How To Win An Election: Advice from 2,000 years ago

How To Win An ElectionJust finished a delightful little book written in 64 BC by Quintus Tullius Cicero, younger brother of Marcus Tullius Cicero who history knows simply as Cicero, the Roman statesman, orator, philosopher, etc.

In 64 BC, Quintus felt obliged to jot down some advice for his older brother who was then in the midst of an election campaign for the job of consul of Rome. As translator Philip Freeman explains in the lively introduction to How To Win An Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians, Marcus came into that campaign as an outsider and as a bit of an underdog. Generally speaking, Romans only elected consuls who had the Roman equivalent of the “royal jelly”, which neither Marcus nor Quintus had. They had to work for the place in Roman society rather than be born into it.

So Marcus had a fight on his hands for votes and gave his brother some advice on how to beat the other two candidates, both of whom had “royal jelly” connections. The result? Well, if Machiavelli’s The Prince is gimlet-eyed advice on the exercise of political power, then Quintus Cicero’s slim volume is equally sharp advice on the acquisition of that power in a democracy.

Some of Quintus’ advice (lifted straight from Freeman’s translation):

  • Do not overlook your family and those closely connected with you. Make sure they are all behind you and want you to succeed … For almost every destructive rumour that makes its way to the public begins among family and friends.
  • There are three things that will guarantee votes in an election: Continue reading How To Win An Election: Advice from 2,000 years ago