Virtus (deity)

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See Virtus (disambiguation) for other meanings.
Gallic coin featuring Virtus.
U.S. Continental currency Virginia Four-Dollar Note of 1776 (obverse) with Virtus at the left.

In Roman mythology, Virtus was the deity of bravery and military strength, the personification of the Roman virtue of virtus. The Greek equivalent deity was Arete.[1]

He/she was identified with the Roman god Honos (personification of honour), and was often honoured together with him. As reported in Valerius Maximus,[2] this joint cult led to plans in 210 BC by Marcus Claudius Marcellus to erect a joint temple for them both.[3] This led to objections from the pontifical college that, if a miracle should occur in such a temple, the priests would not know to which of the two gods to offer the sacrifice in thanks for it. Marcellus therefore erected a temple for Virtus alone which was the only way in to a separate temple of Honos, financing them both with the loot from his sacking of Syracuse and defeats of the Gauls. This temple was at the Porta Capena, and later renovated by Vespasian.

This deity was represented in a variety of ways - for example, on the coins of Tetricus, it can appear as a matron, an old man, or a young man, with a javelin or only clothed in a cape. Within the realm of funerary reliefs Virtus is never shown without a male companion.[4] Often her presence within this realm of art is to compliment and provide assistance to the protagonist of the relief during a scene of intense masculinity or bravery.[5]

Modern era[edit]

In 1776, Virtus was made the central figure in Seal of Virginia and the subsequent state's flag which features the seal. The Virginia Four-Dollar Note, a Continental currency, had a similar Virtus pictured on its obverse.


  1. ^ J. Rufus Fears, "The Theology of Victory at Rome: Approaches and Problem," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.17.2 (1981), pp. 747–748, 776 (note 201).
  2. ^ "Honos et Virtus". A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007.  External link in |work= (help)
  3. ^ "Valeri Maximi". Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium. 22 April 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  4. ^ Hansen, L (2008). MUSES as models : learning and the complicity of authority. The University of Michigan. p. 280. 
  5. ^ Hansen, L (2008). MUSES as models : learning and the complicity of authority. The University of Michigan. p. 281.