"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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The collegium clique - perpetrators of prevarication

The collegium pontificum of Nova Roma is at a cross roads. One of its members, indeed though he is self-deprecating its most august member, Titus Iulius Sabinus, has appealed to the senate for assistance. The collegium is mired in the mud of inaction and obstructionism. About to possibly be entrusted by the senate with the role of acting pontifex maximus, Sabinus has told the senate that the collegium is non-functioning. It is broken. Indeed it will be broken beyond repair without the help of the senate.

So now the senate is poised to vote on whether to pass three Senatus consulta ultima, one removing a pontifex maximus who has abandoned his duties, one on an acting replacement for him and one to inject new pontifices into the collegium pontificum. The reaction by some of the obdurate opponents to these measures, mainly from within the existing collegium pontificum (or their fellow travelers outside) was predictable.

First they tried the tack that the senate didn't have the power to pass the SCUs. Absurd I know, but desperate people build boats from straw. The SCU as a legal instrument can be enacted by the senate to deal with any specific situation of its choosing. It, and the edicta of consuls acting under its authority, cannot be vetoed by the tribunes.

At the same time as these leaky and failing arguments about the validity of the SCU, as an instrument to effect changes to the collegium pontificum, were thrown into the whirlpool of debate, the same opponents tried the tack of how impious it was that the senate would dare to inject new pontifices.

Why would the senate do that some may ask? The answer is, to break the log jam of inactivity, inject fresh blood, and eliminate the tight grip a small clique in the CP exerts over the direction of the religio publica. Some maybe concerned that this is none of the business of the senate. The answer? Utterly incorrect. Why?

Firstly Sabinus, one of its number, asked the senate for help, it was not that the senate moved to interfere. Sabinus has been a staunch defender of the rights of the collegium pontificum to control its own internal affairs, but he also recognizes and is fully cognizant of the fact that the collegium cannot take those rights and  move one stage further and divorce itself from Nova Roma as a whole. It cannot become a state within a state. Sabinus did not do this lightly and without good cause. What ails the collegium infects Nova Roma.

Secondly he reported to the senate that the collegium is, in his estimation incapable of curing itself, and it certainly has demonstrated that inability fully. Why is that? Because there is a small number of pontifices that can, and do, block progress. They manipulate situations, they delay, they prevaricate, they obfuscate, they deny. Their favorite word is "no". Sabinus has reported he has little faith he can inject fresh blood into the collegium, partly because of the rules of the collegium regarding admission to the priestly ranks, and partly because he has no faith in those pontifices agreeing to this or keeping to their word if given. Votes promised apparently change or never materialize at all.

So, no one new can become a pontifex if left to the collegium and nothing can get done without the approval of a few. Now, this would be acceptable if in turn they were active, if their control within the collegium actually resulted in positive results for Nova Roma and if the religio had prospered under the care of this clique. It hasn't, hence Sabinus appealing to the senate for help. He asked it to pass an SCU directly injecting volunteers from the senate into the collegium, for which there is historical precedent, the lex Ognulia of 300 BCE:

The Ogulnii accordingly gave notice of a measure providing that as there were at that time four augurs and four pontiffs, and it had been decided that the number of [7??] priests should be augmented, the four additional pontiffs and five augurs should all be co-opted from the plebs How the college of augurs could have been reduced to four, except by the death of two of their number, I am unable to discover. [8] For it was a settled rule amongst the augurs that their number was bound to consist of threes, so that the three ancient tribes of the Ramnes, Titienses, and Luceres might each have their own augur, or if more were needed, the same number should be added for each. This was the principle on which they proceeded when by adding five to four the number was made up to nine, so that three were assigned to each tribe. [9] But the co-optation of the additional priests from the plebs created almost as much indignation amongst the patricians as when they saw the consulship made open. [10] They pretended that the matter concerned the gods more than it concerned them; as for their own sacred functions they would see for themselves that these were not polluted; they only hoped and prayed that no disaster might befall the republic. [11] Their opposition, however, was not so keen, because they had become habituated to defeat in these political contests, and they saw that their opponents in striving for the highest honours were not, as formerly, aiming at what they had little hopes of winning; everything for which they had striven, though with doubtful hopes of success, they had hitherto gained —numberless consulships, censorships, triumphs.

The Assembly was on the point of ordering the voting to proceed, and it was evident that the measure would be adopted, when, on the intervention of some of the tribunes, all further business was adjourned for the day. [2] On the morrow, the dissentient tribunes having given way, the law was passed amid great enthusiasm. The co-opted pontiffs were P. Decius Mus, the supporter of the measure, P. Sempronius Sophus, C. Marcius Rutilus, and M. Livius Denter. The five augurs who were also taken from the plebs were C. Genucius, P. Aelius Paetus, M. Minucius Faesus, C. Marcius, and T. Publilius. [3] So the number of the pontiffs was raised to eight and that of the augurs to nine.

 (Livy, History of Rome x, vi. 3-11, ix. 1-2)

So nothing impious at all. The Romans did it and so too we as Nova Romans can do this. So why would those opponents of this in the collegium reject something so beneficial to the religio - fresh blood, fresh ideas and progress?

"But the co-optation of the additional priests from the plebs created almost as much indignation amongst the patricians as when they saw the consulship made open. They pretended that the matter concerned the gods more than it concerned them; as for their own sacred functions they would see for themselves that these were not polluted; they only hoped and prayed that no disaster might befall the republic."

Is this not Nova Roma now? The pretense, pretending the opposition is based on the welfare of the religio and respect for the gods. Those that oppose the SCU on injecting new pontifices do so not because of the gods, but because they would lose their voting block and their future control over the direction of the religio. The new blood must become pontifices, and be made so by the senate. Why? Because otherwise the existing clique of pontifices will claim a moral majority as the only "real" pontifices and seek to sway and undermine the pax Nova Romana by advocating as "true priests". The proposed "training" will likely last years, and years, being deliberately drawn out by one of the clique.

If they were "true priests" they would never have allowed the collegium to slip into this mud pool in the first place. They too have abandoned their duty and promoted their own grip on the keys to the doors of the collegium and the rudder that steers it above that of the religio and the gods. The only course they are comfortable with is a circular one, steadily going nowhere. That assures them that nothing will pry power from their fingers that way. The collegium cannot be trusted to make the proposed new blood pontifices. The word of those that prevaricate and deny progress means nothing. This is why the SCU gives them full pontifical rights.

There is also, as an example of historical precedent for an outside body affecting the collegium, the  Lex Domitia de sacerdotis of 104 BCE, that gave the people the right to elect the pontifex maximus from within the existing members of the collegium.

So one lex directly injects persons into the collegium from outside of its existing ranks, while the other changes the collegium's own process of electing the pontifex maximus. This clearly indicates that collegium of antiquity was not shielded from outside pressure and alteration. There was a clique in 300 BCE and there is a clique now in the collegium. The same reasons in 300 BCE are as now - maintain the grip on power at all costs, reject all new pontifices unless they, the collegium clique, control the admission process. Why do they want that control? To ensure those that might be admitted are supportive of the existing clique. It is about power, it is not about the religio and the gods. It is pretense now as it was in 300 BCE, the self-interest of a few.

So what the senate has to decide now, very shortly, is whether to allow the existing collegium, comprised of an elitist, obdurate clique that blocks progress and growth, should be allowed to retain its grip on "power" (such as it is in Nova Roma), or whether to inject fresh blood from among its ranks to help Sabinus complete his duties and advance the mission of Nova Roma.

Will the collegium continue to be allowed to be a state within a state, or will it be brought back into the fold of Nova Roma? Will the senate continue to have to goad and prod the collegium to action? Will the collegium be allowed to continue its course of conflict with the senate?

All the few proposed alternatives, cobbled together at the last moment by some of the opponents of progress, the agents for Piscinian rule, the perpetrators of prevarication, all of these proposals are blinds, smoke and mirrors, all designed to allow the self same clique to continue to maintain its grip on power in the collegium. They come far too late. The collegium clique cannot be trusted to see them through. Their word means nothing. It is time to finally break the log jam in the collegium and move the religio forward. Those elements in the collegium that have blocked progress cannot be trusted to behave responsibly.

I for one shall be voting uti rogas on all three items, and I urge all my senatorial colleagues to do the same.