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Pietatis vis.[1]

The Power of Familial Love

Maior sit pietas sanguinis, atque amor
Fratrum, qum imperii, divitis & Tagi.
Illis haec etenim praemia serviunt,
Et dignis decorant laudibus asseclas.
Virtutes opibus quis neget omnibus
Praestare, & superas inferioribus
Auras esse magis numine laudeque
Completas, nisi sit caecus, & impius?
Lycurgus voluit tradere posthumo
Fratris sceptra, sibi debita protinus.
Sed duxit satius subdita legibus
Firmanda, imperii qum esse caput sui.[2]

Love for one’s kith and kin and brotherly affection are greater things than loyalty to power, or wealth, or chief.* For these are served by rewards, and decorate their servants with deserved honours. Who could deny that virtue stands above all wealth, and that the higher airs are more full of God and praise than the lower, were he not wholly blind and impious? Lycurgus wanted to give over his brother’s sceptre, which was due to him; he thought it better to strengthen the rule of law then to head an empire of his own.
* Assume Tagus here = Greek ταγος, since there seems little point in loyalty, however strong, to a river in Portugal.


1. ‘Pietas’ (piety) is a broader concept in Latin than in English.

2. Lycurgus, the Spartan legislator (semi-historical), creator of one of the oldest constitutions (7th century BC), did not take his brother’s throne when he had the chance during a royal minority.

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