Return of Germanicus (Nova Roma)

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On the third day before the Nones of November, after an absence of two months, Flavius Vedius Germanicus announced his return and offered an explanation of his actions:

Simply put, the night before my fateful announcement, I underwent a spiritual crisis. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Religio Romana and the Gods and Goddesses of Rome were forever closed to me. Up until that time, the Religio Romana was central to my involvement with Nova Roma (which, of course, had originally been conceived by Cassius and myself as a purely religious organization). Because of these extremely close ties (in my own mind), I thought the best thing would be to make a clean break, and thus I not only left my religious positions and offices, but secular as well.
It took nearly six weeks for me to realize it, but that was far too drastic a course for me to have taken. It may have seemed appropriate to me at the time, but over the last month and a half I came to realize that I could still participate meaningfully in Nova Roma and not be involved in its religious aspects (after all, a large number of Nova Romans aren't practitioners of the Religio Romana, either). Given that gradual realization, I decided to reapply for Citizenship.
Many of you know that I have also asked to be reinstated to the Senate (rumors to the contrary, I do not want any other position within the government). My motive for asking this is to once again have a voice, one among many, in guiding the Republic that I helped found. My original resignation was unnecessary, and I hope my vision and knowledge still have a place within our society. (102-3)

There were many who unconditionally welcomed his return, yet there were also troubling questions concerning his request to be reinstated in the Senate. As Antonius Gryllus Graecus, candidate for tribune plebis, was quick to point out, the Constitution required Magistrates and Senators "to pay due honor to the Gods." (102-6)

Germanicus acknowledged this point and, having no wish to precipitate a constitutional crisis, immediately offered to withdraw his request for reinstatement. (102-11) But the cat was out of the bag, for an overwhelming majority wanted Germanicus back in the Senate, and so a constitutional debate ensued.

Antonius Gryllus Graecus, Praetor of Lusitania Provincia and candidate for both Tribunus Plebis and Aedilis Plebis, responded to Germanicus:

Well, I think that you have much to give to Nova Roma and I think that your withdrawal will be very bad for all of us... Although I defend the Religio Romana, I also think that we cannot forget what our friends and allies did for us. Citizen Germanicus did a lot for Nova Roma, much more than I and most of you have given…. I have reasons to believe that the people would be happy if Germanicus was accepted as Senator, if he swore to respect the Religio Romana as the official religion of Nova Roma. Would you let the people decide? (102-14)

However, Senator Lucius Equitius Cincinnatus, Praetor Urbanis and candidate for Consul, objected to Graecus' proposal, observing, "The membership of the Senate is determined by the Censores and the Senate itself." (102-17)

Undeterred, Graecus pressed his point, "But in case the Censors and the Senate appoint Germanicus as Senator, that would also violate the Constitution [because of the religious beliefs which led Germanicus to leave Nova Roma in the first place]. As such, agreement could be achieved through having the people decide. My point is that I know almost all Senators and Censors are close friends of Germanicus." (102-18)

Cincinnatus was indignant. "We are trying to follow the Constitution without regard to personal relationships." (102-21)

Gaius Marius Merullus came to the support of Germanicus:

The Constitution is our basic law; no Nova Roman can overthrow it; to attempt to do so is to renounce one's belonging here. At the same time, no law, however fundamental, is so finally written that it cannot be amended…. As Germanicus, co-founder of our Micronation, has returned and expressed a desire to rejoin the Senate, cannot the Senate consider amending the Constitution to allow him to do that…? I for one find it hard to believe that the Senate wouldn't be better off with him than without him…. I haven't been elected to speak for the people, nor am I senator, magistrate or anything else, but I'll say my piece anyway. We have magistrates and pontiffs to oversee administration of Religio Romana; is it worth it to alienate Germanicus from the Senate, just to maintain a religiously pure Senate, when the public religious duties are already covered by our elected magistrates? (103-1)

Was to "honor to the Gods" the same as to believe in them? What was it that the Constitution required of Nova Roma's officials? Who could interpret the Constitution with authority? Germanicus explained the intent behind the words in the Constitution:

This has really been a fascinating exercise in Constitutional law. A Constitution riddled with flaws (I ought to know-- I wrote the thing!).
I would like to point out a few things that have stood out in my mind. The main point, having re-read the relevant sections of the Constitution, is that the "religious requirement" is not quite as all-encompassing as it appears. It reads, in part:
"All magistrates and Senators, as officers of the State, shall be required to observe the Sacred Days of the Year, and to honor and offer sacrifice to the Gods and Goddesses that made and make Rome great. Citizens need not be practitioners of the Religio Romana, but may not engage in any activity that intentionally blasphemes or defames the Gods, the Religio Romana, or its practitioners, and Magistrates and Senators shall be required to pay due honor to the Gods. " (Section VI.1.)
The key here being "honor and offer sacrifice" and "pay due honor" being the requirements for Magistrates and Senators. The Constitution does not require personal belief nor personal practice of the Religio Romana. It refers to the role of Magistrates and Senators in the public rites of the State Religion. To offer a pinch of incense on the public brazier of Iuppiter is what's required; not to offer heartfelt silent prayers at every stroke of lightning.
Given this, I would have no problem making such observances in the role of Senator. This, combined with my position as a former magistrate is, I think, Constitutionally sufficient for me to rejoin the ranks of the Senate.
However, given the controversy that has surrounded the possibility of my return to that august body, I will not press the issue. If called to serve within its ranks I shall do so, happily and to the best of my ability. If not, I shall content myself with the lot of an "ordinary" Nova Roman Citizen which is, in and of itself, quite an extra-ordinary honor to hold. (103-5)

Censor Marcus Cassius Julianus, Nova Roma's other co-founder and the year's remaining Consul Ordinarius and, agreed with the moderate constitutional construction:

Please do note that this passage does not legislate that Magistrates must be practitioners of Religio Romana! The intent here was that Magistrates should be publicly respectful to the Gods and to Religio Romana... and that they should take part in religious observations if required. Let's say the Priesthood of Nova Roma put on a ritual during a Roman event... the last thing we'd want would be to have a Magistrate speaking out against Religio Romana, or refusing to stand respectfully while a rite was being held.
It's important to remember that our Magistrates are not Priests... the only thing required of them is respect and perhaps an occasional attendance as required by their position. The hope is that "Moderates" from many faiths will be able to participate fully in the Cursus Honorum. (103-11)
Actually, if Germanicus would agree to respect the Religio Romana in all Public rites, it certainly would be constitutional for the Senate and Consuls to reinstate him as a Senator. He'd have to agree, of course!
As far as the Senators and Censors being close friends of Germanicus, that's simply ridiculous. Even I, who have known him longest, have met him exactly three times. Decius Iunius has never had the pleasure, and Cincinnatus has met him only once.
Favoritism simply has not been an issue here. If it was, Germanicus would have been reinstated on the very first day he returned, instead of all this debate continuing. I've been very impressed that all Citizens have been concerned first and foremost with Nova Roma itself, rather than being concerned over personal issues. (103-13)

But Flavia Claudia Juliana, Virgo Maxima and candidate for Consul, now voiced her objection to Germanicus' return to the Senate because of his seemingly mercurial actions:

I do oppose Germanicus' reinstatement to the Senate for the same reason I oppose reinstating a Vestal who decided to leave before her year was up.
The decision to become a Senator is not to be taken so lightly that it can be abandoned -- especially with the resignation of Citizenship at the same time -- then resumed at will. Germanicus' first leaving caused great upheaval in Nova Roma, and while he's entitled to leave with no explanation (especially if he left for personal reasons), I don't feel that he should be allowed to be reinstated with no explanation. We don't know why he left, we don't know why he's back, and we certainly don't know why he wants to be a Senator again -- or for how long this time. Are we really trying to do something with Nova Roma, or is this merely a large-scale role-playing game? I'd like an answer to that because, frankly, I've made my own sacrifice [of chastity during the term as Chief Vestal Virgin] for the Gods and for Nova Roma, and if this is just another D&D [Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game] thing to the Citizens and the Senate, that sacrifice was way too much.
So while I'm glad to see him back as a Citizen, personally I'd want some explanation and justification for reinstating him to the governing body of Nova Roma. (104-14)

Cassius responded with this defense:

I would agree with you, Flavia, if this were a purely religious post. However, the Senate is a Civil body rather than a religious one.
Obviously, Germanicus' reasons for leaving Nova Roma were completely unique... certainly he did not leave us on a whim, nor is he trying to return frivolously. If Germanicus IS reinstated, there will certainly be a ruling that this will be the last time such a thing will be allowed. Certainly every Citizen deserves at least one chance if they should make an error!
First and foremost, Germanicus has explained himself. He did this as much as he felt he could when he left, and he posted a more complete explanation to the list just yesterday. Nor has he been reinstated with no explanation... in fact, events have proven to be as far from that as they could possibly get.
We don't know why he wants to be a Senator again? I'll happily fill in the blanks on this... Germanicus and I worked for over three years setting up the foundations for Nova Roma. Hundreds of hours of research and planning. When the project was finally put into motion, Germanicus put forth a truly Herculean effort to see that Nova Roma would succeed. He's invested literally hundreds of dollars into Nova Roma directly, spent yet another few hundred hours designing the website and writing the Constitution, and done everything possible to ensure Nova Roma's survival - even during his absence.
Now Germanicus has asked for a fairly low-key, non-elected, position. He has been a Senator already, and is perhaps the most qualified person for such a post that I can think of - myself included. From a Senate seat he could again have some influence within the Micronation he's worked so hard to create.
[Regarding Nova Roma being just a role-playing game], you know the answer to this, Flavia. You've seen it in Nova Roma for the past year, and you've seen it in all the serious and heartfelt debate which has passed over this issue. Germanicus has not been summarily reinstated, (except for Citizenship, which we've never refused anyone) but rather the issue has been very carefully dealt with in all aspects.
Again, Germanicus has explained himself. And, if the statement "As co-founder, who's invested years of time into Nova Roma, Germanicus at least deserves fair consideration." isn't a meaningful enough justification, then I fear nothing could possibly satisfy.
The basic issue here is fear. What if Germanicus leaves again? Well, when Nova Roma was much smaller, and Germanicus was filling many posts - Consul, Senator, Censor, Praetor, Pontiff, Webmaster and Embassador to other Micronations, his leaving was a major blow to our young Republic.
As a simple Senator, Germanicus would be simply be one of a group of people within a Micronation which has doubled in size since he left. Let's say he did leave again? So what? I can almost picture the outcry of yawns! ;) Nova Roma is large enough now to survive the loss of a single Senator or other Magistrate, without it causing more than a burp on the list and an evening's topic in the Taverna. The loss would be HIS rather than ours... for his second and last chance would be over, and further reinstatement would be impossible. that at least would be guaranteed before any such measure would become reality. (105-8)

Decius Junius Palladius, an original member of the Senate currently serving as Censor Suffectus and Praetor Urbanis, and candidate for Consul, concurred:

I think there is no religious objection to his being appointed to the Senate because he has no problem with publically honoring the Gods of Rome in his actions as a Senator. However, many people have raised the objection to me of such quick reinstatement on other grounds, namely that he left abruptly, returned as abruptly and how long will he stay this time? It is a reasonable question and many have suggested a probationary period of anywhere from a few months to a year. After he has been back a certain length of time as a citizen, then he would be reinstated as Senator. I think that a year is too long and that perhaps something between 3-6 months is reasonable. I agree that such a waiting period would allay any fears that people have that any appointment is being done in haste and favoritism and it would lessen fears that he will not be with us for the long term but even so I am not sure how to act on this matter. Germanicus would be a useful voice in the Senate but that would also be the case after a probationary period also. (107-22)

Lucius Sergius Australicus' support of Germanicus was less qualified, arguing against any probationary period and for his prompt reinstatement:

My own opinion is that Germanicus' explanation for his sudden departure was fully satisfactory, and that the interests of Nova Roma would best be served by accepting him back in the Senate without any such probationary period.
Profound religious experiences occur rarely in anyone's life, and can be difficult to understand and to quickly assimilate into one's life. A little confusion, perhaps some hasty decisions, are understandable under the circumstances. It doesn't imply that Germanicus has somehow become "unstable" or unreliable. Indeed, it suggests just the opposite.
At the same time, I think Nova Roma needs his services and his insights now more than ever. There is a lot going on, a lot of conflict of opinions and goals, a lot of changes, I think it would be a disservice to the Res Publica to exile him, even temporarily, from participation in the deliberations of the Senate. (109-11)

Regarding Germanicus himself, all constitutional questions seemed now to be put to rest. He had reconciled his religious beliefs with the provisions in the Constitution he had written, and it was now equally clear that the Senate could, and no doubt would, reinstate him in due course. Indeed, as a splendid symbol of reconciliation, Germanicus and Flavia Claudia, who had raised (albeit briefly) the strongest objection to his reinstatement, were admitted to the Senate together on the eleventh day before the Kalends of Ianuarius (22 Dec).

But the return of Germanicus also occasioned a much more fundamental debate regarding the relationship of the ancient Religio Romana to the newborn State. For Novaromani of American origin, the crux of the problem was, that in reconstructing the Roman Republic, they had created a state with an established religion, in contravention to the political traditions of their homeland. Thus the desire to revive ancient culture and virtues came into conflict with modern political sensibilities. For those holding or seeking office, contradictions with their personal beliefs would often be publicly self-examined. From a historical perspective, this individual soul-searching took place in the context of the search for the soul of Nova Roma herself. How big a tent should Nova Roma be? How much inclusion was too much? In the desire to be many things to many people, where was the line beyond which core principles would be lost? These were questions that Roma Antiqua had to re-examine many times throughout its history. The conversation in Nova Roma became a fascinating reflection of this process, as modern men and women struggled to define their Roman-ness.

Lucia Maria Fimbria expressed her concerns regarding the religious requirements in the Constitution:

I am a very tolerant, yet devout, Christian. I have also been practicing the Via, if not the Religio, Romana for many years on a deep personal and philosophical level. On top of that I seem to have skills which are occasionally highly sought-after in our young Republic. The net result of this combination of circumstances has been less than happy for me or for Nova Roma. You see, for the first time in my Roman life I feel I am being asked to choosebetween my Christianity and my Romanitas, the twin wellsprings of my soul. I was not expecting this and do not like it.
What is meant [in the oath of office] by "honor"? There is a very great difference between being asked to do a thing and being asked merely not to interfere with others doing a thing. This clause does not say "I will not work against the Gods of Rome"; it says that I will actively honor Them. I cannot simply refrain, if I am reading this correctly; I must partake.
[To accept office "in the presence of the Gods"] does not bother me personally. One reason I am not an evangelist is that I have never been so sure of anything that I could say with a straight face that the world must needs be what I think it is, or else. It violates nothing to say, "Okay, I believe in one God, but there may be others out there; and if there are, They are certainly watching me do this and They don't seem to mind."
Per Article VI, Section 1 of our Constitution, "All magistrates and Senators, as officers of the State, shall be required (emphasis mine) to observe the Sacred Days of the Year, and to honor and offer sacrifice to (emphasis mine again) the Gods and Goddesses that made and make Rome great."
Now what am I supposed to do with that? Again, I am being required to participate (actively, by the sound of it) rather than merely asked not to keep others from doing so.
I had made what I thought was a thorough reading of the Constitution and the Web site before I applied for Citizenship. I had pretty well accepted that, in the great framework of Nova Roman affairs, I was going to be a just-plain-Roman. We will need many such, if only to give our Magistrates something to do and someone to do it for!
Let me make this plain: I am not ambitious for office. I am more than willing to do whatever work is required, with or without a fancy nameplate. But the whole religious-qualification thing bothers me on a more general level. Can any nation afford to arbitrarily deny itself the services of any willing and capable Citizen, for any reason including religious ones? Is Nova Roma, even at this early stage, going to cut off Her nose to spite Her face?
Something has to give here. Either we allow (on-Roman) Pagans and non-(Roman Pagans) to rise to the level of their abilities; or we quit offering them positions they cannot in good conscience accept, involving duties they cannot perform with any sincerity. If in fact the Constitution means "...an it harm none, do as you will"; if the intent of the Founders was (as is repeatedly asserted) that anyone with the talent and the inclination should be able to ascend the Cursus Honorum, why, then, the thing ought to be amended to say so clearly and in a manner not to be mistaken. If such is not the case, then it is irresponsible for our materials (Web site, etc.) or our Magistrates to hint otherwise.
It's a strange and wonderful world that tosses me into the same boat as a Norse Pagan, a Jew, and a former Consul--all dear friends, as much as anyone can be in cyberspace. I mean that -- I couldn't ask for better companions on this little roller-coaster policy ride. But back to the issue: This is not, as I've stated above, the last time this question is going to come up. We need to get this hashed out and properly decided; it will save future Citizens of non-Roman faiths a lot of frustration and getting their hopes up. (103-18)

Flavia Claudia made several general observations on the nature of the Republic and the problem of the state religion in the ecumenical society into which Nova Roma had evolved:

I don't think this is a religious war. But I do think that it's another attempt to reconcile the very tough problem of incorporating the ancient methods of Roman state religion, the beliefs of neo-pagans, and the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Wiccans, atheists (well...non-beliefs, I guess) and any other religion into one organization, which organization has stated that the restoration of paganism is a goal.
We've been politely -- and not so politely at some times! -- dancing around this issue for months.
If Nova Roma had been a strictly Pagan organization with no other beliefs allowed, there STILL would be conflict between...say, the Pagans and the Wiccans and the Asatru. Most likely. The only solution would be an organization open ONLY to those who agree to worship the gods of Rome. A little late for that...we already have friends here that we like and respect enormously, and that's why this subject is so thorny.
We're trying to accomplish the horrendously difficult and touchy task of bringing all these beliefs together, since we all have in common a deep love and respect of Ancient Rome and things Roman.
We could solve this by banning all mention of religion entirely, make it a secular organization dedicated only to the restoration of the Roman Virtues (excepting religious virtues)and Roman culture. Doesn't sound great to me, but it would sure end these religious debates, since religion would no longer be an issue.
The only problem is that the way of life in Ancient Rome was absolutely inseperable from pagan religion. (105-20)

Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Quaestor and candidate for Praetor Urbanis, explained his reconciliation of personal faith and public service:

I am a Jew. However, I do not feel that my religious belief would hinder my service to NR. As a matter of fact, I believe that my religious differences contribute to the good of NR. I do not feel any differently toward anyone in the practice of his or her own personal religion. And I will not work against the official state religion. However, I will not do any more for the State Religion than I would not do for my own personal belief. I do not feel this is a limitation. If Germanicus or anyone else can do the same, then I believe they have the opportunity to stand for office and even be admitted into the Senate. If they cannot do that, then they still have the Honor of being a citizen. As, I stated above, I do not have a problem reconciling my personal faith, with the State Religion, I am honored to be standing for office, and I am honored to serve the state to the best of my ability. And, anyone who feels the same as I do, should run for office, if they so desire. (103-19)

While Sulla's argument obliquely supported the Constitution status quo, Marcus Mucius Scaevola Magister, candidate for Praetor Urbanis, took on the issue directly:

I think Germanicus' view… must be the right interpretation on Constitutional grounds -- after all, it is the magistrates, not the Senate of ex-magistrates, who have formal religious duties. The point of having a Senate is after all to draw on the experience of ex-magistrates, which is particularly apt in this case. On religious grounds, too, the essence of classical public religion is the public performance of ceremonies, not the inner belief of the participants -- which was certainly pretty diverse by the late Republic.
The more general issue which is raised is I guess this. For those of us who, like myself, were attracted by Nova Roma primarily as a place in which the classical Religio is cherished and our religious belief can find collective expression, including the recognition of the numina of public life, there will always be a certain worry about downplaying the Religio -- because, after all, NR is a small but very fast-growing group, and there are relatively few neo-classical pagans out there, but a hell of a lot of Christians and atheists who are more or less into classical civilization. NR therefore could easily as it grows more or less accidentally cease to provide collective space for the followers of the Religio. Accepting Germanicus' interpretation of the Constitution and that one of our founders, an ex-Consul, should be a Senate member, is one thing. Making larger amendments to the Constitution to downplay the Religio would be another altogether. (104-4)

Pythia reinforced this view:

I do not want to see the commitment to the Olympian Deities diluted to accommodate either "the religions of the Book" or pagans from the majority religions. If this causes people to search their own hearts and perhaps adopt the universalism the Public Religio was meant to foster, than that is a good thing. (104-8)

But Marcus Gladius Saevus, even though he was Pontifex and Augur, echoed Fimbria's concerns, and explicitly called for an amendment to the Constitution:

As far as offering sacrifices to the gods on the holy days of Rome -- this annoys me. A Christian, Jew, and Asatrur should not have to make offering to any gods but their own, and that by the rules of their gods, and not by the rules of ours. Noble senate: remove this clause! It is an insult to our gods to demand sacrifice of those who do not worship them. (104-17)
We're setting ourselves up for a theocracy here. Is that what we want? If so, I'll support it (after all, it's my religion in charge for a change!), but I think you want to think before you do. (106-3)

Merullus then took a centrist position, simultaneously arguing in favor of maintaining the principal role of the Religio Romana, but urging a thorough review of the Constitutional language specifically regarding the religious standard for senators:

Nova Roma is an organization dedicated to restoration of Religio Romana, Roman virtue and culture, right? The magistrates of Nova Roma must participate in Religio Romana, right? Otherwise, why are they magistrates and of what?
I am not a Christian, but that is by my own choice, not because I dont know anything about Christianity. You cannot be a Christian and a Roman (by religion). You cannot be a Jew (by religion) and a Roman (by religion). They call themselves 'monotheists' for a reason.
If you feel that you are a monotheist, that is great for you. Revel in your faith, practice it in your life if you will - but it is not compatible in the least with the goals and essence of Nova Roma as expressed in NR's literature, not at all. Dont run for office in NR, for the sake of the Gods -- or of God -- but especially of you, because you're committing the ultimate hypocrisy!
Yes, I also proposed that the Senate look at the Constitution to consider amending it, such that religion would be wholly irrelevant to senatorial status. I still stand by that proposal. But it's quite a different matter merely to say, "Oh, you don't believe in the Gods? That's fine. Neither do I, even though I hold a priest's post here in the Religio. Let's do away with all this sacrificial nonsense!"
I urgently repeat my call for a study by the Collegium pontificum, if there is one, into the question of whether pietas, or some degree of it, was required for admission into, and rentention in, the Senate. (105-9)

I disagree that Nova Roma is headed for theocracy, even if (and it's unlikely anyway) the religious participation of magistrates is maintained. Why? Because, in a theocracy, God (in some form) is held at the center and above all the machinery of the state and citizenry, as in, say, the Byzantine Empire (my favorite theocracy). Or in post-revolution, present-day Iran.

Nova Roma seeks to re-build the Roman Republic, where worship of the Roman Gods was an integral part of Roman life, but, was not the "source of authority" of the officials wielding power. Indeed, no Republic can ever be a real theocracy, because power is given to people through elections, and the law serves the citizen rather than God or God's appointed Earthly mouthpiece. (107-9)

Sulla drew an distinction between the religious requirements of the civil magistracies and the priesthoods:

In regard to bowing down to any graven image, I am not bowing, nor do I see any graven image.... I would not hinder the expansion of the Religio Romana, nor would I go against it. The only officies that I know in good conscience I could not serve would be as Pontiff and Augur, or any other Religious office of the State.
I feel that I can successfully accomplish my duties if elected Praetor Urbanis, and [as] a matter of my personal faith I do not feel that there is a conflict. (105-15)

Meanwhile, Australicus pointed out that any attempt to distuinguish between the religious life of public officials and private citizens was historically falacious:

It wasn't that simple in Roma Antiqua. Religious duties were not just a responsibility of the magistrates, and there was no hard line making the responsibilities of officials different from those of "mere citizens" as you seem to suggest. Each citizen was responsible for playing a role in the life of the State and in the practice of the State religion. It was a duty of each citizen to serve Rome and honor her deities.
This wish to separate the religious duties of magistrates from those of other citizens is un-Roman. (106-4)
The stated objective I was greeted with when I first arrived at Nova Roma's territory was the restoration of traditional Roman values and not traditional Roman religion per se. Your interpretation that this requires all magistrates to be devout practitioners of the State religion is not congruent with my interpretation or that of others. This is not a settled issue but an issue that needs to be settled by discussion and debate.
I suspect that neither Christians, Jews, nor Moslems can honorably pay worship or homage to the ancient gods and goddesses. Their religions pretty much forbid it. Nova Roma must decide if we really want to be crippled from the start by restricting our leadership and public servants to a small group of people who choose to try to imitate a long-dead religious tradition.
Personally, I can't see that as being in the best interests of Nova Roma. We've already seen hints of nasty, narrow-minded religious intolerance expressed here not too long ago, and I don't think that's a good direction in which to continue. (106-9)

The phrase "to imitate a long-dead religious tradition" was an unfortunate choice of words. Several devout Roman Polytheists took offense, and a considerable amount of rancor was injected into the debate. Nevertheless, others were able to continue the conversation on an intellectual rather than emotional level.


Gnaeus Marius Asiaticus pointed out that the Novaromani had already broken with the traditions of Roma Antiqua in several important respects:

Yes, the 'being' of the early Republic (and the Empire that followed) was intricately enmeshed with the beliefs and practices of what is now termed a 'Pagan' religion. And, without my sources in front of me, I do believe that members of the Senate, magistrates, etc, did have specific religious functions.
On the other hand, I also recall the station of women, throughout most of the Roman period, as being quite unenviable, at least as compared to what is known of Celtic practices. Women in both the Republic and Empire were not permitted citizenship; if I'm incorrect on this, please, someone give me a reference I can look up. In NR, however, women enjoy the benefis of full citizenship, when they 'sign on', no strings attached.
In addition, slavery was a normal practice throughout the ancient world, and Rome was certainly no exception.
If these practices... both of which were integral to the charactor of Roma Aeterna, can be altered to suit the character of Nova Roma, why not religion?
Is there REALLY no room for debate on this? Does the only attraction for citizenship in Nova Roma lay in the beliefs of the Old Gods? Is there nothing else? (106-13)

Scaevola countered Asiaticus by envoking the voluntary nature of being a Novaromanus, thus it was incumbent on each individual to determine whether the nature and purpose of Nova Roma were compatible with one's own. Meanwhile, the nature and purpose of the Republic must be protected:

NR is a voluntary organisation. As far as those of us attracted to the worship of the Old Gods in its Roman form are concerned, there isn't another voluntary organisation which does the business - so people who have this starting point are entitled to worry about being diluted out of existence by the desire to accommodate non-supporters of the Religio who are more generally into civic republicanism or classical civilisation - which are interests well covered by other voluntary organisations. (107-1)

The Censor and Consul Cassius reiterated the intent of the founders:

Non Religio Romana Magistrates are welcomed... so long as they agree not to try and upset the foundation on which Nova Roma was built.
The Constitution and Oath have been written specifically so that only "moderate" non-Pagans will become Magistrates. This will ensure that no Fundamentalist Citizen could ever take the reigns of the Mictonation and begin actively working against the Relgio Romana. On the other side of that fence, Nova Roma has specific provisions that there is a difference between Public and Private religion, and that non Pagan Citizens will be welcomed and invited to participate. (107-5)

Palladius offered a concurring opinion:

The magistrate positions of Nova Roma and the Senate are all posts of a semi-religious nature. There is no escaping that, and frankly, the positions were designed to be such. Why? Because these, but especially the Senate more so than even than the pontiffs, are the defenders of the Religio Romana. Nova Roma has a state religion, and as such the magistrates of the state are a part of the state religion. They do not have to believe in the Gods of Rome but they must on occasion participate in the rites of the Religio Romana (for example, Senators always offered sacrifice at the Altar of Victory before debate or discussion). They must not act against the Religio and they must defend it against any attempt to undermine it or supplant it with another religion. Like the ancients we are not so concerned with what you believe as how you act. Call that pagan paranoia perhaps but it cannot be helped. We want to ensure that the Religio Romana stays at the core of Nova Roma.
However, Nova Roma has grown much beyond the initial mission of reviving the Religio Romana, that cannot be denied, and we hope that there is room for all within Nova Roma. When Nova Roma was founded, there was much discussion that magistrates, and especially Senators, be believing practitioners of the Religio Romana. We realized that that was too limiting but at the same time wanted to ensure that those in power would not act against the State Religion. That was when the idea of an oath of office was brought up. The oath does not stress belief, it stresses action. "To do honor" is a public act, not an act of private belief. However, if someone cannot in good conscience do the public act, the "pinch of incense," that Germanicus did say he was willing to perform, then they could not carry out the duties of a magistrate or hold the rank of senator. (107-22)

The Augur Damianus Lucianus Dexippus was entirely at ease with this interpretation. Moreover, he offered an elegant explanation of how polytheists and monotheists were all looking at the same deity but from different perspectives, and thus any conflicts were self-imposed:

I don't support amending the constitution to solve this problem. For me...there is no problem. If one can not fulfill the position with the requirements thus stated, then don't desire to be in that position...plain and simple. (108-9)
Perhaps it is because my Deities are Roman that I have no problem performing strictly Religio rites when need be. But I personally hold to the belief that all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess. This is not monotheism...what is meant by this statement is that underlying all the manifestations of God or Goddess is an ultimate source of "power". I call this Divinity. So whether Divinity chooses to manifest itself as Jupiter, Venus, Diana, Odin, Hecate, Aman-Ra, Yahweh, Ganesha, or whatever...it's still coming from the same source. However...this is not to say that each archetype isn't distinct and individual. They each have their own personal likes, dislikes, etc. The power comes from the same source, but the energy revealed by the archetypes is different (and this is what we connect to depending upon our needs and wants).
This personal belief of mine has allowed me to take part in Celtic rituals, Greek rituals, Native American rituals, and Santeria rituals without feeling a betrayal against my own Patrons and Matrons. In the end...it's ultimately Divinity that is being worshiped and not just the archetype.
Now...if others who follow a different path can do the same thing when it comes to their participation in public office of Nova Roma and in honoring and worshiping the Gods of our Religio, then I am fine with that. But if it's going to cause stress on them and a failure to honor the Gods and Goddesses who Nova Roma has sworn allegiance to, then please forego the position... for your own spiritual ease and for that of Nova Roma. (108-18)

Sulla now addressed the issue from the perspective of a political scientist:

As I understood NR..we are a Micronation...as a political body it is more than just the religion..according to our Mission...we have real intentions of forming a Nation.
That seems more than Religious to me. (109-6)
I have seen this Religious discussion go on and on..and I have posed this question to some Citizens..now I am going to post it to everyone. Is NR more important than the relgion or is the Religion more important than the State. Becuase as I see it..the State is more important than the religion...That is not saying that the religion is not important..or that I am trivilizing the issue...I am not. But, as a political scientist, [I believe] this can create a major shift in the emphasis of our "microNation." We are an Nation. and the development of Nations forced religious issues in the back drop...becuase Religion serves as a divesive instead of a Cohesive force when it comes to the State. Religion has been used as a tool of the State since Ancient times...not the other way around.
Now, I expect a lot of response to this..and let me state my personal opinion. I believe that the State is more important than the religion. I believe that the religion will survive, as it has up to this point. But, the State needs nurturing and support from all elements of society. That is my primary concern..is the growth and development of the State. As a citizen, who supports the Goals of Nova Roma. I am offering my services to the State to accomplish its goals...Political, Social and Religious. I have my own beliefs and some of them differ from the Majority, and that is perfectly fine....that is life in a Republic. (109-7)

Australicus agreed with Asiaticus in his contention that Nova Roma departed from many of the practices of Roma, therefore why insist on having the Religio Romana as the official state religion?

... We are making little effort to be true to the historic practices of Rome. If we were, none of the women here would dare be intruding opinions into these discussions, the juveniles would be slapped down when they presumed to offer advice to their elders, most of our population would be slaves, and we would be killing our neighbors to loot their temples and treasuries. And those are just a few of the historic practices of Rome. Most of these historic practices are prohibited explicitly by the Constitution of Nova Roma. Isn't it just a little bit disingenuous to pretend that this one issue is the sine qua non of our being Roman.
What is essentially Roman is not the name and form of address used for the Divine, but the recognition of the centrality of the Divine in every aspect of the State, public and private. That is what was the Roman way.
Nova Roma is not and should not and never will be an exact recreation of Roma Antiqua! If we ever reach the point of having a large population, the majority of citizens are unlikely to embrace the Religio Romana, for a number of reasons that I'm sure you don't need spelled out for you. If the Constitution is interpreted in a way to exclude people who are not devout Religio Romana adherents from our governing bodies, Nova Roma will be crippled and will never amount to much.
I am comfortable with a requirement that office holders must respect and support the official State religion. I am not comfortable with a requirement that they be active practioners of the official State religion. And that is without any connection to my own religious views (which I don't think I have discussed with anyone here). That is purely out of concern for the best interests of Nova Roma. (110-4)

Dexippus continued to insist on the centrality of religion in Roman life:

But you can not escape or explain away the religious aspects. It's imbedded in what Nova Roma stands for and what existed in the Ancient Republic.
Nova Roma was founded as a Religious Organization and then moved to be a micronation. The Religio is the backbone of the rest of the organization. (110-16)
... you can not seperate the Religion from the State in Nova Roma. Doing so will violate the spirit that the organization was founded upon. Yes...we are a micronation...but we follow a system somewhat different than the Puritanism of the American model. We are Roman....our model is based upon ancient Rome...there was not seperation in ancient Rome...and there is no seperation in Nova Roma.
All the literature clearly states the importance (if not leadership) of the Religio Romana within Nova Roma. Why some have chosen to ignore this upon applying for citizenship is beyond me.
Again...Christian, Moslem, Jew, Hare Krishna...I don't give two fig newtons and a melba toast...as long as when the duty to offer appropriate prayer, honor, and offerings to the Gods of Rome are called for by one's position, that said person can do so with clear conscience and heart. (110-21)
... the offices are tied to the religion. Clear and simple. You can't be an Arch-Bishop of the Catholic Church unless you are Catholic. You can't be president of the Southern Baptist Convention unless you are a Southern Baptist. You can't be President of Israel unless you are a Jew. (111-1)
These issues have been outlined and dealt with in the Constitution prior to the formation of Nova Roma. We do realize in this day and age that women do play a vital role in society and culture and should be allowed to do so...we do realize that slavery is an unnecessary evil...we do realize that child abuse is wrong...there is no question here.... The underlying point is that the organization was born out of Roman Paganism and is a Roman Pagan organization. The Constitution presents this as the backbone of the Republic.
And again...if we are going to abandon our pursuit of historiocity, then let there be Collegia of differing faiths...modern and old. Let there be Nova Roman sponsored Wiccan events! Let there be Jews-for-Jupiter or Christians- for-Carthage...or Pagans-for-Pope John Paul! You can't open the valve without letting loose the flood gate! (111-6)

Scaevola supported Dexippus on the necessity of retaining the Constitutional clauses regarding the Religio Romana, and also reiterated his point that they forced no one to do anything:

While NR is a Micronation, it does not dispose of state coercive powers IRL [i.e., in real life] in relation to any territory. IRL, NR is a voluntary association: no-one has to join, and no-one has to take office (and no-one needs to be able to take office to defend themselves from persecution by the coercive powers of the state). So we can't "deduce" what's more important from political science of (as I read Sulla's post) a materialist cast. What's important is what (a) the Founders who wrote the Constitution, and (b) we the citizens who joined up on this basis, think is important.
So I come back to my own previous posts. The Constitution is written on the basis that NR is committed to the reconstruction of the Religio, not just as something that some people do, but as part of the point of the organisation. From this it follows that magistrates must carry out those public religious observances which reflect the understanding of classical religion that all things, including res publicae, have a divine aspect to them. Actually, if we didn't take this line, we would not be "merely" a reenactor group, but less than a reenactor group. We would also be denying the neoroman pagans among us the right to associate on the basis of the Coonstitution as it is. That's not defending religious freedom - it's opposing religious freedom IRL on the basis that the religious bit of the Constitution is not to be taken seriously (which could be argued equally of many small religious groups), ergo office has no and should have no religious duties; ergo (any) small religious groups can be controlled by supporters of more mainstream views. (112-4)

In much the same vein, Australicus argued for a moderate interpretation of the existing constitutional language:

Many people here have interpreted [the Constitution] to mean that anyone who feels unable to practice the public rites of the reconstructed Religio Romana is not entitled to participate fully in the life of the nation. "Citizens" who are not permitted to serve in public office are thereby denied full participation. I agree that there is some semantic leeway here, depending upon how our current authorities interpret this clause of the Constitution. However, clearly, some citizens want it interpreted in the most conservative, literal, "fundamentalist" and exclusionary way. I hope they don't prevail. Time will tell.
I have to say that I, myself, have some ambivalence about this. I have said many times that I think the centrality of religion to both public and private life was an important part of the Roman way of life, as was the duty of each Roman to serve the Republic. And I would hate to lose the particular Roman character of the Religio Romana in public rites. But I would also hate to see good people excluded from full participation for religious reasons. (112-19)

Again the voluntary nature of Nova Roma was envoked, this time by Dexippus:

Remember that Nova Roma is a volunteer organization. We all volunteered to become citizens and abide by the constitution. Not change it once we're in to suit our personal desires or wishes.
Nova Roma was founded as a Roman Pagan organization. We have been gracious to open our doors to people of other faiths (as is only right). But I would dare not join the church choir down the street because I want to sing and then try to get them to perform a public Wiccan ritual! It just won't work!
In the same voice...if non-Roman Pagans wish to become citizens of Nova Roma, they are more than welcome to. If they can perform the duties of a magistrate without violating their own personal beliefs, then they are welcome to run for office (note: this may include offering prayer, sacrifice, or offerings to a deity at any given point in time). If they can not do so, then I maintain that they abstain from seeking public office.
I, and others, are taking our belief and position of dedication to the Ancient Gods and Goddesses of Rome very seriously. And I would not be too happy to find someone in a leadership position who thinks of it nonchalantly. (112-21)

A comment by Lucia Maria Fimbria is worth noting:

I am not going to disrupt the Religio, work against the Religio, try to abolish the Religio... I'd think the kind of people who would have a major problem with it (as opposed to simply not taking part) would be incapable of joining Nova Roma in the first place. (113-4)

No one dreamed that just such a creature was already in their midst, abiding the moment to strike.

Secunda Floria Zonara suggested, that as the Republic grew, there would come a time when additional offices would need to be created, possibly without the religious requirements of the original magistracies:

Because there is so much to Rome and the Roman Way, there is room for many different sorts of people. The offices which were created to perform the State religious observances should stay there. Over time, I'm sure, if there is a need for it, secular offices will be created which don't require adherance to performing the ritual observances. When a society becomes large enough, that's inevitable.
To argue to change a Constitution and alter the offices away from historical precedent based on modern religious practices defeats the purpose of being in Nove Roma. If they can historically document that the offices were not tied to religious performances, then perhaps we should listen. Until then, lacking documentation, I will support the Constitution as written. It is my understanding that Rome was home to a variety of religions, but only the official State religion was observed publicly the officers of State. Anyone who has a problem with fulfilling the obligations of the office shouldn't apply for it - whether their problems rest in religion, qualifications, time, or finances is irrelevant. Perhaps offices can be created to fulfill the needs of those who can't meet the qualifications for those already established offices...... ambassadorships, etc, were not unknown. (113-7)
Sulla made a final plea for changing the Constitution: ... NR was founded at first as a religious organization. BUT, it has taken on other goals as well...We need to account for our other goals, too. What is most important, Religion, or everything else. Religion does not have to take a back seat, but an equal seat to our other goals. No one is going to hinder the growth the the State religion, well, let me state that I would not hinder the growth the the State Religion, I would respect all ceremonies that are associated with the State Religion. However, by forcing all magistrates to comply, you are hindering the talent that we as citizens who believe in different faiths bring to NR, thus hindering our ability to achieve our other goals. Separte but equal is still separate. and it then is not equal. As Brown vs. Board of Education pointed out. Separate is not equal. Our goals are the same. Growth for NR, freedom of all faiths. Lets support each other, not alienate each other. (113-14)

Australicus argued once again for a moderate interpretation of the existing constitutional language:

All but the most blindly devout or religiously intimidated should be able to stand respectfully in a ceremony or offer a pinch of incense, and those who can't aren't likely to come to Nova Roma anyway. If we could have some official ruling that that level of participation in the Religio satisfies the constitutional requirement, then I think there would be no problem. Of course, I have no problem with it anyway, but don't wish to see other Roman citizens relegated to a second class citizenship on the basis of their religious devotion. (113-19)

Again, the idea of someone entirely at odds with the Religio Romana choosing to become a citizen was dismissed as incredible.


Iustina Luciania Orbianna added her opinion to the topic at hand:

... The main reason for my deciding to become a citizen of Nova Roma was because of the Religio Romana. Had this been just another SCA type group, I'd have seriously put off applying for citizenship until I'd forgotten about it more than likely. Now, I'm sure this is not the case for all citizens of Nova Roma, but I believe there are others who are like me. I understand that no matter what Religio Romana will always be the state religion (at least until Constantine comes into power), but some of us wish to make the Religio our main focus here.... Let those who are not practitioners or those who do not honor the Religio have their place here, but as it was and most certainly not in a place of power, for we wish to preserve our Religio and not allow another Constantine to make a change of such magnitude again. (117-24)

According to Flavia Claudia, the issue simply boiled down to one of respect and tolerance:

I'm a pagan. I really believe in it and love it. It works for me. But I have Christian friends and Jewish friends, and every once in a while they ask me to go to their services. I don't believe the way they do, but it isn't going to kill me to sit there, be polite and respectful, and maybe learn something.
So maybe a Senator isn't a Pagan. So what? It isn't going to kill him or her to be polite and respect the Religio. It isn't going to kill us Pagans because a 'non-Pagan' is taking part in a ritual. As long as the Senator respects our gods, that's more than enough to get the job done. Frankly, if a Catholic friend asked me to light a candle in front of St. Jude or somebody for them, I'd do it. Not because I believe in St. Jude, but because my friend does and I'm sure Jude wouldn't mind. I don't think Jupiter Ops Max would mind, either, if a Jewish Senator lit some incense for him.
As long as the intent of the action is respect for all gods, it doesn't have to be belief, does it? (117-25)

The United States of America and the Republic of Nova Roma were founded on two different principles with regard to religion. The former was founded in part by people who came to the New World to escape the persecution of state religions, while the latter was founded for the specific purpose of reviving an ancient religion that had been persecuted into oblivion once it was displaced as a state religion. The American distaste for established religion and the general human proclivity for forming communities of focussed interests met head-on. Meanwhile, those who had experienced tolerance and moderation under an established religion were more sanguine.

Although the historical evidence does not suggest that the debate was ever couched in these terms, it may be said that its outcome was a consensus, that since Nova Roma was founded in part to revive the Religion Romana, yet by proclaiming itself to be a sovereign state it also assumed the general responsibilities for human rights in accordance with international law, in order to remedy past discrimination -- indeed, nearly seventeen centuries of it -- the establishment of the Religion Romana and its practitioners as a protected class within the Republic was a morally supportable proposition, and that this was an essential clause in the social contract which defined Nova Roma. Additionally, there was general assent that the references to religion in the Constitution assured that magistrates would be barred from undermining the Religio Romana, but at the same time did nothing to bar tolerant non-practitioners from public office, nor did it undermine the freedom of religion of private citizens.

Six weeks following this debate, the wisdom of the constitutional protection of the Religio Romana would become manifest in the "Senate and People versus Lucius Marconius Romanus."

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