|Well, in the ancient Greek world, yes. As a community based culture that relied more on shame than guilt, what others thought of you – your reputation as an individual as well as within your family name – was essential. |
For instance, let’s look at the term “Kleos”, which is usually roughly translated into ‘Glory’. This can be misleading though, as us moderns can see glory as potentially resulting from an array of sources, including from within. To the Greeks, however, Kleos was more specifically what others said about you.
Many times the story of your actions was more important than whether the action even took place or not! (I think the Odyssey proves this point nicely).
To this effect, ‘Arete-signaling’ would have been very popular… in both ancient Greece and Rome. This could be achieved with an array of methods, such as the creation of public works, statues or actual coins telling everyone how great you are.
The Republican moneyer, Mn. Aquillius, who was Consul in 101 BC, issued literal ‘virtue’ coins to get his point across. This virtue coining was so popular, it was also done by Septimius Severus, Trajan, and Caracalla.
|Similarly, the first Roman Emperor Octavian-turned-Augustus, spent some serious denarii making sure everyone and their dog knew exactly how ‘virtuous’ he was… from elaborate monuments to whole epics, Augustus portrayed himself not only as incredibly moral, but in direct contrast to the ‘decadent and depraved’ Antony and Cleopatra. |
Indeed, it’s only relatively recently that we are seriously questioning this official narrative, and attempting to see events (like the pivotal battle of Actium) from alternative perspectives.
NB: If you haven’t already registered, make sure to save your spot for our upcoming panel on the War that Made the Roman Empire. This Wednesday at Noon EST, we’ll discuss how Octavian won… what role Cleopatra really had… and the exciting new archeological discoveries that tell a very different story than what was previously thought….
Register HERE -> https://actium.eventbrite.ie/