Mos maiorum


Ennius wrote that “moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque,” or “the Roman state stands on ancient customs and heroes.”

The mos maiorum is the unwritten code of traditional Roman conduct that represents the core values of ancient Rome from which Romans derived their social norms by virtue of the auctoritas maiorum, or “prestige or respect of the ancestors.” The mos maiorum is taught through modeled religious and ethical behavior, and not only does it acts as a guide for personal behavior, but it also serves as a way to honor one’s ancestors. Ideally, the family unit ideally instructed children in, and encouraged its members to follow, the mos maiorum.

Collectively they are the “time-honored principles,” behavioral models, and social practices which affect day-to-day life. The mos maiorum is concerned with virtue for personal and civic good. It is a personal ideal to be followed.

Here is a mix of Greek and Roman virtues which make up Hellenic Faith’s contemporary mos maiorum:

  • Paideia (Graeco-Roman): The study and acquisition of Hellenic culture. As Aulus Gellius writes it is the “erudition and education in good disciplines”
  • Pietas/Eusebia (Graeco-Roman): Loyalty, obedience, reverence and duty to the Gods as well as one’s duties and obligations to family, city, country, and divine.
  • Virtus/Arete (Graeco-Roman): Striving to live to one’s fullest potential, and knowing the difference between right and wrong.
  • Humanitas/Philanthropia (Graeco-Roman): Love and empathy for humanity.
  • Fides/Pistis (Graeco-Roman): Trust, reliability, and good faith.
  • Pudor/Aidos (Graeco-Roman): Shame, modesty, respect, and humility. It is a sense of shame or reverence which restrains people from wrong, and awareness of the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Religio (Roman): Fulfilling obligations to the Gods.
  • Cultus (Roman): Proper observance and correct performance of ritual.
  • Dignitas (Roman): Being of good character.
  • Integritas (Roman): Moral integrity.
  • Frugalitas (Roman): Nothing in excess.
  • Gravitas (Roman): Seriousness, sincerity, focus.
  • Disciplina (Roman): Education, training, and self-control.
  • Constantia (Roman): Perseverance.
  • Auctoritas (Roman): Public service (military, public safety), civic service (holding a political office or priesthood), and teaching (the profession of educator, as well unpaid teaching, such as mentoring).
  • Hagneia (Greek): Spiritual and ritual purity.
  • Sophia (Greek): The pursuit of wisdom and understanding.
  • Sophrosune (Greek): Self-control and temperance through contemplation.
  • Xenia (Greek): Hospitality, generosity, and courtesy.
  • Kharis (Greek): The fundamental reciprocal relationship of gift giving with the divine, and gratitude for benevolence received.