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The Commentariolum Petitionis as an Attack on Elections Campaigns

journal contribution
posted on 02.05.2020, 19:51 by Michael C. AlexanderMichael C. Alexander
The Commentariolum Petitionis, ostensibly written by Quintus Cicero to his brother Marcus Cicero, has been interpreted either as a genuine document offering advice on how to run for the consulate of 63 B.C., or as a later, but nevertheless reliable, description of how candidates campaigned for office. This article, however, proposes a third way to read the work, as a tongue-in-cheek pseudo-didactic work whose purpose was to mock Republican elections and the tactics used by candidates to achieve success. The article identifies three signs that the work was not to be taken literally: 1) the description of Marcus Cicero as a nomenclator, a role performed by slaves and freedmen, 2) the frank espousal of an instrumental view of amicitia, and 3) the citation of C. Aurelius Cotta (cos. 75 B.C.), a shrewd and ambitious politician, as an authority on correct but borderline election tactics. The article argues that the work incorporates all the dramatically appropriate points of the anti-Ciceronian tradition that were identified by Gabba (RSI 1957) in the speech of Q. Fufius Calenus (cos. 47) as reported by Dio (46.1-28). The admiration for the Republic of old that prevailed in some circles during the late first century A.D. might possibly have provoked a work that skewered Republican elections with deadpan irony.


Publisher Statement

This article is cited extensively by its author in a subsequent book, also available on Indigo, entitled, Roman Amoralism Reconsidered: The Political Culture of the Roman Republic and Historians in an Era of Disillusionment (2018)


Alexander, Michael C. "The Commentariolum Petitionis as an Attack on Elections Campaigns." Athenaeum 97 (2009) 31-57, 369-95


Athenaeum: Studi di Letteratura e Storia dell’Antichità pubblicati sotto gli auspici dell’Università di Pavia



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