"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, October 20, 2005

The nature of Nova Roma

This question has frequently raised itself on the Main List. It may seem to some a rather trite debate, but to answer this question to our own satisfaction is to define why each of us is here.

We are Romans. We think we are Roman, and therefore we are. The standards of Romanitas may dictate how successful we are in the view of others in our individual claim to be Roman, but that claim cannot be expunged. It can be denied. It can be challenged. It can be held to be wanting, but it cannot be eradicated.

There are those who live in the Eternal City today who no doubt feel that merely asserting that one is Roman is insufficient, and that one must actually be born in Rome to be Roman. Some of us may not have the benefit of being born in the shadows of Rome itself, a Roman city or a Roman colonia and of strolling in our formative years amongst these ruins. Some of us though were lucky enough to be able to experience this, but this was a mere accident of birth. The commonality that we all have inside us though is the spirit of ancient Rome, which transcends time, distance and nationality.

Nova Roma is able to function in large part due to the Internet. This technological marvel allows us the ability to link across thousands of miles and unites the disparate peoples that comprise Nova Roma. While citizens occasionally meet at an individual, family, provincial or continental level, it is the glue of the Internet that binds us and supports us. It provides the skeletal structure for the body politic of Nova Roma.

We are not a nation, either in practice or in theory. We have no territory (I discount that patch of scrubland purchased as a symbol of a dream) and no other nation recognizes us as such but I would go further and say that we should never lay claim to nationhood for both practical and philosophical reasons.

Practically we live in an age where subversive elements seek to destroy the countries and cultures that nurtured us. Their causes are legion and their aims destructive and murderous. I cannot, and never would, disavow my nationality or the oaths of allegiance I have sworn in the course of my life. My experiences have shaped me, but so too have my family and social environs which in turn were shaped by the social conventions and history of the land I was born into.

To deny that would be a futile effort, because to attempt to deny or discard the nation and culture of one’s birth is to deny the essence of what one is. It would also be treasonable to the memory of the thousands that laid down their lives to shape, expand and defend my country. Someone recently said to me on the subject of death that he explained to his young son “death is not an end to everything but that people really die when they get forgotten”. Those who died in the service of their country only truly die when the memory of their sacrifices fade.

Ceremonies such as that at the Menin Gate or on Armistice Day at the Cenotaph keep alive the spirit of sacrifice. Trafalgar day, the anniversary of Waterloo, of Agincourt and Crecy, of Senlac Hill are less well known and more sparsely observed, but even now centuries later the anniversaries of these pivotal battles are still venerated. As time marches on other key events and examples of heroism and sacrifice take their place alongside these defining moments, for example 9/11, a day of infamy, is now etched into the psyche of Americans. How could one deny one’s nationality without denying the very existence and ultimate pain and death of 3000 or so victims of that atrocity? What sort of person could cast those events to one side and renounce their birth nation?

We are the products of our nations and will ever remain so. We must always owe allegiance to our own individual nations, being ready to answer any call of duty made upon us, while at the same time, and without any contradiction, owe allegiance to the inner spirit of Romanitas that we have made our creed. It is this spirit of the ancient Romans that has flowed throughout western civilisation and which has provided the foundation for the spirit that has raised our individual cultures to the heights and supported them in pit of despair. Whether our nations have, or yet may again in the future, war upon each other, the spirit of the Romans that has flowed through time bonds us together, both as nations, as individuals and as Nova Romans.

To be Nova Roman is to express one’s allegiance not to a nation but to the idea of Rome, and while nations may rise and fall this idea will endure. We may debate and struggle inside our virtual walls over issues of religion and politics. We may loathe or love the direction that Nova Roma has, is or may yet take. The message boards may at times resemble the verbal equivalent of the gladiatorial games. People will rage and rant, weep and wail, yet above all of this will remain one constant in each of us, a love of Ancient Rome.

We may even be divided on whether we should cleave only to the legacy of the republic, and condemn the rise and rule of the Emperors. We can ignite old debates over whether Gaius Iulius Caesar was a traitor to, or a saviour of, the nascent empire. We can be at each other’s throats from morn till night, yet above all else will rise one unifying clarion call to the memory of Rome; its heroes, its culture, its monuments, its very existence and legacy.

So what are we? We are individuals, we are (to name but a few) Britons, French, Germans, Americans, Canadians, Italians, Spaniards, Brazilians, and of course Italians. These are nations to which we owe our loyalty, love and allegiance but we are also united as citizens of the mind and spirit, owing allegiance to the memory of the immemorial river of Roman culture that survived the fall of the Empire and transcended into the most unconquerable of all states of existence, an idea.

Nova Roma is our expression of that idea, the imperfect, at times verbally brutal, often silly, frequently charming, infrequently calming, existence that we enter into, escaping for too brief a time from the trials and cares of the world. It is less than a nation but its foundation, Ancient Rome, will survive longer than any nation. Nova Roma itself may yet fail and pass into the shadows, but the idea of Rome will continue to march through time, uniting at least some of the citizens of the nations that were born from its ruins, and even some of those from areas that never lived under the Pax Romana.

So what is Nova Roma? Nova Roma is a nation of the mind and spirit.