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The ''mos maiorum'' (; "ancestral custom" or "way of the ancestors," plural ''mores'', cf. English "
mores 300px, A 19th-century children's book informs its readers that the Dutch were a "Protestant work ethic, very industrious race", and that Chinese people, Chinese children were "Filial piety, very obedient to their parents". Mores (, sometimes ; , ...

mores
"; ''maiorum'' is the
genitive In grammar, the genitive case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus indicating an attributive noun, attributive relationship ...
plural of "greater" or "elder") is the unwritten code from which the
ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studi ...
derived their
social norm Social norms are shared standards of acceptable Acceptability is the characteristic of a thing being subject to acceptance for some purpose. A thing is acceptable if it is sufficient to serve the purpose for which it is provided, even if it is fa ...
s. It is the core concept of Roman traditionalism, distinguished from but in dynamic complement to
written law Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses) of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: ...
. The ''mos maiorum'' was collectively the time-honoured principles, behavioural models, and social practices that affected private, political, and military life in ancient Rome.


Family and society

The Roman family (the ''
familia Familia may refer to: * ''Familia'', Latin designation of the Family (biology), family taxonomic rank * ''Familia (ancient Rome), Familia'', a classical Roman household with a ''Pater familias'' * Familia, historical designation for a Medieval hous ...

familia
'', better translated as "household" than "family") was hierarchical, as was Roman society. These hierarchies were traditional and self-perpetuating, that is, they supported and were supported by the ''mos maiorum''. The ''
pater familias The ''pater familias'', also written as ''paterfamilias'' (plural ''patres familias''), was the head of a Roman family. The ''pater familias'' was the oldest living male in a household, and exercised autocratic authority over his extended family. ...

pater familias
'', or head of household, held absolute authority over his ''familia'', which was both an autonomous unit within society and a model for the social order, but he was expected to exercise this power with moderation and to act responsibly on behalf of his family. The risk and pressure of social censure if he failed to live up to expectations was also a form of ''mos''. The distinctive social relationship of ancient Rome was that between patron ''(patronus)'' and client ''(cliens)''. Although the obligations of this relationship were mutual, they were also hierarchical. The relationship was not a unit, but a network ''(clientela)'', as a ''patronus'' might himself be obligated to someone of higher status or greater power, and a ''cliens'' might have more than one patron, whose interests might come into conflict. If the ''familia'' was the discrete unit underlying society, these interlocking networks countered that autonomy and created the bonds that made a complex society possible. Although one of the major spheres of activity within patron-client relations was the law courts, patronage was not itself a legal contract; the pressures to uphold one's obligations were moral, founded on the quality of ''fides'', "trust" (see
Values In ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Ethics"/ref> The field of ...

Values
below), and the ''mos''. Patronage served as a model when conquerors or
governors A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (p ...
abroad established personal ties as patron to whole communities, ties which then might be perpetuated as a family obligation. In this sense, ''mos'' becomes less a matter of unchanging tradition than precedent.


Tradition and evolution

Roman conservatism finds succinct expression in an edict of the
censors Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments, ...
from 92 BC, as preserved by the 2nd-century historian
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly known as Suetonius ( ; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historianRoman historiography stretches back to at least the 3rd century BC and was indebted to earlier Greek historiography. The Romans ...

Suetonius
: "All new that is done contrary to the usage and customs of our ancestors, seems not to be right." However, because the ''mos maiorum'' was a matter of custom, not written law, the complex norms that it embodied evolved over time. The ability to preserve a strongly-centralised sense of identity while it adapted to changing circumstances permitted the expansionism that took Rome from city-state to world power. The preservation of the ''mos maiorum'' depended on consensus and moderation among the ruling elite whose competition for power and status threatened it. Democratic politics, driven by the charismatic appeal of individuals ''(
populares The Populares (; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...

populares
)'' to the
Roman people ''(populus)''
Roman people ''(populus)''
, potentially undermined the conservative principle of the ''mos''. Because the higher magistracies and priesthoods were originally the prerogative of the
patricians The patricians (from la, patricius) were originally a group of ruling class The ruling class is the social class of a given society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social intera ...
, the efforts of plebeians ''(the
plebs In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
)'' for access could be cast as a threat to tradition (see
Conflict of the Orders The Conflict or Struggle of the Orders was a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic lasting from 500 BC to 287 BC, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the ...
). Reform was accomplished by legislation, and written law replaced consensus. When plebeians gained admission to nearly all the highest offices, except for a few arcane priesthoods, the interests of plebeian families who ascended to the elite began to align with those of the patricians, creating Rome's ''
nobiles During the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization, run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman people. Beginning ...
'', an elite social status of nebulous definition during the Republic. The ''plebs'' and their support of popular politicians continued as a threat to the ''mos'' and elite consensus into the late Republic, as noted in the rhetoric of
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold republican principles during crisis of th ...

Cicero
. During the transition to the Christian Empire,
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus Quintus Aurelius Symmachus Eusebius ( ; c. 345 – 402) was a Roman statesman, orator, and man of letters. He held the offices of governor of proconsular Africa (province), Africa in 373, urban prefect of Rome in 384 and 385, and Roman consul, con ...
argued that Rome's continued prosperity and stability depended on preserving the ''mos maiorum'', and the
early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations, from the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st ...
poet
Prudentius Aurelius Prudentius Clemens () was a Roman Christian poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to ...
dismissed the blind adherence to tradition as "the superstition of old grandpas" ''(
superstitio The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic re ...
veterum avorum)'' and inferior to the new
revealed truth In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of Religious views on truth, truth or Knowledge#Religious meaning of knowledge, knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entitie ...
of Christianity. After the final
collapse of the Western Roman Empire The fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called the fall of the Roman Empire or the fall of Rome), c. 376-476, was the process of decline in the Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman ...
in 476 AD and ascension of the various
Barbarian kingdoms A barbarian is a human who is perceived to be either Civilization, uncivilized or primitive. The designation is usually applied as a generalization based on a popular stereotype; barbarians can be members of any nation judged by some to be less ...
, the old Roman mores were then either superseded by or synthesized with the traditions of the
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
elite and subsequent
feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was a combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society arou ...
values.


Values

Traditional Roman values were essential to the ''mos maiorum'':


''Fides''

*The Latin word ''fides'' encompasses several English words, such as trust/trustworthiness,
good faith Good faith ( la, bona fides), in human interactions, is a sincere intention to be fair, open, and honest, regardless of the outcome of the interaction. While some Latin phrases have lost their literal meaning over centuries, this is not the case ...
/faithfulness, confidence, reliability and credibility. It was an important concept in
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor Ju ...
, as oral contracts were common. The concept of ''fides'' was
personified Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning anothe ...
by the goddess
Fides Fides or FIDES may refer to: *Faith, trust, loyalty, or fidelity, or a religious belief *Fides (cycling team), an Italian professional cycling team in 1961 *Fides (deity), goddess of trust in Roman mythology *Fides (reliability), guide allowing esti ...
whose role in the ''mos maiorum'' is indicated by the History of her cult. Her temple is dated from around 254 BC and was located on the
Capitoline Hill and the Servian Wall The Capitolium or Capitoline Hill ( ; it, Campidoglio ; la, Mons Capitolinus ), between the Roman Forum, Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the seven hills of Rome, Seven Hills of Rome. The hill was earlier known ...
in Rome, near the
Temple of Jupiter
Temple of Jupiter
.


''Pietas''

*''
Pietas ''Pietas'' (), translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety In Confucian, Chinese Buddhist ethics, Buddhist and Taoism, Taoist ethics, filial piety (, ''xiào'') is a virtue ...
'' was the Roman attitude of dutiful respect towards the gods, homeland, parents and family, which required the maintenance of relationships in a moral and dutiful manner. Cicero defined ''pietas'' as "justice towards the gods.” It went beyond sacrifice and correct ritual performance to inner devotion and righteousness of the individual, and it was the cardinal virtue of the Roman hero
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from Greek: Αἰνείας, ''Aineíās'') was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus Venus is the second planet from the S ...
in
Vergil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 70 BC21 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Roman In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in devel ...
's ''
Aeneid The ''Aeneid'' ( ; la, Aenē̆is ) is a Latin Epic poetry, epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Troy, Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Ancient Rome, R ...
''. The use of the adjectival form ''Pius'' as a
cognomen A ''cognomen'' (, ; Latin plural ''cognomina''; from ''con-'' "together with" and ''(g)nomen'' "name") was the third name of a citizen of ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. Initially, it was a nickname, but lost that purpose when it beca ...
reflects its importance as an identifying trait. Like ''Fides'', ''
Pietas ''Pietas'' (), translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety In Confucian, Chinese Buddhist ethics, Buddhist and Taoism, Taoist ethics, filial piety (, ''xiào'') is a virtue ...
'' was cultivated as a goddess, with a temple vowed to her in 191 BC and dedicated ten years later.


''Religio'' and ''Cultus''

*Related to the Latin verb ''religare'', "to bind", ''
religio
religio
'' was the bond between gods and mortals, as carried out in traditional religious practices for preserving the ''
pax deorum The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on ...
'' (“peace of the gods”). ''
CultusCultus may refer to: *Cult (religious practice) In modern English, a cult is a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collect ...
'' was the active observance and the correct performance of rituals. Religious practice, in this sense, is to be distinguished from ''pietas'' and its inherent morality. See
religion in ancient Rome Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became widely ...
and
imperial cult (ancient Rome) The Roman imperial cult identified emperors An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for l ...
.


''Disciplina''

*The military character of Roman society suggests the importance of ''disciplina'', as related to education, training, discipline and self-control.


''Gravitas'' and ''constantia''

*''
Gravitas ''Gravitas'' () was one of the ancient Roman virtue Virtue ( la, virtus) is a morality, moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is Value (ethics), valued as a foundation of principle and go ...
'' was dignified self-control. ''Constantia'' was steadiness or perseverance. In the face of adversity, a good Roman was to display an unperturbed façade. Roman myth and history reinforced this value by recounting tales of figures such as
Gaius Mucius Scaevola 200px, Mucius Scævola by Louis-Pierre Deseine, 1791, Louvre Museum">Louvre.html" ;"title="Louis-Pierre Deseine, 1791, Louvre">Louis-Pierre Deseine, 1791, Louvre Museum Gaius Mucius Cordus, better known with his later cognomen Scaevola ( , ), was ...
, who in a founding legend of the Republic demonstrated his seriousness and determination to the Etruscan king
Lars Porsenna Lars Porsena (Etruscan: Pursenas; sometimes spelled Lars Porsenna) was an Etruscan civilization, Etruscan king known for his Roman-Etruscan Wars#War with Clusium in 508 BC, war against the city of Rome. He ruled over the city of Clusium (Etruscan l ...
by holding his right hand in a fire.


''Virtus''

*Derived from the Latin word ''vir'' ("man"), ''
virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin ''vir'', "man"). It was thus a frequently stated virtue of ...

virtus
'' constituted the ideal of the true Roman male.
Gaius LuciliusGaius Lucilius (c. 180 – 103/02 BC), the earliest Roman satirist, of whose writings only fragments remain, was a Roman citizen of the equestrian class, born at Suessa Aurunca in Campania it, Campano (man) it, Campana (woman) , population_ ...
discusses ''virtus'' in some of his work and says that it is ''virtus'' for a man to know what is good, evil, useless, shameful or dishonorable.


''Dignitas'' and ''auctoritas''

*'' Dignitas'' and ''
auctoritas 300px, Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catilina, Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco ''Auctoritas'' is a Latin word which is the origin of English "authority". While historically its use in English was restricted ...
'' were the end result of displaying the values of the ideal Roman and the service of the state, in the forms of priesthoods, military positions and magistracies. ''Dignitas'' was reputation for worth, honour and esteem. Thus, a Roman who displayed their ''gravitas'', ''constantia'', ''fides'', ''pietas'' and other values of a Roman would possess ''dignitas'' among their peers. Similarly, by that path, a Roman could earn ''auctoritas'' ("prestige and respect").''Ward. p. 58


See also

* * ("Oh what times! Oh what customs!") *


Notes


References

* Adkins, L. and Adkins, R. ''Dictionary of Roman Religion''. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. * Berger, Adolph. ''Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law''. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1991. * ''Brill's New Pauly''. Antiquity volumes edited by: Huber Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill, 2008 Brill Online. * ''Oxford Classical Dictionary''. 3rd Revised Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. * Stambaugh, John E. ''The Ancient Roman City''. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988. * Ward, A., Heichelheim, F., Yeo, C. ''A History of the Roman People''. 4th Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.


Further reading

* Fredericks, S. C. 1969. ''Mos maiorum in Juvenal and Tacitus.'' University of Pennsylvania Pr. * Hoffmann, Zsuzsanna. 1982. "The Parody of the Idea of mos maiorum in Plautus." ''Oikumene'' , III, 217-223. * Hölkeskamp, Karl-Joachim. 2010. ''Reconstructing the Roman Republic: An Ancient Political Culture and Modern Research (translated by Henry Heitmann-Gordon; revised, updated, and augmented by the author).'' Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press. * Kenty, Joanna. 2016. "Congenital Virtue: Mos Maiorum in Cicero's Orations." ''Classical Journal'' 111.4:429-462 * Segal, Erich. 1976. “''O tempora, o mos maiorum''.” In ''The Conflict of Generations in Ancient Greece and Rome'', Edited by Bertman, Stephen S., 135-142. Amsterdam: Grüner. * Tröster, Manuel. 2012. "Plutarch and ''mos maiorum'' in the ''Life of Aemilius Paullus''." ''Ancient Society'' 42, 219-254.


External links

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