"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

Thursday, February 10, 2005

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.