Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco

Auctoritas is a Latin word that is the origin of the English word "authority". While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the 20th century expanded the use of the word.[1][better source needed]

In ancient Rome, auctoritas referred to the level of prestige a person had in Roman society, and, as a consequence, his standing, influence, and ability to rally support around his will. Auctoritas was not merely political, however; it had a numinous content and symbolized the mysterious "power of command" of heroic Roman figures.

Noble women could also achieve a degree of auctoritas. For example, the wives, sisters, and mothers of the Julio-Claudians had immense influence on society, the masses, and the political apparatus. Their auctoritas was exercised less overtly than that of their male counterparts due to Roman societal norms, but they were powerful nonetheless.[2]

  1. ^ "What does auctoritas mean?". Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  2. ^ Bauman, Richard A. (1992). Women and Politics in Ancient Rome. London: Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 9781138138124.