"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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Narrow minded family dogma

The inevitable backlash to the Lex Equitia de Familia has commenced, with Domitius Constantinus Fuscus announcing his attention to bring before the people a law amending the way in which familiae can be created within a gens. He has given us all a hint in Main List post 33859 as to what that law will not focus on, namely that he will not give the “original name holder”, which one assumes is the founder and paterfamilias, any power over people “wearing” his name. Other than that snippet details are currently vague to non-existent.

This obviously is an attempt to fundamentally alter the current historically correct manner in which new citizens select a name. Fuscus is upset that any Tom, Dick or Harry can simply choose Constantinus as a nomen. This is his macro surname, so he feels somewhat protective of it. That is all utterly irrelevant though, as new citizens in Rome could take any nomen they pleased and Nova Roma should be no different.

Fuscus ran a closed shop in his gens; closed to non-Italians. His vision was of a group all centred in Italy, all communicating in the same language and all close enough to meet.

His assertion that he as paterfamilias will not have any control over those who bear his name maybe strictly correct, but one assumes that he will exert that control indirectly through provisions in his proposed law, otherwise why bother with the law? He intends to strangle the freedom of new citizens to take a nomen of their choice. How will he try to achieve this; what alterations will he produce?

The most likely alteration is to prohibit anyone from forming a familia in a gens unless they have first been routed through an existing familia and been emancipated.

This means that Fuscus could once more close the tap tightly shut on his small gens by refusing to admit a new citizen to his familia. As a paterfamilias he can refuse to emancipate a familia member, and even though they have recourse to the Praetors, this is not a legally guaranteed relief. The matter would have to be heard and the Praetor would have to rule in favour of emancipation.

If there are others in his gens who are currently sui iuris, i.e. paters themselves, this stranglehold could still be applied if all the others refused to admit new citizens.

How charming that a new citizen’s first introduction to Nova Roma is a prohibition on taking a name due to some elitist, narrow minded and nationalistic dogma. What an absolutely stunning encounter of the third kind with such an alien and un-Roman concept.

If he does produce such a law it is to be hoped that it is voted down, resoundingly. The Lex Equitia de Familia offers new citizens the opportunity to associate themselves with a gens of their choice, and a free and unfettered choice of nomen was a historic fact and should remain so in Nova Roma.

It is very sad that Fuscus intends to use the law to defend a narrow position of self-interest. Perhaps if he spent more time on encouraging people to join his gens, whether as sui iuris or not, rather than on digging a hole, climbing into it and throwing rocks at anyone who tries to inveigle their way into his gens, then a suggestion such as he now makes might carry more moral force.

As it is, Fuscus certainly appears devoid of any credibility in this matter since he is so clearly biased.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

City of fables unearths real heroes

By Jeremy Laurence
COLCHESTER (Reuters) - It is the home of Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole and Camelot -- or so legend has it.

But archaeologists raking over the past can now go one better for the city of Colchester.

After painstaking excavation work they have proof of real heroes from the ancient world. Last month they revealed the remains of a Roman Circus, or chariot racing track.

In the past 30 years archaeologists in the city have unearthed evidence dating back to Roman rule over 2,000 years ago, rewriting British history along the way. The circus underlines the city's importance as a provincial Roman outpost.

In its heyday the track would have made an awesome sight with a straight measuring about 350 metres and stands for some 8,000 people, more than the population of the town itself.

Formerly Colonia Victricensis, meaning "City of the Victorious", Colchester is Britain's oldest recorded town and its first capital.



Bloody soap in the forum

The remaining political alliances in Nova Roma appear to be in a state of flux. The debate over the status of Caius Curius Saturninus has resulted in deep divisions in the alliance of the Libra and the Moderati. Gaius Equitius Cato has spoken for the rule of law, while Pompeia Minucia-Tiberia Strabo has spoken for the rule of equity.

The debate has recently dulled to an imperceptible murmur below the surface of waters that only a few weeks ago were storm tossed and flecked with froth and the detritus of the deep. An awful lot of unnecessary garbage was hauled from the political ocean floor and thrown around, yet the issue still remains unanswered; is Saturninus a Tribune or not?

It would be thoroughly redundant to explore the whole issue again, suffice it to say in my mind he is not. Aulus Apollonius Cordus rightly suggested that surely it would be in the best interests of Saturninius to put the matter before the Plebs and yet in the face of this undeniable logic an intercessio was proclaimed.

The real issue of interest here is not the fate of Saturninus but how easily the bonds of political unity were shattered. The single unifying factor that held a very disparate group of people together was opposition to the Boni, and if ever that is doubted then look to the level of sarcasm, invective and at times barely suppressed fury that was hurled at the heads of those who stood firm in the belief that Saturninus had forfeited his office when he had his brief emotional spat and ran around the forum with his political loincloth on his head, prior to heading for the gates and exile, only (of course) to return a short while later.

As if this drama wasn’t sufficient Gaius Modius Athanasius also ripped his undergarments off and draped them on his noggin and then in a characteristic display of petulance deleted the PeaceNR list and ran not for the gates of Nova Roma, but into the shadows, unsubscribing from Main List. Then (of course) a short while later a message arrived through an intermediary that Athanasius had created another peace list which a number of us have joined, if only to be witness to the predictable displays of outrage, recanting, misery, happiness, political insincerity, deceptions, falsehoods, and general political skulduggery.

As usual after one of these orgiastic displays of communal and individual excitement, everything has gone rather limp, as the period of political rutting draws to a close. The acrimonious posts have ceased as everyone contemplates the wreckage of another fine day in the forum.

In case any of you think that this slightly sarcastic account signifies disapproval, think again. It is very Roman behaviour, and in fact these displays of temper, abuse and general written rowdiness maybe the one successful example of reconstruction that Nova Roma can lay claim to.

Yet even in the face of such outstanding "Roma resurgens", Nova Roma’s own self-appointed nanny brigade of Mary Poppins clones hovered in the wings, waiting to slap censorial notas over the mouths of some of our more outspoken protagonists. In the midst of the usual debacle in the forum the faint and irritating squeak of Victorian prurience could be heard; yes the holders of the censorial soap had arrived to wash out the mouths of all those who in their zeal to insult each other had, apparently, risked the collapse of the republic through the subsequent damage to their reputations and that of Nova Roma.

Nova Roma really is a dichotomy; on the one hand a truly Roman debate rages, while around the edges of the seething and bubbling crowd, this little annoying lap-dog dances and yaps, nipping at the heels of the combatants and piddling, in its excitement, thin and feeble streams of justification for its un-Roman stand against "rude" language.

A new act in this fascinating political play that is Nova Roma is commencing. The stagehands have long since cleared away the Boni backdrop, and now it looks as though that of the Libra Alliance is set to join the other redundant and discarded props under the stage.

Who knows what the next act will bring or even who will play the lead, but what one can say with certainty is that this certainly is a substitute for the bloodshed in the arena.