Vincit Pericula Virtus

by Thomas Brady


Vincit pericula virtus. That’s latin for “virtue conquers danger,” and it’s the Brady family motto, according to family heraldry that I’ve found.

I was delighted to learn that, years ago. “Virtue conquers danger.” It sounds inspiring, right?

Or does it? What does it mean? How does virtue conquer danger? Virtuous people are still often in danger, and “turning up” the virtue wouldn’t help most of the time, right? 

I get that certain kinds of danger can be avoided with virtue. You’re less likely to be scandalized if you’re considered to be “above reproach.” But that doesn’t sound like “conquering” to me…

So for several years now it’s just been this kind of hokey old saying that was a part of my ancestry. 

And then today I’m reading in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM)(thanks again to James for getting me to finally read this book), and I discover that the Greek concept of “virtue” really had more to do with excellence than what we think of when we say the word “virtue.” A quick check, and it turns out that the Latin use of the term probably carries the same connotation, as both Virtus (Latin) and Aretê (Greek) are names for the same goddess - the goddess of virtue/excellence/valor/goodness.

To the Greeks, this was the ethereal Idea. Plato’s Forms, the Immortal Principle.

It’s perfection - the kind you can’t attain. 

This is a really familiar concept to modern Christianity.

Like in Matthew 5:48:

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Amplified Bible]

It’s “godliness.” That’s such a funny word mostly because it’s describing a concept that barely makes sense. You can’t be God. You can only mimic. You can be god-like, or godly. But what does even that mean?

It’s doing what God would want me to do at every turn. It’s impossible. It’s the same kind of perfection the Greeks taught (Greeks had immense influence on Christian thought), but it’s a kind I’m supposed to pull down and make eminent and real, as well as hold aloft and revere.

The idea put forth in ZAMM is that classical and romantic (Western and Eastern) thought come together at the moment that quality happens. Quality as a concept is both - classical and romantic, Western and Eastern, ethereal and concrete. Virtue, in the Greek use of the term, is another word for quality. In my eyes, it’s another word for Christlikeness or godliness.

So, 

Christlikeness conquers danger.

I think I like it.

For my friends of other world-views, 

Quality conquers danger.

I like that, too. I’m a bit prouder of my heraldry today. : D