The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Feb 23, 2010

Snobbery and Elections

It's good to see that the good old Roman polloi had as little patience for the snobbery of the political elite as we do. On the other hand, a bit of weeping on TV does wonders for today's politician. Will the electorate ever focus on issues rather than emotions? I doubt it.
Some time in the second century BC, a member of the aristocratic Scipio family lost an election. Standing for the office of aedile, he had been eagerly canvassing the people -- and happened to shake the hands of a peasant. Now the peasant's hands were horny, from all his tough agricultural labour and Scipio -- being an effete toff -- was not used to the feel. "Wot," he said (as a joke?), "do you walk on these?"

Now Rome might not have been a radical democracy, but the Roman people didn't put up with toffs insulting the honest labouring poor and they took their revenge. Scipio lost the election. That, at least is the story handed down by the early imperial writer Valerius Maximus in a section of his Memorable Deeds and Sayings devoted to people who lost elections (The Latin text is here: Book 7, 5, 2; ...).


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