"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Don't go into the forest today

The list of candidates for the forthcoming election grows daily. Now Franciscus Apulus Caesar has declared himself a candidate for Consul. Under his stewardship, we are informed, Nova Roma will gain a new face.

What features one wonders will that face have and how much work will the plastic surgeon have to do to achieve Apulus’s goal of leaving us lucky souls his vision of a better Nova Roma than the one he found? More significantly when Nova Roma looks in the mirror at the end of his, thankfully as yet theoretical, term will it recognise the image that stares back? Does a new face mean just a makeover or will it require a trip to the cemetery like Dr. Frankenstein to remove bits of decaying corpses? Will he just take a complete new head and try and stitch it on? Will he just take the skin and drape it over Nova Roma’s current face? What is Apulus likely to do according to the available evidence so far?

This scenario sounds like some nightmarish fairy story. Do you remember the tale of someone called Hood, who had a Granny who lived in the woods? Well let’s take a trip into the woods with Hood to visit Granny Nova Roma.

The eyes of Granny Nova will have to be exchanged. Currently they work too well. Granny Nova needs new eyes; all the worse for not seeing the slide into modernity and the cess pool that is the European Union. They will need to produce blurred and shadowy images that lack focus and depth, for how else can she not see that she is being steered onto a road that does not lead to Rome, but to Brussels?

The nose will have to go to, all the worse for not detecting the whiff of EU corruption and the dank smell of a bureaucrat’s office and Brussel sprouts. The nose that would lead to questions being asked about where these grants are going to go that apparently Hood will be applying for on Granny’s behalf. What are these networks of organizations that Granny will have to join? Would the national activities be in Italy by chance? Would they be somewhere near “Barium, which is an ancient Roman municipium in southern Italy” by chance?

The hands must be made all the worse lest they grip the trees and bushes at the side of the road, in protest at the journey Granny is going to be made to make, when she decides later she doesn’t want to go into the deep dark forest along that scary road.

The ears all the worse in case they hear those voices of dissent that say “Stop! Go back!” and the teeth sawn down to stop Granny from biting Hood should she awake to the danger that she will be in.

We all have to hope that Granny Nova asks a lot of questions and demands that Hood draw her a clear and unambiguous map of the journey she is being asked to make. She is being asked to change direction, away from a straight and sturdy route towards the bright sunlight of Roma of antiquity and instead head towards Brussels down a narrow and rutted road through a very dark forest.

Granny Nova better be very clear that once she has her face lift there is no going back and that not all plastic surgeons know what they are doing. Promises of facial beauty rarely tell of the agony of the surgical procedure or the chance of failure. Better to be a somewhat plain and simple Granny than allow Hood to turn her into a misshapen and disfigured object of scorn and pity.

Granny, don’t go into the forest today.

Constitutional crazy cat

The cat is out of the bag; the Collegium Pontificum is in reality bullet resistant from all but the most determined (and likely most unconstitutional) actions. The constitution grants them exemption, it appears, from interference even by the people in comitia.

It seems likely that protections put in place at the founding of Nova Roma to protect the Religio and the Collegium from unwarranted meddling may have started ticking like an unearthed unexploded bomb.

Who will be the Consuls riding this piece of devastating ordnance to places and situations as yet unknown? If I were a candidate for the curule chair in this election I may be wondering which friendly doctor I could go to, to get a sick note to exempt me from an election that could be the equiavalent of taking the final walk to the gallows.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Constitution and the Collegium

The concept of Nova Roma having already established its own mos maiorum is an absurdity. Nova Roma is so newly established, by any yardstick let alone the span of Roman history, that we have no ancestors here whose traditions we should abide by. Of course one could just dismiss the concept at this point, but it deserves further exploration because the manner in which this erroneous assumption is being deployed in this debate is in fact contradictory.

The mos maiorum of antiquity was not static. It did change and sometimes change came abruptly and as a result of the actual or implied threat of violence. The benefit of the mos maiorum was that it laid down certain boundaries, which had the intention of inoculating the system from frequent and unnecessary changes. When change did come it was usually a "significant" issue. So did the mos maiorum bend to the people's will?

Roman politics revolved around dominant figures, on all sides of the political arena. Roman politics revolved around the client/patron relationship. Roman politics included tactics such as bribery, intimidation and subsequently murder. Roman politics did not include organized political parties where your average plebeian Roman could sign on the slate and have a voice. The Roman voting system was designed to ensure that only patricians or moneyed and influential plebeians had a real effect on the outcome of the vote. Democracy this was not.

We can surmise that there must have been occasions when the people passed laws that faced little or no opposition from the Senate, and may indeed have had their "blessing" – probably because those that sponsored them had already secured Senatorial support. Not every change to the mos maiorum was likely to have been dramatic showcase politics and dangerous stand-offs. Some of the changes were no doubt mundane in nature and impact.

If the mos maiorum did bend to the will of the people on occasion it is probably more valuable to ask in turn whose will or bidding did the "people" do? To refine it further on these occasions was this really the "people" as the whole adult enfranchised body or smaller segments that became labelled as the "people", when we could be talking about a vociferous minority. So again, it is likely that democracy this was not.

Returning to the absurdity of our having our own mos maiorum, if the mos maiorum of antiquity could be changed then the mos maiorum of Nova Roma can be changed. Now some of the proponents of women pontifices claim that the Collegium Pontificum has changed the mos maiorum of Nova Roma by adopting the stance that it has done on women pontifices.

Rather than look to the mos maiorum of antiquity or the supposed modern mythical one, let us instead look to the Constitution of Nova Roma. Maybe there is something in this document that can cast a different perspective (I don't recall any of what follows being covered before...but who knows as it appears this thread is infinite in nature)?

Section VI.B.1.c of the Constitution states that the Collegium has the power to regulate its own internal affairs and that such decreta that are passed cannot be overruled by laws passed in any of the comitia or by Senatus consultum. Is this in conflict with Section I.B? There are two interpretations. Firstly that Section I.B stands "supreme" and overrides all other sections, or second that it does not and Section VI.B.1.c cannot be overridden by any other clause. The assumption of the supremacy of Section I.B cannot be made on the basis of what the section says, for it made provision for conflicting laws but does not include any provision for overruling any other part of the constitution that may conflict with it. Therefore one can only turn to either the wording, the spirit of the constitution or both for some guidance.

"This Constitution shall be the highest legal authority within Nova Roma, apart from edicts issued by a legally appointed dictator" establishes the precedence of the constitution over all other laws and edicts, apart from those of a legally appointed dictator, yet since the rights of the Collegium Pontificum to regulate its own affairs are granted within the constitution does this section "trump" Section VI.B.1.c? I don't believe it does for that section grants those rights specifically to the collegium. The specific grant overrides the general restriction. In other words even if the Collegium passes decreta that appear to conflict with the constitution, this very grant of an exclusion clause, allows the Collegium to do so, so long as the decreta relate to the regulation of its own affairs.

Section I.E does not preclude a disparity between the genders; it simply states that the use of male pronouns cannot provide the basis for a disparity to be held to exist. Section VI.B.3 enshrines the right of the Collegium to create other religious institutions and set the rules for priesthoods "in accordance with the ancient models of the Religio Romana as practiced by our spiritual ancestors". Therefore when you link the right under Section VI.B.1.c with this right, should the Collegium pass a decreta prohibiting women from becoming pontifices it would not conflict with the constitution, for nowhere in the constitution are women guaranteed any rights (then you would have one specific clause conflicting with another, and even then depending on the wording it is possible to conceive of equally strong arguments on either side for the supremacy of each clause and thus an impasse).

Does the spirit of the constitution assist us? That could have been the case had it been littered with clauses relating to the protection of the rights of female gender or indeed a flavour of what today could be described as "civil liberties". The stark fact is that there is nothing of the sort to seize upon there as guidance. Use of the "spirit" of a constitution, law or even a court order to overrule a specifically worded clause is not consistent with sound legal interpretation. I have only mentioned it at all as it may arise as an issue.

If the Collegium passes such a decreta then by the tenet of Nova Roman law, if any of the comitia attempt to pass a law overruling such a decreta that law will be unconstitutional as the supremacy of the decreta relating to internal regulation is enshrined in the constitution. By the same token should the comitia pass a law allowing in any way altering the composition of the Collegium or the manner in which pontifices are appointed or elected, then all the Collegium has to do is pass a decreta to the contrary and the law will be nullified.

Section VI.B.1.c does not limit the ability of the Collegium to react after the event, in other words it does not limit the Collegium to only having its existing decreta protected from change. The use of the word "passed" could be taken as future tense as well as past tense; "(such decreta may not be overruled by laws passed in the comitia or Senatus consultum)" can imply that decreta already passed cannot be overruled, or, that laws already in existence cannot overrule decreta yet to be passed.

There is no ambiguity here; the constitution simply doesn't preclude either. In the absence of ambiguity it is pointless to look to the spirit of the clause, but again as it maybe likely to happen anyway the spirit of Section VI.B.1.c can be said to be the protection of the right of the Collegium to regulate its own affairs. It would therefore be consistent with the spirit that the Collegium's decreta cannot be affected by either laws existing when the decreta were passed or yet to exist.

How does this relate to the mos maiorum? If the Collegium Pontificum elects to pass a decretum prohibiting women from becoming pontifices, even if Nova Roma has its own mos maiorum because the constitution is supreme the issue of changing the mos maiorum without it being the will of the people is irrelevant. The constitution subordinates the people to the will of the Collegium, so long as the Collegium only speaks to its own regulation, through making the laws in comitia subservient to the Decreta.

So the Nova Roman mos maiorum may or may not be the expression of true popular democratic feeling, or it maybe the product of wishful thinking and the frequent posting of its supposed existence by equally frequent posters to the point where some people may actually believe it exists. What ever it is, and it could be many things – were it to exist, which it doesn't – it would in any case be overruled in this matter by the constitution. As the constitution provides for the Collegium to specifically have this authority, then the Collegium Pontificum cannot be held either in the past, present or future to be acting unconstitutionally should they pass such a decretum, nor against the will of the people as expressed in the comitia.

On a final note, as I am sure it may arise, if the contitution grants the Collegium this right and the spirit of the constitition is to protect the Collegium's right and as the decreta regulating internal matters trump the comitia and Senatus consultum, then what about the Tribunes right of veto?

"To pronounce intercessio (intercession; a veto) against the actions of any other magistrate (with the exception of the dictator and the interrex), Senatus consulta, magisterial edicta, religious decreta, and leges passed by the comitia when the spirit and/or letter of this Constitution or legally-enacted edicta or decreta, Senatus Consulta or leges are being violated thereby;"

So - the Tribunes cannot pronounce intercessio unless the spirit/letter of the constitution is being violated. In the case of the Collegium regulating it's own affairs, the Constitution provides
for this, so in fact if the duty of the Tribunes is to protect the constitution (as some argued) then logically those same people must accept that in this case should the Collegium pass a decretum prohibiting women from being pontifices, then the Tribunes should in fact defend that decretum against any attempt to pass a law in the comitia or a Senatus consultum.

What about a Dictator or even an attempt to change the constitution? As to the latter, an attempt to change the constitution could be seen as a violation of the spirit of the constitution as it exists now, and therefore the Tribunes would be bound to defend it and pronounce intercessio (according to those who say that is their duty above all others and they don't have the right to decide whether to pronounce or not). Once appointed the Tribunes cannot pronounce intercessio against the actions of the Dictator, but they can pronounce intercessio against his or her appointment.

Just a few things to ponder over.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Gallic war treasures

BORDEAUX, France (AFP) - French archaeologists said this week they had discovered an exceptional Gallic war treasure in the south of the country, including rare war trumpets and ornate helmets.

The some 470 objects, or fragments of objects, were found at the end of September during a dig at Naves, in the department of Correze in southern France, in a ditch hollowed out of a Gallic-Roman temple, they said.


Friday, November 26, 2004

The pretentiousness of togas and titles

The resurgence of the debate over the role of women in the Religio highlights the chasm that exists in Nova Roma between the traditionalists and the modernists. In order to understand fully the forces at work it is necessary to examine what definitions can be applied to both labels.

A Nova Roman "modernist" is someone who looks to the constitution, rather than the mos maiorum of antiquity, and to the dictates of today's macronational western societies for guidance in issues of reconstruction.

A Nova Roman "traditionalist" is someone who looks to the mos maiorum of antiquity as the first point of reference, who believes that for true and stable reconstruction to occur the templates of antiquity must be strictly applied, and who looks to the social standards of antiquity for guidance in the development of gender roles and responsibilities.

The debate over women pontifices has seen the modernists advance three basic arguments. Firstly there is no known historical social or religious barrier to women being appointed as pontifices. Secondly that Nova Roma once had female pontifices and to deny others that right would be a violation of the "new" mos maiorum of Nova Roma. Thirdly that to deny women would be a breach of the social mores of this modern age and a contradiction of the roles that women do play in our res publica.

In respect of the first, the historical context of women in the Religio is clear. They held minor priesthoods or where their roles were greater were in foreign cults as thus of no significance to their role in the Religio Romana. The Vestal Virgins were the exception, but were themselves subject to the authority of a male - the Pontifex Maximus. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest women ever occupied these roles. The question then devolves into an analysis of whether their absence was deliberate through taboos or due to the then social inequality that women faced.

There were considerable restrictions placed on women in general, both in respect of their legal subordinate status and morals. This was particularly true of patrician women, but even though plebeian females enjoyed a greater degree of license they were generally still subject to the potestas of males. Females could not perform blood sacrifices, which is an obvious taboo and an obvious bar to their participation in the Religio of antiquity. This fact alone clearly demonstrates that their exclusion from the role of pontifex was not due to the socio/political conditions of the day, but rather to a deliberate prohibition.

The second argument, that of the breach of the modern mos maiorum is fatuous nonsense. We are collectively staggering around in the dark trying to pick up the few remaining pieces of evidence whilst wearing boxing gloves. Mistakes are bound to happen and only a fool or a crafty politician would try to bind us to live with the results of those mistakes. It really is as silly as saying that a man who never had a gas oven before, sticks his head in after leaving the gas on for five minutes and then strikes a match, is bound to use this method ever after in spite of the injuries and damage this erroneous method causes.

There is only one mos maiorum - that of Rome of antiquity. This is the one that we can follow with a considerable amount of certainty due to this being the tried and tested model that survived for over two thousand years. Yes there were changes, some gradual and some abrupt, but the Religio remained intact and could even be said by its critics and detractors to be ossified, but that is the very strength of it; a largely unchanging and stable nature and one that did not entertain the idea of women being pontifices. Such is the nature of the pax deorum.

The third bag of tricks the modernists produce is that of the customs of today. The insidious creep of alien concepts into the life of Nova Roma is one of the most dangerous counterpoints to reconstruction. The modernists want the trappings of Rome of antiquity without the substance and responsibilities. For the modernists it is all about the pretensions of togas and titles. If they are non-practitoners then they find it so much easier to dismiss tradition and propose the introduction of concepts that would rend asunder the hope of re-establishing the Religio. We either are committed to a true reconstruction or to an abortion of a cocktail of ideas that would constitute an inexpiable impietas prudens dolo malo.

The traditionalists face a foe that would transform Nova Roma into a parody, a comedy of errors. It is very hard though to identify those modernists who are simply foolish, those who are gamers and those who are malicious sprites. Regardless of the inability to clearly label them, collectively they all pose a grave danger to the res publica which cannot be ignored.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Women and the Religio - a thesis

This conclusion of this thesis, which provides a concise synopis of the role of women in the Religio and cults, is that women had clearly defined and limited roles, which did not extend to being pontifices. Additionally women were not allowed to perform blood sacrifices, which of course would have meant that they were excluded from the majority of rites.

The conclusion that any sensible and unbiased person would reach after reading this modest work, is that if the Religio is to be accurately reconstructed, then women cannot be pontifices. Of course common sense has very little to do with the modernistic position on this issue, or indeed any other that we have wrestled with in Nova Roma.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A choice between tradition or trend

The long awaited report by Pontifex Gaius Iulius Scaurus on whether female pontifices should be appointed was released today by the Pontifex Maximus, Marcus Cassius Iulianus. The report concluded that "adlection of female pontifices will violate fundamental gender taboos of the Religio and constitute an inexpiable impietas prudens dolo malo". That means no they should not be appointed, for to do so would be an act of malicious impiety against the Gods which could never be forgiven. Scaurus cited primary historical sources as well as secondary sources as evidence for his conclusions. The Pontifex Maximus, not surprisingly disagreed with his findings.

The issue is simple. Do we ignore the absence of female pontifices in Rome of antiquity and the evidence Scaurus a university professor in a classical discipline has amassed, in favour instead of modern sensibilities and political agendas?

Women today have equal rights in most Western style democratic countries, though some would argue that is only in theory since, we are told, bastions of male domination still exist in all areas of human life. Let us however accept the theory of equality as true.

One could argue that as Nova Roma is based on reconstruction of laws, philosophies and a social fabric from a period over 2000 years ago it should be cut and dried that women cannot expect to assume the rights they enjoy outside of Nova Roma. One could indeed argue that but of course someone else will cite macronational law, "decency", the fact the Nova Roma only takes the best of Rome, to name but a few of the protests, to demonstrate that women should be adlected as pontifices. Add to this veritable mixing bowl a unhealthy dose of Nova Roman politics and the resultant dough that rises in the oven of our debate is bitter and rancid.

The most fundamental principle that underpins Nova Roma's existence is reconstruction. Without this goal, we are truly nothing more than an eclectic collection of mummers, drifting through a convoluted dance of mimicry and self-delusion, however even on this very basic principle we cannot find common ground. The cherry pickers are in the orchard selecting the fruit of their choice, discarding the older crop and preferring instead either the unseasoned fruit, or as in this case not even the cherry but the cranberry.

The modernists have no alternative, they have to be selective for if they were to be true to the dictates and needs of reconstruction they would have to swallow many a bitter pill that would slowly (and thankfully) poison this monstrosity that they are building. This lumbering and shambling pale reflection of Rome hoves into view and female pontifices are just another plank in this nonsensical sham.

Even in this modern world, where everyone wants everything and believes in nothing that smacks of tradition, there are some things that people simply cannot grab for themselves. Scaurus will no doubt be condemned for his findings, though really few can be surprised since the result was such a self-evident truism that the only amazing fact is that we had to impose on this scholar's time at all to render a verdict that should have been obvious, even to the most half-witted. This is one of those areas where the "gimme now" philosophy has no place. Reconstruction means just that; not taking bits of antiquity (and precious few at that) and large doses of modernism and mixing them all together.

No doubt it will be an unpopular view amongst some cives, but women have no historic basis as pontifices and therefore since we are reconstructing what was, then we must do just that and not impose modern standards and principles. If we do the latter then we are only fooling ourselves that we are rebuilding Rome, for we are not but are in fact building a monstrosity of impiety and historic inaccuracy.

For those of the Religio, the risk of participating in a inexpiable impietas prudens dolo malo should be too great a risk, just in order to satisfy the demands of modernity, politics and personal ambition.

Nova Roma has as its bedrock antiquity, not modernity and that fact carries with it certain consequences, one of which is that women should not be pontifices. If the consequences of historic accuracy are so distressing then clearly those that feel that made a mistake in becoming Nova Roman citizens.

If you are interested in the triumph of traditionalism, then you should applaud the report. If you are a modernist, recreating that mess of modern society in Nova Roma then no doubt you will be condemning it. Two camps. Two clearly distinct views of what the methodology of reconstruction is.

Nova Roma must stand fast and hold to the line of traditional reconstruction. No to impiety and no to avaricious grasping of that that never was and therefore never should be.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Caligula in technicolour

The ancients: now available in colour Classical statues are being restored to their original glory.

John Hooper reports Monday November 22, 2004

The Guardian

The new white... a reproduction of the goddess Athena, right, next to the original. Photo: Renate Kuhling/AP For hundreds of years, Caligula's handsome, marble face has stared out at a fascinated world. Now situated at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen, the celebrated first-century bust of this cruel young Roman emperor is made repellent, yet intriguing, not so much by his petulantly downturned mouth as by the blank, staring eyes chiselled from marble by an unknown sculptor.

It comes as a shock to be confronted with an exact replica with unthreatening hazel eyes. Add garish pink skin and glossy brown hair, and the new painted version of Caligula's bust looks as if it might once have been used to model hats in thewindow of a men's outfitters. Yet, according to the curators of a new exhibition at the Vatican museums, this is a lot closer to what the sculptor intended we see than the white marble to which we are accustomed.



Monday, November 22, 2004

The scales of naked ambition

So the elections are looming in Nova Roma. The last time I checked the slate for the Libra Alliance was empty. Tiberius Galerius Paulinus has declared himself a candidate for Praetor, Gaius Equitius Cato for Quaestor and Gaius Modius Athanasius for Consul.

As to the latter, I find it hard to suppress a loud snort of derision. Gnaeus Equitius Marinus, even though I have disagreed with his policies on numerous occasions, has more consular material in his little finger than Modius Athanasius does in his entire body.

Modius Athanasius would divide Nova Roma even further (if that is possible) because he cannot let go of his own personal issues with other citizens. Modius Athanasius talks often of peace and mending fences, and then proceeds in various posts to smash down the few remaining parts of the fence that exist. Modius Athanasius wants to matter, and there is really nothing wrong in that, but there has to be something else that a candidate offers to counter naked ambition for "power" (however you want to define that in Nova Roma).

The scales are weighed heavily to the floor on the side of Modius Athanasius's personal ambition but the measure of a consul was never added to the other side of the balance. That yardstick includes, but is not limited to, political maturity, a large measure of dignitas and auctoritas, not to mention a candidate that is level headed and analytical. In my estimation Modius Athanasius comes up woefully short on all of these counts.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Ovid re-worked

A fresh take on Roman classic
Set designs and strong performances make the American Stage's Metamorphoses, a retelling of poet Ovid's stories, a lively morality lesson.

Published November 14, 2004


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mastiha - an ancient spice

Apparently this ancient spice, once used as a spice for wine and as a breath freshener, is making a comeback.


Liberace lives!

As the months have worn on it has become clear that there is a Cold War in progress in Nova Roma. Some of course would be quick to attribute that solely to the Boni, and not surprisingly these people would be the adherents of the Moderati. Others with a more perspicacious grasp of the subtleness of human dynamics would conclude that in a political environment, such as Nova Roma, division into camps is inevitable. Now we all know that Aulus Apollonius Cordus thinks that these groups are subversive and that if he had a chance he would ban the lot of them, but in reality nothing will ever prevent people from forming into factions.

The debates of the summer certainly carved the lines of division in Nova Roma onto the stone slabs of our virtual community. The Volcanus list, became the no-name group, finally morphing into the Moderati. The Optimates appeared and were extinguished within the space of days (but then who knows whether in some dark virtual hole they are not at this moment huddled, "plotting").

Now we have the Libra Alliance. Did the Moderati get sucked into the Librae? If so should it not be the Liberati? That name reminds me of Liberace and now I mentally picture all the notables of that group dressed in outrageously sequined costumes with high collars and flowing cloaks, flashing brilliant white-toothed smiles, and with an abundance of rings adorning their fingers.

When I read what they stood for I knew for certain that Liberace lives. The platitudes that are billed as a "platform" are statements that most Nova Romans could agree with. There is nothing dynamic or enlightening to be found there. I can only conclude that in the total absence of a meaningful platform the Libra exist solely to perpetuate the re-election of the same set of magistrates that have signed onto the Good Ship Libra, or their chosen successors. Who said patronage doesn't exist in Nova Roma? If it does there is nothing wrong with that, but let us call a spade a spade and then identify the Alliance as a self-interest group rather than a serious force for historic development in Nova Roma

Many people from all sides of the political arena recognize that at some point we have to steer Nova Roma in a direction other than the circular one it has followed for the last two years or so. The divisions start when we have to look at the compass and choose a heading. One could not even say that the courses on offer were roughly headed in the same direction, or even in the same quadrant of the compass. The Libras include people who would have few qualms, in my opinion, in taking Nova Roma in a decidedly un-historic direction if they thought it was popular.

Of course one could ask what is popular? There are so few active political posters in Nova Roma that judging the mood of the electorate is a theoretical exercise. As there are three camps, the conservatives, the modernists and the "don't cares" one could look for the ubiquitous floating voter but does such a creature exist in Nova Roma? Probably not given the nature of posts and the election results. So what is popular really means what is popular to the modernist camp.

The forthcoming elections will be a real test of where Nova Roma will head for the next few years, either into the melting pot of modernist experimentation or towards a historic recreation of Roman society and culture. The Libra Alliance do not offer the path to the stars, not unless those are the stars boxers see when they have been walloped a few times.

The Libra Alliance is the path to the glitzy and tawdry politics of this modern age. It is the path to flashing white-toothed smiles attached to a pair of legs, all gleam and no body. They may have the very best interests of Nova Roma at heart, as they say they do, but given the paucity of their policies one can only conclude that it is the heart of a flea, rather than that of an eagle.

Until something more substantial appears in their policy statement, it seems that a vote for the Libras is a vote for the Liberaces of Nova Roman politics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Now an irrelevant court

Mention has been made of the need for a constitutional court. Sadly since we are currently encumbered by this wretched and ineffective constitution, it is no surprise that the proposed remedy to all the inconsistencies is a court. Never mind there was no such beast in ancient Rome, since there was no constitution, the monster needs to be controlled so lets create a superfluous and irrelevant group and call it a court

If I take a potato and call it a carrot and paint it red, what is it? It remains a potato. Taking a bunch of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in Nova Roma and putting them on a Yahoo list and calling the list a court is nonsensical. You can’t make someone into a lawyer or a judge by giving him a title. You can’t imbue him with the skills necessary to analyse legal documents, or in our case one that purports to be a legal document.

Therefore why do we need to call the Yahoo list or email list that will be created to service this collection of well meaning amateur Rumpoles, a court? Simply, because it increases the measure of self-importance some people attach to their functions in Nova Roma.

Despite all the best efforts of our future Judges, they will remain a humble bag of potatoes.

The constitution - an exercise in irrelevance

The current debate on the Main List concerning the supremacy, or otherwise, of the Nova Roman constitution once more brings back into focus the actual need for such a document in Nova Roma. The main arguments in favour of a constitution are:

We need it, as the corporate status of NR requires that by-laws be established, and these by-laws should enshrine the immutable principles.

We need it, as it provides a defence against hypothetical unscrupulous officials in Nova Roma who may one day try to usurp the functions of the “state”.

We need it, as it is a temporary stop-gap until the populace of Nova Roma develop sufficient Romanitas for a resurrected mos maiorum to safely replace it, as the principles enshrined in the mos which would be part written, part oral tradition (most of us know for example it is not appropriate to urinate in the middle of a shopping mall – it is simply “not done”) would replace the constitutional protections enshrined in the current document.

We need it, because as a micronation it is appropriate that people have a clear sense of what the guiding principles are and have one clear and unambiguous source for ultimate protection of their “rights”.

There are various other variations on the above themes that I could, but won’t, list. So do we need it for one or all of the above reasons? I could construct arguments one-way or the other. I will simplify this though.

Nova Roma is a voluntary organisation. Ultimately everything exists inside of NR because the citizens (members) will it to exist. They accord it all the rights and privileges that it claims for itself and its officials, by consent. All sorts of dire circumstances could conspire to produce a rogue official, but what is the worst such a person could do? What is the extent of his power to harm a citizen of Nova Roma?

Zero is the answer. If everyone refused to acknowledge him or accord him any of those rights and privileges, then even if the entire Senate had fallen asleep and failed miserably to protect the people, and even if the people themselves in their comitia failed miserably to protect themselves, action by sufficient key citizens to ignore such a rogue would reduce him to impotence.

All power in NR derives from the people, its citizens. By all means enshrine certain key points in a set of by-laws (a very much truncated form of the current constitution) and leave the remainder as a set of guiding principles – the initial component of the restored mos maiorum Since the people can change everything, including the by-laws, in Nova Roma, it makes a constitution as a guarantor of rights and institutions pointless. If the people collectively decide to call the Senate the Klingon High Council and substitute titles from Star Trek for Roman ones, and make worship of Kahless the official religion, no constitution or law in Nova Roma will stop them. So designing an armour-plated defence against mass insanity of the populace is a pointless exercise. Designing a single document, as a defence against rogue magistrates is unnecessary – just ignore them.

Too much time, effort and angst is expended on worrying about this wretched document. It is unnecessary, un-roman and ineffective. At some point we have to trust to the common sense of the people to defend the institutions and principles of Nova Roma, and to their developing sense of Romanitas. Since we cannot prevent the people from destroying Nova Roma should they so choose, we are only left with the option of trust. If we all accepted that simple fact, life in Nova Roma would become so much more bearable and more historic to boot.