Politics, 2000 years ago as it is today, has always had its charm: in Pompeii, as was the case in all the cities that had to elect their representatives, it actively involved the whole population who was very fond of the election campaign. All political issues were discussed in almost all the places of the city, from the streets to the taverns.
An epoch of the political life of the ancient city has also remained in the many electoral manifests that are widely spread in different places and that invited citizens to vote for this or that candidate. The term "candidate" derives precisely from a special white, candid toga, which in the pre-election period the various aspirants in power wore.
Unlike our electoral posters that are made with paper, the electoral slogans of Pompeii and the ancient Roman cities were written directly on the walls. The "programmata", as was their name, were actually painted on the walls of houses or buildings, since, at that time, there were no special spaces dedicated to electoral propaganda. The chosen walls were therefore designed to accommodate the writings thanks to a job assigned to a “dealbator”, who, at night, painted the scripts with the help of a lantern’s light.
The electoral posters were not the work of the candidate, but he had to do a good election campaign by trying to make every effort to make himself popular, even by making donations to expand his circle of followers. When the politician had to meet his voters, he always brought a slave called a "nomenclator", who had the specific role of remembering the names of the characters he met. A curiosity is that the electoral posters were signed not by the candidates but by his friends, family and relatives and even by the city corporations.
As a rule, after the name of the candidate and the indication of the office to which he aspired, a short formula was written that contained a sort of invitation to vote for him. An example was the OVF abbreviation (“Oro Vos Faciatis”, that means "please do it, vote for him"). Also, as a good rule for a politician, it was appropriate that he was far from scandals and gossip and that his image was as "candy" as possible, like his dress.
In Pompeii there were two kinds of “programmata”: their names were “antiquissima” and “recentora”. The first one dates back to the period before the foundation of the colony, while the others are referred to the last 17 years of the city's life. Even though women did not have the right to vote, the Pompeiian women followed politics with great passion and, in fact, many of the 2,500 election posters found in Pompeii are signed by women.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.