NON NOBIS DOMINE…

Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή “arete”) is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness.

The opposite of virtue is vice. As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics: “at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue.”

The word “Virtue” itself is derived from the Latin “virtus” (the personification of which was the deity Virtus), and had connotations of “manliness”, “honour”, worthiness of deferential respect, and civic duty as both citizen and soldier. This virtue was but one of many virtues which Romans of good character were expected to exemplify and pass on through the generations, as part of the Mos Maiorum; ancestral traditions which defined “Roman-ness”. Romans distinguished between the spheres of private and public life, and thus, virtues were also divided between those considered to be in the realm of private family life (as lived and taught by the paterfamilias), and those expected of an upstanding Roman citizen.

Most Roman concepts of virtue were also personified as a numinous deity. The primary Roman virtues, both public and private, were:

Auctoritas – “spiritual authority” – the sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria. This was considered to be essential for a magistrate’s ability to enforce law and order.
Comitas – “humour” – ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Constantia – “perseverance” – military stamina, as well as general mental and physical endurance in the face of hardship.
Clementia – “mercy” – mildness and gentleness, and the ability to set aside previous transgressions.
Dignitas – “dignity” – a sense of self-worth, personal self-respect and self-esteem.
Disciplina – “discipline” – considered essential to military excellence; also connotes adherence to the legal system, and upholding the duties of citizenship.
Firmitas – “tenacity” – strength of mind, and the ability to stick to one’s purpose at hand without wavering.
Frugalitas – “frugality” – economy and simplicity in lifestyle, without being miserly.
Gravitas – “gravity” – a sense of the importance of the matter at hand; responsibility, and being earnest.
Honestas – “respectability” – the image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
Humanitas – “humanity” – refinement, civilization, learning, and generally being cultured.
Industria – “industriousness” – hard work.
Iustitia – “justice” – sense of moral worth to an action; personified by the goddess Iustitia, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Themis.
Pietas – “dutifulness” – more than religious piety; a respect for the natural order: socially, politically, and religiously. Includes ideas of patriotism, fulfillment of pious obligation to the gods, and honoring other human beings, especially in terms of the patron and client relationship, considered essential to an orderly society.
Prudentia – “prudence” – foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
Salubritas – “wholesomeness” – general health and cleanliness, personified in the deity Salus.
Severitas – “sternness” – self-control, considered to be tied directly to the virtue of gravitas.
Veritas – “truthfulness” – honesty in dealing with others, personified by the goddess Veritas. Veritas, being the mother of Virtus, was considered the root of all virtue; a person living an honest life was bound to be virtuous.
Virtus – “manliness” – valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. ‘Vir’ is Latin for “man”.

Allegory of Virtue by Simon Vouet , 1634

Manuel Congo

About Manuel Congo

A renowned Palero, Babalawo, Ajarn and Hougan, Manuel Congo lives in rural Italy, where he spends most of his free time touring on his custom Harley Davidson. An avid ethnographer and noted expert on Italian witchcraft, Manuel has spent decades working for elite clients around the world, conducting investigations in locales as far-flung as Togo and Thailand. He enjoys rainy days, BBQ and blondes.

Leave a Comment