Classics 105 – Roman History
What virtues and attainments defined the Roman aristocrat in the Republic? How, if at all, did this conception of the aristocrat change during the empire? Select one biography, by either Suetonius or Plutarch: discuss its subject’s successes and failures in realizing the appropriate aristocratic ideal. Include in your essay some consideration of the importance placed on this matter by the biography’s author (that is, is the matter of aristocratic excellence relevant to the biography, and, if so, in what ways? If not, why not?)
What virtues and attainments defined the Roman aristocrat in the Republic? How, if at all, did this conception of the aristocrat change during the
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One had to have a good reputation and be a good man to achieve gloria and “…was awarded by the political class for political achievements”18 If both virtues were exhibited one attained honos, bestowing honor on your family. To achieve pride in your family you had to devote your life to military and public service.19 The Scipionic epitaphs reflect both these virtues; Lucius Cornelius Scipio displayed his virtus through his courage in military success “…he captured Taurasia and Cisauna in Samnium”(ILS 1) plus he went on to achieve in politics “…he was aedile, consul, and censor among you”(ILS 1) Another Lucius Cornelius Scipio attained the virtues of virtus and gloria by his individual political and military attainments “…he was aedile, consul and censor…this man captured Corsica and the city of Aleria…” (ILS 2&3) he was also pious and dedicated a temple to the Goddess of Weather. This display of political and military success proved that the Scipio’s had achieved virtus and gloria and honored their family as the proper aristocrat should.
It was not Roman custom to speak ill of the dead, but it is clear in some cases like Publius Cornelius Scipio that some aristocrats did not achieve greatness. Publius’s epitaph envisions what he could of achieved had he not been short lived “...if you had been allowed to enjoy a longer