How to Win an Election

An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians

Publication date: February 13, 2012

How to Win an Election is an ancient Roman guide for campaigning that is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines. In 64 BC when idealist Marcus Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, ran for consul (the highest office in the Republic), his practical brother Quintus decided he needed some no-nonsense advice on running a successful campaign. What follows in his short letter are timeless bits of political wisdom, from the importance of promising everything to everybody and reminding voters about the sexual scandals of your opponents to being a chameleon, putting on a good show for the masses, and constantly surrounding yourself with rabid supporters. Presented here in a lively and colorful new translation, with the Latin text on facing pages, this unashamedly pragmatic primer on the humble art of personal politicking is dead-on (Cicero won)–and as relevant today as when it was written.

A little-known classic in the spirit of Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win an Election is required reading for politicians and everyone who enjoys watching them try to manipulate their way into office



Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush:
“Fresh, lively, and sharp, this primer provides timeless counsel and a great read for the modern political practitioner.”

James Carville, political consultant, in Foreign Affairs:
“I just hope my opponent in the next campaign doesn’t get a copy.”

Gary Hart, former US senator and presidential candidate:
“Given the lowly state of politics these days, this ancient Roman handbook on electioneering shows how little has changed. Freeman has done a masterful job of bringing this delightful text into the modern day—so masterful that one might think it was actually a spoof.”

“Just in time for the primaries and the big showdown in November comes the wisdom of the ancients, in this case from Quintus Tullius Cicero, younger brother of Marcus, the greatest ancient Roman orator–perhaps the greatest of all time–who, more than two thousand years ago, ran for the highest office in the Roman Republic.”—Washington Post

“Philip Freeman’s translation…is bright and clear.”—Wall Street Journal

“A Roman pamphlet, cast as a cynical letter of advice to a politician.”—The New York Times (Editor’s Choice)

“Speaking to us from a distance of more than two millenniums, Quintus Cicero’s words are incisive and revelatory: They remind us that, when it comes to that strange beast known as politics, human nature hasn’t changed very much since then.”—Los Angeles Times

“Historian Philip Freeman has translated the Commentariolum Petitionis, a short tract written in 64 BC. In the Commentariolum, Quintus Tullius Cicero compiled political advice for his brother Marcus. The elder Cicero took the advice and won, becoming a counsel of Rome—apparently an underdog upset of Obamanian proportions. Now Princeton University Press has published Freeman’s translation with a catchier yet somehow less dignified title: How to Win an Election. Would you believe it? The advice holds up. These candidates must have classics scholars on staff, because a close read of Cicero reveals they’re following his counsel.”—Slate Magazine

How to Win an Election is a quick, punchy and thoroughly entertaining read, cleanly translated by Philip Freeman.”—Chicago Tribune

“Put in context by Philip Freeman, whose biography of Julius Caesar was widely praised, the letter is cynical, worldly wise, and oddly reassuring.” —Christianity Today

Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King:
“Loaded with down-and-dirty advice on how to sway voters and win office in ancient Rome, this practical campaign handbook offers shameless hints for political hopefuls of any era: making and breaking promises, networking and calling in favors, spreading rumors, appealing to special interests, speechifying, pressing the flesh, and more. Wickedly funny, astute, and timeless!”

“Just in time for the 2012 electoral silly season comes an old text, newly translated, with timeless advice for those who would rule.” —Chronicle of Higher Education

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