“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, which I wholeheartedly share, voting is an important right, the main way to express our preferences, ideals and it’s also a civic duty as citizen of a nation. It doesn’t matter who or what we vote, it’s necessary to freely decide the best alternative not for granting favours or under restraint, but simply because we believe in something. Even if today it’s difficult to describe a politician as the best candidate (at least he could be the less worst) because very often they don’t come up to our expectations and hopes, voting is the main possibility we have to change the current situation.
Anyway, the aim of this post is not to talk about politics (especially because I’m not very keen on this topic), but making a short journey in the climate of election campaign of… ancient Rome!!!
The electoral propaganda was named ambitus to indicate the real tour through which the candidates convinced the electors of their efficiency and political skills. At the beginning, propaganda was only oral and the candidates were accompanied by their supporters; later, oral propaganda was supported by messages painted on the walls and before the election each candidate created a team of scriptores (people who painted the walls to give some news) or, using modern words, of writers. They obviously chose the most popular places and the most important streets, without respecting public buildings, monuments, holy images or even graves, since they were near the door of the town and they were read by all people who entered or went out from the city. The manifestoes were full of recommendations and peremptory orders according to the place, for example in religious places there were connections to Gods’ interventions, promising faithful people the help of some divinities in exchange for their vote.
Another important element was the relationship with the electors, so the candidate had to be good-looking and particularly keen on orations. It was necessary to stress all the negative characteristics of the rival, even the scandals of his private life and he was even denounced in court: this way, each candidate not only morally destroyed his rival, but he achieved many votes.
Finally, the most common point of many electoral campaigns across many ages is the distribution of gifts and money to buy the votes of the electors. I suppose we could say: “O tempora, o mores!” .
Indeed, comparing the Roman electoral campaign and that of these days, we can find many similarities: while the direct relationship with electors has been replaced by the advent of mass media, the several speeches to persuade public opinion, the leaflets that overwhelm us (like the Roman manifestoes) and the attempt to diminish the skills of the political enemy have not changed.
Perhaps things don’t really change in politics…what do you think?