The book is called How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians. The books is a translation of some of the writings by Quintus Cicero for his famous and talented brother Marcus Cicero on campaign politics, ancient Rome style. Qunitus’ book was titled “Handbook on Electioneering” (Commentariolum Petitionis in Latin).
Striking from its contents is how little politics has changed. What held true then, holds true now. Everything. The approach, the attitude, and stratagems.
Predictably, Boris (and he is the only British politician regularly known by his first name) was extremely interested in Quintus Cicero’s advice, and found all kinds of modern parallels. He was particularly taken with the suggestion that a politician was well advised to lie his way into popular favor, or at least that he should promise more than he could deliver. “After all,” as Philip Freeman translates it in his new version of the text, “if a politician made only promises he was sure he could keep, he wouldn’t have many friends.” “Exactly,” said Boris. “That is just how modern politics works.”
Of course with any ancient source there is some doubt over its authenticity. Why was an obscure book on advice to a man, who probably didn’t need it, preserved?
Many critics have suspected that it was a nostalgic fiction—or rhetorical exercise—of the early imperial period, written decades after popular elections had ended under Roman autocratic rule. But at the same time, most critics have imagined that it nevertheless represented much of the reality of Roman political competition; and that’s partly because it can seem so close to our own.
Read the rest of the review here.