Gravitas was one of the Roman virtues,[1] along with pietas, severitas, gravity, and self-control, or disciplina, dignitas, and virtus, that were particularly appreciated in leaders. It may be translated variously as weight, seriousness, dignity, and importance and connotes a certain substance or depth of personality. It also conveys a sense of responsibility and commitment to the task.[1]

Roman concept

Gravitas was one of the virtues that allowed citizens, particularly statesmen to embody the concept of romanitas,[2] which denotes what it meant to be Roman and how Romans regarded themselves, eventually evolving into a national character.[3] Many Roman philosophers praised constantia (perseverance, endurance, and courage), dignitas and gravitas as the most important virtues, this is because it made dignified men capable. The men of the ruling upper and upper-middle classes were educated in a public school system where Classical language and literature formed basic elements of the curriculum.[4][5]

Particularly, exuding gravitas or the dignified and serious conduct allowed Romans to maintain a persistent element of conservatism and traditionalism.[3] According to the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, the cultivation of gravitas involves acting with sincerity and dignity and this is said to be achieved by being temperate in manner and speech as well as by carrying oneself with authority.[6]

An account described how old statesmen who realize that they no longer meet the standards of romanitas for failing to perform their public function with dignity and gravitas committed suicide or simply refused taking food.[2] This concerned how the Romans defined themselves and their honor.

Greek presence

Aristotle identified three essentials of persuasive communication—a big component of personal presence:

  1. Logical argument (the ability to articulate your points clearly)
  2. Emotion (the ability to create or control emotion in your listeners)
  3. Character (the ability to convey integrity and goodwill)

Modern concepts

Self-monitoring questions can determine expressive behavior and affective display. Self-monitoring questions can include, to ask ourselves with; am I staying neutral, hindering direction or am I helping to contribute with my participation?[7] In the British education system, gravitas was seen as one of the pillars of the moral formation of the English gentleman during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In the UK House of Commons, the quality is known as "bottom".[8]

See also


  1. Apuzzo, L.J.; Michael, M.D. (August 2006). "Gravitas, Severitas, Veritas, Virtus". Neurosurgery. 59 (2): 219. doi:10.1227/00006123-200608000-00001.
  2. Harding, Brian (2008). Augustine and Roman Virtue. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 94. ISBN 9781847062857.
  3. Chrystal, Paul (2017-07-15). How to be a Roman: A Day in the Life of a Roman Family. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445665658.
  4. Hingley, Richard (1996). "The 'legacy' of Rome: the rise, decline, and fall of the theory of Romanization". Roman Imperialism : Post-colonial Perspectives. Leicester Archaeology Monographs. Webster, J.; Cooper, N. (3): 37. ISBN 0951037765. The men of the ruling upper and upper-middle classes were educated in a public school system where Classical language and literature formed basic elements of the curriculum. Greek and Roman concepts, in particular the significant Roman concept of gravitas, played a fundamental role in the formation of the character of the English gentleman (Mason 1982, 22).
  5. Mason, Philip (1982). The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal. p. 22.
  6. Goyder, Caroline (2014-03-06). Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority. Random House. p. 1. ISBN 9781473501447.
  7. Peck, David. "Get Your Gravitas On: 6 Secrets of Executive Presence". Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  8. Austin Mitchell, Sharon Goulds (1982), Westminster Man: A Tribal Anthropology of the Commons People, Thames Methuen, pp. 250, 271, ISBN 9780423003802

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