Dignitas and Infamia

Princess Sakura (Alto Saotome) ~ Macross Frontier ep10


Dignitas is a Latin word referring to a unique social concept in the ancient Roman mindset.

The word does not have a direct translation in English. Some interpretations include dignity (merely a derivation) and prestige. The Oxford Latin Dictionary defines the expression as fitness, suitability, worthiness, visual impressiveness or distinction, dignity of style and gesture, rank, status, position, standing, esteem, importance, and honor.

With respect to ancient Rome, dignitas was regarded as the sum of the personal clout and influence that a male citizen acquired throughout his life. When weighing the dignitas of a particular individual, factors such as personal reputation, moral standing, and ethical worth had to be considered, along with the man’s entitlement to respect and proper treatment.


Infamia, “lack of public honor, was the opposite of existimatio, “reputation”, and dignitas, “social standing”. An infamis had, as a consequence of moral turpitude, lost the status of a full citizen.

Augustus’s legislation on punishing adulteries inclued the following provision :

Hac lege cavetur, ut liceat viro deprehensum domi suae … in adulterio uxoris occidere eum, qui leno fuerit quive artem ludicram ante fecerit in scaenam saltandi cantandive causa prodierit.

For it is provided by this statute that a husband is permitted to kill a man whom he catches in adultery with his wife in his own house…if the (paranamour) is a pimp or if he was previously an actor or performed on the stage as a singer or dancer.

Roman Sexualities, Judith P. Hallett, Marilyn B. Skinner, 1997, ISBN:0691011788

Prostitutes, actors and gladiators

Prostitutes, actors and gladiators are, in classical Rome, the paradigm of dishonor, those who indecenmtly assault the “dignitas” of the high citizenship, the “gratuitas” a Roman must be blessed with.

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