From mid-65 to mid-64 b.c. Marcus Tullius Cicero was campaigning for election to a consulship of 63. Of his six competitors two were formidable. Both were “nobles” (i.e., of consular ancestry). C. Antonius, who ca. 77 had evaded trial for plundering Greece, was desperate for office and money, and talked of raising a slave rebellion if he failed.1 L. Sergius Catilina, who had bribed a court to acquit him of misgovernment in Africa, did not launch his rebellion until 63, after a second defeat, but he was known to be capable of violence.2 A notorious killer in Sulla’s proscriptions, he was suspected of some part in an abortive plot in 66 which had by now leaked out; Cicero, attacking his rivals in the pre-election speech In toga candida, hinted darkly at these current rumours.3 In alarm the leading nobles turned to Cicero, a “new man” or commoner, who had at first expected little help from them.4 Against their authority he had carried the appointment of Pompey to the command which still kept him away in the east. In
general repute he was reckoned “Popular,” as opposed to the aristocratic “Optimates.” But these were rhetorical labels, and implied no rigid political alignments. Cicero was favoured by the class of his origin, the wealthy Knights, including the big contractors of public revenue; his connections with the Italian bourgeoisie were wide; his influence could unite the stable elements of society in the election itself and in any danger to come; and the Roman nobility were intelligent enough to recognize the mental power and fire that matched him with Catiline’s versatile energy. Their judgement was endorsed. Cicero headed the poll; Antonius narrowly beat Catiline for the other consulship.
The “Handbook of Electioneering” (as it calls itself) or Canvassing either is, or pretends to be, addressed to Marcus Cicero by his younger brother Quintus during this canvass. The question of its authenticity starts from the transmission of the text.5 It is preserved with Letters ad Familiares, but is not contained in our oldest and best manuscript, the Codex Mediceus 49.9. In other manuscripts it occurs after the spurious “Letter of Cicero to Octavian.” These facts do not prove that it is spurious, but they place burden of proof equally upon those who accept the authorship of Quintus and those who ascribe it to some later ancient writer. There is no presumption in favour of either.
Although it has the usual epistolary superscription, the document is not a letter but a treatise. At the end Marcus is asked to improve it, as if for publication. Its flat-footed