Carl Abel, ph. dr.
In specialising 'love,' the Romans made a primary distinction between spontaneous affection and affection accorded as a matter of duty. In each of these they recognised two distinct shades. To the Romans spontaneous inclination either rested upon a feeling in which intelligent recognition of personal worth had gradually ripened into a warmer appreciation of the goodness and amiability of the individual beloved ; or it was pure feeling, which, welling up from the secret depths of the soul, and defying the restraints of ordinary reflection, might rapidly run through all the various intervening stages between mere gratification of the finer susceptibilities and the mighty flow of an overpowering passion. The former more judicious and discerning kind of spontaneous love the Romans denoted by 'diligere ' l the latter more impulsive one by 'amare.'
In dutiful love, also, two stages were acknowledged 'caritas' and 'pietas.' 'Caritas' is the moral sanction bestowed upon the bond of nature that links us to parents, brothers, sisters, and tried friends the loving allegiance due to those associated with us as mates and helpful companions in our earthly career. 'Pietas' looks in the same direction, but from a higher point of view. Lending to the ethic glow of loyal attachment the more sublime sanctity of religion and faith, it regards fidelity to relatives and allies, not as a mere moral and intersocial duty, but as an obligation to the gods themselves. The sphere of 'pietas' extends not quite so far down, but reaches somewhat higher up than that of 'caritas ;' a middle range they both have in common. ' Pietas ' was seldom applied to feelings the Bomans cherished as friends, the attachment of a friend being purely volitional, and not a divinely ordained tie. All the more frequently the meaning of the word mounted up into celestial regions, wherein the ancients strove to yield themselves up to the Deity. ' Pietas ' was peculiarly the sentiment by which, from humility and gratitude combined, man should feel himself bound to the gods. For the expression of Roman devotion to country, parents, and children, however, ' caritas ' and ' pietas ' served alike, according as more stress was laid upon the ethical or the religious nature of these lofty duties. The distinction drawn between spontaneous affection and the prescriptive love for parents, husbands, children, relatives, and friends is likewise illustrated by the use of the adjectives. In classical Latin 'carus' means 'loved' in all cases of dutiful affection ; to apply to these 'amatus' would be frivolous. It is certainly otherwise with ' loving’ which is 'amans' even in the relations in which 'loved' is rendered by 'carus,' but with a special point. The playfulness attached to 'amans' by this use became so conspicuous that the word frequently meant 'amantissimus.'
A general, and, in its generality, necessarily indefinite word for almost the whole range of the feelings analysed was 'affectus.' Originally expressing but a vague impulse of interest or feeling, it soon came to denote a sensation which, however warm, was too transient, and took too little account of itself, to be designated by any more definite word. In this sense 'affectus' is a real affection, strong indeed, but not steady enough to ripen into conviction and declare itself as 'amor,' 'pietas,' 'caritas,' or 'dilectio ;' or which, even if it endures, has in it too much of passionate caprice to be able to make its choice between the different kinds of love, and expand into either the one or the other. Accordingly it is more impulsive than true ; given more to profession than fulfilment ; more exacting than vouchsafing. In the course of time, however, it assumed yet another and superior meaning. When, in the steady development of Roman society, existing differences of rank and opinion became more marked, and a corresponding reserve supervened in the expression of emotion, ' affectus ' came to be used for more quiet and persistent feeling. The play of feeling being in those later days fettered by many a social and individual restraint, ' affectus/ under the loose cloak of its meaning, without prejudice either to the truth or the ardour of the sentiment, was used to hide 'love.' It gradually became a word by which love might be spoken of allusively, and which implied love without mentioning it. When, together with the entire mental attitude of the Roman people, ‘affectus ' had raised itself to this stage of development, it was more frequently used for the designation of love than formerly, when indeed it spake more clearly, but, by its very demonstrativeness, made its instability too apparent to admit of being regarded as a deep and serious feeling. The old ' affectus ' is a clinging to persons and things, the possession of which is sought by uncontrolled impulse ; the later is a restful, sincere love, not exactly demonstrative, but eminently reliable. The former is often used in reference to the beauty of woman ; the latter preferably employed in respect of the relation between parents and children and friends.