On my Roman blog today, I’m discussing constantia, the Roman virtue most similar to perseverance. Constantia(or perseverance), along with gravitas and pietas, were considered to be the three most important virtues by many Roman philosophers. Perseverance is “Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.” Its second definition has to do with the Calvinist doctrine of the elect– that perseverance is only granted by God’s will to his chosen.
This is a great illustration of the difference in thought between Christians and Pagans regarding virtue. Though many Christians strive to live a virtuous life, they consider the ability to be virtuous to be beyond human reach. Whatever virtue you have is given to you as a present. Pre-Christian pagan thought tended to view the virtues as ways of behaving that were within reach of any person. Striving to live a virtuous life does indeed require perseverance! The Romans even thought that if you had a virtue as a natural part of your character, it ceased to be a virtue because it wasn’t something you were working at. Virtue in Roman pagan life was an active thing, full of striving.
Perseverance is one of the most valuable virtues, because cultivating it gives us strength to cultivate the others. Perseverance helps us keep doing what we need to do, even in the face of adversity or failure. I think in modern usage it implies some of the strength of character and sense of self that the Romans called gravitas. It’s definitely in my personal top three virtues!