FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Best of 2012

Campaign Tips From Cicero

The Art of Politics, From the Tiber to the Potomac


In 64 BC, the great Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the republic. Marcus was 42 years old, brilliant, and successful. But he was not a member of the nobility, and that would ordinarily have eliminated him from consideration. The other candidates that year were so unappetizing, however, that he had a chance of winning -- at least, thought his younger brother, Quintus, if Marcus could run a good campaign. At this time in Rome, any adult male citizen could cast a ballot, but voting was done in a complicated system of groups. The richest citizens had disproportionate power, social and political patronage was crucial, and campaigns were accompanied by some bribery and occasional violence, but the electoral process was orderly and usually reasonably fair. The Commentariolum Petitionis, or "Little Handbook on Electioneering," purports to be a memo written by Quintus to Marcus telling

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