Essay on Nobility: A Roman Model

Essay on Nobility: A Roman Model

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When understanding the concept of nobility, a clear distinction must be made. That is, the distinction between being noble and belonging to the nobility (of Roman society). Before acknowledging this discrepancy one must also keep in mind that neither definition is exclusive, that is to say that a person can be of noble character while also belonging to the nobility and vice versa. As well, a person can belong to the nobility and not be of noble character and a person of noble character might not belong to the nobility. Aristotle, in relation to nobleness, once said that:
The truly magnanimous man must therefore be a good man; and it seems, that whatever is great in any virtue belongs to the magnanimous character; for it never could be fitting for the magnanimous man to wring his hands and run away, nor to commit an act of injustice... (Aristotle n.d.).
Thus, to Aristotle (and consequently much of philosophy), being noble means to act always in a noble manner, to consistently do good deeds, and to never commit an act of injustice. The Romans were not oblivious to this understanding of nobleness and Cicero, in one of his speeches, touches upon the concept of nobleness in his description of the “best people”. Cicero when speaking of the “best people” states that “All men belong to the best people who are law-abiding, are not naturally unscrupulous, not fanatics, not up to their ears in debt” (Cicero n.d.). Matthias Gelzer, in his book The Roman Nobility, states that “there is no ancient definition of nobility”. Gelzer also outlines the transition of the concept of nobilitas from ‘notability to notability founded on office’ and concludes that “…nobility demanded consular ancestors” (Gelzer 1969, 28-32). Accordingly, when discussing...


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...ains” – others are deprived of life” (Jaczynowska 1962, 497).







Works Cited
Aristotle. A New Translation of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. J. And C. Vincent, 1826.
Cicero. "In Defense of Sestius." In Classics In Translation Volume II: Latin Literature, by Paul MacKendrick and Herbert M. Howe, 113-115. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, n.d.
Gelzer, Matthias. The Roman Nobility. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1969.
Jaczynowska, Maria. "The Economic Differentiation of the Roman Nobility at the End of the Republic." Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte , 1962: 486-499.
Marius, Gaius. "Selections From Sallust." In Classics In Translation Volume II: Latin Literature, by Paul MacKendrink and Herbert M. Howe, 89-91. Wiscon/sin: University of Wisconsin Press, n.d.
Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Ancient World New Pauly, v.3., s.v “Nobilitas.”

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