I do like a challenge. Remember me writing a book about the Olympic Games, when it was neither the Olympics in our world, nor in the Roman year when I was setting the book?? See Delphi and Die (getting out of Trouble, Lindsey).
Politics and their strategy, are in my blood. I had long wanted to write about Roman elections, deterred only by our limited knowledge of what really went on – plus the fact even Heron of Alexandria never devised an ancient substitute for the TV swingometer. Then at a Classical Association conference (where loopy ideas often call to me), I spotted How to Win an Election by Quintus Tullius Cicero. Well, possibly by him: Cicero’s younger brother gives spin-doctoring advice to his stiff sibling. Junior is the election agent you need: make promises to everyone since it is better to make promises you never intend to keep, than to make none. (I draw no modern comparisons…) Force your friends and family to appear loyally in the Forum with you. (Anyone seen a party leader’s wife pushing a pram lately?) Discover sleaze. Invent sleaze. (I am making that up, obviously).
Luckily for me, I paid a visit to the British School at Rome, where certain rugby tickets were stolen so I was forced to spend an afternoon in the library instead (which suited me, to be honest, even though Marcus, my personal trainer, had taken much trouble to teach me the off-side rule). There the lovely librarian and the Director himself plied me with useful research books, knowing that my own at home were still in removal boxes. I bemoaned the lack of election facts, so the Director found me a vital text which told me the unfortunate news: under the emperors elections for magistracies were no longer held in ancient Rome.
Titan’s turds. Get out of that one, Ms Davis! No, I won’t say how I did: read it and see.
Let’s be sure of one thing; I am fired up, ready for the point-scorers who want to tell me I am wrong. There is less direct evidence, however for the iconic auction moment when my heroine sees that the tottery old porter needs relief, so she jumps on the tribunal and wields a gavel. This is super fuel for the anoraks who don’t believe Roman women played any part in business life. Will I risk telling them women can be auctioneers; it must be true, it was in Lovejoy…
I could pretend that when I started the book I realised that it would be published in a General Election year. My Dad, who taught a Politics degree, would be ashamed of me, but I didn’t. I just wanted to show men (but not women of course) dropping tokens into urns – which it then turned out I must not do. You will never learn from me how the voting tribes were placed in order, or the way the rustic voting bridge may have worked.
However, there is tons more fun. I can say, I hope this book will help take people’s minds off their misery when wall-to-wall electioneering gets too much. Promises, promises, here they come… so when you are thinking, there isn’t one of them who deserves my vote – just remember, it was as bad in ancient Rome.
And if you are tempted at an auction to buy that handsome blanket chest, do insist they open it up for you first. Make sure you know what is lurking inside…
Amy is responsible for the smooth running of the H for History website, and enjoys reading history-based fantasy. She also like to photograph sites of historical interest in her spare time with a cup of bovril and a pork pie for company. Favourite period of history: Ancient;
Favourite historical read: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave;
Upcoming book i’m most looking forward to: Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick
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Women in Ancient Rome Deadly Election author Lindsey Davis has written this fantastic article for us about her research on women in ancient Rome. Enjoy!…
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