Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Recommended Posts

I know what it roughly means (thanks to Primus Pilus :))

But can someone divulge further into exactly.precisely what it means and what it is putting across.

 

vtc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know what it roughly means (thanks to Primus Pilus :))

But can someone divulge further into exactly.precisely what it means and what it is putting across.

 

vtc

 

Specifically, ambitus dealt with election bribery and the canvassing of votes. While the notion that bribing someone or a group of people for their votes was understandably illegal, the idea of canvassing is a bit more interesting. Canvassing in the Roman sense dealt with the targeting of influential individuals in communities outside of Rome in order to manipulate the rural vote in one's favor. It may seem strange to our modern sensibilities that a candidate was not allowed to "campaign" in such a manner (at least on market days where large numbers of people were gathered), but new men and less desirable plebeian candidates had the advantage in this situation and it was thusly discouraged.

 

The William Smith entry on Ambitus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the risk of causing my namesake to turn over in his grave, I really don't see the harm in bribery in the late republic. Since the lex Gabinia Tabellaria of 139, voting occurred by secret ballot. Given this, what difference would bribery make anyway? If L. Candidatus Unscrupulus gives you 1000 sesterces to vote for him, take it and vote for the other guy--who would know the difference?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Primus.

 

And Cato wouldn't you be haunted by your lies. :(

 

vtc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gratiam habeo, MPC, for bringing up so many interesting questions implicit in your commentary.

I really don't see the harm in bribery in the late republic. Since the lex Gabinia Tabellaria of 139, voting occurred by secret ballot.

- Ergo, for 370 years, Republican elections had been open to bribery and political pressure in general.

- Why was suddenly at 139 an anti-bribery law required?

- Would grafitti propaganda (like that of Pompeii at the early Flavian period) have been considered ambitus on the Late Republic?

 

Given this, what difference would bribery make anyway? If L. Candidatus Unscrupulus gives you 1000 sesterces to vote for him, take it and vote for the other guy--who would know the difference?

 

Two related examples from the same Roman and source, at 635/636 AUC (119/118 BC):

Plutarch tell us (Vita Marius, Ch. IV) that almost twenty years after the lex Gabinia Tabellaria, the tribune Gaius Marius "introduced a law concerning the mode of voting, which, as it was thought, would lessen the power of the nobles" that restricted the interference of the politicians in elections narrowing the passages down which voters passed to cast their votes, as the politicians influenced the voting by inspecting ballots and harassing the electors (Cicero de Legibus Libri III, Ch. XVII) . Then, "Cotta the consul opposed him and persuaded the senate to contest the law, and to summon Marius before it to explain his procedure." (Plut, ibid.).

The following year, Marius "became a candidate for the praetorship and nearly missed defeat; he was returned last of all, and prosecuted for bribery. Suspicion was chiefly aroused by the sight of a servant of Cassius Sabaco inside the palings among the voters; for Sabaco was an especial friend of Marius. Sabaco was therefore summoned before the court, and testified that the heat had made him so thirsty that he had called for cold water, and that his servant had come in to him with a cup, and had then gone away after his master had drunk... Caius Herennius also was brought in as a witness against Marius... However... on the last day, contrary to all expectation, there was a tie vote and he was acquitted. (ibid, Ch. V).

 

Another example from Plutarch, this time Cato Minor, no less, at 699 AUC/55 BC (Ch. XLII):

"Cato... came forward himself as candidate for a praetorship... But Pompey and Crassus ...had a vote passed that the praetors elect should enter upon their office at once, without waiting for the time prescribed by law to elapse, during which time those who had bribed the people were liable to prosecution. In the next place, now that by this vote they had freed bribery from responsibility, they brought forward henchmen and friends of their own as candidates for the praetorship, themselves offering money for votes, and themselves standing when the votes were cast... Then on a sudden Pompey lyingly declared that he heard thunder, and most shamefully dissolved the assembly... Then they resorted again to extensive bribery, ejected the best citizens from the Campus Martius, and so by force got Vatinius elected praetor instead of Cato."

 

You're right, you're causing your namesake to turn over in his grave.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
- Ergo, for 370 years, Republican elections had been open to bribery and political pressure in general.

- Why was suddenly at 139 an anti-bribery law required?

What are you talking about? The lex Gabinia Tabellaria was not the first anti-bribery law, nor is it even clear that it was meant to be one.

 

I really have no idea what those two passages from Plutarch are meant to show.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What are you talking about? The lex Gabinia Tabellaria was not the first anti-bribery law, nor is it even clear that it was meant to be one.

I simply wasn't aware of that.

Can you mention previous examples of anti-bribery laws and alternative purposes for the lex Gabinia Tabellaria?

 

I really have no idea what those two passages from Plutarch are meant to show.

 

The first passage has two quotations:

1. The aborted Lex Maria trying to lessen the power of the nobles to interfere the elections long after 138 BC.

2. The praetor Marius facing a serious bribery accusation.

 

The second passage is an example where L. Candidatus Unscrupulus' (Vatinius') bribery made a difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can you mention previous examples of anti-bribery laws and alternative purposes for the lex Gabinia Tabellaria?

See previous link HERE.

 

 

The second passage is an example where L. Candidatus Unscrupulus' (Vatinius') bribery made a difference.

The second example--regarding Vatinius and Cato--doesn't show that bribery made a difference. According to the passage you cite, Cato's supporters were physically ejected from the Campus Martius, thereby preventing them from voting for him. Physically ejecting voters from the field must have had an effect. What reason is there to think that bribery had any additional effect? Given that there was no way to check who complied with the bribe, there was no incentive for the voter to fill his end of the deal and no evidence that they ever did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

See previous link HERE.

 

The only example I was able to find on the very extensive list by PP predting the lex Gabinia Tabellaria is the Lex Cornelia et Baebia de Ambitu of 181BC (573 AUC), which incapacitated those who were convicted of ambitus from being candidates for ten years.

 

The Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities adds a couple more, the anonymous first one from 432 BC ( 322 AUC ) which anyone to whiten his toga when he appeared as a candidate, and the Lex Poetelia of 358 BC (396 AUC ) which forbade candi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The second passage is an example where L. Candidatus Unscrupulus' (Vatinius') bribery made a difference.

The second example--regarding Vatinius and Cato--doesn't show that bribery made a difference. According to the passage you cite, Cato's supporters were physically ejected from the Campus Martius, thereby preventing them from voting for him. Physically ejecting voters from the field must have had an effect. What reason is there to think that bribery had any additional effect? Given that there was no way to check who complied with the bribe, there was no incentive for the voter to fill his end of the deal and no evidence that they ever did.

The evidence lies in the mere fact that Pompey, Crassus and Vatinius gave such bribery (at least two times), if we suppose they had any knowledge of Roman politics to begin with.

If bribery hadn't any additional effect, what reason was there to give it in the first place?

Clearly, the physical ejection of Cato's supporters wasn't considered enough.

Even more, how were Cato's enemies able to determine who to eject, if the ballot was secret, according to the lex Gabinia Tabellaria?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The evidence lies in the mere fact that Pompey, Crassus and Vatinius gave such bribery (at least two times), if we suppose they had any knowledge of Roman politics to begin with.

Ridiculous. By this reasoning, we would have to assume that ritual sacrifices had an real effect on agriculture from the mere fact that knowledgeable farmers made such sacrifices. Obviously, this is a silly inference.

 

If bribery hadn't any additional effect, what reason was there to give it in the first place?

Now that's the question that should be asked. If the answer is that you couldn't buy votes even if you wanted to, why did candidates practice bribery and why were there attempts to prohibit it?

 

My guess is that bribery--like most ritualistic behavior--was partly based on superstition, partly based on tradition, and partly based on symbolism. The superstitious aspect was that "it might just work", and the fact that the "other guy" did it made it even more attractive. There was also the traditional aspect--prior to the secret ballot, bribery would have been effective, and unscrupulous candidates would undoubtedly have bribed voters to short-term gain. For this reason, bribery probably became expected by equally unscrupulous voters themselves, leading to the symbolic value of bribery. That is, if voters expected both sides to bribe them, then even if the bribe itself didn't buy a vote, the voters might still punish candidates who refused to go through the meaningless (and expensive) ritual. Viewed in this light, the laws against bribery can be viewed as an attempt to put a stop to the meaningless arms race between candidates.

 

But--and excuse me if I'm insulting your intelligence for even explaining this fact--there is an important difference between a purely symbolic value and a real value. A purely symbolic value can be achieved by other means, whereas a real value cannot by faked. That is, a person could make up for his refusal to bribe by winning a war or throwing great games or performing other services for their constituents; in contrast, an incremental increase in bribes (say, handing out 100 sesterces instead of 85) wouldn't turn a Verres into a Cato. Once the symbolic gesture has been made, it doesn't do any greater good to ramp it up, whereas real values can be increased to an arbitrary extent.

 

Even more, how were Cato's enemies able to determine who to eject, if the ballot was secret, according to the lex Gabinia Tabellaria?

If you look at the passage quoted above, it becomes clear--they ejected members where Cato's support was most probable, which was in the higher classes. The strategy would be analogous to throwing out the votes of New Yorkers in a presidential election between a senator from New York and a representative from Texas. Note too that in later elections where bribery was no less rampant but where force was not used, Cato succeeded in winning the praetorship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

See previous link HERE.

 

The only example I was able to find on the very extensive list by PP predting the lex Gabinia Tabellaria is the Lex Cornelia et Baebia de Ambitu of 181BC (573 AUC), which incapacitated those who were convicted of ambitus from being candidates for ten years.

 

The Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities adds a couple more, the anonymous first one from 432 BC ( 322 AUC ) which anyone to whiten his toga when he appeared as a candidate, and the Lex Poetelia of 358 BC (396 AUC ) which forbade candi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

See previous link HERE.

 

The only example I was able to find on the very extensive list by PP predting the lex Gabinia Tabellaria is the Lex Cornelia et Baebia de Ambitu of 181BC (573 AUC), which incapacitated those who were convicted of ambitus from being candidates for ten years.

 

The Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities adds a couple more, the anonymous first one from 432 BC ( 322 AUC ) which anyone to whiten his toga when he appeared as a candidate, and the Lex Poetelia of 358 BC (396 AUC ) which forbade candi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The evidence lies in the mere fact that Pompey, Crassus and Vatinius gave such bribery (at least two times), if we suppose they had any knowledge of Roman politics to begin with.

Ridiculous. By this reasoning, we would have to assume that ritual sacrifices had an real effect on agriculture from the mere fact that knowledgeable farmers made such sacrifices. Obviously, this is a silly inference.

Then, we would also have to assume that killing enemies on battles had an real effect on war from the mere fact that knowledgeable warriors made such killings. Obviously, this is a not so silly inference.

I think you are familiar with the Mertz-Hsieh Definitions of Fallacies:

"faulty analogy: assuming either that properties shared between two situations or existents will continue to be found indefinitely or that shared properties will be found in very disparate situations or existents".

Clearly, it's easy to find today's empirical evidence that ancient Rome's style sacrifices had no real effect on agriculture.

Clearly, it's not so easy to find today's empirical evidence that electoral bribery has no real effect on the electoral results. That would explain why today most democracies and some dictatorships enforce laws against it (and not for agricultural sacrifices).

 

Here comes a review by DA Phillips od Alexander Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering in Rome: A Study in the Political System of the Late Republic. (1999):

"Popular participation in the centuriate assembly,"... the second chapter ... The prevalence of bribery speaks to the importance of the vote of non-wealthy individuals. "If massive electoral bribery is hard to account for in an 'oligarchic assembly', should we not conclude that the assembly was less oligarchic than is often thought, rather than doubt the testimony of the sources?" (p.25). In addition to corrupt practices, legitimate gifts (largitiones) are also commonly used to win popular support. Cicero's Pro Murena provides detailed evidence, and the author also refers to the importance of the office of aedile as a step on the cursus honorum for ambitious politicians."

 

[but--and excuse me if I'm insulting your intelligence for even explaining this factin winning the praetorship.

You can never insult my intelligence for explaining something to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If bribery hadn't any additional effect, what reason was there to give it in the first place?

Now that's the question that should be asked. If the answer is that you couldn't buy votes even if you wanted to, why did candidates practice bribery and why were there attempts to prohibit it?

My guess is that bribery--like most ritualistic behavior--was partly based on superstition, partly based on tradition, and partly based on symbolism. But there is an important difference between a purely symbolic value and a real value. A purely symbolic value can be achieved by other means, whereas a real value cannot by faked. That is, a person could make up for his refusal to bribe by winning a war or throwing great games or performing other services for their constituents; in contrast, an incremental increase in bribes (say, handing out 100 sesterces instead of 85) wouldn't turn a Verres into a Cato. Once the symbolic gesture has been made, it doesn't do any greater good to ramp it up, whereas real values can be increased to an arbitrary extent.

Indeed, if electoral bribery is a pointless ritual, it's a very persistent one, practiced by many people who would qualify as experts on that area. You may have a valid point, really. But I don't think you can claim it as a fact. You have still to prove it. Excuse me if I consider the possibility that some ancient and modern politicians may know what they were/are talking about.

Besides, probably the concept of ambitus goes beyond our concept of bribery, including also other concepts like voters interference and coertion.

For example, the Commonwealth Electoral Act's (Australia) definition of bribery: "Without limiting the effect of the general words in the preceding section,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×