Writing on the
The streets of Pompeii have restored thousands of inscriptions done with a brush and red or black paint on the walls of public and private buildings along the main arteries of the city, including near the necropolis. More than 2.600 of these texts, some of them on display at the MANN, constitute a surprising document of what we would now call electoral propaganda. The inscriptions provide the names of candidates, offices and supporters and define the requirements considered essential for administering a community, but above all they testify to the vibrancy and participation in elections in a Roman city of medium size and importance, such as Pompeii, in different phases between the first century BC and the first century AD.
Plaster fragment with painted inscription CLVI.4. (Età flavia)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
The text of the electoral messages follows a recurrent pattern relying
on acronyms and abbreviations. The structure provides the name of the candidate,
usually written in full in the accusative case and with slightly larger
letters, the exaltation of his moral virtues and the mention of the office he
aspires to, introduced by a verb of recommendation. The formula can also include the name of supporters, the proposers or "rogatores",
either individuals or in groups, and the name of the professional who wrote the
inscriptions, the "scriptor".
Vettium Firmum aed(ilem)
f(aciatis), d(ignum) r(ei)
"I beg you to elect Vettius Firmus as aedilis, worthy of public office".
Member of the Vetti family, particularly well-known and influential locally, Aulus Vettius Firmus is the protagonist of numerous electoral writings, where he receives the support of individuals and groups, such as that of the ball players (pilicrepi), the felters (quactiliarii) and fruit vendors (pomarii).
The term aedilis or magistrate for the care of the city is abbreviated to the first three letters AED, joined by a single link. The exhortation to vote is made by the letters OVF (oro vos faciatis that means "I beg you to elect").
Plaster fragment with painted inscription CLVI.3. (Età flavia)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Appeal for candidates Caius Cuspius Pansa and Lucius Albucius Celsus
Aspiring magistrates had to possess very precise requirements, including
being at least 25 years old, a Roman citizen with full rights, born free and
from a lawful marriage and being resident in the municipal territory. They then had to show irreproachable conduct and appropriate assets, since
the public offices were not paid but, on the contrary, the magistrates
themselves carried out acts of munificence towards the city. The candidates for the duumvirate must already have held the position of
aed(ilem) o(ro) v(os)
f(aciatis). “I beg you to elect as aedilis Cuspius Pansa”.
“Albucius as aedilis".
Plaster fragment with painted inscription CLVI.2. (Età flavia)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
for Aulus Trebius Valens and Marcus Cerrinius Vatia for magistrate
The colony of Pompeii was administered by two pairs of magistrates, who
remained in office for a year, each with different functions and levels of
authority: the duoviri iure dicundo, magistrates of superior rank who exercised
executive and judicial power, and duoviri aediles, also called simply aediles,
who were given an administrative role in supervising construction, safety and
the functioning of the city. They were therefore responsible for control functions relating to public
order, the maintenance of roads, temples
and public buildings and monitoring markets and supplies.
Trebium aed(ilem) v(irum)
"I beg you to elect Trebius, good man".
M(arcum) Cerrinium Vatiam aed(ilem)
o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis), d(ignum)
"I beg you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia as aedilis, worthy of public office".
Plaster fragment with painted inscription CLVI.5. (Età giulio-claudia o flavia)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Candidature to magistrate from Praedia of Iulia Felix
The electoral text, added under an announcement of the rental of the
complex owned by Iulia Felix, refers to the candidates for the magistrate of aedilis Aulus Suettius Verus, Lucius Ceius Secundum and, probably, Lucius
A(ulum) Suettium Verum aed(ilem) v(iis) a(edibus)
r(ei) p(ublicae), probum,
"I beg you to elect Aulus Suettius Verus as magistrate for the care of roads, sacred buildings and public buildings, he is a good man, worthy of public office".
The title of the magistrate for public works is complete and specifies the main functions.
L(ucium) Ceium Secundum aed(ilem)
o(ramus) v(os) f(aciatis).
Proculus et Canthus r[o]g[ant].
"We beg you to elect as aedilis Lucius Seius Secundum. Proculus and Canthus ask it".
L(ucium) C(aeciulium) Capella(m).
"Lucius Caecilius Capella (as aedilis)".
Plaster fragment with painted inscription CLVI.9b. (Età flavia)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
The initials alone in the first line indicate the names of Publius Paquius Proculus and Aulus Vettius Caprasius Felix, who make up the two candidates for the duumvirate, and in the second line those of Marcus Elpidius Sabinus and Quintus Marius Rufus, the two candidates for the magistrate of aedilis. However, we read in full, but proceeding from right to left, the name of the author of the inscription, SUILIMEA, which stands for Aemilius, tha family name of Publius Aemilius Celer, well known in Pompeii, who used to write his signature in this way.
Inscription of duoviri Lucius Sepunius Sandilianus and Marcus Herennius Epidianus CLV.9. (seconda metà I secolo a.C.)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Elections aroused lively participation and involvement on the part of
the community. They were marked by three key moments: the presentation of candidates,
propaganda and the votes in which those who exercised the right to vote were
summoned to the Comitium. Once elected, the magistrates in office were distinguished by acts of
liberality and munificence for the benefit of the community, epigraphic traces
of which remain on city monuments. In the second half of the first century BC, for example, the duoviri iure dicundo, Lucius Sepunius Sandilianus and Marcus Herennius Epidianus had a circular seat with a sundial built at their own expense.
L(ucius) Sepunius L(uci)
f(ilius) Sandilianus, M(arcus) Herennius
i(ure) d(icundo), scol(am) et
s(ua) p(ecunia) f(aciundum)
Inscription of duoviri Lucius Caesius and Caius Occius CLV.2. (-80 a.C. - 60 a.C.)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Magistrates' activities. Construction of new baths at
The inscription, which dates back to the early period of the colony of Pompeii (founded in the Sillean age around 80 BC), documents the construction and testing of the Forun thermal baths, created by the duoviro giusdicente, Lucius Caesius and the duoviri Gaius Occius and Lucius Niremius, at public expense and on the resolution of the city council constituted by the decurions.
L(ucius) Caesius C(ai)
f(ilius), d(uo)v(ir) i(ure)
d(icundo), C(aius) Occius
M(arci) f(ilius), L(ucius) Nìraemius A(uli)
f(ilius), II̅v(iri) (duoviri), d(e)
d(ecurionum) s(ententia) ex peq(unia)
Inscription of duoviri Gaius Uulius and Publius Aninius CLV.1. (-80 a.C.-60a.C.)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Dedication for the renovation of the Stabian Baths
The two magistrates in office,
duoviri iure dicundo, intervene on the Stabian Baths, one of the oldest
complexes in the city dating back to the Sannitic period, using the money that
by law was intended for games or a monument. The duoviri restored and tested
the gym, the laconicum, environment that served for sweating the body, and the destrictarium, environment dedicated to cleansing.
C(aius) Uulius C(ai) f(ilius),
P(ublius) Aninius C(ai) f(ilius),
IIv(iri) (duoviri) i(ure)
d(icundo),laconicum et destrictarium faciund(a) et porticus et palaest̂r(am) reficiunda locarunt,
ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum), ex ea pequnia quod eos e lege in ludos aut in monumento consumere oportuit, faciun(da) coerarunt eidemque probaru(nt).
Dedication to Marcus Holconius Rufus, CLV.13. (età augustea)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
inscription for the duovir Marcus Holconius Rufus by the Forum of Pompeii
The inscription is a tribute
to Marcus Holconius Rufus, belonging to one of the most prominent families in the
city and active both in the administration and in production activities. Those
responsible for renovating the theatre in the time of Augustus, the Holconii
were given a series of honours by their fellow citizens, the memories of which
are to be found in numerous inscriptions. In this case we are
celebrating Marcus Holconius Rufus, who twice held the office of duoviro
giusdicente also as a five-year duoviro, or the magistrate in charge of the
census that took place every five years. He also received the title of military tribune by popular
nomination and was among the first to assume the role of flaminos of Caesar
Augustus, that is, a priest appointed to the cult of Augustus.
M(arco) Holcon[io M(arci)
f(ilio)] Rufo, IIvir(o) (duoviro) [i(ure)
d(icundo)], quinq(uennali), tr(ibunus)
mil(itum) [a pop(ulo)], flamini
Caesa[ris Aug(usti)], Quintio
Inscription of Titus Terentius Felix Maior - CLV.32. (50-62 d.C.)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
mortem honours to the magistrates
Special honours were paid to
the magistrates who had distinguished themselves in acts of generosity towards
the community, such as the dedication of a monument, the granting of space for
burial or even a funeral celebrated at public expense. Such honours were established
by the city council constituted by the decurions. This was the case, for example, of
Titus Terentius Felix Maior, a magistrate in the time of Nero to whom, for
merits that are not known to us, 2000 sesterces were granted as a contribution
to the funeral and a public place for burial. The dedication was posted by his
wife Fabia Sabina.
T(ito) Terentio t(iti) f(Ilio) Men(enia) Felici Maiori, aedil(i). huic publice locus datus et duo milia sestertiis.
Fabia Probi f(ilia) Sabina uxor.
Funeral inscription of Aulus Vettius CLV.31. (-20 a.C. - 10 d.C.)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
inscription for Aulus Veius from the necropolis of Porta Ercolano
Aulus Veius, who twice held the
office of duovir iure dicundo and was appointed military tribune by popular
will, also received a place for burial from the city assembly (the ordo
decurionum). His tasks included the very
delicate task of conducting one of the five-year censuses, a complex activity
that involved a series of checks on citizens, also of a patrimonial and fiscal
nature, the updating of electoral lists and above all the revision of the
decurion lists with the right to expunge from the city council elements no
longer worthy of the position, and to make new appointments.
A(ulo) Veio M(arci) f(ilio), I̅I̅vir(o)
i(ure) d(icundo) iter,
ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum).
Photo credits Salvatore Granata