Roman Calendar

Saturday, September 29, 2012

De "Humanitate"

I just found a chapter in M.L. Clarke's The Roman Mind entitled "Humanitas" (chapter 12). In this chapter, Clarke examines the Roman concept of Humanitas, and much of what he says is somewhat relevant to our discussion [In the Roman Virtues Project] about the Roman virtue of Humanitas. Some points condensed from the chapter:
* The Roman humanitas was said (by a combination of readings from Aulus Gellius and Cicero) to encompass the Greek concepts of both philanthropia ("and adaptability and general goodwill towards men") and paideia ("learning and education in the liberal arts").
* The aspect of humanitas regarding education may initially seem puzzling, but remember that education was revered for its primarily civilizing influence on peoples - a person with humanitas is civilized, above all, a proper human being, not a beast. Hence we continue, in English, to refer to education in the liberal arts as "humanities" (my M.A.T. degree is in "Latin and Classical Humanities"). To quote Clarke: "Cicero regarded education as having an effect on the character; the liberal arts civilized a man and made him into a true man. Even the most evil character could be humanized by education. A human man in one sense should be humane in the other. 'It is the part not only of a great man and one by nature temperate, but also of one educated in learning and liberal studies, to wield the great power he has in such a way that those under him want no other rule.' Humanism implies humaneness."
* Humanitas, then, implies civilization, kindliness, and learning. "Humanitas is joined with clementia and mansuetudo; it is contrasted with severitas. The word implies tolerance, politeness, easy manners and the social graces generally; witty and polished conversation"

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