The fury of Vesuvius stopped the clock one autumn day in the year 79 AD. C. in Pompeii and left the ancient Roman city frozen in time forever. Searching the ashes, the archaeologists working on the new round of excavations have traveled to the time before the volcano erupted and have discovered electoral inscriptions that prove that political maneuvers in ancient times were not very different from those of today and which was probably the last ritual to the gods before the devastation. For science, they are a treasure that helps decipher the details of daily life in Ancient Rome.
Inside a house, so far only partially excavated, on the Via di Nola, in the central area of ancient Pompeii, several electoral inscriptions, the ancient equivalent of today’s electoral posters and pamphlets, have appeared on the walls of the room that housed the lararium, the domestic altar of the house.
The surprising thing was to find them inside the house, since normally these inscriptions were placed on the exterior facades of the buildings, where citizens could read the names and qualities of the candidates for the city’s magistracies.
Archaeologists explain the presence of electoral propaganda inside the house because the practice of organizing events and dinners inside the homes of the candidates and their friends to promote the electoral campaign was common.
In this case, the signs encourage voting for a certain Aulus Rustius Verus for the position of aedile, in ancient Rome a type of councilor who was in charge of public works. This character appears in other inscriptions and is known in Pompeii for having held the highest public office in the city in the seventies of the 1st century AD, along with Giulio Polibius, owner of a splendid house on the Avenue of Abundance. , that of duovirea degree that was accessed after having been aedile, so archaeologists deduce that the newly discovered inscriptions are ancient and that Aulus Rustius Verus probably won those elections.
The duovirs They were magistrates of ancient Rome, who were chosen in pairs so that they could control and advise each other and who had to supervise the public, political and administrative officials of the city.
The house apparently belonged to a supporter of Aulus Rustius, perhaps one of his freedmen or a friend, and houses a detail that has not gone unnoticed by archaeologists: a bakery with a large oven, near which the bodies of three victims, two women and a child, killed by the attic collapse during the first phase of the eruption.
For experts, the presence of the bakery reveals that political clientelism, which, as today, consisted of promising favors in exchange for votes, was the order of the day in ancient times.
Maria Chiara Scappathiccio, professor of Latin at the Federico II University of Naples and co-author of the study of the new findings, explained that the councilors and the bakers “collaborated to the limits of legality” and that Aulus Rustius Verus “was able to realize very “soon, when he was still in the middle of the electoral campaign to become mayor, that the voter lives above all on bread.”
The discovery of the candidate’s initials, ARV, on a volcanic stone millstone, resting in the hall of the house, where renovation work was taking place at the time of the eruption, supports this thesis. “Aulus Rustius Verus probably directly financed the bakery’s activity, both for economic and political purposes,” said Maria Chiara Scappathiccio.
Furthermore, on the altar of the great Larario, decorated with two stucco snakes, the remains of a last votive offering have been found, probably occurring shortly before the eruption. Scientists have analyzed the remains and discovered that the ritual consisted of offering figs and dates that were burned in front of the altar. To close the rite, a whole egg was placed directly on the masonry altar of the lararium. The altar was then covered with a tile. Remains of previous offerings were also found, which also included vine fruits, fish and mammal meat.
The director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, highlighted that each new archaeological find is shared practically in real time, through an electronic diary published on the park’s website, while the excavation phase continues. “To my knowledge, we are the first archaeological site in the world to practice this form of scientific transparency: we are convinced that, in this, Pompeii will be an international model of a new form of data accessibility thanks to the opportunities offered by technologies digital. The future of archeology is here,” he said.
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