"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

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.