In Ancient Rome, Dignitas was regarded as the sum of the personal influence that a male citizen acquired throughout his life. It included personal reputation, moral standing, and ethical worth and the man's entitlement to respect and proper treatment as well.
The word does not have a direct connotation or translation in English. Some interpretations include dignity (merely a derivation) and prestige. The Oxford Latin Dictionary defines the expression as fitness, suitability, worthiness, visual impressiveness or distinction, dignity of style and gesture, rank, status, position, standing, esteem, importance, and honor.
Authors who had used dignitas extensively in their writings and oratories include M. Tullius Cicero, Julius Caesar, Cornelius Tacitus, and T. Livius (Livy). The most prolific user was Cicero, who initially related it to the established term auctoritas. These two words were highly associated, auctoritas was thought to be the expression of a man’s dignitas.
The changing definition of dignitas [change]
Over the course of Ancient Roman history, dignitas took on different meanings over time, adjusting for the gradually changing viewpoints of society, politicians, and the various authors.
Years after Caesar's death, his heir Augustus rejected the contemporary meaning of dignitas. Augustus found the related term auctoritas to be a suitable alternative.
- Balsdon, J.p.v.d. "Auctoritas, Dignitas, Otium." The Classical Quarterly ns 10 (1960): 43-50.
- Cicero, Ad Familiares 4.14
- Cicero, Epistulae Ad Familiares. J. Paul Leonard Library, San Fransisco. Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares. San Francisco State University. 18 May 2007
- Radin, Max. "Roman Concepts of Equality." Political Science Quarterly 38 (1923): 262-289.
- Ridler, Vivian. "Dignitas." Oxford Latin Dictionary. 1 vols. London: Oxford UP, 1968.