The term virtue itself is derived from the Latin "virtus" (the personification of which was the deity Virtus), and had connotations of "manliness", "honour", worthiness of deferential respect, and civic duty as both citizen and soldier. This virtue was but one of many virtues which Romans of good character were expected to exemplify and pass on through the generations, as part of the mos maiorum; ancestral traditions which defined "Roman-ness". Romans distinguished between the spheres of private and public life, and thus, virtues were also divided between those considered to be in the realm of private family life (as lived and taught by the paterfamilias), and those expected of an upstanding Roman citizen.
- Abundantia: "abundance, plenty, prosperity" The ideal of there being enough food and prosperity for all segments of society, personified by Abundantia. A public virtue.
- Auctoritas – "spiritual authority" – the sense of one's social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria. This was considered to be essential for a magistrate's ability to enforce law and order.
- Comitas – "humour" – ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
- Constantia – "perseverance, courage" – military stamina, as well as general mental and physical endurance in the face of hardship.
- Clementia – "mercy" – mildness and gentleness, and the ability to set aside previous transgressions, personified by Clementia.
- Dignitas – "dignity" – a sense of self-worth, personal self-respect and self-esteem.
- Disciplina – "discipline" – considered essential to military excellence; also connotes adherence to the legal system, and upholding the duties of citizenship, personified by Disciplina.
- Fides – "good faith" – mutual trust and reciprocal dealings in both government and commerce (public affairs), a breach meant legal and religious consequences, personified by Fides.
- Firmitas – "tenacity" – strength of mind, and the ability to stick to one's purpose at hand without wavering.
- Frugalitas – "frugality" – economy and simplicity in lifestyle, want for what we must have and not what we need, regardless of one's material possessions, authority or wants one has, an individual always has a degree of honour. Frugality is to eschew what has no practical use if it is in disuse and if it comes at the expense of the other virtues.
- Gravitas – "gravity" – a sense of the importance of the matter at hand; responsibility, and being earnest.
- Honestas – "respectability" – the image and honor that one presents as a respectable member of society.
- Humanitas – "humanity" – refinement, civilization, learning, and generally being cultured.
- Industria – "industriousness, diligence" – hard work.
- Innocencia – "selfless" – Roman charity, always give without expectation of recognition, always give while expecting no personal gain, incorruptibility is aversion towards placing all power and influence from public office to increase personal gain in order to enjoy our personal or public life and deprive our community of their health, dignity and our sense of morality, that is an affront to every Roman.
- Laetitia – "joy, gladness" – The celebration of thanksgiving, often of the resolution of crisis, a public virtue.
- Nobilitas – "Nobility" – Man of fine appearance, deserving of honor, highly esteemed social rank, and, or, nobility of birth, a public virtue.
- Justitia – "justice" – sense of moral worth to an action; personified by the goddess Iustitia, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Themis.
- Pietas – "dutifulness" – more than religious piety; a respect for the natural order: socially, politically, and religiously. Includes ideas of patriotism, fulfillment of pious obligation to the gods, and honoring other human beings, especially in terms of the patron and client relationship, considered essential to an orderly society.
- Prudentia – "prudence" – foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
- Salubritas – "wholesomeness" – general health and cleanliness, personified in the deity Salus.
- Severitas – "sternness" – self-control, considered to be tied directly to the virtue of gravitas.
- Veritas – "truthfulness" – honesty in dealing with others, personified by the goddess Veritas. Veritas, being the mother of Virtus, was considered the root of all virtue; a person living an honest life was bound to be virtuous.
- Virtus – "manliness" – valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. 'Vir' is Latin for "man".
In his work Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined a virtue as a point between a deficiency and an excess of a trait. The point of greatest virtue lies not in the exact middle, but at a golden mean sometimes closer to one extreme than the other. However, the virtuous action is not simply the "mean" (mathematically speaking) between two opposite extremes. As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics: "at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue." This is not simply splitting the difference between two extremes. For example, generosity is a virtue between the two extremes of miserliness and being profligate. Further examples include: courage between cowardice and foolhardiness, and confidence between self-deprecation and vanity. In Aristotle's sense, virtue is excellence at being human.
A virtue theory of courage by Aristotle
Courage means holding a mean position in one's feelings of confidence and fear. For Aristotle, a courageous person must feel fear. Courage, however, is not thought to relate to fear of evil things it is right to fear, like disgrace—and courage is not the word for a man who does not fear danger to his wife and children, or punishment for breaking the law. Instead, courage usually refers to confidence and fear concerning the most fearful thing, death, and specifically the most potentially beautiful form of death, death in battle. In Book III, Aristotle stated that feeling fear for one's death is particularly pronounced when one has lived a life that is both happy and virtuous, hence, life for this agent is worth living.
The courageous man, says Aristotle, sometimes fears even terrors that not everyone feels the need to fear, but he endures fears and feels confident in a rational way, for the sake of what is beautiful (kalos)—because this is what virtue aims at. This is described beautiful because the sophia or wisdom in the courageous person makes the virtue of courage valuable. Beautiful action comes from a beautiful character and aims at beauty. The vices opposed to courage were discussed at the end of Book II. Although there is no special name for it, people who have excessive fearlessness would be mad, which Aristotle remarks that some describe Celts as being in his time. Aristotle also remarks that "rash" people (thrasus), those with excessive confidence, are generally cowards putting on a brave face.