The list of eight (the number varies) customs or traditions of the ancestors which defined a good citizen in ancient Rome. In 27 B.C., a few years after Actium, Augustus was given an honorary shield called the clupeus virtutis, the shield of virtue, on which was inscribed the following {original lost, text taken from one of several copies):


"The senate and the Roman People dedicated to the emperor Augustus, son of the divine Caesar the shield for virtue, clemency, justice, and piety towards the gods and his native land".

Ignoring for now the bootlicking sycophancy of the thing, these were the themes of his principate; virtue in war, mercy towards enemies, justice for all, and piety and obedience towards the gods and family. Not all too different from the Christian Right's "family values" today, but viewed in Rome, at least officially, as the cornerstones of civilisation.

Otherwise, a man was expected to be "vir bonus et peritus dicendi", a good man, skilled at speaking; since it was the duty of every man of the senatorial class to take part in politics, good rhetoric was a virtue alone.

A rather more full list, compiled from various other sources. If you forget, just remember DCCV PIGS:

  • Dignitas: Dignity, or proper bearing.
  • Clementia: mercy towards one's enemies, especially important coming out of a civil war, or the wars with Marc Anthony.
  • Constantia: constancy (and prudisitude), unwavering character.
  • Virtus: virtue, especially military virtue and excellence, the hallmark trait of a victorious commander.
  • Pietas: proper behaviour towards the gods, one's native country, and family. It has been noted elsewhere (or should have been) that the Romans didn't give a fig about orthodoxy, but concentrated about orthopraxy. Probably closer to obedience or submission than modern "piety".
  • Industria: diligence and hard work, Latin negotium, business, but literally the denial of leisure.
  • Gravitas: no jokes, no puns...dead serious demeanour.
  • Severitas: not quite the opposite of clementia, appropriate harshness towards enemies and friends alike.
These virtues were traditions, thought to have been handed down from the ancestors of the city since the founding; it's a major theme in Vergil's Aeneid, how Aeneas in turn embodies each. Wax masks of family ancestors were kept in the home, and paraded about at certain points of the year, meant to serve as reminders of the behaviour of the past. Seneca tells us that we are to act as if we are constantly being watched by our ancestors; if a man shames himself and his country, how can he return to his home to face them?

Anyway, just a few notes on res cognoscendae.

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