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Electoral Bribery in The Roman Republic*

  • Andrew Lintott (a1)

Extract

In Western Europe to-day we tend to assume automatically that electoral bribery is pernicious, in that it distorts the democratic process, the selection by the people of their own representatives, by shifting whatever power lies in the generality of the electorate back into the hands of the people who seek office, so that a democratic procedure becomes in effect oligarchic. We even term bribery the presentation of attractive policies to the electorate by a person or party, which we believe will not be in the people's long-term interest or will be rapidly discarded in favour of policies which suit those in power. Such judgements may be superficial and too dependent on the presumption that without bribery elections will be free. It is arguable that in specific societies and in specific historical contexts bribery may on the contrary make elections less predictable, dissolving the existing ties by which the electorate are already bound to those seeking office, rather than reinforcing them. Alternatively, bribery may be regarded as an accepted part of the political scene, which does not materially affect the result of elections and thus the course of political history. In Roman politics it is hard to refute the suggestion that the sort of people who actually held magistracies was not seriously influenced by electoral bribery, even though on occasions this may have determined that one man rather than another should be consul or praetor.

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1 Varro, Ling. Lat. 5.22; 7. 30; Festus sL, M; 15L=16M.

2 ‘Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman Republic’, Historia 21 (1972), 626–38.

3 Cat. 10. 1–3; 10. 6–11. 1; Jug. 41.

4 A hint, however, in Hist. 1. fr. 13—’omnium partium decus in mercedem corruptum’, cf. fr. 16.

5 Lucan 1. 160–82, esp. 173 ff.: ‘hinc rapti fasces pretio sectorque favoris | ipse sui populus letalisque ambitus urbi, | annua venali referens certamina Campo | hinc usura vorax avidumque in tempora fenus | et concussa fides et multis utile bellum’

6 Floras 2. 47. 7 ff, esp. 11–13.

7 Plut., Mar. 5. 3–6; Sulla 5. 2.

8 Tac, Ann. 1. 2.

9 Caes., BC. 1. 4. 2; Cic,Att 9. 11. 4.

10 Pol. 6. 56. 4. It has been held (most recently by Ambrosone (1983), 224, for earlier authorities see Walbank's commentary ad loc.) that it was the law of 181 B.C.(see below) which laid down the death penalty, but such a penalty was not applied in this period to other offences involving money, such as repetundae and peculatus. Fascione (1984), 102–3 believes that thepassage refers to the Lex Poetelia of 358 b.c

11 The term manifestos did not only refer to a crime detected in the act. See Gaius 3. 183 fT. on furtum manifestum (a category established by the Twelve Tables, whose interpretation was disputed later) with du Zulueta's commentary, Watson, A., Roman Private Law about 200 b.c. (1971), 148 f.

12 Livy 4. 25. 13. Ogilvie in his commentary suggests that this was a fanciful elaboration of a misunderstood annalistic notice—album proscriptum. The story is anyhow unlikely to be a retrojected account of a genuine later event. Fascione ((1984), 21 and (1981), 258 ff.) tries hard to make sense of the account as history.

13 Livy 7. 25. 12–13. Fascione ((1981), 269 ff.) argues for the authenticity of both the law and Livy's interpretation. For the later importance of conciliabulasee Lex (Acilia) repetundarum (CIL 12, 583) 1. 31; Livy25 5 6; 39 14 7; 40 37 3; 43 14 10; ORF no. 48, frr.34–7—C. Gracchus' speech against Popilius Laenas there.

14 Livy 9. 26. 8 ff. For a defence of the genuineness ofLivy's account and an examination of its implicationsfor the legality of repeated magistracies see Rilinger, R.,Die Ausbildung von Amtswechsel und Amtsfristen’, Chiron 8 (1978), 247312 at 280 ff. Develin (1985), 145 ff., is not convinced by Livy's interpretation, because he believes that coitiones and factiones were a constant feature of elections and could not in themselves have produced a crisis.

15 See below pp. 8, 9, 12. This was for a long time aproblem in drafting bribery legislation in Britain.

16 10. 5. 6. Cf. Livy 25. 2 on his behaviour as aedile.

17 Evidence in MRR 1, 307.

18 Livy 35. 10. 1; 24. 4.

19 37 47 6; 57. 9–58. 2. See Scullard, H. H., Roman Politics 200–150 b.c. (1973), 137–8; Astin, A. E., Cato the Censor (1978), 3 f. Fascione, (1984), 127, argues that the competition between nobiles and new men helped to promote corruption. Develin, (1985) 134 ff., by contrast maintains that one cannot prove any increase in corruption. He accepts that the law of 181 against bribery is important, but thinks that it is more significant of changed perceptions of acceptable behaviour. It seems to me more likely that the increase in competition and the increased availability of overseas wealth actually increased corruption, which no doubt in turn led to changes of perception about what could be permitted.

20 Livy states that Glabrio had brought in at histriumph 3,000 lb of uncoined silver, 113,000 Attic tetra-drachrns and 249,000 cistophori, as well as a number ofsilver vessels (37. 46. 3).

21 Livy 39. 32. 5 ff.

22 Livy 39. 40–41 (esp. 40. 10).

23 Livy 40. 19. 11; cf. Cato, ORF no. 8, fr. 136. I seeno reason to amalgamate this law with the Lex Baebiade praetoribus (see below), as Fascione has done((1984), 28–9), following Fraccaro, P., Opuscula 1. 227 ff. and others since Mommsen.

24 Livy, Per. 47. Fascione ((1984), 55 ff.) argues thatthis was a consular law, the Lex Cornelia Fulvia, whichcreated quaestio perpetua procedure for the first time(against the natural interpretation of Cic, Brut. 106)and was identical with the Lex Cornelia, the law inforce at the beginning of 67 b.c.. Thus there was noSullan law about ambitus. Even if the traditional viewcontains a number of questionable assumptions, thisrevision does not seem to offer increased plausibility.

25 Livy 40. 44. 1–2. Expenditure on games was alsolimited (40.44. 10). Cf. Cato frr. 137–8 on the LexBaebia. On the nature of the Lex Villia, see Astin, , Thelex annalis before Sulla (1958).

26 ORF, no. 8, frr. 139–40; Macr. 3. 17. 1–3; Festus 220L. Macrobius dates it two years after Cat's censor-ship and places the Lex Fannia of 161 in the 22nd yearafter it, cf. Gell. 2. 24. 2 ff.

27 Plut., Cato mai. 18. 2 ff.; Cato, ORF fr. 93.

28 Macr. 3. 17; Gell. 2. 24, cf. Lintott, op. cit. (n. 1),629–30.

29 Ann. 3. 55.

30 Macr. and Gell., loc. cit (n. 28); Athenaeus 274c, Lucilius 1172, 1200M.

31 Gell. 2. 24. 13. A Lex Aemilia of Lepidus, the consul of 78, is said to have limited the kinds of foodprovided (ibid., 12). For evasion cf. Cic, Mur. 72.

32 Trinummus 466 ff.; 491 ff. (note 470–1 on dinnersfor clients); 1033 ff.; Menaechmi 571 ff. Cf. on factioCaecilius, Plocium 172 Rib. and see Earl, D. C., Moraland Political Tradition of Rome (1967), 25 ff.; idem, .‘Political Terminology in Plautus’. Historia 9 (1960), 235–43

33 Amphitruo 64–78; Poenulus 36–9.

34 As Cicero (Rep. 2. 39) admits.

35 Plut., Mar. 5. 3–6.

36 See Kunkel, W., RE quaestio XXIV 720 ff.; idemUntersuchungen zur Entwicklung des römischen Kriminalverfahrens (1962), esp. 45 ff.

37 Cic, de Orat. 2. 274. It is, though possible, far from certain that the Q. Coponius, whom the elde Pliny (NH 35. 162) relates as condemned for ambitus for giving an amphora of wine to a voter, should be identified with the man honoured by the koino of Phocians at Delphi shortly after 150 B C (SEG. I 151).

38 Cic, Leg. 3. 35; Amic. 41. Like the 1872 Ballot Act in Britain (see below), this was probably more effective against intimidation than bribery. Bleicken, J., Lex Publico, 2781 ff., has argued that this measure broke the link between social dependence and electoral behaviour, but the presumption that up to this time clientela was dominant is questionable. See Brunt, P. A., The Fall of the Roman Republic (1988), 423 ff. and my own reservations in ZSS 104 (1987), 34 ff. at 39–40.

39 Leg. 3. 38; Plut., Mar. 4. 2. The latter passage makes it likely that C. Marius, not M. Marius Gratidianus, as the Cicero text might suggest, is the author of the bill.

40 Cic, Sulla 17 with Schol. Bob. 78 St. See n. 24ibove for the view that Sulla's law did not exist.

41 Plut., Cato min. 21. 5.

42 On this problem see Lintott, , Hermes 106 (1978),125 ff.

43 Cic, Parad. Stoic. 5.40; Plut., Luc. 5.4; psAsc.259 St.

44 Cic, Verr 1. 22–3; 25.

45 Taylor (1960).

46 Cic, Verr. 1.23; Att. 1. 18. 4; de Orat. 2.257.” Cic, Har. Resp. 42; Suet., Aug. 3. 1.

48 Mommsen, Staatsrecht III3, 196; Ambrosone (1983), 228.

49 cf. Cic, Corn. 1, frr. 40–41 Puccioni; also Att. 1. 16. 12 for the S.C. of 61 B.C. censuring the keeping of divisores as lodgers at one's home, as apparently the consul Pupius Piso was.

49a See Wiseman (1971), chs. 2–3.

50 Asc. 83C; Cic, Verr. 1. 36; 2. 2. 108; Clu. 25, 72,87. cf. Cael. 16; 30; Plane. 38; 44–8; Mommsen, , Strafrecht, 869.

51 Cic, Att. 1. 16. 13. Shackleton Bailey's emendation of tribulibus to tribubus makes for an excessively small financial penalty, unless it was to be repeated every year. It is not clear, however, that quoad vivat means either every year, as both he and How believe, or every election.

52 Gruen, E. S., The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (1974), 160 and for the evidence see his index under ‘Electoral Bribery’ and ‘Ambitus’.

53 Cic, Att 4. 15. 7—literally from 1/3% to 2/3% a month.

54 Cic, Corn, i, frr. 40–1 Puccioni; Asc. 58, 69, 75C. Cf. Griffin, M., ‘The Tribune C. Cornelius’, JRS lxiii (1973). 196 ff.

55 Cic, Sulla 17 with Schol. Bob. 78–9 St; Dio 36. 38. 1; 37. 25. 3.

56 Cic, Mur. 67; 71.

57 cf. Lintott, A., Violence in Republican Rome (1968), 80. The assumption seems to have been that collegia had no right to exist, unless legìtimìzed, and that magistrates could properly disperse any meetings.

58 Cic, Mur. 45; 47; 89; cf. 67–8 for the S.C.; Schol. Bob. 79 St; Plane. 83; Dio 37. 29. 1.

59 Schol. Bob. 152 St; Dio 39. 3. 7; Cic, QF 2. 3. 5.

60 Comm. Pet. 5.16 and 19; Lex repetundarum (CIL12 583) 11. 10, 20, 22; and see R. Cagnat in Daremberg-Saglio s.v., iv, 1372–3; H. S. Versnel in C. M. Stibbe(op. cit. (n. 61)), 108 ff.

61 Stibbe, C. M. et al. . Lapis Satricanus, Arch.Stud.Neder.Inst.Rome: Scripta Minora v (1980).

62 5. 19.

63 Thuc. 8. 54. 4.

64 Cic, Plane. 36–7; Schol. Bob. 167 St.

65 Asc. 36C. The exclusion of laudationes was ignored by Pompey himself in the case of Munatius Plan-cus—Val. Max. 6. 2. 5; Plut., Cato min. 48. 8; Pomp.55. 8–9; Dio 40. 55. 1–7. Dio also tells us that five judges could be rejected by either side.

66 Bruns7 no. 28, cap. 132 (pp. 139 f.).

67 Suet., Aug. 40. 1.

68 Dio 54. 16. 1; cf. Dig. 48. 14. 1. 1; RE XII. 2365 ff.

69 Paul., Sent. 5.30a; cf. Dig 48. 6. 3 on the Lex Iulia de vi publica.

70 Pliny, Ep. 6. 5. 2; 19. 1–5.

71 Modestinus in Dig. 48. 14. 1. pr. and 1.

72 The questions are rightly put by Gruen, op. cit.(n. 52), 66.

73 Comm. Pet 5. 19; 8. 30; 11. 44; cf. Lintott, op. cit.(n. 57), 78 ff.

74 Cic, Mur. 70–2; cf. Att 2.1.5 for gladiatorial shows.

75 Suet., Aug. 40. 1; cf. Cic, Att. 1. 16. 13 discussed above.

76 Comm. Pet. 14. 55.

77 5. 18; cf. 8. 32. On later ‘brokerage’, cf. Sailer, R. P., Personal Patronage under the early Empire, 69 ff., esp. 74–87.

78 3 Edw 1 c 5, to be found in Statutes in Force under Representation of the People; O’Leary (1962), 3.

79 O'Leary, 9; Namier (1968), 104 ff.; 160 ff.

80 O'Leary, I; Namier, 161.

81 O'Leary, II, 20 f.

82 cf. Pares, R., King George III and the Politicians (1953), 2

83 Namier, 80 ff.

84 P. 104.

85 O'Leary, 16.

86 O'Leary, 28 ff.; 50 ff., who cites also Anthony Trollope's experiences at Beverly recounted in his Autobiography, 298–300 (Oxford ed.).

87 O'Leary, 25.

88 O'Leary, 60 ff. Openness certainly made ‘undue influence’ easier: workers were dismissed for voting against their employers (ibid., 61). Cf. the argument of Marcus about the Lex Gabinia in Cic, Leg. 3. 38–9.

89 O’Leary, 155 ff., esp. 165.

90 See Section 101.

91 O’Leary, 137 ff., 228; cf. Gorst in the Fortnightly Review n.s. 34, 690–2 quoted in Hanham, H. J., The Nineteenth Century Constitution (1969), 291–3.

92 O’Leary, 183 on Conservative complaints thatradical promises of houses, land and property ought to be construed as bribery: it was more corrupt to offerwhat was not your own than a sum of money out of your own pocket—sentiments of which Cicero would have approved.

93 Brunt, op. cit. (n. 38).

94 The notion of a rigid system of clientela, as postulated by Rouland, N., Pouvoir politique et dependance personelle (1979) is on the evidence an anachronism in the secondcentury. For changes in dependence over generations cf. Lex repetundarum (CIL I2, 583) II. 10, 33.

95 Plaut., Men. 571 ff. Livy 37. 57. 1 ff.; Comm. Pet. 5. 15–19; 11. 33–4; Cic, Mur. 70–2. Cf. O’Leary, 51 ff. on money only being a bribe, if offered by a candidate of the opposing party.

96 Const. Sap. 2. 2.

97 Cic, Off.2. 57. The Verres case would not necessarily have been the only reason why bribery was deployed against Cicero in 70 b.c..

98 Cic, Att. 4. 15. 7 for the agreement among candidates for the tribunate in 54 to eliminate bribery.

99 Plut., Cato min. 49. 3—50. 1.

100 See in general Hopkins, K., Death and Renewal (1983), ch. 2, and cf. Namier, 82 for the view of Soames Jenyns published in 1784: ‘Different modes of election may make some difference in the trouble and expense of the candidates, and may differently affect the morals of the people, and the peace of the country, but will make no difference in the representative body when brought together …’

101 See e.g. Lintott, A., JRS lxiv (1974), 62 ff. at 64–8; idem, op. cit. (n. 57), 198–200.

102 cf. the well-known comment of Tacitus (Ann. 3. 28). For Cicero's general appreciation see Att. 5. 6. 1; 5. 7; 7. 1. 4.

103 Pol. 18. 35. 1–2.

104 Gell. 11. 10. i=ORF, p. 187, fr. 44; Diod.Sic.36.15

105 13. 5–6; 15. 1; 15. 4–5; 16. 1; 16. 3–5; 33. 2; 34. 1;cf. 40, and 31.2 for the alleged advice.

106 Res Gestae 8. 5.

* The only book on ambitus published this century known to me is Lorenzo Fascione, Crimen e quaestio ambitus nell'età repubblicana (1984), reviewed by K-J. Holkeskamp, ZSS 104 (1987), 791–6. Other recent contributions on the subject are: L. Fascione, ‘Alle origini della legislazione de ambitu’ in F. Serrao (Ed.), Legge e società nella repubblica romana 1 (1981), 3–27; J. Linderski, ‘Buying the Vote: Electoral Corruption in the late Republic’, Ancient World 11 (1985), 87–94; E. Deniaux, ‘De l'ambitio à l'ambitus: les lieux de la propagande et de la corruption electorale à la fin de la République’ in L'Urbs—Espace urbain et histoire, Coll. Éc.Fr.Rome 98 (1987), 279–304; C. Ambrosone, ‘Note sull'illecito nelle elezioni romane’, AAN 94 (1983), 223–33.

For nineteenth-century treatments of the crime see W. Rein, Das Criminalrecht der Romer (1844), 701–19; A. W. Zumpt, Das Criminalrecht der römischen Republik, ii2 (1869), 217–34; Th. Mommsen, Römisches Strafrecht (1899), 865–75.

The most useful books on Roman politics in this context are:. G. W. Botsford, The Roman Assemblies (1909/1968); L. R. Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar (1949); The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic (1960); Roman Voting Assemblies(1966); T. P. Wiseman, New Men in the Roman Senate (1971); E. S. Staveley, Greek and Roman Voting and Elections (1972); R. Rilinger, Der Einfluss des Wahlleiters bei den Konsulwahlen von 366 bis 50 v.Chr. (1976); R. Develin, The Practice of Politics at Rome 366–167 BC, Coll. Latomus 188 (1985)

For comparative British material I am most indebted to: L. B. Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George IIl2 (1968); C. O'Leary, The Elimination of Corrupt Practices in British Elections 1866–1911 (1962). Comparative material from the United States may be found in M. I. Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organisation of Political Parties (trans. F. Clarke) 11 (1922), esp. 343 ff.

Electoral Bribery in The Roman Republic*

  • Andrew Lintott (a1)

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