The mos maiorum ( Classical Latin: [ˈmoːs maˈjoːrum] ; "ancestral custom" or "way of the ancestors," plural mores, cf. English "mores"; maiorum is the genitive plural of "greater" or "elder") is the unwritten code from which the ancient Romans derived their social norms. It is the core concept of Roman traditionalism, distinguished from but in dynamic complement to written law. The mos maiorum was collectively the time-honoured principles, behavioural models, and social practices that affected private, political, and military life in ancient Rome.
The Roman family (the 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 , 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, [ citation needed ]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 below), and the mos. Patronage served as a model when conquerors or governors 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.
Roman conservatism finds succinct expression in an edict of the censors from 92 BC, as preserved by the 2nd-century historian 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) to the 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 efforts of plebeians (the plebs) for access could be cast as a threat to tradition (see Conflict of the Orders). 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 , 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.
During the transition to the Christian Empire, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus argued that Rome's continued prosperity and stability depended on preserving the mos maiorum, and the early Christian poet Prudentius dismissed the blind adherence to tradition as "the superstition of old grandpas" (superstitio veterum avorum) and inferior to the new revealed truth of Christianity.
After the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD and ascension of the various Barbarian kingdoms, the old Roman mores were then either superseded by or synthesized with the traditions of the Germanic elite and subsequent feudal values.
Traditional Roman values were essential to the mos maiorum:[ citation needed ]
The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.
The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus based on various ecstatic elements of the Greek Dionysia. They seem to have been popular and well-organised throughout the central and southern Italian peninsula. They were almost certainly associated with Rome's native cult Liberalia which is dedicated to Liber and spouse Libera, also known as Proserpina. The cult probably arrived in Rome itself around 200 BC. However, like all mystery religions of the ancient world, very little is known of their rites. Once the Bacchanalia had become popular, The Roman Senate was threatened by the Bacchanalia because they believed it was designed to rebel against their political views, thus wanted to suppress the mystery cult to avoid any kind of rebellion against the Senate.
Pietas, translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety", was one of the chief virtues among the ancient Romans. It was the distinguishing virtue of the founding hero Aeneas, who is often given the adjectival epithet pius ("religious") throughout Virgil's epic Aeneid. The sacred nature of pietas was embodied by the divine personification Pietas, a goddess often pictured on Roman coins. The Greek equivalent is eusebeia (εὐσέβεια).
The Senate was the governing and advisory assembly of the aristocracy in the ancient Roman Republic. It was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a Roman magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic appointment to the Senate. According to the Greek historian Polybius, our principal source on the Constitution of the Roman Republic, the Roman Senate was the predominant branch of government. Polybius noted that it was the consuls who led the armies and the civil government in Rome, and it was the Roman assemblies which had the ultimate authority over elections, legislation, and criminal trials. However, since the Senate controlled money, administration, and the details of foreign policy, it had the most control over day-to-day life. The power and authority of the Senate derived from precedent, the high caliber and prestige of the senators, and the Senate's unbroken lineage, which dated back to the founding of the Republic in 509 BC. It developed from the Senate of the Roman Kingdom, and became the Senate of the Roman Empire.
Spurius Cassius Viscellinus or Vecellinus was one of the most distinguished men of the early Roman Republic. He was three times consul, and celebrated two triumphs. He was the first magister equitum, and the author of the first agrarian law. The year following his last consulship, he was accused of aiming at regal power, and was put to death by the patricians.
The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome, the general body of free Roman citizens who were not patricians, as determined by the census or in other words "commoners". The precise origins of the group and the term are unclear, though it may be that they began as a limited political movement in opposition to the elite (patricians) which became more widely applied and known as the conflict of orders.
The Populares were a political faction in the late Roman Republic who favoured the cause of the plebeians.
During the Roman Republic, nobilis was a descriptive term of social rank, usually indicating that a member of the family had achieved the consulship. Those who belonged to the hereditary patrician families were noble, but plebeians whose ancestors were consuls were also considered nobiles. The transition to nobilitas thus required the rise of a non-noble individual to the consulship, who was considered a "new man". Two of the most famous examples of these self-made "new men" were Gaius Marius, who held the consulship seven times, and Marcus Tullius Cicero.
The Optimates, also known as boni, were a conservative political faction in the late Roman Republic.
The Curiate Assembly was the principal assembly during the first two decades of the Roman Republic. During these first decades, the people of Rome were organized into thirty units called "Curiae". The Curiae were ethnic in nature, and thus were organized on the basis of the early Roman family, or, more specifically, on the basis of the thirty original patrician (aristocratic) clans. The Curiae formed an assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The Curiate Assembly passed laws, elected Consuls, and tried judicial cases. Consuls always presided over the assembly. While plebeians (commoners) could participate in this assembly, only the patricians could vote.
Humanitas is a Latin noun meaning human nature, civilization, and kindness. It has uses in the Enlightenment, which are discussed below.
Dignitas is a Latin word referring to a unique, intangible, and culturally subjective social concept in the ancient Roman mindset. The word does not have a direct translation in English. Some interpretations include "dignity", which is a derivation from "dignitas", and "prestige" or "charisma".
Marriage in ancient Rome was a strictly monogamous institution: a Roman citizen by law could have only one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and Romans from other ancient civilizations, in which elite males typically had multiple wives. Greco-Roman monogamy may have arisen from the egalitarianism of the democratic and republican political systems of the city-states. It is one aspect of ancient Roman culture that was embraced by early Christianity, which in turn perpetuated it as an ideal in later Western culture.
The Lex Claudia also known as the plebiscitum Claudianum or the lex Claudia de nave senatoris, was a Roman law passed in 218 BC. Proposed at the start of the Second Punic War, the law prohibited senators and their sons from owning an "ocean-going ship" which had a capacity of more than 300 amphorae. It was proposed by the tribune Quintus Claudius and supported by a senator Gaius Flaminius. There are no surviving contemporary sources for the law; the only ancient source to explicitly discuss it being the historian Livy. While Cicero does mention the law in his prosecution of Verres in 70 BC, this is only an indirect reference. As such, the ancient evidence is limited and only dates from nearly two centuries later. Nonetheless, modern scholarship has continued to debate the purpose and significance of the lex Claudia.
Social class in ancient Rome was hierarchical, with multiple and overlapping social hierarchies. An individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another, which complicated the social composition of Rome.
Virtus was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths. It was thus a frequently stated virtue of Roman emperors, and was personified as a deity—Virtus.
The gens Curiatia was a distinguished family at Rome, with both patrician and plebeian branches. Members of this gens are mentioned in connection with the reign of Tullus Hostilius, the third King of Rome, during the seventh century BC. The first of the Curiatii to attain any significant office was Publius Curiatius Fistus, surnamed Trigeminus, who held the consulship in 453 BC. The gens continued to exist throughout the Republic, and perhaps into imperial times, but seldom did its members achieve any prominence.
In Roman constitutional law, rogatio is the term for a legislative bill placed before an Assembly of the People in ancient Rome. The rogatio procedure underscores the fact that the Roman senate could issue decrees, but was not a legislative or parliamentarian body. Only the People could pass legislation.
Attidius, possibly to be identified with Marcus Atilius Bulbus, was a senator of the Roman Republic. Sometime in the early 70s BC, he was convicted of a crime, probably maiestas, and exiled. Attidius found refuge in the court of Mithridates VI of Pontus, and the two men were friends for many years. The sole evidence for Attidius's life and career is a passage by the Greek historian Appian in his Mithridatic Wars.
Patronage (clientela) was the distinctive relationship in ancient Roman society between the patronus ("patron") and their cliens ("client"). The relationship was hierarchical, but obligations were mutual. The patron was the protector, sponsor, and benefactor of the client; the technical term for this protection was patrocinium. Although typically the client was of inferior social class, a patron and client might even hold the same social rank, but the former would possess greater wealth, power, or prestige that enabled him to help or do favors for the client. From the emperor at the top to the commoner at the bottom, the bonds between these groups found formal expression in legal definition of patrons' responsibilities to clients. Patronage relationship were not exclusively between two people and also existed between a general and his soldiers, a founder and colonists, and a conqueror and a dependent foreign community.
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