Date of Award

Spring 1967

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Rev. H. J. Courtney


Before I can truly discuss the characteristics and properties of the virtuous man in the first century B.C., a clear idea of virtue itself must be presented. Throughout the history of man many ideas concerning virtue have been expressed, many of which seem quite distinct from one another. But as in all definition, by taking the common elements from each, a fairly conclusive idea can be reached. At this time I would like to state that in this thesis I do not intend to present any specific philosophy such as Stoicism or Epicurianism or any other prominent school of thought in ancient Rome, but rather to set forth general ideas and ideals which the average Roman would have held. Socrates was one of the earliest and most prominent spokesman on this subject. He taught that knowledge was virtue and vice was ignorance. Knowledge to him was the common element of all virtue: "the courageous man knowing what to do in danger, the temperate man knowing how to restrain his passions, the just man knowing what rightly belongs to himself and to others. ...He (Socrates) says that the philosopher alone has true virtue because he alone has true wisdom."1 Thus no one would voluntarily pursue evil but always by his knowledge choose the good. Although we now do not agree with this idea, it is well to see that there is some truth here which is still accepted; that knowledge does play a good part in possessing virtue, and, indeed, if knowledge were truly perfect, virtue would result.