Auctoritas

Auctoritas is a Latin word which is the origin of English "authority". While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the 20th century expanded the use of the word.

In ancient Rome, Auctoritas referred to the general level of prestige a person had in Roman society, and, as a consequence, his clout, influence, and ability to rally support around his will. Auctoritas was not merely political, however; it had a numinous content and symbolized the mysterious "power of command" of heroic Roman figures.

Noble women could also achieve a degree of Auctoritas. For example, the wives, sisters, and mothers of the Julio-Claudians had immense influence on society, the masses, and the political apparatus. Their Auctoritas was exercised less overtly than their male counterparts due to Roman societal norms, but they were powerful nonetheless.

Maccari-Cicero
Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catilina, from a 19th-century fresco

Etymology and origin

According to French linguist Emile Benveniste, auctor (which also gives us English "author") is derived from Latin augeō ("to augment", "to enlarge", "to enrich"). The auctor is "is qui auget", the one who augments the act or the juridical situation of another.[1]

Auctor in the sense of "author", comes from auctor as founder or, one might say, "planter-cultivator". Similarly, auctoritas refers to rightful ownership, based on one's having "produced" or homesteaded the article of property in question - more in the sense of "sponsored" or "acquired" than "manufactured". This auctoritas would, for example, persist through an usucapio of ill-gotten or abandoned property.

Political meaning in Ancient Rome

Politically, auctoritas was connected to the Roman Senate's authority (auctoritas patrum), not to be confused with potestas or imperium, which were held by the magistrates or the people. In this context, Auctoritas could be defined as the juridical power to authorize some other act.

The 19th-century classicist Theodor Mommsen describes the "force" of auctoritas as "more than advice and less than command, an advice which one may not safely ignore." Cicero says of power and authority, "Cum potestas in populo auctoritas in senatu sit." ("While power resides in the people, authority rests with the Senate.")[2] That is to say, there is a non-committal to a separation of powers, some civil rights, constitutionalism, codified constitutional state and legalist concept of law.

In the private domain, those under tutelage (guardianship), such as women and minors, were similarly obliged to seek the sanction of their tutors ("protectors") for certain actions. Thus, auctoritas characterizes the auctor: The pater familias authorizes – that is, validates and legitimates – his son's wedding in prostate. In this way, auctoritas might function as a kind of "passive counsel", much as, for example, a scholarly authority.

Auctoritas principis

After the fall of the Republic, during the days of the Roman Empire, the Emperor had the title of princeps ("first citizen" of Rome) and held the auctoritas principis – the supreme moral authority – in conjunction with the imperium and potestas – the military, judiciary and administrative powers.

Middle Ages

The notion of auctoritas was often invoked by the papacy during the Middle Ages, in order to secure the temporal power of the Pope. Innocent III most famously invoked auctoritas in order to depose kings and emperors and to try to establish a papal theocracy.

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt considered auctoritas a reference to founding acts as the source of political authority in Ancient Rome. She took foundation to include (as augeō suggests), the continuous conservation and increase of principles handed down from "the beginning" (see also pietas). According to Arendt, this source of authority was rediscovered in the course of the 18th-century American Revolution (see "United States of America" under Founding Fathers), as an alternative to an intervening Western tradition of absolutism, claiming absolute authority, as from God (see Divine Right of Kings), and later from Nature, Reason, History, and even, as in the French Revolution, Revolution itself (see La Terreur). Arendt views a crisis of authority as common to both the American and French Revolutions, and the response to that crisis a key factor in the relative success of the former and failure of the latter.[3]

Arendt further considered the sense of auctor and auctoritas in various Latin idioms, and the fact that auctor was used in contradistinction to – and (at least by Pliny) held in higher esteem than – artifices, the artisans to whom it might fall to "merely" build up or implement the author-founder's vision and design.[4]

See also

References and sources

References
  1. ^ J. B. Greenough disputes this etymology of auctor - but not the sense of foundation and augmentation - in "Latin Etymologies", Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 4, 1893.
  2. ^ De leg. 3. 28
  3. ^ Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, Chapter 5, Section 2. (1965)
  4. ^ Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, Chapter 3, Section IV. (1968)
Sources
Conflict of the Orders

The Conflict of the Orders, also referred to as the 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 Patricians. It played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. Shortly after the founding of the Republic, this conflict led to a secession from Rome by Plebeians to the Sacred Mount at a time of war. The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians.

At first only Patricians were allowed to stand for election to political office, but over time these laws were revoked, and eventually all offices were opened to the Plebeians. Since most individuals who were elected to political office were given membership in the Roman Senate, this development helped to transform the senate from a body of Patricians into a body of Plebeian and Patrician aristocrats. This development occurred at the same time that the Plebeian legislative assembly, the Plebeian Council, was acquiring additional power. At first, its acts ("plebiscites") applied only to Plebeians, although after 339 BC, with the institution of laws by the first Plebeian dictator Q. Publilius Philo, these acts began to apply to both Plebeians and Patricians, with a senatorial veto of all measures approved by the council.

It was not until 287 BC that the Patrician senators lost their last check over the Plebeian Council. However, the Patricio-Plebeian aristocracy in the senate still retained other means by which to control the Plebeian Council, in particular the closeness between the Plebeian Tribunes and the senators. While this conflict would end in 287 BC with the Plebeians having acquired political equality with the Patricians, the plight of the average Plebeian had not changed. A small number of aristocratic Plebeian families had emerged, and most Plebeian politicians came from one of these families.

De Inventione

De Inventione is a handbook for orators that Cicero composed when he was still a young man. Quintillian tells us that Cicero considered the work rendered obsolete by his later writings. Originally four books in all, only two have survived into modern times. It is also credited with the first recorded use of the term "liberal arts" or artes liberales, though whether Cicero coined the term is unclear.. The text also defines the concept of dignitas: dignitas est alicuius honesta et cultu et honore et verecundia digna auctoritas.

Dignitas (Roman concept)

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".

With respect to ancient Rome, dignitas was regarded as the sum of the personal clout and influence that a male citizen acquired throughout his life. When weighing the dignitas of a particular individual, factors such as personal reputation, moral standing, and ethical worth had to be considered, along with the man's entitlement to respect and proper treatment.

The Oxford Latin Dictionary defines the expression as fitness, suitability, worthiness, visual impressiveness or distinction, dignity of style and gesture, rank, status, position, standing, esteem, importance, and honor.

Famuli vestrae pietatis

Famuli vestrae pietatis, also known by the Latin mnemonic duo sunt ("there are two"), is a letter written in 494 by Pope Gelasius I to Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus which expressed the Gelasian doctrine. According to commentary in the Enchiridion symbolorum, the letter is "the most celebrated document of the ancient Church concerning the two powers on earth." The Gelasian doctrine articulates a Christian theology about division of authority and power. All Medieval theories about division of power between priestly spiritual authority and secular temporal authority were versions of the Gelasian doctrine. According to the Gelasian doctrine, secular temporal authority is inferior to priestly spiritual authority since a priestly spiritual authority is responsible for the eternal condition of both a secular temporal authority and the subjects of that secular temporal authority but "implies that the priestly authority is inferior to the secular authority in the secular domain."

Giorgio Agamben

Giorgio Agamben (; Italian: [aˈɡambɛn]; born 22 April 1942) is an Italian philosopher best known for his work investigating the concepts of the state of exception, form-of-life (borrowed from Ludwig Wittgenstein) and homo sacer. The concept of biopolitics (carried forth from the work of Michel Foucault) informs many of his writings.

Imperium

In ancient Rome, Imperium was a form of authority held by a citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from auctoritas and potestas, different and generally inferior types of power in the Roman Republic and Empire. One's imperium could be over a specific military unit, or it could be over a province or territory. Individuals given such power were referred to as curule magistrates or promagistrates. These included the curule aedile, the praetor, the consul, the magister equitum, and the dictator. In a general sense, imperium was the scope of someone's power, and could include anything, such as public office, commerce, political influence, or wealth.

Justitium

Not to be confused with iustitia, the Latin word for "justice," Justitia, the allegorical figure representing justice, or Justinian, the byzantine emperor during the era of ancient Rome.Justitium (derived from the Latin term Juris statio) is a concept of Roman law, equivalent to the declaration of the state of emergency. Some scholars also refer to it as a state of exception, stemming from a state of necessity. It involved the suspension of civil business, typically including the courts, the treasury and the senate and was ordered by the Roman higher magistrates. It was usually declared following a sovereign's death, during the troubled period of interregnum, but also in case of invasions. However, in this last case, it was not as much the physical danger of invasion that justified the instauration of a state of exception, as the consequences that the news of the invasion had in Rome - for example, justitium was proclaimed at the news of Hannibal's attacks. The earliest recorded occasion of Justitium being invoked was for the same reason, when in 465 BC panic gripped the city due to a mistaken belief of imminent invasion by the Aequi.

According to Giorgio Agamben, justitium progressively came to mean, after the Roman Republic, the public mourning of the sovereign: a sort of privatization or diversion of the danger threatening the polis, as the sovereign claimed for himself the auctoritas, or authority, necessary to the rule of law. In his conceptualization, it is a period where the law is indefinitely suspended without being abrogated for the purpose of generating an "anomic space in which what is at stake is a force of law without law".

Legatus

A legatus (anglicised as legate) was a high-ranking Roman military officer in the Roman Army, equivalent to a modern high-ranking general officer. Initially used to delegate power, the term became formalised under Augustus as the officer in command of a legion.

From the times of the Roman Republic, legates received large shares of the military's rewards at the end of a successful campaign. This made the position a lucrative one, so it could often attract even distinguished consuls or other high-ranking political figures within Roman politics (e.g., the consul Lucius Julius Caesar volunteered late in the Gallic Wars as a legate under his first cousin once removed, Gaius Julius Caesar).

Lictor

The lictor (possibly from Latin: ligare, "to bind") was a Roman civil servant who was a bodyguard to magistrates who held imperium. Lictors were used since the Roman Kingdom, and according to Roman historian Livy, the custom may have originated earlier, in the Etruscan civilization.

List of Latin phrases (A)

This page lists English translations of notable Latin phrases, such as veni vidi vici and et cetera. Some of the phrases are themselves translations of Greek phrases, as Greek rhetoric and literature reached its peak centuries before the rise of ancient Rome.

This list covers the letter A. See List of Latin phrases for the main list.

Mos maiorum

The mos maiorum (Classical Latin: [mɔs majˈjoː.rum]; "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.

Plebeian Council

The Concilium Plebis (English: Plebeian Council or Plebeian Assembly) was the principal assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians (commoners) could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian Council was originally organized on the basis of the Curia. Thus, it was originally a "Plebeian Curiate Assembly". The Plebeian Council usually met in the well of the comitium and could only be convoked by the Tribune of the Plebs. The assembly elected the Tribunes of the Plebs and the plebeian aediles, and only the plebeians were allowed to vote.

Political institutions of ancient Rome

Various lists regarding the political institutions of ancient Rome are presented. Each entry in a list is a link to a separate article. Categories included are: constitutions (5), laws (5), and legislatures (7); state offices (28) and office holders (6 lists); political factions (3) and social ranks (8). A political glossary (35) of similar construction follows.

Potestas

Potestas is a Latin word meaning power or faculty. It is an important concept in Roman Law.

Princeps senatus

The princeps senatus (plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the cursus honorum and owning no imperium, this office brought conferred prestige on the senator holding it.

Principate

The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire from the beginning of the reign of Augustus in 27 BC to the end of the Crisis of the Third Century in 284 AD, after which it evolved into the so-called Dominate.

The Principate is characterised by the reign of a single emperor (princeps) and an effort on the part of the early emperors, at least, to preserve the illusion of the formal continuance, in some aspects, of the Roman Republic.

Senate of the Roman Republic

The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution 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 (the highest-ranking of the regular magistrates) 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.

Originally the chief-magistrates, the consuls, appointed all new senators. They also had the power to remove individuals from the Senate. Around the year 318 BC, the "Ovinian Plebiscite" (plebiscitum Ovinium) gave this power to another Roman magistrate, the censor, who retained this power until the end of the Roman Republic. This law also required the censors to appoint any newly elected magistrate to the Senate. Thus, after this point in time, election to magisterial office resulted in automatic Senate membership. The appointment was for life, although the censor could impeach any senator.

The Senate directed the magistrates, especially the consuls, in their prosecution of military conflicts. The Senate also had an enormous degree of power over the civil government in Rome. This was especially the case with regards to its management of state finances, as only it could authorize the disbursal of public monies from the treasury. In addition, the Senate passed decrees called senatus consultum, which was officially "advice" from the Senate to a magistrate. While technically these decrees did not have to be obeyed, in practice, they usually were. During an emergency, the Senate (and only the Senate) could authorize the appointment of a dictator. The last ordinary dictator, however, was appointed in 202 BC. After 202 BC, the Senate responded to emergencies by passing the senatus consultum ultimum ("Ultimate Decree of the Senate"), which suspended civil government and declared something analogous to martial law.

Senatus consultum

A senatus consultum (Latin – decree of the senate; plural senatus consulta) is a text emanating from the senate in Ancient Rome. It is used in the modern phrase senatus consultum ultimum.

Translated into French as sénatus-consulte, the term was also used during the French Consulate, First French Empire and Second French Empire.

Vigintisexviri

The Vigintisexviri (sing. vigintisexvir) was a college (collegium) of minor magistrates (magistratus minores) in the Roman Republic; the name literally means "Twenty-Six Men". The college consisted of six boards:

decemviri stlitibus iudicandis – 10 magistrates who judged lawsuits, including those dealing with whether a man was free or a slave;

the tresviri capitales, also known as nocturni – three magistrates who had a police function in Rome, in charge of prisons and the execution of criminals;

the tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo, also known as tresviri monetales – three magistrates who were in charge of striking and casting bronze, silver and gold (minting coins);

the quattuorviri viis in urbe purgandis, also known as quattuorviri viarum curandarum – four magistrates overseeing road maintenance within the city of Rome;

the duoviri viis extra urbem purgandis, also known as duoviri curatores viarum – two magistrates overseeing road maintenance near Rome;

the four praefecti Capuam Cumas – praefecti sent to Capua and Cumae in Campania to administer justice there.The singular of tresviri is triumvir; triumviri is also sometimes used for the plural but is considered to be less correct.

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