Electoral Bribery In Roman Politics

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Since 509 and until 27 B.C. the Roman Republic experienced numerous alternations both in its military and in its political history. Due to several circumstances and changes in the military and social stage, the political life of Rome was affected while in this era. A number of modern scholars are of the opinion that the Roman government of the Late Republic was a government of the elite. Namely, they maintain that the elite formulated it for the elite. This argument alone unearths a number of questions concerning issues. One would wonder whether the political regime of the Late Roman Republic was oligarchic or democratic. In addition, this led many scholars, such as J. North and A. Jakobson, to investigate further the roman election and its…show more content…
The latter illustrates that electoral bribery was quite common in the Late Republic. He states that politicians took under consideration the electoral power of the “urban plebs” and this was the reason why they did not hesitate to provide the common people with feasts, games and other sorts of entertainment sometimes they even handed out money. Yakobson states that a Roman political candidate had his reasons to be generous to the public else, he stood great chances of being rejected by the people and the elections. What Yakobson illustrates though, is the fact that bribery did not intent to affect the common people of the low classes, instead, it was aiming to their patrons. Namely, the theory behind bribing the plebs was to gain the support of wealthy patrons, and not to buy the votes of the poor. In fact, a candidate could not be sure whether the person that he gave money to in exchange for his vote was truly going to vote for him, due to the “secret” vote. Although the act of bribing might sound “scandalous” and illegal, Cicero cites that it was the candidate’s obligations to arrange games and to invite the tribe to banquets, as part of their political campaign. He also maintained that “the efficacy of the games in winning votes for the elections was a well-known feature of Roman politics”. Yakobson is not certain whether patronage dominated the electoral system, but he cites Nicolet and explains that this particular issue should be view form a critical perspective. There are not actual source that provide statistic evidence that show the percentage of bribery. Yet, according to Nicolet, there were laws in the Late Republic that tried to limit the act of bribery. The laws did not forbid bribery, as this would affect both the common people and the candidates, but they aimed to restrict the candidates’
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