1695918033 Electoral inscriptions discovered in Pompeii reveal clientelism and political corruption

Electoral inscriptions discovered in Pompeii reveal clientelism and political corruption in ancient Rome

The fury of Mount Vesuvius stopped the clock one autumn day in 79 AD. C. in Pompeii, leaving the ancient Roman city frozen in time forever. While searching through the ashes, the archaeologists of the new round of excavations traveled to the time before the volcanic eruption and discovered electoral inscriptions that prove that the political maneuvers in antiquity were not very different from those of today and that this was probably the case The last ritual was to protect the gods from devastation. For science, they are a treasure that helps decipher the details of daily life in ancient Rome.

More information

In a previously only partially excavated house in Via di Nola, in the central area of ​​ancient Pompeii, several election inscriptions have appeared on the walls of the room in which the house was located, the ancient equivalent of today’s election posters and brochures, the Lararium, the domestic altar of the house.

The surprising thing was to find them inside the house, since these inscriptions were usually placed on the external facades of the buildings, where citizens could read the names and characteristics of the candidates for the city’s magistracies.

Archaeologists explain the presence of election propaganda in the house by the fact that it was common to organize events and dinners in the houses of candidates and their friends to promote the election campaign.

In this case, the signs encourage choosing for the position of aedile a certain Aulus Rustius Verus, in ancient Rome a kind of councilor in charge of public works. This figure appears in other inscriptions and is known to appear in Pompeii in the seventies of the 1st century AD together with Giulio Polibius, the owner of a magnificent house on the Avenue of Abundance, that of Duoviro, the highest public He held office of the city, a degree accessed after he had been an aedile, so archaeologists conclude that the newly discovered inscriptions are ancient and that Aulus Rustius Verus likely won these elections.

Burnt remains on the Larario altarBurnt remains on the altar of the LararioArchaeological Park of Pompeii

The duovirs were officials of ancient Rome, chosen in pairs to control and advise each other, and to supervise the city’s public, political, and administrative officials.

The house apparently belonged to a follower of Aulus Rustius, perhaps one of his freedmen or a friend, and contains a detail that has not gone unnoticed by archaeologists: a bakery with a large oven, near which are the bodies of three victims, two women and two Women lie a child who was killed by the attic collapse during the first phase of the eruption.

For experts, the presence of the bakery reveals that in ancient times political clientelism was commonplace, which, like today, consisted of promising favors in exchange for votes.

Maria Chiara Scappathiccio, a Latin professor at the Federico II University of Naples and co-author of the study on the new findings, explained that the city councilors and the bakers “collaborated to the limits of legality” and that Aulus Rustius Verus “was capable of doing so “. It soon became clear to him, while he was still in the middle of the election campaign for the office of mayor, that voters live primarily on bread.

The discovery of the candidate’s initials, ARV, on a volcanic rock millstone resting in the hall of the house where renovation work was taking place at the time of the eruption supports this theory. “Aulus Rustius Verus probably directly financed the activity of the bakery, both for economic and political reasons,” said Maria Chiara Scappathiccio.

In addition, on the altar of the large Larario, decorated with two stucco snakes, remains of a final votive offering were found, probably made shortly before the eruption. Scientists have analyzed the remains and found that the ritual involved offering figs and dates that were burned in front of the altar. At the end of the rite, a whole egg was placed directly on the brick altar of the Lararium. The altar was then covered with a tile. Remains of previous offerings were also found, which included vine fruits, fish and mammalian meat.

The director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, Gabrielzuchtriegel, emphasized that each new archaeological find is shared virtually in real time through an electronic diary published on the park’s website while the excavation phase is still ongoing. “To my knowledge, we are the first archaeological site in the world to practice this form of scientific transparency: we are convinced that, thanks to the opportunities offered by technology, Pompeii will be an international model for a new form of data accessibility.” Digital . “The future of archeology is here,” he said.

All the culture that goes with it awaits you here.

Subscribe to

Babelia

The literary news analyzed by the best critics in our weekly newsletter

GET IT