Thursday, March 8, 2012
Peter Stothard reviews the new book by Quintus Tullius Cicero (102 BC - 43 BC).
Quintus's election book is frank about the gullibility of the masses and firm in its requirement that they be deceived in their own best interests. Rome was a "cesspool of humanity," and its would-be leaders could be excused of behavior to match. An assumed personality need not be maintained for long. But Marcus, his brother advised, must make himself seem to be a man of the people while reassuring the wealthy that the "new man" knows his place.Sounds like fun. Maybe for my birthday (two days before the Oregon primaries).
Electoral corruption was endemic at Rome. Like voters in all democracies, the Romans were both inured to it and moved, from time to time, to clean house. The Cicero brothers were campaigning in one of Rome's years of attempted reform. Their chief opponent, a corrupt aristocrat called Lucius Sergius Catilina, had bribed on a sufficiently massive scale to spur the senate to call for tighter rules. A tribune of the plebs vetoed the plan, as was his right under Rome's separation of powers. Cicero was then able to savage Catiline with his famed rhetorical abuse. A problem became an opportunity, a process that always brings politicians pleasure.