The “Handbook on Electioneering” is rather more complicated than it appears. There has long been some doubt on whether it really was written by the second-rate Quintus Cicero, attempting to instruct his much smarter elder brother in how to reach the consulship. Why, after all, would it have been preserved? And why did Marcus need Quintus’ advice? Many critics have suspected that it was a nostalgic fiction—or rhetorical exercise—of the early imperial period, written decades after popular elections had ended under Roman autocratic rule. But at the same time, most critics have imagined that it nevertheless represented much of the reality of Roman political competition; and that’s partly because it can seem so close to our own.
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Showing Hands in Ancient Athens January 10, 2013