Answer to the virtual state

The Religio Romana was quite conservative. In its antique form it had little tolerance for innovation. Celetrus and I have been discussing the question of whether the Roman gods might be offended by the foundation of a virtual republic. He sent some texts, previously posted here, that show clearly how in Roma Antiqua the Roman state was thought to be established in the traditional lands. In contrast, Nova Roma, a virtual state, has been established in what the ancient Romans would have characterized as the “incertus,” the unknown lands.

My gensmate argues that only the sacra privata can be restored. Restoration of the sacra publica must, he says, await the establishment of a new Roman state in the traditional Roman lands. He would have the Collegium Pontificum of Nova Roma focus on fostering private ritual and abandon, for now, the attempt to revive the state rituals. His proposal, in my opinion, strikes at the heart of Nova Roma, which as a micronation was established specifically so that the sacra publica, the whole of the Religio Romana, might be revived.

The idea that a virtual state might be displeasing to the gods is very interesting, but I can’t firmly conclude that it is. My reasoning runs more or less as follows — the Romans came together in ages past, formed their city, and established their rites. The Romans themselves existed before their state, and if reconstruction is at all meaningful, the Romans as a people must exist even after they have become stateless.

As a student of Medieval History, I have long noticed that the barbarian law codes were heavily influenced by Roman law, even when the codifications were self-consciously tribal. Indeed, the act of codification itself shows a Roman influence. After about 1100 CE, when the papacy and the emerging states of western Europe began to establish and extend the legal infrastructure, they self-consciously modeled their laws on Roman law. I see this development as relevant to the issue at hand because one so often finds the idea that the people of western Europe are Roman citizens, with the peasants as plebeians, the knights as milites, and the nobles as patricians. one would not expect something different. With the re-establishment of the Roman Empire in the West under Charlemagne in 800 CE, any philosophy of law would necessarily include the idea that the people of the Empire were Romans. Indeed, even the kings of Europe acknowledged, if only on the vaguest terms, the legal hegemony of the Holy Roman Empire.

My thoughts turn toward personalizing the survival of Rome in the West. My paternal ancestors hailed from the Aargau in German Switzerland. I know my line back to the 13th century, but nothing can bridge the gap from then back to the time when that area was ruled by Rome. As a genealogist, I have dabbled a bit in DNA testing. One of the things I’ve learned is that my paternal line belongs, probably, to Haplogroup G. One of the interesting characteristics of this Haplogroup is that it represents only some 2-3% of the European population but is very common in the Caucasus and in Italy, with its members having entered Europe from the Middle East some 6,000 years ago. Some historians speculate that it was the group that brought Indo-European language and culture to the aboriginal Europeans. Not only is the Haplogroup more common in Italy than elsewhere in Europe, in Tuscany it accounts for some 20% of the population. Combining this scientific data with personal fancy, it occurs to me that my distant ancestor might have been a Roman who settled in Switzerland.

And, if I could possibly have a paternal Roman descent, why not others? Nearly the whole population of western and southern Europe, the Balkans, north Africa, the Middle East — the whole of the former Roman Empire — could conjure a theoretical Roman descent with nearly as much foundation as I have just done.

Turning back to my debate with Celetrus, it seems to me that the gods would be pleased rather than offended if remnants of the ancient Romans were to come together to build a new Rome. If they cannot do it in their ancestral territory, then in any new territory possible. In the modern world, that means the incertus, the internet.

I doubt that the gods take the embattled micronation of Nova Roma as seriously as they did focused political machine of Roma Antiqua, but I think they must be pleased that even a feeble Roma has been revived and is struggling to re-establish the ancient sacra publica.

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