Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones

By Carlin A. Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Poise of Shame

Shame is a discipline of great power.

CICERO, DE REPUBLICA 4.4.61

Pudor and verecundia were the inhibiting emotions.2 “Shame hesitates, ” tardat pudor (Catullus 61.79). “Shame impedes, ” pudor praepedit (Livy 9.6.4). “Shame blocks, ” pudor opstat (Juvenal Satirae 3.60).3Pudor was the shyness that caused one to draw back before another, the fear or respect that caused one to make way for another even when one was within one's rights, one's libertas or ius. Pudor caused the citizen to retreat before the consul's lictors.4 It caused the worshiper to veil his or her head before the gods.5 It caused Statius to give way to Virgil.6

Pudor was the emotion that constrained speech, that bridled the tongue.7 “I'm too ashamed to say the other things that I saw him do, ” Plautus's Lydus declared, having caught his pupil Pistoclerus in the house of the courtesan Bacchis (Bac

____________________
1
magnam habet vim disciplina verecundiae.
2
They were impedimenta. Cf. Scheler, “Der 'Ort' des Schamgefühls und die Existenzweise des Menschen, ” Gesammelte Werke, vol. 10, Bern, 1957, p. 88 and n. 1.
3
“It is the function of verecundia not to give offense” (verecundiae [ partes sunt ] non offendere [Cicero, De officiis 1.28.99]). commemorationem verecundia impedivit (Cicero, Ad Atticum 1.17).
4
The lictors walked in line before the magistrates to guarantee that the people made way for them. See Kübler, “Lictor,” in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. 13.1, Stuttgart, 1926, cols. 507–512, esp. 512. In a line from the poetic narrative of his consulship, Cicero expresses respect behavior as “ceding”: Cedant arma togae (De officiis 1.22.77).
5
“Who is this man who dares to greet Aesculapius with an uncovered head?” (Quis hic est qui operto capite Aesculapiam salutat? [Plautus, Curculio 389]).
6
Thebais 12.816–817. According to Valerius Maximus, the people, made self-conscious by the gaze of Cato, blushed to call for (postulare erubuit) the mimes' customary nude dance at the Floralia of 55 B. C. E. (Valerius Maximus 2.10.8; cf. Seneca, Epistulae 97.8; Martial 1, praefatio).
7
pudet dicere (Terence, Heautontimorumenos 1041–1042). muta pudens est (Lucretius, De rerum natura 4.1164). pudet dicere (Cicero, Pro Quinctio 25.79). dicere puduit (Ovid, Heroides 4.10). pudet effari (Petronius, Satyricon 119.19). [ vox ] in metu et verecundia contracta (Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 11.3.64). Cf. Cicero, Pro Quinctio 11.39; Seneca, Phaedra 602–603.

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