The "Commentariolum Petitionis" has long served to demonstrate the validity of the theory that Republican electoral politics were founded on relationships of patronage that permeated the entire society, and that appeals to the voting citizenry were relatively unimportant for election. Yet the attention the author pays to the necessity of cultivating the popularis voluntas strongly implies that a successful canvasser cannot rely on the direct or indirect ties of patronage and amicitia but must win the electoral support of the anonymous mass of voters. A consular campaign emerges as to a great extent a public performance before the populus in which the candidate seeks to demonstrate to those who do not know him personally that he is dignus consulatu. While the exploitation of personal connections is undeniably important, certain features of the treatment of the studia amicorum in the Commentariolum suggest that the traditional, Gelzerian emphasis on noble patronage is misplaced. Noble allies are particularly prized not for networks of clients but for the luster they shed on a candidate; on the other hand, the homines gratiosi whose electioneering activities are most suggestive of patronage tend to be of middle and lower rank. Nor can all the personal political relationships discussed in the Commentariolum be plausibly subsumed under the concept of patronage, which entails asymmetry between the parties and a connection of some duration; rather, the picture presented here is one of a relatively "free market" of political deal-making between candidates and vote-brokers. The "Commentariolum Petitionis" offers no obstacle to a new model of Republican politics that assigns a much greater role to symbolic appeals to a voting citizenry, and a less dominant role to personal patronage, than have until recently been accepted.
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