Pompeii, as a typical Roman colony provincial towns, was self-administrating in local matters, but subject to imperial decree from Rome. However, the emperor rarely interfered except where the empire’s security or local order was threatened. After the revolt in the amphitheatre between Pompeians and Nucerians in AD 59 the emperor, Nero, dismissed the two chief magistrates, had two more elected and appointed a law-giving prefect to supervise them. The inhabitants did not rail against such interference and constantly demonstrated their loyalty to the imperial family by constructing dedicatory statues, shrines, arches and buildings.
The actual government, the executive body, consisted of two duumviri and two aediles, annually elected by the comitium, the people’s assembly of which all adult male citizens were members. The Duumviri were the two chief magistrates of each town and were placed the highest in political life. During their years of office, the Duumviri wore a toga with a thick purple boarder and would enjoy the best seats at the public games or at the theatre. Because they were endowed with the power to revise the Council Roll, the ‘Quinquennales’ commanded the greatest respect.
The annual election of these four magistrates was the comitium’s only function, and the elections did not fail to generate a fair deal of passion and excitement which can be seen in Source A which is showing graffiti of a political matter drawn on a wall to notify the people of Pompeii about the political event occurring. Of the four magistrates, the two aediles were in charge of public buildings, including temples such as the Temple of Isis, which can be seen in source B. The Temple of Isis In Pompeii, only freeborn male citizens over 25 with good moral character could vote.
Housing blocks or districts constituted electoral areas. The Senatorial and the Equestrian classes represented and served the Roman Emperor. For senators, it was a hereditary position, with the requirement to have property valued at 1 million secterces. Senators were usually wealthy Romans who visited their villas in Pompeii. Equites were identified by togas with a narrow purple stripe. Equites served the Emperor in important posts such as commanders of fire services and military officers. It was not a hereditary position and was only given to men with property equal to 400,000 secterces.
Decurions, were elected to run the town. Two were called duumviri, and were senior magistrates. They presided over elections, carried out decrees of the Decurion council, and were in charge of justice and finance. The two junior Decurions were the Aediles. They managed the dayto- day running of the town, upkeep of public buildings, water supply, sanitation, street markets and maintained order. Aediles were unpaid and needed other occupations to pay their employees. Politics and religion were heavily intertwined, where religious roles became political.
The Augustales was an imperial cult of freedmen, which afforded its members political power. Membership was purchased; therefore a degree of wealth was required. Located one block away from the Forum in Pompeii is the Temple of Fortuna Augusta which housed the Augustales. characteristic was self-governance. .The duumviri were in charge of justice. Every five years, the duumviri were also responsible for organizing the census of all citizens and of revising the list of members of the ordo decurionum, the legislative council (or senate).
It had about 100 members (decuriones), among them the former magistrates and other citizens appointed by the duumviri every five years. They had to be free-born citizens and wealthy enough to be able to spend considerable sums on the community. Some professions (such as gladiators, actors and innkeepers) were excluded from membership, which otherwise appears to have been relatively open. The Aediles, however, being the two lower ranking magistrates of the two towns, were responsible for the everyday administration.
The reconstruction of Pompeii’s political structure is mainly based on epigraphical evidence such as the many election slogans on the walls of private as well public buildings, and on comparisons with other, similar colonies. The dramatic change from basically independent Samnite town to a Roman colony had of course a great impact on Pompeii’s townscape and the lifestyle of its inhabitants. The epigraphic evidence suggests that political activity in Pompeii was intense, especially leading up to the elections in March of each year.
It appears from the thousands of electoral notices painted on the walls that most people, including women, were politically aware and enthusiastic. BUILDINGS The city council met in the lavishly decorated Curia chamber on the southern side of the Forum adjacent to the Comitium (People’s assembly) in the southern-eastern corner. The Comitium was a roofless building where town meetings were held during which the citizens could question the members of the government. The evidence for heavy gates suggests that some meetings might have been quite boisterous.
It may also have been used on polling day. On the other side of the Curia was the small Tabularium where all the government. Business was recorded and filed, including tax records. Next door were the offices of the magistrates. The basilica was the seat of the judiciary and law courts, as well as a centre for business activities. Basilicas usually followed a standard plan: a long rectangular central hall, flanked on either side by a colonnaded aisle and an apse at one end. The central hall in Pompeii’s Basilica was two storeyed with light filtering through from the upper gallery.
At one end, five doors linked the hall with the Forum and at the other was a raised podium where the magistrate, as judge, sat above the lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. It is believed that the tribunal podium was accessed by portable wooden steps which were removed during a session so that the public could not reach the judge. The two duoviri made judgements about: unworthy decurions, electoral candidates without the required qualifications, inappropriate behaviour during elections, and misuse of public funds, robberies and murder.
They were responsible for sentencing, but could only give the death penalty to foreigners and slaves. ELECTION FEVER About half of the electoral manifestos and propaganda discovered in Pompeii related to the election of March AD 79. Earlier slogans were whitewashed over to make advertising room for the next group of candidates. To identify himself, a candidate wore a white toga (candida) and employed a slave to whisper his name to all with whom he came in contact (nomenclator).