Auctoritas (On Moral Authority)

Barcelona: Ariel, 1999

136 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2017 Last revised: 1 Jul 2017

See all articles by Rafael Domingo

Rafael Domingo

Emory University School of Law; University of Navarra - School of Law

Date Written: 1999


Spanish Abstract: En este ensayo se analiza la distincion romana entre los conceptos de autoridad y potestad, y se desarrolla el pensamiento del jurista espanol Alvaro d'Ors basado en esta distincion.

English Abstract: This paper explores the Roman distinction between the idea of auctoritas and the idea of potestas. Auctoritas is the influence that derives from personal respect, wisdom, and virtue without having legal power. Potestas instead comes from the Indo-European lexeme pot-, which refers to the established power. The division of roles between the auctoritas of augurs, jurists, judges, and senators, on the one hand, and the potestas of magistrates and family fathers, on the other hand, served to establish not only a wise and healthy political, social, and legal balance in Roman society but also an ontological equilibrium. Because the power was considered indivisible by nature (Cicero, De re publica 1.38.60), it must respond to something or someone beyond itself and be limited by an external agent (i.e., by moral authority). Moral authority was, therefore, an effective check on the power of Rome.

Keywords: auctoritas, potestas, Alvaro d'Ors

Suggested Citation

Domingo, Rafael, Auctoritas (On Moral Authority) (1999). Barcelona: Ariel, 1999. Available at SSRN: or

Rafael Domingo (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States


University of Navarra - School of Law ( email )

Universidad de Navarra
Campus Universitario
Pamplona, Navarra 31009

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