THE ROMAN CONCEPT OF FIDES

"FIDES" is often (and wrongly) translated 'faith', but it has nothing to do with the word as used by Christians writing in Latin about the Christian virute (St. Paul Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13). For the Romans, FIDES was an essential element in the character of a man of public affairs, and a necessary constituent element of all social and political transactions (perhaps = 'good faith'). FIDES meant 'reliablilty', a sense of trust between two parties if a relationship between them was to exist. FIDES was always reciprocal and mutual, and implied both privileges and responsibilities on both sides. In both public and private life the violation of FIDES was considered a serious matter, with both legal and religious consequences. FIDES, in fact, was one of the first of the 'virtues' to be considered an actual divinity at Rome. The Romans had a saying, "Punica fides" (the reliability of a Carthaginian) which for them represented the highest degree of treachery: the word of a Carthaginian (like Hannibal) was not to be trusted, nor could a Carthaginian be relied on to maintain his political elationships.





Some relationships governed by fides:
ONE MEMBER
English
mutually related to
OTHER MEMBER
English
AMICUS
'friend'
«——»
AMICUS
'friend'
PATER
'father'
«——»
FAMILIA
'household'
PATER
'father
«——»
FILIUS
'son'
DOMINUS
'master'
«——»
SERVUS
'slave'
PATRONUS
'patron'
«——»
LIBERTUS
'freedman'
PATRONUS
'patron'
«——»
CLIENS
'client'
RESPUBLICA
'the Roman State'
«——»
SOCIUS
'an ally of Rome'








==VIRTUS==

  • VIRTUS, for the Roman, does not carry the same overtones as the Christian 'virtue'. But like the Greek andreia, VIRTUS has a primary meaning of 'acting like a man' (vir) [cf. the Renaissance virtù ), and for the Romans this meant first and foremost 'acting like a brave man in military matters'. virtus was to be found in the context of 'outstanding deeds' (egregia facinora), and brave deeds were the accomplishments which brought GLORIA ('a reputation'). This GLORIA was attached to two ideas: FAMA ('what people think of you') and dignitas ('one's standing in the community'). The struggle for VIRTUS at Rome was above all a struggle for public office (honos), since it was through high office, to which one was elected by the People, that a man could best show hi smanliness which led to military achievement--which would lead in turn to a reputation and votes. It was the duty of every aristocrat (and would-be aristocrat) to maintain the dignitas which his family had already achieved and to extend it to the greatest possible degree (through higher political office and military victories). This system resulted in a strong built-in impetus in Roman society to engage in military expansion and conquest at all times.




Categories of 'VIRTUES' of a Statesman

THUCYDIDES
PLATO
CICERO
CICERO
AUGUSTUS
knowing what is appropriate
wisdom
prudence
fortitudo
virtus
ability to convince
andreia
bravery
clementia
clementia
incorruptibility
justice
justice
justitia
justitia
patriotism
piety
self-restraint
benignitas
pietas



fides