Archive for the ‘Virtues’ Category

Virtus Wednesdays: Auctoritas


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.


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I’ve noticed that most Reconstructionist religions have lists of virtues that can serve as guidelines for the behavior of the individual practitioner (and, in some cases, the community as a whole).  Asatru has the Nine Noble Virtues, Hellenismos has the Delphic Maxims and Tenets of Solon, Kemetics have principles of upholding Ma’at…I think I can add Wicca into the mix as well, though it’s not (always? really?) reconstructionism – but they have the Rede.

And the Religio Romana has, of course, Roman virtues.

Before I dive into this, I want to add a little disclaimer.

Well, alright, it’s not really a little disclaimer.  The thing is, the virtues are by no means of the same ilk as the Ten Commandments and stuff like that.  By that, I mean that if you aren’t as virtuous in one or more aspects, Iuppiter won’t come down out of the sky and smite you, and you will not go to Hell.

I’m not saying that the virtues aren’t important: only that if you don’t follow them well, you won’t be called a sinner.  So I hope that clears the way for what’s coming a little later.

And there’s the issue of if we as recons really need to follow a list of virtues.  There seems to be, like with all things, a mixed bag of opinions: some think that it’s ridiculous that we have lists of things to follow when these things should be common sense, some think the whole thing is BS, and how dare a modern list tell them how to behave, others are of the opinion that the lists are good guidelines to have, even if they are more modern inventions, and still others believe that the virtues have their roots in (and in some cases their practice is able to be proven in) ancient beliefs and sources, and that regardless of if they are modern inventions or not are still good things to follow.

I’m sure that I’m missing out on some opinions, here, so I apologize if yours isn’t represented.  Or if it’s misrepresented.

In any case, I guess I’d fall into the latter category.

There’s plenty of evidence that the Romans thought that there were many virtues that an individual should ascribe to have.  Cicero, for example, remarks that good people have Mind/Mens, Courage/Virtus, Piety/Pietas, and Faith/Fides.  In modern day Roman Reconstructionism, the group Nova Roma has put forth a really nice, albeit long, list of Roman virtues and their most basic definitions, breaking it up into private virtues for individuals and public virtues for the community.  These are:


  • Auctoritas/Spiritual Authority
  • Clementia/Mercy
  • Comitas/Humor
  • Dignitas/Dignity
  • Firmitas/Tenacity
  • Frugalitas/Frugality
  • Gravitas/Gravity
  • Honestas/Respectability
  • Humanitas/Refinement
  • Industria/Industriousness
  • Pietas/Loyalty, duty, and reverence to one’s family, gods, and community
  • Prudentia/Prudence
  • Salubritas/Health and cleanliness
  • Severitas/Sternness
  • Veritas/Truthfulness



  • Abundantia/Abundance
  • Aequitas/Equity
  • Bonus Eventus/Good Fortune
  • Clementia/Mercy
  • Concordia/Harmony
  • Felicitas/Happiness
  • Fides/Confidence
  • Fortuna/Fortune
  • Genius/Spirit of Rome
  • Hilaritas/Mirth
  • Iustitia/Justice
  • Laetitia/Joy
  • Liberalitas/Generosity
  • Nobilitas/Nobility
  • Ops/Wealth
  • Patientia/Endurance
  • Pax/Peace
  • Pietas/Loyalty, duty, and reverence to one’s family, gods, and community
  • Providentia/Providence
  • Pudicitia/Modesty (traditionally a virtue ascribed to women)
  • Salus/Health
  • Securitas/Security or safety
  • Spes/Hope
  • Uberitas/Fertility
  • Virtus/Courage


Phew.  That’s quite a list.

And guess what?  Following along with the theme of the Romans having a deity for everything, all of these virtues are also personified deities.  Yeah.

I guess my aim with this post was for it to be an introduction into Roman virtues.  I think that on Wednesdays from now on (maybe not every Wednesday, but pretty darn near close) I’ll take a virtue and pick it apart, starting with the private virtues and then moving onto the public virtues.  This is…kind of an ambitious thing.  I mean, just look at all those virtues.  Uffda.

(oops, my Midwesterner is showing)

And I think I’ll label these posts as VW, for…Virtus Wednesdays.  Kind of funny when you pronounce it, because the “V” in Virtus would be pronounced as a W.  So you get something like…Wirtus Wednesdays.



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