THE ROMAN IDEALS

 

Romanitas

**What it means to be Roman**

True Roman citizens believed in the idea of man as a citizen/soldier/farmer. Not that one might be this at all times but the possibility and commitment was evident. In order to be a proper citizen of Rome one must also exemplify the ideas of dignitas, pietas and gravitas (pride, devotion, and duty).

 

 

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Gravitas

Rome's longevity: the virtue known in Latin as gravitas, or gravity, a deep-rooted seriousness defines Roman character. Because of this trait, the Greeks perhaps considered the Romans a dull lot, even unimaginative. Even today such notions persist. George Lucas satirizes Roman soldiers in his depiction of mindless storm troopers in service to the Emperor in Star Wars. Thus, gravitas underscores obedience to authority which was disseminated in literary texts. In Virgil's underworld, Aeneas' father tells him that Rome's art is not her greatness, but her power to enforce Roman law throughout the world.

Roman, remember by your strength to rule
Earth's peoples--for your arts are to be these:
To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
to spare the conquered, battle down the proud (VI. 753-756)

In conjunction with the sense of political duty--pietas--further consider the mindset of the Roman character. Gravitas has larger implications for understanding human experience. In times of war, perhaps men in particular feel gravitas when they face battle, allegorically another journey into the underworld. Deep-rooted seriousness is not so much about tragic flaw as about the depths of the earth that call up to men, the dead warriors and soldiers, and wives and children that insist that men descend into the earth.

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PIETAS

Pietas in Roman mythology is the personification of the sense of duty towards God and man and the fatherland. According to a well-known story, a young woman in humble circumstances, whose father (or mother) was lying in prison under sentence of death, without food, managed to gain admittance, and fed her parent. To commemorate her filial affection a temple was dedicated to Pietas in the Forum Holitorium at Rome, on the spot where the young woman had formerly lived. The temple was probably originally vowed by the elder Glabrio out of gratitude for the pietas shown during the engagement by his son, who may have saved his life, as the elder Africanus that of his father at the battle of Ticinus (Livy xxi. 46); the legend of the young woman (borrowed from the Greek story of Mycon and Pero, Val. Max. v. 4, ext. 1) was then connected with the temple by the identification of its site with that of the prison. There was another temple of Pietas near the Circus Flaminius, which is connected by Amatucci (Rivista di storia antica, 1903) with the story of the pietas of C. Flaminius (Val. Max. v. 4, 5), and regarded by him as the real seat of the cult of the goddess, the Pietas of the sanctuary dedicated by Glabrio being a Greek goddess.

 

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DIGNITAS 

Dignitas is the esteem in which one is held their personal character or reputation. Private ambition was a constant motivator in Ancient Rome. However, it is equally important to remember that Roman cultural values and social structures shaped the way Roman citizens saw the issues before them. The culture of the Roman political elite was extraordinarily competitive. Men sought to increase their dignitas (the esteem in which they were generally held) so they might have greater auctoritas (political and social influence). In the rough and tumble of competition for office and influence, no Roman could afford to let a challenge to his dignitas go unanswered. Dignitas often times led to war as not general or leader would ever want to succumb to a challenge by his enemy. The more soldiers a general had following him the greater his dignitas.  Therefore, generals were constantly competing for soldiers and were always looking for a battle.

 

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