PIETAS


"RESPECT
FOR AUTHORITY"
The single most important philosophy in Rome was Stoicism, which originated in Hellenistic Greece. The contents of the philosophy were particularly amenable to the Roman world view, especially since the Stoic insistence on acceptance of all situations, including adverse ones, seemed to reproduce what the Romans considered their crowning achievement: virtus, or "manliness," or "toughness." The centerpiece of Stoic philosophy was the concept of the logos. The universe is ordered by God and this order is the logos , which means "rational order" or "meaning" of the universe.

Logos is a linguistic term; it refers particularly to the meanings of words. The meaning of an individual word all by itself is semeion ; the meaning of an individual word in the context of a sentence is logos . For the Stoic, the meaning (logos ) of each individual life, action, and situation is determined by its place in a larger whole, which is, of course, the whole course of history. In this view, history becomes a kind of speech by God. It is progressive, it is teleological, it is meaningful (but only when it's all done: a sentence has no meaning until it's completed). Each and every event, physical and historical, has a place within this larger rational order or meaning. Since the order is rational and meaningful, that means nothing happens which is not part of some larger reason or good (Christianity will adopt this idea wholesale; check out Boethius' Christianization of this concept). For the Roman, this larger good came to mean the spread of law across the face of the planet; this law was to be spread through Roman imperial conquest and was called the Law of Nations. The grand design for history, then, was the spread of the Roman Empire and her laws.

Therefore, each and every function a Roman undertook for the state, whether as a farmer or foot-soldier, a philosopher or emperor, partook of this larger purpose or meaning of world history. The central values of this complex are officium, or "duty," which is the responsibility to perform the functions into which you have been born to the best of your abilities, and pietas, or "respect for authority." Each station in life has its duties; every situation in life has duties or obligations incumbent on it. The primary duty one owes is to the state; since God is using the Roman state to further law and civilization, performing one's duty is a religious act. The principal being to which one owes respect is, of course, God; since God is working out his will in history by using the Roman state and Roman officials (derived from officium ), the respect one shows for Roman authorities is also a respect shown for God and the logos .

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