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Pompeii, Programmata, and Politics: Sources of Endorsements in Pompeian Elections

Presenters Name: 
Meghan Wingert
Co Presenters Name: 
Primary Research Mentor: 
Elizabeth Meyer
Secondary Research Mentor: 
12:30 - 1:45
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 12:30pm to 1:45pm
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Harrison Undergraduate Research Grant

After the Roman dictator Sulla besieged and colonized Pompeii in 89 BCE, he instituted Roman-style elections that continued until the city’s demise in the 79 CE eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Modern historians know this because when Pompeii was rediscovered in the late sixteenth century, they found electoral notices painted on the walls. Each notice, or programma (plural programmata), recommends a candidate for office, but many also have endorsements from specific groups. Archaeologists and historians have studied these programmata extensively, but many questions remain—why support a given candidate? Were politics in Pompeii issue-based, or neighborhood-based, or based on personalities? And how would groups organize themselves to make an endorsement? Focusing on the time period between the late Roman republic and the fall of Pompeii in AD 79, I argue that endorsement relied on self-identification and organization, and that in Pompeii, both derive from the distribution of trades and the layout of neighborhoods in the city, as well as from the related religious associations. Through examination of the text of the electoral programmata themselves and the spatial distribution of shrines and trades throughout Pompeii, I hope to re-contextualize Pompeian elections through religion and economics, which in turn will make it more possible to deduce the dynamics of local elections and the nature of the relationship between endorsements, voters, and candidates.