Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 May 2021

optimates, popularesfree

  • Alexander Yakobson


Optimates and populares are political terms from late-Republican sources referring to a political divide between supporters of the senatorial authority and champions of popular liberty and popular demands. The precise meaning of these terms and the nature of the divide to which they refer have long been disputed among scholars. Though the sources sometimes speak of partes in this context, it is obvious that the Republic had no “senatorial party” or “popular party” in anything like the modern sense of the term. Based on this, and on the tendency to describe Republican politics as wholly dominated by personal and family connections and rivalries within the ruling class, the significance of the political divide in question has often been dismissed or minimized.

However, the sources repeatedly indicate that this divide could, at least on occasion, play an important role in public affairs—alongside other factors including personal ties, family alliances, and oligarchic cliques. One of the consequences of the fact that the labels optimates and populares did not signify a formalized affiliation was that their usage was highly flexible, often inconsistent, and certainly open to manipulation. Pro-senatorial politicians might claim, in public, to be “true friends of the people (populares),” unlike their allegedly demagogic anti-senatorial opponents. But terms that are meaningless or insignificant to the wider public are of little use to political manipulators—who have in any case no guarantee, in a competitive political system, that their manipulation, rather than a rival one, will always carry the day. As long as Republican politics lasted, the optimate/popular divide appears to have been a significant feature. Its relative importance, and specific import, must have varied greatly from case to case, and should in every case be assessed individually.

Updated in this version

Text and bibliography expanded and updated to reflect current scholarhsip. Keywords added.

Main Late-Republican Accounts

Cicero makes frequent use of these terms and is thus, as often, a main witness. The locus classicus is Pro Sestio 96, where Cicero gives a highly partisan, pro-optimate account:

There have always been, in this state, two categories (genera) of men who have wished to engage in politics (versari in re publica) and distinguish themselves in this field. One of these categories wanted to be considered, and to be, populares, the other, optimates. Those who wanted their words and deeds to be pleasing to the multitude were considered populares, but those who acted so that their policies might be approved by the best men (optimo cuique) were considered optimates.

Cicero goes on to define the optimates—“the best men”—as respectable and right-minded citizens belonging to every order, including even freedmen. Politically, however, he identifies them with the senate and its leadership: they are, first and foremost, “the chief men of the public council (principes consili publici) and those who follow them” (97), and the authority of the senate is one of their main principles (98). Though he has claimed that the two types of politicians “have always existed in our state,” when Cicero proceeds to give actual examples of controversies between politicians wishing to please either the multitude or the “chief men” (principes) and their supporters, he makes clear that he is thinking of a late-Republican political phenomenon. His first example is the Cassian law introducing the ballot in judicial assemblies (137 bce), then the agrarian law of Tiberius Gracchus (133 bce) and the grain law, providing cheaper bread for the people, of Gaius Gracchus (123 bce). Gaius Gracchus (tribune 123–122 bce) and Saturninus (the “seditious” tribune killed in 100 bce) are called populares of old (illi veteri qui populares habebantur).

The historian Sallust (who had been a popularis tribune of the plebs) confirms, without using the terms optimates and populares, that “parties and factions” (mos partium et factionum) were essentially a late-Republican phenomenon: “For before the destruction of Carthage the people and the senate of Rome governed the republic together peacefully and with moderation” (Jug. 41.2). Then, because of moral deterioration brought by peace and prosperity, “the nobility began to abuse its dignitas, and the people—their liberty—so that the community was split into two parties (literally, two parts – in duas partis). The nobility, “stronger by faction” (factione magis pollebat) than the people, had the upper hand until nobles were found who were willing to champion the people’s cause—Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, who initiated the era of civic strife (41.3–42.1). In this account, partes means, fundamentally, the two parts of Roman society that were sides to the conflict that Sallust describes—specifically, the politicians acting on behalf of either side, and engaged in party strife (studia partium, 42.5).

Elsewhere (Cat. 38), Sallust describes a political divide between those who claimed that they were “defending the rights of the people” and those who were “upholding the authority of the senate.” He holds that at the time he is referring to (after the restoration of the tribune’s powers in 70 bce), both sides were merely using specious pretexts while aiming at personal power (potentia); he obviously refers to politicians. A similar picture emerges in Sallust’s Historiae (11–12 M), where the historian refers also to earlier instances, since the struggles of the early Republic, of strife between the two sides, the people and the senate (or the nobles). But there, too, Sallust presents the aftermath of the Third Punic War as the turning point, after a period of harmony, that opened an era of sustained “party” strife. Both Cicero (“there have always been in this state”) and Sallust are aware of earlier precedents but regard the political divide that they describe as essentially a late-Republican phenomenon.

All in all, Sallust’s testimony confirms the picture drawn by Cicero in Pro Sestio and elsewhere. He does not, admittedly, use the terms populares and optimates—perhaps for stylistic reasons, in order to avoid a trite usage.1 Rather, he speaks of the people, or the plebs, or those defending their rights, versus nobiles or nobilitas. Since he stresses the fact that the Gracchi brothers were themselves nobiles (as would be many of the later populares), it is clear that nobilitas, in this context, is a political rather than a strictly social category. Sallust does, however, come close to the term optimates by noting, in the above-mentioned passage in his Historiae, that people were labelled boni because they “defended the present state of affairs,” regardless of their morals. The “good” and the “best,” with the implication of good birth, moral excellence, social distinction, and a just claim to rule, was how aristocrats (likewise, “the best”) liked to regard and designate themselves in Greece and Rome. If there were two “parties,” as Sallust defines them (apparently parallel to Cicero’s ‘two categories of politicians’), one of which claimed to defend the rights of the people, and the other—the authority of the senate, nothing was more natural than for the former to adopt the label of populares, and the latter, that of optimates (“the best”)—or a closely similar one. Cicero, too, can prefer “those who favour the best men” (studiosi optimi cuiusque) to the quasi-technical (at least for him) optimates, in describing a divide between them and the populares (Off. 1.85). He adds, in a non-partisan spirit very different from what he says in Pro Sestio, that a good statesman should care for the welfare of the whole community rather than serving one part (party) at the expense of the rest (ut totum corpus rei publicae current, ne, dum partem aliquam tuentur, reliquas deserant). Here, too, the political divide among active politicians corresponds to a fundamental split in the society as a whole.

Modern Debates

It is, and has been for a long time, commonplace to point out that the late-Republican populares and optimates were not political parties in anything like the modern sense. This is often said while distancing oneself from Mommsen’s analysis of late-Republican politics in terms of a party conflict between populares and optimates. Certainly, there was no “popular party” or “optimate party” in Rome, complete with the usual hallmarks of modern organized party politics such as formal structure, membership or leadership, written programs and manifestoes. Nor—crucially because of the vital importance of elected officials in the Republic—did candidates run for office sponsored by a “party” and wearing a party label and they were certainly not supposed to govern in the name of a party. Moreover, we cannot know how many of the late Republic’s politicians, beyond some prominent names known to us, would actually choose to identify themselves, at any time, as either optimates or populares—though it stands to reason that optimates, as the pro-senatorial “party,” would usually be supported by a majority of senators. Furthermore, while optimates (or boni, or nobiles) are sometimes described as acting collectively, as a group, in order to oppose popularis initiatives, the populares who launched these initiatives typically appear in the sources as individual actors—though they might sometimes by supported by powerful personages (like those supporting Tiberius Gracchus’s agrarian reform in 133) and occasionally by like-minded colleagues (like M. Fulvius Flaccus cooperating with Gaius Gracchus as tribune of the plebs in 122 bce). This imbalance between the two sides as regards their degree of cohesion is perhaps one of the things that Sallust had in mind when he noted that the nobility was “stronger by faction” (Jug. 41.6).

What, then, was the significance of the popular/optimate divide and of these two labels themselves? What role did they actually play in late-Republican politics? On this there are divergent views among scholars. This controversy is connected with the wider debate on the nature of Republican politics, which has intensified in recent decades. According to R. Syme,

The political life of the Roman Republic was stamped and swayed, not by parties and programmes of a modern and parliamentary character, not by the ostensible opposition between Senate and People, Optimates and Populares, nobiles and novi homines, but by the strife for power, wealth and glory … Noble families determined the history of the Republic.2

A clearly oligarchic view of Republican politics, with its emphasis on the power of the ruling class and, often, on the prosopography of its inner circle of high nobility, naturally leaves little room for a genuine political divide, or for any significant opposition to the power of the oligarchs. On the other hand, if the popular element in the system should be regarded as more significant, it is natural to perceive the late-Republican “strife for power” as often involving appeals to wider public opinion and sometimes having a political background of the kind described by Cicero and Sallust.

A far-reaching depreciation of the whole significance of the party labels has recently been proposed by M. A. Robb. According to Robb, “the terms populares and optimates were not common and everyday labels used to categorise certain types of late Republican politician.”3 They were ill suited for this purpose, since all Roman politicians had to profess, in public, devotion to the people’s liberty and their true interests, and since it was usual for members of the elite to define themselves as “good” or “excellent.” Rather, one would usually claim—as Cicero does on various occasions—that one was a “true popularis” whereas one’s opponents were false ones. The usual term used by senators for rival politicians who “broke ranks” and undermined the aristocratic Republic by demagoguery was, according to Robb, seditiosi rather than populares; what Cicero says in Pro-Sestio on the popular/optimate divide was dictated by the exigencies of the particular case at hand.

However, allowing for all possible manipulation on Cicero’s part, it could not have helped his case to describe Roman politics in a way that his hearers would have found fundamentally unrecognizable. The labels, and the juxtaposition between them, must have referred to something known and significant to his audience. Moreover, Sallust can be seen as confirming the general picture drawn by Cicero, even though he refrains from using the precise terms themselves.

Certainly, the precise meaning of these labels must in each case be inferred from context. Neither describing somebody as “popular,” nor saying that he was one of “the best,” necessarily referred to a political divide. Moreover, when these terms were used in a clearly “party-political” context, they might be subject to manipulation and hostile appropriation: this was made easier by the fact that they signified political trends and dispositions rather than official names borne by formal entities. Cicero, while opposing, as consul, the agrarian law of Rullus in 63 bce, claimed that he was a “true popularis,” while his demagogic opponent was a false one (Leg. Ag.1.23). This appropriation of the term popularis may have been made easier for Cicero by his own political position at that time: he had had a moderate popularis record during the earlier stages of his career, and even later, he was a more moderate and flexible optimate than others. The very fact that one could accuse one’s allegedly demagogic opponents of being merely “false” and pretended populares shows that the term existed as a recognizable political label referring to politicians whose avowed aim was to defend the people’s rights and interests.

In substance, however, Cicero’s claim was no different from the claims put forward by many conservatives in various political cultures: that they stood for the true, rightly understood interests of the people, while their rivals—irresponsible demagogues—only damaged them. But “true popularis” is also how Cicero calls Caesar, contrasting him with other, pretended populares who are said to be mere demagogues. In this context, a true popularis does not denote an optimate claiming to care for the people’s true interests, but a respectable political opponent who has, indeed, “adopted that path in politics which is considered popularis”—which clearly is not Cicero’s own path (Cat. 4.9). This construction of the popular path (via popularis) as a legitimate political option, contrasted with a different one chosen by the speaker himself, had to be meaningful to Cicero’s (senatorial) audience in order to achieve its manipulative goals.

Caesar indeed, as Cicero indicates, followed the “popular path” consistently throughout his career as a Republican politician. Others might pass through a “popular” phase during the early stages of their career, accumulating popularity in the process, and then, as senior politicians anxious to cultivate their standing among their peers, adopt a more conservative, pro-senatorial stance—naturally, always maintaining that they still served the true interests of the Roman people. In other cases, one’s path in politics might change repeatedly; the fact that politicians on both sides of the political divide publicly professed loyalty to both the liberty of the people and the authority of the senate made such flexibility more palatable. According to Cicero (who is of course interested in belittling any genuine popular motivation on the part of popularis troublemakers), a senator adopting a “popular path” was often a loser in the struggles for power and prestige within the senatorial elite, who would, in his frustration, “throw [himself] out of this harbour on those stormy billows” (Prov. cons. 38), but might return to the senatorial “harbour” later on.

Of course, political shifts and turns-about are not unknown to modern organized politics—with or without a change of party labels. But the late-Republican partes differed from modern parties in that they were lacking in durability and cohesion, not merely formal structure.4 This again demonstrates that they were not parties in the modern sense, which is not to say that they did not exist in any politically significant sense at all. It is clear that personal and family factions and alliances (whose durability is much debated among scholars) were often more significant that the optimate/popular divide. But the latter is well attested to as playing, from time to time, a significant role.

Method, Venue, and Content

The popularis path in late-Republican politics is sometimes described as primarily a matter of political method and style (including the appropriately populist style of oratory)—often adopted only temporarily—and only to a limited extent, that of policy; still less that of ideology. Ch. Meier in his article on populares in the Real-Encyclopädie emphasized this aspect of the phenomenon. He described the populares as politicians who acted within the system, without seeking to challenge its fundamentals, whose preferred method of decision making and political advancement (with a heavy emphasis on the latter as their main motivation) was to use the mechanism of popular assemblies rather than that of the senate, often in opposition to the latter.5 He stressed that the populares did not, as a rule, aim at democratizing the Republic or at social reform (beyond benefitting specific constituencies and putting them under obligation)—though he conceded that some earlier populares, notably the Gracchi brothers, were genuine reformers.

However, there was, inevitably, a close connection between method and venue (legislation through popular assemblies) and the policy content of the bills presented by popularis politicians—mostly, though not exclusively, tribunes of the plebs. This content had to be such as to garner wide popular support, overcoming strong senatorial and sometimes other upper-class resistance—though some of the populares, notably Gaius Gracchus, legislated in favour of the Equites and sought, sometimes with temporary success, to drive a wedge between them and the senate led by optimates. Tiberius Gracchus’s agrarian law of 133 bce, said to have been supported by masses of rustics who had flocked to Rome, reflected the political clout still enjoyed at that time by the rural plebs. Land distributions would be repeatedly proposed, and bitterly opposed by optimates, during the following decades. The later popularis agenda reflected the growing dominance of the urban plebs in the popular assemblies of that period, with the demand for cheaper bread coming to the forefront. Sulla as dictator abolished subsidized grain distributions, an issue repeatedly contested since Gaius Gracchus, but they were later reintroduced and increased. Finally, Clodius, by a 58 bce law, provided for free distribution of grain in the city.

Popularis legislation and agitation sought to advance not just material interests of various non-senatorial constituencies, in the hope of earning their gratitude, but also their civic and political rights. In fact, much of what is known about the activities of populares relates to political and “constitutional” issues.6 In advancing these causes, popularis politicians, whether or not one assumes that they, or some of them, were sincere reformers and “friends of the people,” must have reflected the aspirations and concerns of the voters whose support they were trying to mobilize. This shows that the level of civic consciousness and political involvement among the wider voting public (who lacked political initiative and could only vote on proposals submitted to them from above by elected officials) was often higher than what has sometimes been assumed.7 Popularis political causes included, among other things, the introduction of secret ballot in order to protect the humbler voters from pressure (a gradual process that started in 139, before Tiberius Gracchus’s tribunate, when the ballot was introduced in electoral assemblies); a protracted struggle for the restoration of the rights of the tribunes of the plebs curtailed by Sulla (fully effected in 70 by a law carried by Pompey and Crassus in their first consulship); and struggles over the composition of the permanent law courts, against the senate’s attempts to monopolize them (an issue settled by the compromise Aurelian law of 70). Another bone of contention was popular election (rather than oligarchic cooptation) of priests—a question of great importance because of the priests’ political clout. Popular election of priests was introduced in 104 by a lex Domitia, abolished by Sulla during his dictatorship, and re-introduced by Titus Labienus in 63. Repeatedly, during this period, there was popularis opposition to the optimate doctrine that legitimized armed suppression, following the so-called last decree of the senate, and execution without trial, by consuls, of those regarded as having rebelled against the Republic. This opposition led to Cicero being briefly driven into exile in 58, following a law passed by Clodius, for his execution of the Catilinarian conspirators (not actual armed rebels) in 63.

None of those issues touched on the fundamentals of the Republic;8 it may be doubted, in any case, whether attacking those fundamentals would have attracted wide popular support. But these were questions of real political importance, hotly and sometimes violently contested. By its strenuous opposition—sometimes successful, sometimes not—to various popularis measures, the senatorial establishment indicated that it did not regard those controversies as merely trivial. In the last decades of the Republic, popularis tribunes increasingly (though not exclusively: witness the legislation of Clodius in 58) put their power to initiate legislation at the service of the powerful dynasts, chiefly Pompey and Caesar, conferring on them their vast “extraordinary commands,” which eventually paved the way to civil war and Caesar’s dictatorship. The agrarian legislation of that period was aimed mainly at those dynasts’ veterans—though Caesar’s agrarian law in 59 still benefitted city dwellers. But the laws conferring these extraordinary commands still needed strong popular support. Pompey’s commands in the 60s appear to have been widely regarded as benefiting the state and genuinely popular (probably also because of the memory of his restoration of the tribunes’ powers in 70 bce). So were Caesar’s commands in the 50s—helped, no doubt, by his popularis reputation.

As for the presumed motives of both types of politicians, and the extent to which they should be perceived as genuinely committed to their professed political principles rather than merely using them as slogans and catchwords for personal advancement, the skepticism expressed by Sallust and many modern scholars—particularly towards the politicians of the last decades of the Republic—certainly seems well warranted in many cases. Of course, despite the general deterioration in the standards of Roman public life fully acknowledged by contemporaries, individual politicians differed in their character; it seems likely that the motives of Roman politicians—as in the case of many other ones—were often mixed.

L. R. Taylor suggested that “party politics” was relevant in the legislative assemblies and during political debates in the senate, whereas in elections, the difference between optimates and populares was put aside; candidates ran for office as individuals, stressing their personal worth and family prestige, with personal bonds and family ties playing a vital role in mobilizing support.9 Indeed, Roman elections were clearly more personal and less political than what a modern voter would typically expect, and certainly no Roman politician is recorded as having asked voters to support him on the strength of his party affiliation. Nevertheless, a rigid separation between different venues involving the same politicians is not easy to imagine. In fact, there are various examples in the sources of politics entering an electoral campaign in some way or another. Specific policy promises by candidates are only rarely reported, but a candidate’s previous political record is sometimes said to have influenced voters. The “Manual on Electioneering” (Commentariolum Petitionis), attributed to M. Cicero’s brother Quintus, famously advises him not to touch on politics in public speeches during his consular campaign. But [Quintus] also expects Marcus to benefit from the support of the “multitude” because of his previous popularis record. At the same time, he is advised to mobilize the support of nobles—inter alia by sending them friends (“ad eos adlegandum est”—i.e., without taking a public stance) in order to persuade them that he had always supported the optimates and had never been a popularis (Com. Pet. 53; 5). The advice does not in fact assume that party politics was wholly irrelevant in a campaign. It does, however, suggest that the political aspect was not to be paraded, if only because it suited Cicero, according to the author, to play a double game as regards his politics, but probably also on more general grounds of what was considered appropriate for a candidate, who was expected to ask for the office on the strength of his personal worth and qualities.

Both optimates and populares appealed, in their rhetoric, to Roman tradition and ancestral customs. While such appeals are naturally available to defenders of the status quo and hierarchy (in this case, of the authority of the senate), late-Republican populares had their own stock of normative historical exempla. They cited respectable precedents, starting from the deposition of the last king and the secessions of the plebs during struggles of the early Republic, in order to present themselves and their “popular” views as legitimate heirs to the great Roman tradition of defending popular rights and liberty.10 T. P. Wiseman stresses that “both ideologies were represented in the tradition.” He holds that the optimates and the populares subscribed to “two rival ideologies, two mutually incompatible understandings of what the republic was.”11 However, there was much rhetorical common ground between the two sides, including professed commitment to the liberty of the Roman people (which, in Republican terms, meant accepting the people’s ultimate supremacy) that no optimate politician could dispense with.12 Perhaps it is preferable to speak of two competing interpretations of the same widely shared set of avowed broad principles13—though actual policy differences between optimates and populares might be sharp, and during the period in question they repeatedly led to violence and bloodshed.

The optimate/popular divide played a significant part in late-Republican politics, as long as politics in the Republican sense—even if marred by corruption and violence—held sway. But although Iulius Caesar was, as a Republican politician, a consistent popularis, whereas his enemies in the civil war that broke out in 49 bce (including Pompey, at this stage) and in the preceding years were optimates, the final clash and the subsequent collapse of the Republic cannot be viewed as a continuation of the late-Republican party strife by other means. These events belonged to the new political world of semi-professional armies commanded by dynasts vying for, and eventually achieving, supreme power. In this world, the old party labels became meaningless. Neither Caesar as dictator, despite his popularis background, nor Augustus presented themselves as “party-political” leaders, though both cultivated their ties with the plebs and paraded their care for the people’s welfare. To this extent, they may be said to have been influenced by the popularis tradition. Politically, Augustus’s nod to remaining Republican sensibilities during his principate was directed at the senate and the upper classes at least as much as at the common people; thus it cannot be seen as stemming specifically from the Caesarian popularis heritage. Rather, it was a homage to a Roman tradition common, in principle, both to the senate and the people; the late-Republican optimates and populares had represented two different versions of this tradition.


  • Arena, Valentina. Libertas and the Practice of Politics in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Brunt, Peter A. The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Burckhardt, Leonhard A. Politische Strategien der Optimaten in der späten römischen Republik. Stuttgart: Verlag, 1988.
  • Ferrary, J.-L. “Optimates et populares. Le problème du rôle de l'idéologie dans la politique.” In Die späte römische Republik. Un débat franco-allemand d'histoire et d’historiographie sous la direction de Hinnerk Bruhns, Jean-Michel David, et Wilfried Nippel. Rome: École Française de Rome, 1997.
  • Hölkeskamp, Karl-J. Reconstructing the Roman Republic: An Ancient Political Culture and Modern Research. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.
  • Mackie, Nicola. “Popularis Ideology and Popular Politics at Rome in the First Century B.C.” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 135 (1992): 49–73.
  • Martin, Jochen. Die Popularen in der Geschichte der späten Republik. PhD diss., University of Freiburg, 1965.
  • Meier, Christian. Res publica amissa. Eine Studie zu Verfassung und Geschichte der späten römischen Republik. Wiesbaden: Verlag, 1980.
  • Morstein-Marx, Robert. Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Morstein-Marx, Robert. “‘Cultural Hegemony’ and the Communicative Power of the Elite.” In Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome. Edited by C. Steel and H. van der Blom. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Mouritsen, Henrik. Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Robb, Margaret A. Beyond Populares and Optimates: Political Language in the Late Republic. Stuttgart: Verlag, 2010.
  • Seager, Robin. “Populares in Livy and Livian tradition.” Classical Quarterly 27.2 (1977): 377–390.
  • Syme, Ronald. Roman Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939.
  • Taylor, Lilly R. Party Politics in the Age of Caesar. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1949.
  • Wiseman, Timothy P. Remembering the Roman People: Essays on Late-Republican Politics and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Yakobson, Alexander. “Review of: M. A. Robb, Beyond Populares and Optimates: Political Language in the Late Republic.” Scripta Classica Israelica 31 (2012): 212–214.


  • 1. Similarly, perhaps, Sallust avoids, in a reference to Caesar, the term clementia, which by the time he was writing had become strongly associated with him, and prefers misericordia (Sall. 52.11; 27).

  • 2. Ronald Syme, Roman Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939), 11.

  • 3. Margaret A. Robb, Beyond Populares and Optimates: Political Language in the Late Republic (Stuttgart: Verlag, 2010), 167, see there pp. 16–33 for a survey of the different views in scholarship on the subject.

  • 4. See Peter A. Brunt, The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 36–45.

  • 5. Christian Meier, “Populares,” RE Suppl. 10 (1965): 549–615.

  • 6. See Nicola Mackie, “Popularis Ideology and Popular Politics at Rome in the First Century B.C,” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 135 (1992): 49–73. For an overview of popular legislation in various fields, passed against strong senatorial resistance, see Robert Morstein-Marx, “‘Cultural Hegemony’ and the Communicative Power of the Elite,” in Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome, eds. C. Steel and H. van der Blom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 29–47, esp. 34–37.

  • 7. Cf. Morstein-Marx, “‘Cultural Hegemony’ and the Communicative Power of the Elite,”; and Robert Morstein-Marx, Robert. Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 206, 68–118, on the “civic knowledge” of the Roman populace.

  • 8. See J.-L. Ferrary, “Optimates et populares. Le problème du rôle de l’idéologie dans la politique,” in Die späte römische Republik. Un débat franco-allemand d'histoire et d'historiographie sous la direction de Hinnerk Bruhns, Jean-Michel David, et Wilfried Nippel (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1997), 221–231.

  • 9. Lilly R. Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1949).

  • 10. For example, Cic., Acad. 2.13 f.; De Or. 2.124; Asc. 76–78 C. (Pro Cornelio); Sall., Hist. 3.1–7; 15 (Oratio Macri).

  • 11. Timothy P. Wiseman, Remembering the Roman People: Essays on Late-Republican Politics and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 18, 9.

  • 12. Cf. Morstein-Marx, “‘Cultural Hegemony’ and the Communicative Power of the Elite,” 229–240. Morstein-Marx stresses that optimate politicians avoided identifying themselves as such when addressing the people.

  • 13. Thus Mackie, “Popularis Ideology”; cf. Valentina Arena, Libertas and the Practice of Politics in the Late Roman Republic (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 7–8: two “ traditions on libertas,” optimate and popularis, with competing interpretations but also with significant common ground.