3 December 2013
Virtue Paper Outline
“Virtue- 1 general moral excellence; right action and thinking; goodness or morality, 2 a specific moral quality regarded as good or meritorious (“Virtue”). Throughout history, it seems that man cannot help but to exhibit evil. Yet in the midst of this, even from among it, great men have risen. Those men, even men who were otherwise pagan and evil, have been remembered for hundreds of years for their deeds of goodness. Therefore, it is only right that one ought to still study the lives of the heroes of ancient times, even if they were pagan, for the virtues and truths that they demonstrated. Three such men can be found in certainty, all who demonstrate virtues of pietas, prudentia, gravitas, and firmitas.
All men, believers or unbelievers, benevolent or wicked, possess the image of God in them. As it is said in the Bible, “God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). That all men should be praised, because they all demonstrate some degree of goodness. The measure of the worth of a man, after all, does not reside in whether his good deeds outnumber his mistakes. Rather, we should study the lives of the ancient pagans so that the truth and virtue demonstrated there may still compel us to be virtuous as well. As far back in time as goodness may be seen, it is still good.
Over Two and thousand years ago, a city was founded that would become the core of one of the world’s greatest empires and would exist for over a thousand years: Rome. But before Rome could take control of the world, it had to be built. Years before, the princess of Alba Longa, Rhea Silvia, although a Vestal virgin, bore twin sons. These twins, Romulus and Remus, grew and were educated. During this time, they learned the Roman virtue of pietas (Nova Roma). This was the virtue of dutifulness, similar to both modern patriotism and religious zeal. Once they were grown, the boys began to build a city. Demonstrating their foresight and wisdom, also known as prudential (Nova Roma), Romulus and Remus decide to consult an augury (example of pietas). However, the augury, although showing Remus a sign first, showed Romulus twice as many birds. The Roman historian Livy tells us, “Inde cum altercation congressi…1” (I.7.2). To display his anger, Remus leaped over his brother’s newly-built, low walls in mockery of their inadequacy. Romulus had recently stated that no one would come over his walls, and, to fulfill this law, he had Remus killed (citation). This demonstrates Romulus' great firmitas and gravitas, unchanging in his decisions and ready to carry through with his resolutions. Although the Bible states quite clearly that “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), a well-known evil, it is arguable that this was a just act by Romulus, only punishing Remus according to the law, and so demonstrating even greater determination.
Rome was built and continued to grow, but maintaining the safety and existence of a city is almost as important as founding one. Many years later, a man named Porsenna decided to attack Rome, and gathered together an army of Etruscans for this purpose. He marched them against Rome, running Roman sentries from their posts back to the city. However, one man realized what was happening. That one man was a gatekeeper named Horatius Cocles. Horatius ran through the chaos, “reprehensans singulos, obsistens obtestansque deum et hominum fidem2” (Livy, II.10.3), returning the men to their posts to give some balance to the chaos. The Etruscans, for the main part, had not yet reached the bridge across the Tiber, and the only access in or out of the city from that side. Horatius then instructed the men to break down the bridge “ferro, igni, quacumque vi possint3” (II. 10.4). While the men began to tear down and destroy the bridge, Horatius stood upon it, awaiting the enemy. Eventually, only Horatius was left, still keeping the enemy army at bay as much as one man could. Many arrows were stuck