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Auctoritas is a Roman concept of value and played an important role in the politics of the Roman Republic (but also afterwards). The best paraphrase is “dignity”, “respect”, “influence”. The auctoritas acted as a regulatory basis for decision-making wherever there were no legal regulations. Auctoritas could be given to individuals or to a collective. Among other things, the auctoritas senatus of the Roman Senate should be mentioned here.

Auctoritas was of particular importance in a hierarchical, strongly meritocratic society like the Roman one. It is characteristic that political decisions were “suggested” without formal legal authorization and this “advice” was generally accepted. auctoritas was therefore important for the legitimacy of political and social action. So wrote Augustus , the first emperor, in his report on the basis of his power : “After this time [27 BC. Chr.] I surpassed everyone in respect / influence [auctoritas] , but in formal violence [ potestas ] I had no more than the others who were my colleagues in office ”( Res Gestae 34). This statement was factually incorrect, since Augustus and the later emperors also had formally exceptional powers that placed them above all other officials. Nevertheless, the concept of auctoritas is at the center of the principled ideology .

The term auctoritas was also used in the Middle Ages . From it the word authority developed in German .


  • Richard Heinze : Auctoritas. In: Hermes . Volume 60, 1925, pp. 348-366 ( online ).
  • Wilfried Nippel : The Roman Notion of auctoritas. In: P. Pasquino, P. Harris (Eds.): The Concept of Authority. A multidisciplinary approach. Rome 2007, pp. 13-34.


  1. Ulrich Schindel : The “auctores” in the teaching of German city schools in the late Middle Ages and in the early modern period. In: Bernd Moeller u. a. (Ed.): Studies on urban education in the late Middle Ages and early modern times (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. Philological-historical class. Volume 3, No. 137). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1983, pp. 430–452.