It’s been one of those days followed by one of those evenings (a power failure seems to have done something so my computer alone of all the wireless devices in our house won’t connect) so I’ll start with one that’s been also bugging me all day since I read it this a.m.. A piece in something called News Blaze is pondering “integrity”, inter alia comes the claim:

Integrity stands for soundness of moral principle and character. It is a synonym for honesty and uprightness. It is a martial word that comes to us from an ancient Roman army tradition.

In the ancient world of the Roman soldier the officers would inspect their men, much like inspections that occur every day in the modern Army. To acknowledge his senior, the soldier would strike the armor breastplate that covered his heart with his right fist and shout “Integritas”. In Latin, the language of yore, it meant wholeness and completeness.

The armor had to be strongest there in order to protect the heart from sword thrusts and arrow strikes. The inspecting officer would listen to hear the affirmation from the soldier, as well as for the right tone that well kept armor would give off. This would assure the inspecting officer that the armor was sound and protected the soldier beneath it.

There came a point in time where the Praetorians, the Imperial bodyguards began to ascend to power and influence. One could make the argument that the Praetorians were the politically correct soldiers of the legions. They no longer had to shout “Integritas” to signify that their armor was sound. As a substitute they simply pledged their allegiance to their leader, Caesar. They and their armor were no longer pledged to the institution or a Code of Ideals; they were pledged to a single man.

As time passed and the gulf between the common soldiers and the politically correct Praetorians widened, the common soldiers thought of a way to distinguish themselves from the Praetorians and, at the same time, continue the old ideal traditions of integrity. They no longer used the word “Integritas” but substituted the word “integer”.

The change was meant to signify not only that the armor was sound but, in addition, to inform those who heard that the soldier was of sound character and integrity. The change in phraseology marked a real distinction between the politically correct Praetorians and the common soldiers who thought of themselves as being morally whole.

I’d never heard of this story before, but as always, it does seem to be all over the web — ,in almost every case a military or paramilitary-type website, e.g. Public Information Office, Headquarters Philippine Air Force, Lajes Field (a U.S. Air Force base in the Azores), a speech to the Ottawa Police Force, etc.. The story also appears in a handful of Google Books, but, interestingly enough, not before the year 2000 (it even appears in an MCAT study guide).

I can’t help but feel this is something that is made out of ‘whole cloth’ (pun intended) … can anyone point to an ancient source for this practice?

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