Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

Local Political Life

See Chapter 6 of your text book: "Social structure, economy and politics".
"Local Political Life" pp.101-104.

What do sources reveal about the nature of local political life in Pompeii and Herculaneum?

Political Life

Pompeii and Herculaneum were self-governing in local matters. Very loyal to Rome as shown in dedicatory statues, shrines, arches and buildings.

Examples of inscriptions demonstrating loyalty to the imperial rule of Rome:

Statue of Augustus (c. 8 BC)
  • To Imperator Caesar Augustus {son of the deified, hailed as victorious general} thirteen times, in his fifteenth year of tribunician power, father of his country, {consul eleven times}. (CIL X 931)

Statue of Julia Augusta (Livia) (found near the Temple of Jupiter – dates from after Augustus’ death in 14 BC)
  • To Augusta Julia, daughter of Drusus, (wife) of the deified Augustus. By decree of the town councillors. (CIL X 799)

Statue of Nero as Caesar (c. AD 51-4)
  • To Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, son of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, father of his country. By decree of the town councillors. (CIL X 932)

City Council – 100 decurions – for life – freeborn citizens – list revised every five years – debated and voted on administrative matters and instructed the Board of Four.
The City Council met in the Curia chamber.

The interior of the building which may be the Curia in Pompeii

People’s Assembly – elected magistrates – town divided into precincts – winner had to have majority of precincts – vote was by ballot.
People’s Assembly met in the Comitium. Voting took place here.

Judiciary and law courts were held in the Basilica – with the judge on a raised podium at one end. A long central hall with colonnaded aisle on each side and five doors leading to the Forum. Duoviri were the judges.





Duoviri – administered electoral rolls – tried civil and criminal cases – carried out census.
Aediles (two) – sacred and public buildings – roads and sewerage – markets – public order – sponsorship of spectacles.

The following inscription shows the role of the aediles in administering public works. It appears on a travertine block found sunk into the ground just inside the Stabian Gate:

"M. Suttius, son of M., and Numerius Pontius, son of M., aediles, marked out this road as far as the lower Stabian road. This road is marked out over 100 feet. The same magistrates marked out the Pompeian road over 30 feet as far as the Temple of Jupitor Meilichios. They officially established from scratch these roads and the road of Jupiter and the (?) road by order of the Pompeian chief magistrate. The same aediles approved the work."
(Cooper and Cooper, Pompeii: A Sourcebook, p.9)

The following inscription shows the role of the aediles in controlling markets. It refers to market stalls by the amphitheatre:

"By permission of the aediles, Gnaeus Aninius Fortunatus occupies (this space)."
(Cooper and Cooper, Pompeii: A Sourcebook, p.180)

The responsibility of duumvirs to ensure standardised measurements in the markets is shown in the following inscription:

"Aulus Clodius Flaccus, son of Aulus, and Numerius Arcaeus Arellianus Caledus, son of Numerius, duumvirs with judicial power, saw to the standardisation of the measures in accordance with a decree of the town councillors."
(Cooper and Cooper, Pompeii: A Sourcebook, p.179)

  • There was intense political activity before March elections.
  • Electoral slogans were painted on walls. Candidates wore white toga. Could not write manifestos himself – could only proclaim his worthiness for the position, not other achievements.
  • There were many manifestos from a range of supporters: trade guilds; women; teachers and students.
  • Other graffiti was critical of politicians.

Examples of electoral graffiti:

I beg you to elect Satrius quinquennial. (CIL IV 7620)

Showing candidates’ qualities:
  • If integrity in life is thought to be of any use,
  • This man, Lucretius Fronto, is worthy of great honour. (CIL IV 6626)
  • I beg you to elect Gaius Julius Polybius aedile. He brings good bread. (CIL IV 7201)

  • All those asleep and Macerius ask for Vatia as aedile. (CIL IV 575)
  • The little thieves ask for Vatia as aedile. (CIL IV 576)

Support from individuals:
  • We, Quintus and Sextus Caecilius Iucundus, ask for Ceius Secundus as duumvir. (CIL IV 3433)
  • Euxinus asks you to elect Quintus Postumius and Marcus Cerrinius aediles, together with Iustus. Hinnulus wrote this. (CIL IV 9851)

Support from occupations:
  • The fullers all ask for Holconius Priscus as Duumvir. (CIL IV 7164)

Support from town districts:
  • The Campanienses ask for Marcus Epidius Sabinus as aedile. (CIL IV 470)