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Polybius had also something to say about bribery, in his own sui generis romanophilic way:

(Histories, book VI, Ch. LVI, sec. I-V):

 

"Again, the laws and customs relating to the acquisition of wealth are better in Rome than at Carthage. At Carthage nothing which results in profit is regarded as disgraceful; at Rome nothing is considered more so than to accept bribes and seek gain from improper channels. For no less strong than their approval of money-making is their condemnation of unscrupulous gain from forbidden sources. A proof of this is that at Carthage candidates for office practise open bribery, whereas at Rome death is the penalty for it. Therefore as the rewards offered to merit are the opposite in the two cases, it is natural that the steps taken to gain them should also be dissimilar."

 

Regarding Rome, please note this happened likely a few years before the Lex Gabina Tabellaria. The tribune A. Gabinus was apparently not so openly optimistic about his own people as the Megalopolitan. Besides, the penalty for ambitus was not death (Lex Cornelia et Baebia de Ambitu).

 

I may be confused, so I will be grateful for any clarification.

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The generally reliable Polybius is apparently misinformed. According to Smith's Dictionary:

By the Lex Cornelia Baebia (B.C. 181) those who were convicted of ambitus were incapacitated from being candidates for ten years (Liv. XL.19; Schol. Bob. p361). The Lex Acilia Calpurnia (B.C. 67) was intended to suppress treating of the electors and other like matters: the penalties were fine, exclusion from the senate, and perpetual incapacity to hold office (Dion Cass. XXXVI.21). The Lex Tullia was passed in the consulship of Cicero (B.C. 63) for the purpose of adding to the penalties of the Acilia Calpurnia (Dion Cass. XXXVII.29; Cic. pro Murena, c23). The penalty under this lex was ten years' exile. This law forbade any person to exhibit public shows for two years before he was a candidate. It also forbade candidates hiring persons to attend them and be about their persons.

And in case this wasn't sufficient, Bill Thayer comments:

none of the penalties mentioned in this article include the capital penalty. The generally reliable historian Polybius, however, a close first-hand observer of Roman polity, flatly states that at Rome the penalty for bribery was death: παρὰ μὲν Καρχηδονίοις δῶρα φανερῶς διδόντες λαμβάνουσι τὰς ἀρχάς, παρὰ δὲ ῾Ρωμαίοις θάνατός ἐστι περὶ τοῦτο πρόστιμον. (Histories, 6.56.4).

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The generally reliable Polybius is apparently misinformed. According to Smith's Dictionary:

By the Lex Cornelia Baebia (B.C. 181) those who were convicted of ambitus were incapacitated from being candidates for ten years (Liv. XL.19; Schol. Bob. p361). The Lex Acilia Calpurnia (B.C. 67) was intended to suppress treating of the electors and other like matters: the penalties were fine, exclusion from the senate, and perpetual incapacity to hold office (Dion Cass. XXXVI.21). The Lex Tullia was passed in the consulship of Cicero (B.C. 63) for the purpose of adding to the penalties of the Acilia Calpurnia (Dion Cass. XXXVII.29; Cic. pro Murena, c23). The penalty under this lex was ten years' exile. This law forbade any person to exhibit public shows for two years before he was a candidate. It also forbade candidates hiring persons to attend them and be about their persons.

And in case this wasn't sufficient, Bill Thayer comments:

none of the penalties mentioned in this article include the capital penalty. The generally reliable historian Polybius, however, a close first-hand observer of Roman polity, flatly states that at Rome the penalty for bribery was death: παρὰ μὲν Καρχηδονίοις δῶρα φανερῶς διδόντες λαμβάνουσι τὰς ἀρχάς, παρὰ δὲ ῾Ρωμαίοις θάνατός ἐστι περὶ τοῦτο πρόστιμον. (Histories, 6.56.4).

 

Gratiam habeo, MPC. IOU another.

 

BTW, any idea of an alternative source for Carthaginian electoral practices in general and bribery (and other electoral faults) in particular?

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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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.

 

 

Just a side note here, ritual scarifices made a difference because they made a difference to when things were done ergo they made a real physical difference to practice and to crop yields.

 

Secondly just a note on the ambitu thing, has no-one heard of the saying in Rome that to win office you needed to make three fortunes one to win office, one to defend yourself at your bribery trial and one for yourself? Bribery was a huge thing in Rome, the system was riddled with corruption at every level. We are all here assuming that the bribery was paid pre-election, people are not that stupid all the time! How about "If I get in then I will enrich you, favour you for office etc etc?" Also what about client relationships. There is no evidence to suggest that clients were the yes men they are portrayed to have been, some clients would have been traditional and based on geography like Pompey's from his home town, but others would have been made through trade and through the exercise of political power, or during military service. The repeated laws show that not only was it a problem, but that it was so endemic that that it was impossible to stamp out. Romans had to expend huge amounts on bribery, they didn't do this for their own health. To assume that they spent money in the mistaken belief that they were securing votes is to patronise one of the purest political systems the world has ever seen. Not something any of us are in a position to do.

Edited by sullafelix

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has no-one heard of the saying in Rome that to win office you needed to make three fortunes one to win office, one to defend yourself at your bribery trial and one for yourself? Bribery was a huge thing in Rome, the system was riddled with corruption at every level.

The Roman republic ran pretty smoothly for most of 500 years, so I guess I'd like to know when you're talking about. Polybius, for one, didn't think that corruption ever occurred in Rome and that bribery was so rare that it was punishable by death. Now, how do you explain this Polybius' belief if opposite beliefs were expressed in a common saying of the Romans themselves? Surely, this suggests that bribery was not always rampant, a fact which is also supported in the increasing number of bribery trials that are reported in the literature.

 

We are all here assuming that the bribery was paid pre-election, people are not that stupid all the time! How about "If I get in then I will enrich you, favour you for office etc etc?"

Fine, but if you're getting the same offer from both sides and no one can know how you actually behaved, then the bribe of party A offers no real incentive. Changing the timing of the bribe does nothing to save this.

 

The repeated laws show that not only was it a problem, but that it was so endemic that that it was impossible to stamp out. Romans had to expend huge amounts on bribery, they didn't do this for their own health. To assume that they spent money in the mistaken belief that they were securing votes is to patronise one of the purest political systems the world has ever seen.

There were also repeated laws against sumptuary, but that doesn't prove that luxury really undermined the soul, and repeated rituals to secure the favor of the gods, but that doesn't prove that the gods really exist. The mere fact that laws were passed against bribery doesn't show that the bribes were effective in swaying elections. The fact is that if you're getting bribed by both sides in a secret ballot, you can choose the side you like and still collect a reward.

 

Rather than disputing what should be a self-evident fact, why not seek a different explanation for the laws against bribery? You're absolutely right that we needn't assume that the Romans were misguided in their laws against bribery, especially if we reconsider what the laws aimed at obtaining. Let's suppose that the Romans realized that, under universal bribery, bribery became worthless, but thought that no one participant could unilaterally desist in the strategy without harming his own chances. In this way, the anti-bribery legislation wasn't about obtaining FAIR ELECTIONS; anti-bribery legislation was about obtaining CHEAPER ELECTIONS. That, I submit, is a bill that an optimate and a populare could agree on.

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OK, I see where you're coming from. In that case, the critical evidence comes from whether there were electoral victories of non-bribers over bribers (or light bribers over heavy bribers).

Oops; Sorry for missing this before.

 

My answer would be... absolutely yes.

 

The actions of the Roman politicians regarding Ambitus can be perfectly explained if they had access to such kind of data (as they presumably did).

 

In addition, I think we can reasonably assume that the Roman concept of Ambitus was broader than our modern concept of "electoral bribery" and would encompass some coercive aspects (vg, as illustrated by the Lex Maria episode).

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The Roman republic ran pretty smoothly for most of 500 years, so I guess I'd like to know when you're talking about. Polybius, for one, didn't think that corruption ever occurred in Rome and that bribery was so rare that it was punishable by death. Now, how do you explain this Polybius' belief if opposite beliefs were expressed in a common saying of the Romans themselves? Surely, this suggests that bribery was not always rampant, a fact which is also supported in the increasing number of bribery trials that are reported in the literature.

 

A couple of things here in reply to that one Cato: bribery had not been neccessary in the days when voting was not secret, which I believe was not until 139BC. If voting was not secret bribery was both to an extent pointless and uneccessary. Secondly I have some difficulty with your choice of Polybius for this one. Polybius was well known for having actually NOT understood the Roman Constitution. Something which I have always found puzzling as he lived so close to the centre of power during his time in Rome. There are various things that are actually wrong with Polybius' assessment of the Constitution. In summary, Polybius thought that it was a near perfect system Senate, People and Consuls each balancing each other and providing a check on each other's power. However, to any but the most casual of observers it was clear that this was not the case and that in fact personal ambition and the structure of the cursus honorum meant that what was normal was in fact the excercise of Senatorial power in the cause of their own interests. We are talking here about a time before Optimates and Populares. For one example of what I mean we can scroll forward slightly from Polybius to the middle of the Second Century and see that the work of Tiberius Gracchus was effectively stymied first by having a Senate stooge as one of the fellow tribunes (Octavius), which was quite normal; and then, once the legislation was eventually forced through, by the studied absence of the consul needed to rule on problems arising from it (Appian 1.19 where the consul embarks on the task and then leaves because he realises how difficult it is). I have no argument with the point that bribery became increasingly common, or at least increasingly obvious, and that this led to a greater number of trials, but to say that the system was fairly uncorrupt before is stretching my belief beyond the point of snapping and to say that Polybius understood the constitution is to fly in the face of quite a lot of scholarly thought on the matter. For instance - the death penealty for bribery? technically yes, in practice no, not at all, a massive fine or exile. Also have you considered the fact that we know very little about large parts of the Fourth and Third Centuries as we lack much source material?

 

There were also repeated laws against sumptuary, but that doesn't prove that luxury really undermined the soul

 

True sumptuary laws were often repeated, and true it doesn't prove that an expensive fish corrupts the dinner guests BUT it does prove that large fish were being eaten and that it was so widespread it was not possible to stamp out. Also the other thing with both the consumption of lavish dinners and electoral bribery is that they are essentially very difficult to catch someone doing essentially they rely on informants. One of the reasons why these cases become more prevalent in the Late Republic is because frankly everything was going to hell on a handbike, the political system was more sharply divided and because corruption, self-interest and violence had become so much more a part of Roman political life. However, self-interest was written into the cursus honorum and always had been, bribery was nothing new. The lack of respect for the political system did make it more prevalent and more public though. As did the availability of more money for those handing out the bribes. There are a raft of interconnected reasons. I take your point about the effectiveness of bribery but I would just say supposing you are Joe Pleb, man on the via and two blokes ask you to vote one gives you 50 Asses one gives you a 100. Who do you reckon it might just serve your interests better to have in power?

 

SF

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A couple of things here in reply to that one Cato: bribery had not been neccessary in the days when voting was not secret, which I believe was not until 139BC. If voting was not secret bribery was both to an extent pointless and uneccessary.

Given that I've just put forward a long argument expressing the opposite view, could you please explain why it is that a secret ballot would make bribery more prevalent? If there is no way of figuring out who voted for whom, how would you know whether the bribe you paid wasn't wasted money?

 

Polybius was well known for having actually NOT understood the Roman Constitution.

Well known by whom? You assume a consensus where there is none. At the risk of sounding like a broken record to regular Forum participants, I'll point out again that a great many scholars of the Roman republic--Millar, Gruen, Rosenstein, Morstein-Marx, Yakobson, et al--argue that Polybius' characterization of the Roman constitution is more accurate for recognizing the role of popular sovereignty than you let on. Of course, neither Polybius nor any of these scholars maintained that Rome was an Athenian democracy or some time of utopia, but the contention that Rome had a mixed constitution--with democratic, aristocratic, and monarchical elements--seems exactly right. What exactly is there to disagree with here? And--more importantly--what does it have to do with ambitu?

 

For instance - the death penealty for bribery? technically yes, in practice no, not at all, a massive fine or exile.

Technically, no. There was no death penalty for bribery. Now how could Polybius have made such a mistake if bribery was rampant at the time of his writing?

 

I take your point about the effectiveness of bribery but I would just say supposing you are Joe Pleb, man on the via and two blokes ask you to vote one gives you 50 Asses one gives you a 100. Who do you reckon it might just serve your interests better to have in power?

Given that I've now got 150 Asses, I'd vote for whoever I think will keep such lucrative (for me) elections rolling along!

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Cato

 

Well known by whom? You assume a consensus where there is none. At the risk of sounding like a broken record to regular Forum participants, I'll point out again that a great many scholars of the Roman republic--Millar, Gruen, Rosenstein, Morstein-Marx, Yakobson, et al--argue that Polybius' characterization of the Roman constitution is more accurate for recognizing the role of popular sovereignty than you let on.

 

 

We can agree to disagree on Polybius, but as a note I didn't say that he got the structure of the constittion wrong, merely the practice, what he saw was an ideal and what he failed to see was that that ideal was very easily corrupted. As to what it has to do woith ambitu - everything and I have to say I am surprised you cannot see that - but in short ambitu is corruption and I am claiming that Polybius failed to see the corruption endemic in the structure of the system , namely the problem of personal ambition and lets face it he wrote extensively about people like Flamininus so he had ample opportunity to spot the flaw. Onde type of corruption is not completely seperate from another after all, they are all symptoms of a general malaise.

 

Given that I've just put forward a long argument expressing the opposite view, could you please explain why it is that a secret ballot would make bribery more prevalent? If there is no way of figuring out who voted for whom, how would you know whether the bribe you paid wasn't wasted money?

 

As to how did secret voting increase bribery. Ok the problem with non-secret voting was not bribery, it was pressure. This bit is bit lengthy but I think it is neccessary to answer this question - so I apologise in advance.

 

Rome was an extremely hierarchical system, the very fact that the majority of Rome's citizens were considered the mob and that the the high ups who did not want reform called themselves the Opitmates should give some idea of that.

 

Cicero complained about the end of the secret ballot in his work on the Laws ( I am going from the version in Lewis and Reinhold as I have nothing else to hand) saying that the end of it stopped the nobles (for want of a better term) being able to exert their influence on the ordinary people (III. 33 - xvii. 39 as given in L&R). Bear in mind most people would have been part of a client relationship. These relationships would not have been neccesarily concrete but they would have been used at elections. Also when magistrates were being elected they had backers and these backers were extremely influential men who would have made sure that their clients voted the way they wanted them too. My point is that bribery was not neccessary. You have forgotten a very impotant part of Roman society's structure Cato.

 

OK so why does this have any effect on ambitu? When they could not bring pressure to bear they had to resort to other means. The pressure of open ballots had been very real, with people voting the way their betters wanted them to. We live in a more or less classless society and so it is easy to forget just what influence these high ups had over the ordinary citizens. But with this influence gone they had to find another way. This coincided with the problems of the early Second Century, i.e. many poor italians (OK no voters there) and citizens being forced off the land and swelling the numbers of the jobless poor in Rome. They sold their votes to the highest bidder and this practice only continued to increase through the last century of the Republic. Cicero said that you could tell which voters and agitators were which by knowing what kind of men they were. We are here talking about gangsters and criminals, although Cicero could be a bit of an old woman about such things I can imagine that there were quite a few well-known agitators for sale etc. It was Crassus who said that you had to make three fortunes in your year abroad by the way and he knew what he was talking about. Magistrates only held office for a year and there were quite a lot of them, that is a lot of elections, and a lot of money for the poor. As to whether or not candidates could rely on the getting in after the money had been paid, the "enforcers" as we shall call the men with the money would have something to say if they counted the number of votes they should have bought before the election and predicted a victory and then lost the election, more importantly they would have made sure that the voters knew this. By the middle of the First Century there were armed gangs in the streets of Rome in the pay of politicians.

 

Technically, no. There was no death penalty for bribery. Now how could Polybius have made such a mistake if bribery was rampant at the time of his writing?

 

 

As to the death penalty - check up on the trials for bribery - no executions - although there were convictions - exile was the ultimate price for a convicted Senator not execution, certainly for bribery. Here again Polybius is guilty of mistaking the ideal for the practice. The reason? - possibly he finished his histories at the end date of 145 although they were probably written sometime after 129 and before 118 (after which he died v soon we think). So although the law had changed by this time (secret voting had come in) he may not have lived to see the effects, but I can tell you he would not have lived to see the death penalty used for election bribery. I will let you know when I find some bribery cases.

 

Now I really must go to work.

 

 

Cheers SF

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Technically, no. There was no death penalty for bribery. Now how could Polybius have made such a mistake if bribery was rampant at the time of his writing?

Here again Polybius is guilty of mistaking the ideal for the practice. The reason? - possibly he finished his histories at the end date of 145 although they were probably written sometime after 129 and before 118 (after which he died v soon we think). So although the law had changed by this time (secret voting had come in) he may not have lived to see the effects, but I can tell you he would not have lived to see the death penalty used for election bribery. I will let you know when I find some bribery cases.

Salve, SF!

 

About the generally reliable Polybius, I would think this was a deliberate misinformation, either by him or by one of his editors, to glorify Rome at the expense of the supposedly corrupted and bribery-prone Carthage, for whom nobody was going to speak. Plain pro-Roman propaganda after Corinth's demise among the Greeks. (Please see my post, #31 on this same thread).

 

And about prosecuted bribery cases, please see my post #5 on this same thred for an example: Plutarch informed us about the case followed against Marius (Ch. V, sec. I-V).

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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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.

According to Gruen..."Cato was not averse to sponsoring grain laws, thereby outbidding his opponents, or to indulging in bribery, if this could bring his supporters into power." I don't think he'd do too much turning in his grave, he's probably drunk anyway.

Gruen, Last Generation of the Roman Republic, pp. 54

Edited by P.Clodius

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Shall we quote the whole passage then? From Gruen, p. 54:

 

But Cato won the respect also of his contemporaries. He was a resolute Stoic, not only in pursuing the philosophic doctrines of that sect, but in applying them to his political behavior. Cicero twitted him once for his inflexible adherence to impossible dogmas. And the orator also could lament, in a private letter, that Cato always spoke as if he lived in the Republic of Plato rather than in the sewer of Romulus. But Cicero's fits of pique need not be taken too seriously. In general, he reserved the utmost praise for Cato: a man of great seriousness, incorruptible, and blessed with a noble spirit; none surpassed him in integrity, wisdom, courage, and patriotism. "Cato was worth a hundred thousand men." Similar sentiments were expressed by Sallust: Cato was pre-eminent in uprightness, self-control, and austerity; he preferred
to be
rather than
seem
virtuous. Moderns have too often written him off as espousing Utopian ideas, as obstinate and uncompromising. But motivation by high principles could coexist with practical politics. Cato was not averse to sponsoring grain laws, thereby outbidding his opponents, or to indulging in bribery, if this could bring supporters into power. And his firm opposition to Caesar and Pompey, it can be argued, was deliberately calculated to drive them to extreme positions and to undermine their own standing. A series of measures or attempted measures, reformist and progressive, stand to his credit. Politics, administration, the judiciary, foreign policy, legislative activity -- all areas felt Cato's presence. He was completely enmeshed in public affairs, not Utopianism. Cato policies, when properly analyzed, show a shrewdness and penetration which scholars have not always acknowledged.

With the whole context, it now becomes clear what Gruen was arguing, not that Cato was a hypocrite, but that "high principles could coexist with practical politics." Indeed, there is nothing in Cato's grain bill, the Lex Porcia Frumentaria, which is against Stoic principles. Coming in the context of Catiline's putsch, the bill was a well-timed and moderate proposal for sharing the largesse of Rome with the people who stood by her. Gruen's statement about Cato "indulging in bribery" is off by one word--in. Cato was indulging bribery, not indulging in bribery. Specifically, Cato indulged Bibulus' bribery in his contest with Caesar. It's not hard to see why, if you've been following this thread at all: Caesar lavishly bribed voters (with borrowed and stolen money), and to nullify the effect of bribes on one side, both sides must engage in it. Thus, though I would have asked Cato to fight fire with fire, Cato's only involvement was in not prosecuting the husband of his daughter and father of his grandchildren. What a scoundrel!

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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Shall we quote the whole passage then? From Gruen, p. 54:

With the whole context, it now becomes clear what Gruen was arguing, not that Cato was a hypocrite, but that "high principles could coexist with practical politics." Indeed, there is nothing in Cato's grain bill, the Lex Porcia Frumentaria, which is against Stoic principles. Coming in the context of Catiline's putsch, the bill was a well-timed and moderate proposal for sharing the largesse of Rome with the people who stood by her. Gruen's statement about Cato "indulging in bribery" is off by one word--in. Cato was indulging bribery, not indulging in bribery. Specifically, Cato indulged Bibulus' bribery in his contest with Caesar. It's not hard to see why, if you've been following this thread at all: Caesar lavishly bribed voters (with borrowed and stolen money), and to nullify the effect of bribes on one side, both sides must engage in it. Thus, though I would have asked Cato to fight fire with fire, Cato's only involvement was in not prosecuting the husband of his daughter and father of his grandchildren. What a scoundrel!

The "Hitler made me do it" argument didn't fly too well at Nurenburg. So you're saying my copy of Gruen is different than yours? Mine clearly states indulging in bribery. Cato's corruption cannot be camouflaged by a play on words.

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So you're saying my copy of Gruen is different than yours? Mine clearly states indulging in bribery.

No, did I say that? Did you even read my post? Do you know what events Gruen is describing? Did you follow up on his references to source material? Have you finished his book? If you would these things, you would see that my suggestion that Cato "indulged bribery" rather than "indulged in bribery" is exactly right and not a play on words. Not that that will make any difference to you, which is a shame. For all my criticism of Caesar, at least I go to the trouble of learning everything there is to learn about him, down to the details of the debate regarding whether he was born in 102 or 100 (it's 102), why he might be interested in the flamenate, what sources corroborate his story about the pirates, etc etc. For all your criticism of Cato, you make one factual error after another, from mistaking the province he annexed (again, it was Cyprus, not Crete), to mistaking the legislation he sponsored or allegedly failed to sponsor, to missing whether he was at Pharsalus or elsewhere. I'd love to debate Cato with you, but you really should bother to study him first.

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On the subject of Cyprus..."It was possible to mount a plausible case against the legality of Clodius's acts as Tribune---on the grounds that his renunciation of patrician status had been handled improperly and, accordingly, his election was invalid. However, his reforms had attracted enthusiastic popular support and it would be unwise to disturb them. Even Cato took a lenient line on this topic, because he did not want to see his annexation of Cyprus nullified. It is disconcerting that the uncompromising constitutionalist was willing to bend his principles when his interests were at stake."

Everitt Cicero, pp 147-148.

Edited by P.Clodius

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