Masculinity as Male Virtue

masculinity ancient roman

Taking up themes in the Falco Novels, we now look to Masculinity as virtue. Is masculinity a troubling term? Is masculinity how a man defines and expresses his manhood, his maleness? Is masculinity something a man does and expresses in word and action, or is it a facet of his being, his self? What exactly is masculinity?

Novel: Shadows in Bronze

Masculinity and Falco

Is masculinity a troubling term? Is masculinity how a man defines and expresses his manhood, his maleness? Is masculinity something a man does and expresses in word and action, or is it a facet of his being, his self? What exactly is masculinity?

Masculinity is how a man protects.

Falco says he is his own man and that he works for himself. Falco can take a few punches, keeps himself fit, and has self respect, and surprisingly, a fair amount of virtue, moral and otherwise. He protects his person, his wife, his family, his interests, and his republican interests in his service to Rome, in the person of the Emperor, Vespasian.

Male virtue is shown as the unity of what a man thinks, says and does. This unity expresses will, power and strength. If any of thought, word and deed are lacking, then strength is disempowered, will has gone awry and power is power for the wrong thing. Virtue cannot be known nor expressed with a misalignment of thought, word and deed. Such misalignment is insincerity, duplicity, untrustworthiness. These are not qualities of manhood, nor male virtue.

Masculinity today

Masculinity might be called male self-validation. This occurs by following role models in the family, in peer groups, in sport and play, in relationships and in love. It is said that masculinity is the acquisition, verification and validation of inner manhood. Typically, this is activity-based validation, usually in front of an audience.

That audience may be family, peers, clubs, sporting groups, and the public arena. The road to manhood is sometimes portrayed as an arena of conflict of will between the aspiring youth, guidance by family, and peer group pressures. It is sometimes mistaken or confused with a search for identity, separation from childhood and family and bonding behaviours with other groups within a young man’s milieu. This may also involve constellations of power, personal power, and physical power, intellectual power, surrendering power and taking up of power. The road map to manhood and identity, and perhaps, so called ‘freedom’ is dogged by pitfalls and dead ends and clashes of power.

Falco is not exempt some of the pitfalls of this journey, as he was troubled by an absent father who decamped from home with a red-headed scarf-maker. As a man, Falco has achievements and notches in his belt, so to speak. He has protected his mother and his young sisters; he has served in the army, he has come home and found a place for himself in society. He takes care of his mother’s rent, his deceased brother’s de-facto wife, he even takes care of his opponents and avowed enemies instead of letting them lie in the gutter and die.

The Search for Balance

Much of what passes for so-called masculinity is behaviour in front of others that obtains that attribution “belonging to a state or class of men”. This can occur in the family, in peer groups, in social or sporting groups, or in the worlds of academia and business. Men everywhere are trying to prove they are as good as the other, or even better. This can sometimes take the form of risk-taking behaviour, rule-breaking behaviour, or proof of self-identity via achievements. For some, this can be a life-long endeavour. Where does a man find balance?

Balance is maintained with attention to the five domains of the human person. There is the physical domain, which includes the body, the senses, and maintenance of optimum health. There is the emotional domain, where feeling and expression are integrated within communication and actions. The intellectual domain processes information and data and makes decisions. It is informed by guides, principles and illuminated by the spirit within. The intellect receives up to 80% of its illumination from the soul. There is the social domain which is somewhat informed by peer review, peer shaping, group activity and sharing. The social domain is driven by competence, autonomy and relatedness. The final domain, often overlooked in this age, is the spiritual domain. This is chiefly characterised by the search for belonging, meaning and transcendence, the feeling of being connected and an integral part of the order which comprises the universe, the world and all its inhabitants, all of which we are connected to in spiritual web of dynamic balance.

Balance is achieved when there is skilled competence in the five domains of the personality. Where a person is unskilled in a domain, their energy is tied up in protecting themselves. This does not reflect harmony, integration or balance. There is little or no integration of thought, word and deed. Will, power and strength are directed towards maintenance of the ego instead of expression of manliness and male virtues.

Truth  is what we speak,

Right Conduct  is what we practise,

Love  is what we live,

Peace  is what we give,

Non-violence  is the fruit.

Imago Roma


Roman scrolls …