"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.