Happy Election Day – A Lesson from Rome for the Candidates!

Happy Election Day! While we wait in lines to vote and by the media for returns, a historical perspective from one of our students, Keara Johnson.



How to get into political office 101 as taught by Professor Quintus Cicero

The electoral system in the Roman Republic can best be evidenced by the example of the Centuriate Assembly. In this case, all citizens belonged to this assembly and were enrolled in 193 voting units called centuries. However, these units were distributed unequally among the wealthy in society and gave more votes to those of higher status compared to those of lower ranking. This led Cicero to say, “we Romans do not count votes; we weigh them.” While this practice may have been considered unfair, it did ensure that the elite would remain loyal to the state and feel as though their concerns were being addressed. In terms of achieving political office, the most important aspect to consider is of course the people. Quintus also claims that soliciting votes for office can be broken down into a pair of activities, securing loyalty of friends and taking note of the feelings of the community. In order to secure this loyalty, especially from members of every class, one ought to make an effort to visit and perform acts of kindness for these people. It is also crucial to form friendships with the types of people that one usually does not approach unless it is for the purpose of canvassing. Sometimes it is necessary for the electorate to be motivated or have specific reasons to be pledging their vote to the candidate running. To do this, it is essential to make sure that the genuine friends of the individual are aware of what they stand to gain from this sponsorship. Candidates are also expected to appreciate what they are receiving from each person and will remember those who gave them the opportunity to rise to this political office in the first place. If both parties are mindful of their responsibilities, then another step is taken toward winning the election. The next phase is to identify the potential voters. Senators, knights and all the other popular men in the community should be canvassed. Gaining the support of these men will make it much easier to review the rest of the city, especially if they are leaders within the sections of the community. After starting with one city, one must move outward to consider the entire area or in Cicero’s case, all of Italy. Doing this would allow the contenders to determine where a stronger foothold was needed and more voters could be collected. The fourth step in the election process has to do more so with the feelings of the voters. In the Roman Republic, it was common that the constituents would escort the official to the forum or attend to them throughout the day. Candidates should express their gratitude for these actions and establish how much they value these individuals. Doing this could make the voters feel as though their candidate truly wishes to maintain a connection with the people voting for them and is more down to earth. At the same time, the daily canvass involves officials polishing their reputations. Officials should continue to remind the people that due to their efforts, some of them have retained their property, honor or fortune. Therefore the principle of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” must have been a common occurrence during Roman elections. Quintus’s suggestion of knowing one’s enemies is also a worthwhile election strategy. It is important to be aware of the three classes of people who are associated with opponents and detractors. There are those who have been attacked in court who only need to be assured that the official will defend them in such a feverous manner if the need arises. Obviously there will be those who dislike the candidate for reasons only they themselves know. To combat this, Quintus recommended that it was best to appeal to the feelings of these people by performing kind acts of service. For those who harbor animosity based upon their association with a rival, one should express a lack of ill will towards those standing against them. Overall, the best way to win an election during the time of the Roman Republic was simply to win the hearts of the people. No fancy campaigns were expected, but the ability to sway the masses to your side was the greatest skill a candidate could have.

The bonds of patronage and clientage were very prevalent in the Roman Republic and provided self-help without the need for a modern welfare state. Patrons were expected to look out for their clients’ well-being as a whole and vice-versa. The relationship between the two parties could be described as being like a vassal treaty or in a modern sense, an insurance company. A client could be portrayed as a vassal who performs a service for a king/lord/patron in exchange for protection or some other necessary good. As a modern entity, the patron would be the insurance company since they provide security and a safety net for the clients who pay for these services. Patronage could also be extended in a community sense. For example, Cicero was the patron of communities in both Italy and Cilicia as a result of his governorship in Asia Minor. This seems to be an indication of the fact that most patrons who sponsored entire communities had to be high-class and wealthy individuals who were often famous in a political sense as well. The third form of patronage was between a freedman and his liberator. When slaves were properly freed, they were still partially dependent on their past masters. This could be considered troublesome and semi-clumsy. However, this mutual dependency or fides led to this relationship becoming a misleading or perhaps even made-up partnership. Overall, it seems as though the relationship between the various forms of patrons and clients formed the strength of the Republic. These connections may not have been based on the stereotypically strong Roman family unit, but they certainly formed the glue that held many partnerships together throughout the time of the Republic.

Surprisingly, Roman politics was based on the incredibly down to earth principle of direct interactions with the voters and appeals to the feelings of said people. The fact that Quintus pays much attention to the communications between the candidates and their entourage as they travel to and from places is a good indication of this. The political process was more geared towards friendship and gaining lifelong allies. Personal relationships based on patronage, clientage and the common principle that people should help one another out were extremely normal. Quintus further illustrates this point when he reminds his brother that he should mention how he, without any pay, helped them to retain their entire fortunes and properties. This is highly personal, since Marcus Cicero may have saved the intimate livelihood of hundreds of people without a second thought. Even the ways in which hopeful political officials approach their opponents or those who side with their rivals is a seemingly peaceful and personal matter. Rather than lashing out and attempting to disrespect these people, Cicero was encouraged to carry out kind services and befriend any dissenters. These conversations and actions almost seem more like the types of things that would occur between family members, further stressing the point that Roman politics was once carried out in a familial style.

The elections of the Roman Republic and the current elections of today, at least on a national scale, are vastly different, but yet contain some of the key elements that come with any form of election throughout time. The personal level of interaction that took place during campaign season has long since passed. Today’s candidates no longer can reach out to every single individual and build some type of friendship, nor would they want to. Trying to do this would severely impact their time and limit their ability to connect with the groups of people they feel as though they need to gain votes from. Perhaps the largest difference in my opinion between today’s hopeful political officials and the ones of the past is the way opponents are treated. Anyone who has paid any inkling of attention during this presidential race could tell you that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are not going to become best friends any time soon. Both individuals blast each other over leaked emails, tax policies, “locker room talk” and building walls. Even their supporters attack each other and the candidates over social media and in public. This is a complete flip from the method of treating your rivals during the Roman Republic’s election season. Marcus Cicero was supposed to show that he was kindly disposed to the men who stood against him. He was also told by his brother that the carrying out of services and the demonstration of kindly feelings was a surefire way to remove the prejudice of those who disliked him. This example displays the level of respect held for each human person during the Republic, no matter if they were your political rival or not. This concept is completely foreign today and I cannot imagine either of the two presidential nominees displaying “kindly feelings” or trying to perform charitable gestures for the other person or their supporters. However, some parallels can be drawn between the past and the present elections. In a way, patronage and clientage still exist today in our political elections. If the patrons are the presidential nominees, then the clients could take the form of certain special interest groups or even corporations. The nominees promise to pass legislation that appeals to these groups in exchange for funds or their endorsement when it comes time for people to start determining who they wish to vote for. Also, officials seem to follow the same idea of focusing on regions where they need to gather more support. Officials today often visit areas where it would be possible for them to seal the deal and gain the votes of the people living there. This are usually called swing states. Roman officials did the same thing by studying an entire map of Italy and determining the areas where an increased foothold was needed.

The coin above displays Roman citizens voting and the introduction of the concept of the secret ballot in Roman society. The image on the coin is of a voter bending down to receive a ballot from another individual. There is also another voter standing on a bridge depositing their ballot into the box. The point of the bridge was to ensure that no ballot-stuffing took place and so that the other voters could see what was going on. With the introduction of the secret ballot by the plebiscites in the 2nd century B.C. came a blow to the influence of the elite. No longer could the higher class see how their clients and allies ended up voting. This measure could have affected the elite in various ways. The idea that they no longer knew how their friends were voting could have caused them to up their game to gather voters or led to difficulties since they no longer could see their political leanings. This image is also a glimpse into the lessening control of the upper-classes and the new increase in the freedom of choice and libertas for the other citizens. Overall, the impact of the secret ballot on the Roman Republic cannot yet be fully explored, but this coin is merely the beginning of a movement towards the growth of the influence of the non-elite classes.

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1492 Reconsidered? – Weekly Round-Up – October 14, 2016

History weighed heavy on Monday as some people celebrated Indigenous Peoples while others kept the traditional focus on Christopher Columbus. This week we offer up a few interpretations on recognizing the events of 1492.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Gains Momentum As A Replacement for Columbus Day:



Native Americans Push to End Columbus Day – Not So Fast, Italians Say:



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Weekly Round-Up – October 7, 2016 – Get Out & Vote?!

The U.S. Presidential Election is 1 month from tomorrow so we’re reading about the history of voting rights. A stark reminder of how the past continues to inform the present and the importance of making sure that you – and those you know – make it to the polls next month.

239-voting-rights-719x440Voting Rights and Wrongs – This recent podcast discusses the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Case Shelby v. Holder and the issue of “preclearance” in election voting:


Texas’s Voter-Registration Laws are Straight Out of the Jim Crow Playbook – a specific example of how voting restrictions of the past continue to shape election participation:



Everything That’s Happened Since the Supreme Court Ruled on Voting Rights Act – a map from 2014 that further contextualizes the ruling by offering a state-by-state analysis:


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A Historical Summer

Welcome Back! 

We’re happy to be back on campus and focused on all things history. This year brings new faculty to the History Department, new course options, and new opportunities to think historically…like say, how the past informs our nation’s first presidential election including a female candidate and a novice politician.

Before we start looking toward our future, we thought we’d share with you some of our most immediate history. Our next couple of posts will highlight some of the ways our faculty engaged with the past over the summer break. We hope you enjoy learning about how many of us bring history outside of the classroom and we hope you share your historical summer adventures as well!

In June, our department chair Dr. Cathy Cory traveled with a group of teachers and clergy to San Cristóbal, Mexico. Below are her reflections on the historical legacy of indigenous communities and the Catholic Church in Mexico.

A Journey Through Chiapas, Mexico

In June 2016, I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying a group of teachers and parish ministers, who spent the previous two years refining their Spanish language skills and immersing themselves in our local Latino immigrant communities, to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. The city, which has a population of approximately 190,000 people, was founded in 1528. Deeply embedded in the history and culture of Latin America, it served as the capital of Chiapas until the late 19th century and is still now regarded as its cultural capital. Come along with me as I share our journey.

We arrived in San Cristóbal de las Casas late in the evening of Thursday, June 17th, after three legs of our air flight and a van ride to our final destination. On Friday, we began the day with an excellent talk about the history of San Cristóbal and the state of the local indigenous peoples from the time of the conquest to the present. After that, we went to Taller de Lenateros, a cooperative comprised of Mayan artists who create beautiful handmade paper and paper products according to their ancient practices and in an effort to preserve Mayan arts and culture. Cooperatives are one way that the marginalized of Mexican society survive poverty and high unemployment. Their website, which includes a collection of essays written about the cooperative, is at http://www.tallerlenateros.com.

Later, we had time to explore the city and the market that is frequented by the many tourists who come to San Cristóbal. A few of us also went out to visit the churches that are ubiquitous in the city. My favorite was the Church of St. Francis, a sixteenth-century church of the barrio. Here are some photos: http://www.travelbymexico.com/sancristobal/atractivos/?nom=kscrfrancisco. We also visited the Cathedral of San Cristóbal de las Casas, which was originally used by Bartolomé de las Casas (d. 1566), the first bishop of Chiapas. Despite controversies surrounding his role in the conquest, he is still known as the defender of the indigenous. Today Dom Samuel Ruiz Garcia, a modern-day defender of the rights of the indigenous and bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas (1959-1999), is buried in this same church. Here are some photos of the cathedral: http://www.travelbymexico.com/sancristobal/atractivos/?nom=kscrcatedral&don=35.

On Saturday, Fr. Gonzalo Ituarte treated us to a presentation about Dom Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who was also a major player in the 1968 Medellin Conference of Latin American bishops and the primary mediator in the Zapatistas crisis of the mid-1990s. See the article in The National Catholic Reporter describing Dom Samuel Ruiz’s legacy in Chiapas: https://www.ncronline.org/news/global/mexicos-chiapas-state-bishop-ruiz-leaves-large-legacy. Later we went to a museum dedicated to Dom Samuel Ruiz, which is very well done. Here is their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MUSEO-Jtatik-Samuel-1541101406173254. And here is a short video highlighting the inauguration of the museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsIPoR-T2y8.

On Sunday we went out in two groups to local indigenous Catholic parishes for worship and conversations with community members. Some went to Zinacantán and two nearby villages higher in the mountains surrounding San Cristóbal. My group went to Chamula at the outskirts of San Cristóbal to the Church of Juan Diegito (little Diego). The service was in Spanish and Tsotzil: Spanish, because the pastor speaks very little Tsotzil, and Tsotzil, because the majority of the community speak only Tsotzil. Lay leadership plays a very significant role in this parish, almost everyone was dressed in their traditional apparel, including the lay leaders who wore their Mayan ritual garb. I sensed a lot of sadness in this church community, which is made up of people from several villages who have been banished from their original homes due to political and social struggles between and among indigenous communities. It is a poor but proud community trying to reestablish itself after enduring more than we can imagine.

On Monday, we went to Melel Xojobal (http://www.melelxojobal.org.mx), which provides educational and social support resources for indigenous children who live and work on the streets of San Cristobal. Most have families but, because they have been displaced from their ancestral homes by war and social conflict, they live in precarious situations. We learned that 75% of the people of Chiapas fall into the category of extreme poverty. In 1995, the United Nations defined extreme poverty as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.” In 2005, the World Bank referred to extreme poverty as “earning below the international poverty line of $1.25/day.” Later that day, we went to INESIN, an ecumenical center in San Cristóbal, where we learned about indigenous spirituality and its interface with Christianity in Chiapas. Their website describes the organization’s history and their mission to foster peace through intercultural and interreligious dialogue: http://inesin-mx.org/english/aboutus.htm.

On Tuesday, we visited the Fra Bartolome de Casas Human Rights Center (also known as Frayba), which has a staff of 22 people working on human rights advocacy and cases involving the disappeared, people forced off their lands, or denied basic liberty rights at the risk of their own personal welfare. They do amazing work, but the enormity of the problems that need to be addressed are overwhelming. Two huge issues that they cannot even begin to address because of lack of resources are feminicides and abuse of migrants. Our presenter gave the example of “The Beast,” the network of freight trains that travel the 1,450 miles, south to north, through Mexico. Desperate migrants hoping to get to the U.S. ride atop these trains at great peril. Frayba has documented as many as 2,000 riders at the start of the journey and only 200 by the time the train reaches its northern destination. No one knows exactly what happens to the 1,800 who do not make it to the end of the journey, but we can surmise that their end is not good. For more information about “The Beast” see the NPR article at http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/06/05/318905712/riding-the-beast-across-mexico-to-the-u-s-border. Frayba’s website is at http://www.frayba.org.mx/?hl=en. They also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FraybaDerechosHumanos/.

On Wednesday we visited Universidad de la Tierra in San Cristóbal. This is a residential school for young adult indigenous men and women ages 13 through 21. Located on a beautiful, sprawling campus, built and furnished by the students and their teachers, students are allowed to study whatever they feel called to study from embroidery and weaving to electronics, electrical work, auto repair, music, art, food preparation, book making and sustainable farming. The immediate goal is to provide these young people with skills for survival that they can take back home to make their communities self-sustaining. But the long term goal is to instill a love of self-motivated learning and, to that end, the students also study philosophy, literature, history, educational theory, and theology. See the INMOTION journal interview with Raymundo Sanchez Barraza, director of the school, at http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/global/rsb_int_eng.html.

Later that day, we visited with the staff at Codimuj, a diocesan women’s group, which has as its goal the empowerment of indigenous women as equal members of their families and communities. A 2012 S¡Paz Report carried the following article on its 20th anniversary commemoration: http://www.sipaz.org/article-the-20-years-of-the-diocese-coordination-of-women/?lang=en. You can also find a reflection by Sr. María del Carmen Martínez on the work of Codimuj on the website of the Dominican Missionaries of the Rosary: http://www.misionerasdominicas.org/index.php/experiencias-misioneras-11/archivo/845-mujeres-mexico.

Thursday, June 23rd, was our last day in Chiapas. The week had been full of marvelous experiences, and everyone was tired, but one more very special experience awaited us. Earlier in the week we had an opportunity to meet a Mayan medicine woman who combines psychotherapy with traditional healing practices in her work with indigenous communities in Chiapas and throughout Latin America and beyond. This day she invited us to her home village of La Candelaria high in the mountains above San Cristóbal to share in a healing ceremony. Before we left, we went to a local market—not the one frequented by tourists—to purchase the candles, incense, firewood, flowers, and tobacco for the ceremony. It was raining as we left the city, but when we arrived in La Candelaria the sun broke through, and we had the extreme privilege of praying together—across faith traditions—for the healing of ourselves, our families, our ancestors, cultures, and the earth. As the sacred fire began to die, we sat in silence gazing at the breathtaking views from the top of the mountain. Then the rain began to fall again, and I think everyone felt the blessing of that sacred moment as we made our way back down the mountain to San Cristóbal.

So ends my travelogue. I hope you can visit this special place someday and be inspired as I was.

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“Go Make it Happen” – Inspiration for the Final Push

We’re half way into final exams so we offer up some commencement inspiration to get you through to our own ceremonies this Saturday. Good Luck!

Russell Wilson Says

“Ask Yourself Honestly, What am I Capable Of?” – Russell Wilson says there are many ways to respond to “life telling you no”:

“Speak Truth to Power” – Rita Moreno raps inspiration to “infuse the news” :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVfAWEI-i0A


“Your Stories Are Essential” – Lin-Manuel Miranda uses history for inspiration:

“Build Resilience in Yourself” – Sheryl Sandberg channels her grief to inspire strength:
Rita Moreno

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The Legacy of Historical Migrations – Weekly Round-Up, May 13th, 2016

A number of new stories have focused on the historical legacy of migrations this week. It struck us up on the 4th Floor as a bit of “art imitates life,” as we’ve been listening to our students talking about post-semester plans to go home or relocate for new opportunities. Is your next move a part of a larger historical trend or might it change existing historical legacies? Let us know your “migration news”…


 “Refugee Crisis, Then and Now”: How apt is the comparison between the current crisis and the aftermath of the Second World War?




Caribbean Chinese Migration


“In Search of Family: Carribbean Chinese Diaspora”: an examination of the history of Chinese migration to Jamaica and other Caribbean locations.



“London’s Muslim Mayor is Nothing New”: 1300 Years of Muslims who Ran Major European Cities.London Mayor



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Honoring our History Students

It has been an honor and pleasure to recognize so many of our history students over the past week!

  • Emily Heimerman, “The Black Death in Europe”
  • Blake Johnson, “Varied Background, Varied Response: The Protestant Ascendancy and the Great Frost and Famine of 1739-41”
  • Kaitlyn Hennessy, “Asenath Nicholson and the ‘Industrious Woman’: Women and Philanthropy during the Irish Famine”
  • Matthew Wilson, “The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Britain.”
  • Michael Rainville, “Providence and the Press: The Dover Straits Earthquake of 1580”
  • Ryan Oden, “Explaining Syphilis in Renaissance Europe”
  • John Hatch, “Aberfan: Disaster and Memory”
  • Jacob Sevening, “Ulrich Beck and the Risk Society”



In addition to our capstone students, the department also honored our newest group of Phi Alpha Theta (PAT) initiates. This year our PAT chapter welcomed 9 new members. Students who complete 4 history courses and meet the GPA requirement are invited to join PAT – the National History Honor Society. We are delighted the following students have joined the honor society: Brett Duffek, Kaitlyn Hennessy, Blake Johnson, Carl Michaletz, Whitney Oachs, Michael Rainville, Aaron Sather, Mallory Tarnowski, & Tyler Trudell.




Newest PAT member Whitney Oachs also received an Undergraduate Student Award for Community Engagement from the office of Global and Local Engagement (GALE). Nominated by one of her peers and Dr. David Williard, the award recognizes her work for educational equity through a number of community partners; the American Indian Magnet School through the National History Day program, the FREE Project, and Cristo Rey High School through the Together Possible initiative.


And last, but certainly not least, we are delighted and proud of our 3 History Seniors graduating with honors this year; Summa Cuma Laude graduates Kaitlyn Hennessy & Matthew Wilson and Cum Laude graduate Meg Walter.latin honors sp 2016

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