Cicero, Quintus Tullius. How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (the Victorians called him “Tully”) was best known to generations of Latin students as the essayist and orator most to be emulated, but he was also a very successful courtroom lawyer and politician

— at least until Mark Antony got into power after Caesar’s assassination and had Marcus and his brother, Quintus, executed on trumped-up charges. Quintus was the practical one and acted as campaign manager when Marcus stood for the consulship in 64 BC, writing his brother letters filled with instructions and advice. Both the Cicero brothers were intelligent and highly educated but they lacked the noble birth that would have eased access to the highest levels of society, so Marcus had to appeal to the masses — and Quintus understood just how to do that. “You must diligently cultivate relationships with . . . men of privilege. Both you and your friends should work to convince them that you have always been a traditionalist. Never let them think you are a populist.” That wouldn’t be out of place in a smoke-filled room today. Quintus also noted that “running for office can be divided into two kinds of activity: securing the support of your friends and winning over the general public.” Which applies equally to today’s primary contest and general election system in the U.S. This is not a lengthy read, only a little over eighty pages, with the original Latin and a new, rather colloquial English rendition on facing pages. If you’re a student of the language, it’s a great text for study. If you’re interested in political science and sociology, you’ll find out just how little things have changed.

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Published in: on 11 June 2013 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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