On Bein' a Roman...(and getting other folks to do it with you!)
by: Aldus Marius Peregrinus
What I intend to share are my methods for building up circuli (or whatever we decide to call them)...the local gaggles of Roman-friendly folk who tend to congregate around a Traveller of the Roman Way.

It begins with a readiness and a willingness on one's part to identify oneself as a Roman whenever and wherever possible. I introduce myself that way at work and in classes; on forms that request my ethnicity for statistical reasons, I put either 'Hispanic (Roman)' or 'Other (Roman)'. I say I'm a Roman to people whom I am meeting for the first time. Time for conversation permitting, I may even pull out my reenactor photos.

This tends very naturally to lead to the question: "Marius, why do you call yourself a Roman?"...this said in a puzzled or fascinated tone of voice by those who approach me about it, perhaps a few days later. At that point I explain my Hispano-Roman roots and my pride in that part of my heritage; and if I haven't done so already, I inform the interviewer of my Legionary activities and show them the pictures. In most cases I am the first person the interviewer has ever heard refer to themselves as a Roman; the way our history is taught in schools, people tend to think we've been extinct Lo, these many years! ("The barbarians didn't get all of us," he says with a solemn wink...) >({|;-)

For most people, this information is enough. But some few will be intrigued; and these are the ones who, over the next days or weeks, will want to find out from you just what 'being a Roman' means.

There are two kinds of these inquirers: Those who want to know what Romanitas is and means to a Roman (the 'students'); and those who think said information may have some application to themselves (the 'seekers'). I treat both groups the same, as one never knows when a Student may evolve into a Seeker. Even those who remain Students will have gained the unique, possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear about Roman civilization from the perspective of a Roman. This may change the course of their studies, and certainly the spirit of any papers they may write. No more the Dry and Dusty Academic; how can he be, when he knows at least one person for whom Roma lives? But of course the greatest reward is in seeing someone find their own inner Romanitas; that Mater Roma may live for them, too, however small their initial grounding in the subject.

Ergo, everything I do from that point is designed to give a Student-type the unique perspective of a Roman-in-spirit, and to get a Seeker-type off to a very good start and give him firm grounding on the Roman Way.

In no particular order (you will note that the entire process has been driven by the queries of the curious person, not by me), I teach:

  • the Four Cardinal Virtues: Gravitas, Dignitas, Pietas, and Virtus--dignity of purpose, dignity of character, respect for one's Gods and traditions, and moral courage, respectively (I'm sure everyone has their own list, but these are mine...)
  • Discipline (if you ask me, the defining trait of the Roman character), with historical examples
  • A bit about our history (that there were Kingdom, Republic and Empire, and how long the whole thing lasted; how 'together' the world was for a time, and how long it took to come undone)
  • A bit about the Legions (my 'specialty'; someone else's might be cooking, or legendry, or...)
  • Answering questions in a way meant to correct commonly-held misconceptions (such as those resulting from Christian propaganda)
  • Stories about exemplary Romans (I share most of Titus Livius' favorites)
  • Anything else Roman that comes up in conversation, optionally to include enough Latin to 'meet and greet' with!

It is entirely possible that this could take a little bit of time. It is also entirely possible that the person(s) benefitting from this will become your friend(s); that you will meet with them fairly often in the course of your daily life; and that you will rap a little bit about Roma every time. Congratulations--you have a small Roman outpost!

As you may note, there is nothing formal about such a grouping whatsoever. It has no constitution or bylaws, any more than any other friendship does, and attempts to impose same are bound to drive away a prospective member and will look ridiculous besides. So I don't know how (or even if) we should go about incorporating circuli into the Societas Via Romana. Perhaps it will be enough simply to share with each other the fact that we have them, and how many 'disciples' in each.
© 2001-2018 Societas Via Romana