctoritas.
Cicero, the great orator and statesman, gave this helpful phrase: “Cum potestas in populo auctoritas in senatu sit.” Which basically means “While power resides in the people, authority rests in the senate.”
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a political thing, either, though for the most part I would say it is. It refers (thank you, Wikipedia) to the “general level of prestige a person had in Roman society and, as a consequence, his clout, influence, and ability to rally support around his will.”
I think that we can see examples of people with auctoritas in modern-day society as well. Just take the American presidential elections for a recent example.