Ruler's virtues

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Ruler's virtues are ideal characteristics of the ruler, represented from antiquity through the Middle Ages to modern times .


Already the Roman ruler Tiberius , like Augustus before, invoked the ruler's virtues virtus, clementia, iustitia and pietas (“excellence”, “mildness”, “justice” and “deference”). However, the propaganda in inscriptions and on coins was also characterized by catchphrases such as salus and moderatio ("well-being" and "restraint"), as models of the government.

Guiding principles and ideals such as those summarized under the term ruler's virtues are, according to their nature, only framework and role model and are thus inseparably linked to rule and ideas of rule in times before the invention of ideologies in a modern understanding and played a role primarily in the self-image and propaganda of the rulers important role in the self-presentation to the outside world. This is particularly true in the European Middle Ages.

fír flathemon

For the island Celtic virtue of the ruler in the early Middle Ages see Audacht Morainn (“Morann's Legacy / Testament”), in which the legendary Irish judge Morann, to instruct his foster son, King Feradach Find Fechtnach, published a catalog of fír flathemon [ f'iːr 'flaθ'evon ] (“Righteousness of the Ruler”). The style of the work suggests its origin in the 7th or 8th century. This justice was one of the king's important tasks because it ensured the prosperity of his empire. Injustice (gáu flathemon) was the cause of all misfortunes for the king and his subjects. The king could be deposed for it and - possibly even with death - punished. The gáu flathemon was named in the old Irish legal texts with the vulgar term cacc for enech (shit on the face!).

Similar rules are known from India ( ṛta, dharma ), Greece ( dikē ) and Egypt ( maat ).


The term virtus also means a kind of “manhood” from the Latin “virtu”.

Lady Justice next justice and righteousness and pietas a reverence for the Divine Principle - later the divine Majesty, which the principle of the divine right plays a quite important role also in the sense of religious strength.

Salus can also be translated with general prosperity, modern with people's prosperity or general well-being, which probably fits the original meaning more.

Medieval rulership virtues are the Christian connotations of the ancient rulership virtues as they were recognized or valid in the Middle Ages. For the time of the European Middle Ages, they are inextricably linked with the Christian-ecclesiastical view of the pre-Reformation period. A ruler of the Middle Ages was always a knight and therefore also committed to the twelve knightly virtues.

See also


  • Entries from Silke Müller-Hagedorn, Courtly Culture of the High Middle Ages online on the pages of the Karlsruhe University Library.
  • Otto Friedrich Bollnow: Nature and Change of Virtues. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main, 1975, ISBN 3-548-12209-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Birkhan : Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-7001-2609-3 . P. 889. (entire chapter fir flathemon )
  2. ^ Bernhard Maier : Lexicon of Celtic Religion and Culture (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 466). Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-46601-5 , p. 129 (entire chapter fir flathemon ).