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The Virtues: Various Traditions

Benjamin Franklin

During the early 1700s and while in his late 20s, Benjamin Franklin gathered thirteen virtues that he felt were a guide to live by. These virtues consisted of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

"My list of virtues contain'd at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show'd itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc'd me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list).

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility."
[Thus far written at Passy, 1741]


Franklin's 13 virtues are as follows:

TEMPERANCE: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

SILENCE: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

ORDER: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

RESOLUTION: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

FRUGALITY: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

INDUSTRY: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

SINCERITY: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

JUSTICE: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

MODERATION: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

CLEANLINESS: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloths, or habitation.

TRANQUILITY: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

CHASTITY: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

HUMILITY: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin's application

Ben Franklin tried to lead his life, following these virtues. He placed each one of the virtues on a separate page in a small book that he kept with him for most of his life. He would evaluate his performance with regard to each of them on a daily basis. He would also select one of the virtues to focus on for a full week.

Franklin often emphasized these virtues in his Poor Richard's Almanack. Later, In a letter to his son William, he gave the list of virtues, recommending that William follow them too.

The Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú

The coward believes he will live forever
If he holds back in the battle,
But in old age he shall have no peace
Though spears have spared his limbs.

By being courageous and facing life’s challenges, we expand our capabilities. Courage is needed so that we can accomplish our actions.

I counsel you second; swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows.
To be truthful in one’s words, actions and deeds is the only way of life for us. Lies and deceit have no place in our lives.

Affection is mutual when men can open
All their heart to each other:
He whose words are always fair
Is untrue and not to be trusted.
We must be honorable in all our words, actions and deeds. Nobility is our way, not baseness.

If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good-will,
exchange thoughts,
exchange gifts,
Go often to his house.
Loyal to our beliefs, kith and kin, we must be. The good-will of a friend is the greatest gift we can receive and give in return.

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,

Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.
To give of one’s home is the greatest pleasure a host can have. A guest should never have unfulfilled needs while visiting. Especially if that guest is a traveler.

Early shall he rise who rules few servants,
And set to work at once:
Much is lost by the late sleeper,
Wealth is won by the swift.
We must exercise personal will to uphold honor and the other virtues. Discipline is this personal will.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has does well.
We must strive to be all that we can be: honing our abilities in every arena of life. To do any less would be a grave dishonoring of self and world.

A small hut of one’s is better,
A man is his master at home:
His heart bleeds in the beggar who must
Ask at each meal for meat.
To stand on one’s own and not need the assistance of others is our way. We must be strong and have integrity to achieve our goals.

To learn to sing them*, Loddfafnir,
Will take you a long time,
Though helpful they are if you understand them,
Useful if you use them,
Needful if you need them.
* the rune charms
We must persist in our actions until completion. Our path is not a path for the meek, we must be strong and always endure.

The material above on this page is Copyright © 1999 by Rorik Gunn Gormsson. However, permission is hereby given to copy it provided that it is not altered in any way and that this Copyright Notice is included with every copy. (All quotations taken from The Elder Edda, "The Hávamál" and "The Lay of Sigrdrifa", trans. W.H. Auden and P. B. Taylor.)

The Roman Virtues

Personal Virtues

These are the qualities of life to which every Citizen (and, ideally, everyone else) should aspire. They are the heart of the Via Romana — the Roman Way — and are thought to be those qualities which gave the Roman Republic the moral strength to conquer and civilize the world. Today, they are the rods against which we can measure our own behavior and character, and we can strive to better understand and practice them in our everyday lives.

Auctoritas: "Spiritual Authority" The sense of one's social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.

Comitas: "Humor" Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.

Clementia: "Mercy" Mildness and gentleness.

Dignitas: "Dignity" A sense of self-worth, personal pride.

Firmitas: "Tenacity" Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one's purpose.

Frugalitas: "Frugalness" Economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly.

Gravitas: "Gravity" A sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.  

Honestas: "Respectibility" The image that one presents as a respectable member of society.

Humanitas: "Humanity" Refinement, civilization, learning, and being cultured.

Industria: "Industriousness" Hard work.

Pietas: "Dutifulness" More than religious piety; a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. Includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.

Prudentia: "Prudence" Foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.

Salubritas: "Wholesomeness" Health and cleanliness.

Severitas: "Sternness" Gravity, self-control.

Veritas: "Truthfulness" Honesty in dealing with others.

Public Virtues

In addition to the private virtues which were aspired to by individuals, Roman culture also strived to uphold Virtues which were shared by all of society in common. Note that some of the virtues to which individuals were expected to aspire are also public virtues to be sought by society as a whole. These virtues were often expressed by minting them on coinage; in this way, their message would be shared by all the Classical world. In many cases, these Virtues were personified as deities.

Abundantia: "Abundance, Plenty" The ideal of there being enough food and prosperity for all segments of society.

Aequitas: "Equity" Fair dealing both within government and among the people.

Bonus Eventus: "Good fortune" Rememberance of important positive events.

Clementia: "Clemency" Mercy, shown to other nations.

Concordia: "Concord" Harmony among the Roman people, and also between Rome and other nations.

Felicitas: "Happiness, prosperity" A celebration of the best aspects of Roman society.

Fides: "Confidence" Good faith in all commercial and governmental dealings.

Fortuna: "Fortune" An acknowledgement of positive events.

Genius: "Spirit of Rome" Acknowledgement of the combined spirit of Rome, and its people.

Hilaritas: "Mirth, rejoicing" An expression of happy times.

Iustitia: "Justice" As expressed by sensible laws and governance.

Laetitia: "Joy, Gladness" The celebration of thanksgiving, often of the resolution of crisis.

Liberalitas: "Liberality" Generous giving.

Libertas: "Freedom" AVirtue which has been subsequently aspired to by all cultures.

Nobilitas: "Noblility" Noble action within the public sphere.

Ops: "Wealth" Acknowledgement of the prosperity of the Roman world.

Patientia: "Endurance, Patience" The ability to weather storms and crisis.

Pax: "Peace" A celebration of peace among society and between nations.

Pietas: "Piety, Dutifulness" People paying honor to the gods.

Providentia: "Providence, Fortethought" The ability of Roman society to survive trials and manifest a greater destiny.

Pudicita: "Modesty, Chastity." A public expression which belies the accusation of "moral corruptness" in ancient Rome.

Salus: "Safety" Concern for public health and wellfare.

Securitas: "Confidence, Security" Brought by peace and efficient governance.

Spes: "Hope" Especially during times of difficulty.

Uberitas: "Fertility" Particularly concerning agriculture.

Virtus: "Courage" Especially of leaders within society and government.

Jainism and the Qualities of Giving

A Jain list of celebrated qualities in the giver says that the giver should:
lack ill-will toward the recipient,
lack sorrow at [parting with] the gift,
lack contempt (or condescension) [for the recipient],
be joyful in wanting to give, while giving and after having given,
have good intentions, disregard worldly reward, lack deception, and lack motive.
Another list of virtues formulated by the Jains was a standard list of seven qualities of a giver:
Esteem, Devotion, Contentment, Zeal, Discrimination, Disinterestedness, and Forbearance or Patience (Williams 1963, 153).

The Bible

In Galatians chapter 6. there is a list of virtues called The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Other translations use other words, like kindness, self-control and faithfulness.

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