Elections (September 2016)

Friends, Pompeians, and Countrymen, lend me your votes…

Inside this issue: creating Pompeian election graffiti, an election simulation, chalk spray, Quintus Tullius Cicero, the words “candidate” and “candid,” and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue! 


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history). 


Introduction: In this lesson, students will view examples of Pompeian election graffiti and then create their own using common Latin election abbreviations.

Background: The next time you drive past a yard sign that asks you to vote for someone, ponder this fact: You’re looking at what is essentially a 2,000-year-old practice. Like us, the ancient Romans had election signs, and Pompeii provides us with a few thousand examples. These election signs were painted directly onto the outside walls of buildings, with red or black paint and in all capital letters. Just as our modern yard signs are simple (e.g., VOTE for _____), Pompeian election graffiti also went straight to the point. The were usually formulaic and stated a person or group’s support for a particular candidate. Some interesting information on the topic (for teachers, not students), including many examples from Pompeii, can be found here at Antiquitatem.

Objectives: Students will be able to compose an election sign in Latin and explain the significance of Pompeian election graffiti.



  1. Show students the Pompeii Graffiti slide presentation so that they can see examples of all kinds of ancient Roman graffiti, including campaign signs.
  2. Students will create election graffiti for imaginary candidates of their choice. They should follow this procedure:
    • Choose a three-part Latin name for your imaginary candidate.
    • Decide whether your candidate is running for duumvir (IIV. or D.V.) or for aedīlis (AED.). 
    • Compose your sentence with the help of the Election Graffiti Composition handout, choosing one word or phrase from each column.
  3. Students paint their graffiti on paper hanging on the classroom wall, or they draw it using sidewalk chalk if doing the activity outside. Remind them to use all capital letters and to make their graffiti resemble the examples they have seen.

*This lesson was adapted from a project originally designed by Abbi Holt and Cassandra Mea.


Introduction: This lesson lets students experience elements of campaigning and the voting process in Ancient Pompeii through a two-day simulation.

Background:  In this lesson, the class will elect two aedīles.  The aedīles were in charge of the city’s markets, baths, water supply, public buildings, police force, and entertainment. Students will notice that some elements of ancient elections, such as speech-making, campaign promises, and the secret ballot, are still a part of our modern election process. VRoma has a helpful introduction to Roman campaigning and voting here.

ObjectivesStudents will be able to describe parts of a Pompeian election, such as the speeches, campaigning, and voting.



Before this lesson begins, each student must choose a citizen name (three names) and supply it to the teacher so that the voting roll can be made.

Day 1: Speech-writing exercise and assigning roles for the simulation

  1. Share with students the background information about aediles and explain that this lesson will give them a chance to see how the election process worked as the class simulates an election to choose two aediles.
  2. All students should write speeches in English using the Election Speech worksheet. (More advanced students could be asked to compose parts or all of it in Latin.)
  3. The teacher chooses four students who would like to be candidates. These students may choose to use their own speech tomorrow or to use someone else’s if they would like.
  4. The teacher assigns about half of the non-candidate students to one of four guilds: mercātōrēs (merchants), agricolae (farmers), āthlētae (athletes), or fūrēs (thieves). In addition, the teacher assigns each guild a candidate whom they will support. The rest of the students will be voters not associated with any guild, and the guild members will attempt to persuade them to vote for their chosen candidate.

Day 2Campaigning, speeches, voting, and the announcement of the results

  1. Most of today will be spent campaigning:
    • Each candidate dresses in the bright white toga candida.
    • The guild members try to convince the other voters to vote for their candidate. They may use bribes of candy or money up to fifty cents. They should share with the other voters information about their candidate, using the script below. (Younger students or students with less Latin experience can do this in English instead.)
      • Salvē!  Mihi nōmen est ____________________ (cognōmen in nominative case)
      • Quaesō (please) favē (favēte pl.) ________ (cognōmen of your candidate in dative case)
      • Nunc dīcite sententiam dē candidātō tuō. (Now say an opinion about your candidate.)
      • Fortasse pecūniam offēre vīs? (Perhaps you want to offer money as a bribe?)
    • One by one, each candidate gives his speech to the rest of the class.
    • N.B. – If time allows, the Latin Lesson in this issue could be added as an additional day for this lesson, and students could create graffiti in support of their chosen candidate.
  2. Now it is time for suffrāgium, the voting:
    • Each student, male or female, will be deemed a citizen.
    • Each citizen may vote for ANY candidate of his or her choice.
    • Each citizen will inscribe the name of his or her chosen candidate on a piece of terra-cotta and bring it to the polling station.
    • The election magistrate (the teacher) will call each citizen from the voting roll.
    • When called, each citizen will put his or her vote into the cista.
  3. Finally, it is time for the renūntiātiō, the declaration of the election results:
    • The votes for the candidates will be tallied.
    • The magistrate will write the results on the Forum bulletin board (the class white board) and announce the two successful aedīles.
  4. Discuss as a class:
    • Do you think it would be fun to be a candidate?
    • Do you think it would have been easier or harder to win in Roman elections than in our modern elections?
    • What motivated you more to vote for someone: their platform, bribes, or other factors?

*This lesson was adapted from a project originally designed by Abbi Holt and Cassandra Mea.


Online Resource:
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

Cicero’s Web: How Social Media Was Born in Ancient Rome

For better or for worse, a quick glance at social media these days is guaranteed to deliver information about our current presidential election.  We tend to think of social media’s transmission of news and opinions as a sort of modern phenomenon. However, the next time you scroll through Facebook, consider another kind of scroll…a papyrus one.  This article from Brain Pickings explains how social media has its roots in the Romans’ sharing of information through a network of contacts.


Famous Roman: Quintus Tullius Cicero
Each issue will feature a famous individual or group from Greek or Roman history whom you may wish to explore with your students.

Quints Tullius Cicero was the younger brother of the famous Roman politician and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero. Quintus lived from 102 B.C. to 43 B.C. and served terms as Rome’s aedile and praetor. He never served in the chief executive role of consul like his well-known brother, Marcus, but he did give his brother campaign advice. He died during Rome’s civil war between Caesar and Pompey when he was included in a list of those proscribed as enemies of the state.

In 64 B.C., Quintus Tullius Cicero wrote a letter giving advice to his brother who was a candidate for consul. Some questions exist about the authenticity of the text, and the question of why the more famous and successful Marcus would possibly need advice from his brother is certainly interesting as well. Nevertheless, the letter gives us a glimpse into the practices of politicians in Rome’s first century B.C., practices that should sound very familiar to modern readers. For instance, Quintus advises his brother about the importance of promising all things to everyone, building an enthusiastic base of support, and reminding voters of your opponent’s scandals. The letter is available in a modern translation (plus the Latin) in Philip Freeman’s 2012 How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians.


Random Find: chalk spray
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects. 

Would you like to create a toga candida but don’t have the time to whiten it with chalk as the Romans did? Chalk spray is the answer to this classic conundrum!

The blog Thirty Handmade Days has a recipe for making your own chalk spray using tempera paint, water, cornstarch, and dishwashing soap. Pour it in a spray bottle, and chalk has never been so fun!


1. Prepare a bottle of white chalk spray, and then students can spray an ordinary bedsheet in order to create a toga candida. With enough time, this idea could also be incorporated into this issue’s election simulation. (N.B. – It’s also possible to buy an aerosol can of white chalk spray.)

2. Make fun colors of chalk spray, and let students use it to write Pompeian election graffiti on a sidewalk.


Featured Words: candidate and candid
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together. The English word will always come from one or more Latin words. 

At first glance, “candidate” and “candid” may seem an unlikely pair of words to be related. Both, however, are ultimately derived from the Latin verb candeō, “to be brilliant, to shine, to glitter,” the same verb which gives us our word “candle.” The men who ran for office in ancient Rome wore a special toga that had been whitened with chalk. This toga was called the toga candida, since it was such a brilliant, shining white. It is from this garment name that our word “candidate” comes.

“Candid” comes directly from candidus, “dazzling white, bright” (the adjective related to candeō). Candidus came to mean “pure, sincere, or frank,” perhaps since it referred to a single hue without the influence of other colors. Today, we call someone who openly speaks his or her mind a candid person, and we call unposed photographs candids since they are more “sincere” to the action taking place.


Bonus Worksheet: Election-related words from Latin

Students use the clues to figure out eleven election-related English words that have Latin origins. For younger students who may need help, provide them with some of the letters or give them a word bank.


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