Marcus Octavius Gracchus (Nova Roma)
Marcus Octavius Gracchus was a Consular of Nova Roma. For over eight years, he was known as Marcus Octavius Germanicus, changing his cognomen a.d. VI Kal. Oct. ‡ C. Buteone Po. Minucia cos. ‡ MMDCCLIX a.u.c. to the more appropriate Gracchus.
He returned briefly in P. Memmio K. Buteone (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLXIII a.u.c. to protest abuses by then-Pontifex Maximus Piscinus, but then departed again, rescinding a petition to regain citizenship, in protest of alleged election tampering and mailing list censorship perpetrated by Consul Publius Memmius Albucius.
Though he joined Nova Roma at its inception, Octavius was not immediately active, largely due to an outside project. In early Q. Maximo M. Minucio cos. ‡ MMDCCLIII a.u.c., however, he began to participate in the mailing list, and thinking of ways to improve the web site. At about this time, Consul Quintus Fabius Maximus posted to the main list  a request for candidates to fill several vacancies: a new Censor was needed due to a resignation, as were two Curule Aediles as these positions had been vacant since the last year's general election.
Octavius saw the Aedileship as an ideal position from which to implement his ideas for transforming the web site. He declared his candidacy for Curule Aedile the same day, prid. Non. Apr. ‡ , and soon after published a detailed plan of improvements. When the election results were posted, Octavius had been elected Curule Aedile Maior, 26 tribes to 18.
He immediately began working closely with both Censores. Until this point, the citizen records had been kept in the form of a Microsoft Access file, supplemented with paper printouts of incoming requests for citizenship; these would be mailed between the two Censores each month as they rotated active duty. Octavius imported this data into a PostgreSQL database and built a web-based tool to edit it. Upon receiving the Censores' and Consules' approval, he transferred the novaroma.org domain and web site to his own server, where it remains to this day.
Only six months after becoming active as Aedile, Octavius was nominated to the Senate by unanimous vote of the Senate, and adlected by the two Censores. He turned his attention first to the upcoming elections, rewriting the voting software, and pledging to run for no office except Magister Araneum (where there was no opposition) to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In December, he was also approved by the Senate as Propraetor Provincia Lacus Magni, a position that had been vacant since the resignation of Gaius Drusus Domitianus eighteen months before.
During the year Fl. Vedio (II) M. Cassio (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLIV a.u.c., Octavius maintained a highly visible presence on the main list and in the debate over the so-called "Gender edict", maintaining that the decision had been reasonable and that it was time to move on, and clashing often with Marcus Apollonius Formosanus. At this time he continued to make improvements to the web site, and in particular, the Album Civium.
At the end of Fl. Vedio (II) M. Cassio (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLIV a.u.c., Octavius announced his intention to stand for Consul. The only other candidate was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, who was then finishing a two-year term as Censor. The election was very close, with Octavius receiving only one more century than Cornelius; he learned of this result while staying at the house of Stephanus Ullerius Venator Piperbarbus.
In the final week of Fl. Vedio (II) M. Cassio (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLIV a.u.c., both outgoing consuls presented proposals to the Senate with insufficient time remaining in the year to conclude debate and voting. Consul Flavius Vedius Germanicus nominated three candidates for the Senate to vote on in order to make a recommendation to the Censores. Consul Marcus Cassius Iulianus proposed a law that would allow for the removal of inactive Senators, as two Senators had not been heard from in over a year. As Senior Consul, Octavius presided over the Senate in January, and thus inherited both proposals.
In addition to handling these issues, Octavius also in his first month proposed the title "Pater Patriae" for each of the two founders, who had also just finished their second consulships, and this was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.
First Censorial Powers Controversy
Former Consul Vedius's nomination of three proposed Senators did not, at first, attract much debate, as it was a relatively routine matter - save that one of the candidates was his wife, Priscilla Vedia Serena. All three were presented to the Senate for a simple majority vote, and all three received the Senate's approval; the Senate thus made the official recommendation to the Censores that the three candidates should become Senators.
Former Consul Cassius's plan for the removal of Senators was hotly contested. Both Censores were in favour, as this would give them a guideline for a process only vaguely described in the Constitution. Other Senators were divided on the matter. Some claimed that it was ahistorical to remove Senators for absence; others maintained that the patterns of membership in an online society are sufficiently different from those of Roma Antiqua as to require different regulations, and that absences of a year or more were sufficient grounds to assume a person had lost interest alltogether.
Simultaneously with this argument, the issue of the three proposed Senators arose again. The Censores disagreed with the recommendation of the Senate and did not wish to adlect all three candidates. The Senate divided on similar lines as they had on the above issue - with one faction claiming that the Censores must admit anyone approved by the Senate; the other saying that the decision was entirely that of the Censores.
Octavius pushed hard for the Senator removal procedure, and eventually obtained Senate and Comitia approval for the Lex Octavia de Senatoribus, which granted the Censores the power to remove those Senators who had failed to vote in two thirds of a year's Senate sessions. On the issue of the new Senators, however, he was less successful. With Censores Lucius Equitius Cincinnatus and Caius Flavius Diocletianus unwilling to accept Priscilla Vedia Serena, Octavius asked them instead to let the Senate choose three candidates from a list of five, who would then be made Senators. The Senate then voted, and when the three selected did not include P. Vedia, she and Pater Patriae Fl. Vedius both resigned citizenship on Id. Mar. ‡ M. Octavio L. Sulla (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLV a.u.c..
In June of the year of his Consulship, Octavius attended the annual Roman Days event in Maryland, there meeting several Nova Roma citizens for the first time.
Second Censorial Powers Controversy
Later that same month, a conflict arose between the two Consuls, again on the issue of the Censores power. Consul L. Cornelius had privately shown Octavius a proposed lex that would substantially modify the Censores' power to create Senators, in some cases, making adlection automatic, even against the wishes of the Senators. Octavius opposed this - thinking it was retaliation for the Censores' actions in the events three months prior - and privately insisted that the proposal be modified, or it would be vetoed. When Consul Cornelius finally posted a call for votes, however, the text included several of the features that the two had agreed would be removed, and Octavius vetoed it within hours.
This ended a truce that had existed between the two Consuls, and for much of the remainder of their term, they quarrelled publicly and privately.
At the end of his Consulship, Octavius was elected Censor. He had worked closely with the Censores ever since Q. Maximo M. Minucio cos. ‡ MMDCCLIII a.u.c., when he took over the web site and built the Censores' tools, and had been himself performing some of the Censores' functions ever since - assignment of voter codes, tribes, and centuries. Now, as Censor, Octavius continued to work on the tools, while his colleague Caius Flavius Diocletianus handled the regular duties of the office.
But during this time, his enthusiasm for Nova Roma was waning. Octavius was thoroughly and repeatedly criticised on the main list by allies of his co-consul of the previous year, and he largely withdrew from public life. In early Cn. Salice Cn. Equitio cos. ‡ MMDCCLVII a.u.c., Octavius and his second colleague Caeso Fabius Buteo Quintilianus published a Nota against Senator Lucius Sicinius Drusus, and the resulting villification of the Censores further increased Octavius's isolation. In May of that year, he looked on the main list after having avoided it for some time, and saw that one citizen was in the process of initiating a lawsuit against another for "slander". Utterly disgusted by this, he resigned as Censor and unsubscribed from every mailing list.
Absence and Return
For about a year after this event, Octavius was largely absent from Nova Roma.
In the summer of Fr. Apulo C. Laenate cos. ‡ MMDCCLVIII a.u.c., Octavius, though still unhappy with the direction of Nova Roma, met with some friends in Ohio to discuss revival of the Religio Romana, and how it might be accomplished if Nova Roma continued to be a place where fighting was the principal activity. This reawakened his hope for Nova Roma, and he began to think of contributing to society again. At a meeting with Caius Minucius Scaevola, then webmaster, in late Fr. Apulo C. Laenate cos. ‡ MMDCCLVIII a.u.c. he suggested increasing citizen participation in the web site by installing a Wiki. Though he was avoiding politics and the main list, Octavius had returned to Nova Roma, "behind the scenes", and was once again working to advance its mission.
In the Election of Fr. Apulo C. Laenate cos. ‡ MMDCCLVIII a.u.c., Octavius assisted Scaevola in configuring the voting tools, and supported consular candidate Gaius Fabius Buteo Modianus, later becoming Consul Modianus's Accensus.
A vacancy opened in the Censorship with the resignation of newly-elected Censor Gaius Minucius Hadrianus Felix due to work-related issues. Octavius, by now active again, saw this as his opportunity to return to public life, and ran unopposed for the position. He took his oath of office Id. Mai. ‡ C. Buteone Po. Minucia cos. ‡ MMDCCLIX a.u.c., four days before the anniversary of his resignation as Censor two years before; thus, if he completes his term, he will have served more than three years as Censor, a longer time than any other to hold that office.
Within days of Octavius assuming office, an unpleasant discovery was made. Appius Claudius Priscus, who had been citizen for about six months, was discovered to have ties to the neo-Nazi movement. The Consuls and Censores monitored the activities of this person while attempting to find more information. When he boasted of having contacted the US Government in the name of Nova Roma - without authorisation - Octavius and Marinus issued a Nota against Priscus, on a.d. VIII Id. Iun. ‡ C. Buteone Po. Minucia cos. ‡ MMDCCLIX a.u.c..
After the Priscus crisis had passed, Octavius turned his attention to the Album Civium pages and the Censors' tools, some of which had been essentially unchanged for five years. A new set of Album Civium pageswas released in October. Soon after, Octavius installed and announced an IRC Server for regularly scheduled chats.
Disgusted by the actions of persons involved in a struggle to control the priestly colleges, and by the insistence by some that a complex law code with massive potential penalties was appropriate for a small organization, Octavius quit the Senate in the Purge of MMDCCLXI, and largely ended his involvement with Nova Roma.
The resignation of Octavius left Nova Roma unable to hold proper and legal elections. Although the election software's configuration file format was documented in the files themselves, and Octavius had fully cooperated with the new CIO of M. Curiatio M. Iulio cos. ‡ MMDCCLXII a.u.c. in explaining how these worked and even offered to set up elections (at industry-standard consulting rates), disagreement in the upper echelons of Nova Roma resulted in no such work being commissioned.
At the time the election software was created, at least four professional sysadmins had been active members: Octavius Gracchus, T. Octavius Pius, Q. Valerius Callidus, M. Minucius Scaevola. Each of these had managed elections without difficulty; and thus Octavius had never foreseen a need to make the software configurable by less qualified persons, as there had never been a shortage of competent volunteers. Unfortunately, between 2006 and 2009, all four of the capable volunteers left Nova Roma in disgust at the factionalism or the obsession with "law", leaving the software orphaned and poorly understood.
In P. Memmio K. Buteone (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLXIII a.u.c., the simultaneous resignation of both Praetores led to a power struggle between the two consuls. A Senate meeting was called, purportedly to discuss the "IT Crisis"; but in the final hours of that meeting a resolution to appoint a Dictator was introduced, over the objections of Consul Albucius, whose veto was ignored. Octavius had, meanwhile, returned to the main list in order to denounce recent actions of Piscinus; though not a citizen, he still held a strong opinion about that individual, and had heard "through the grapevine" about various actions that negatively impacted some of his few remaining friends within Nova Roma.
For four months, Octavius - though a non-citizen - was a regular participant in the political debates on the main list, taking the side of Consul Albucius when the augures declared him "impious" and the Senate tried to install a dictator over his objections. Octavius proposed a resolution to the crisis: a peaceful partitioning of Nova Roma into two independent groups roughly corresponding to the two major factions; this proposal had some support by various members of both factions but was rejected by the leaders on both sides. The struggle continued, with magistrates and priests ignoring each others' vetoes and proclamations, until finally Piscinus (who had forgotten to pay his annual membership fee) quit the Senate and was removed as Pontifex Maximus. In celebration of this, Octavius applied to the Censores for reinstatement of citizenship.
Such optimism was not to last, however. That same month, the Senate passed a Senatus Consultum Ultimum granting Consul Albucius sole authority to run the upcoming annual election. What this was expected to accomplish is unclear; the reason elections could not be held earlier was due to the lack of a competent sysadmin or programmer to configure the software, rather than the lack of a strong-willed consul to oversee things, and it remains to be seen whether the S.C.U. will magically bestow technical competence on its beneficiary.
Now possessing supreme authority, Consul Albucius chose to appoint one of the candidates for consul, Aula Tullia Scholastica as diribitor, and to ignore her refusal to take up a position she had not consented to. Though she immediately resigned, Albucius outright refused to accept her resignation, and kept her name off the approved list of candidates for consul.
Octavius, appalled by Albucius's utter disregard for individual rights and his willingness to tamper with an election by not allowing all eligible candidates, protested most vehemently on the mailing lists. At the height of the debate, Albucius forcibly unsubscribed Octavius from the main list, effectively censoring opposition to his agenda of a sham election.
Two hours after being banished, Octavius wrote to the censores to rescind his petition for reinstatement as a full citizen. The following morning, Kal. Dec. ‡, a lengthly valedictory statement from him appeared on the main list, forwarded by a friend who was brave enough to openly defy the consul. Octavius explained that his personal ethical principles, which highly value the rights of individuals, are fundamentally and irrevocably in conflict with the "letter of the law" attitude prevalent in Nova Roma.
Marcus Octavius Gracchus has no intention to return to Nova Roma ever again.
- L. Arminio Ti. Galerio cos. ‡ MMDCCLX a.u.c.
- C. Buteone Po. Minucia cos. ‡ MMDCCLIX a.u.c.
- Cn. Salice Cn. Equitio cos. ‡ MMDCCLVII a.u.c.
- K. Fabio T. Labieno cos. ‡ MMDCCLVI a.u.c.
- from a.d. III Id. Nov. ‡Q. Maximo M. Minucio cos. ‡ MMDCCLIII a.u.c. to prid. Non. Feb. ‡ M. Moravio T. Iulio cos. ‡ MMDCCLXI a.u.c.
- Cn. Salice Cn. Equitio cos. ‡ MMDCCLVII a.u.c.
- M. Octavio L. Sulla (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLV a.u.c.
- Fl. Vedio (II) M. Cassio (II) cos. ‡ MMDCCLIV a.u.c.