What were Roman ideas of what constituted a hero and what was proper behavior for a Roman leader as described by the concepts of Cicero, Virgil and the Gospels?

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Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roman ideas of what was required to be a hero and of what was required of a statesman (leader) accorded with the qualities evident in Cicero's and Virgil's public positions and embedded in their work. There was no contradiction between Rome's Ciceronian and Virgilian concepts of heroism and statesmanship and the concepts of these as put forth in the Gospels in the New Testament.

Cicero espoused honesty, logical reasoning and argument, integrity, speaking honestly. He advocated the government of a republic, agrarianism (agrarianism: landed agricultural life), the understanding and life outlook of renowned Greek philosophers (whose works he translated into Latin). He sought self-control and fortitude; he opposed government corruption; he advocated virtue and social stability; he fostered and sought to foster in others complicated abstract thought.

Virgil (also Vergil) described the ultimate society as civilized under divine guidance where people demonstrated virtues of divinity. He saw agrarian life as achieving world harmony. He advocated government as a republic with a republic's constitutional forms. He favored traditional moral values found in the ancestral religions: bravery, family duty, frugality, responsibility complementing privileges, devotion to family. Aeneas, the hero of Virgil's Aeneid and the founder of Rome, exemplifies these qualities while Anchises, the ghost of his father, concisely expresses the qualities of hero and statesman in words: "Rule the people with your sway, spare the conquered, and war down the proud."

The Gospels provide the same and equal conceptual ideas of the qualities of hero and statesman, though some items are implied (not explicitly stated, only implicitly illustrated) while others are stated.

  • implicit: republic form of government ("Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" NIV)
  • implicit: ruralism and agrarianism (Jesus birth and travels)
  • implicit: denunciation of metropolitan corruption (thrashing the moneylenders in the temple; denouncing Pharisees)
  • implicit: rejection of "otherness" [woman at well; tax collector disciple]
  • egalitarianism (egalitarian: belief in the equality of all in political, economic, and social life) (eating with "sinners"; healing lepers)
  • love
  • kindness
  • compassion
  • virtue

The Letters of Cicero. Trans. Evelyn S Shuckburgh, M.A.