Archaeologists excavating the ancient Roman city of Pompeii have unearthed an inscription encouraging voters to elect a specific candidate to political office.
The Latin text reads, in part: “I beseech you to make Aulus Rustius a true aedile, worthy of the state,” per Artnet’s Adam Schrader. An aedile was an elected Roman official who oversaw public infrastructure, among other duties.
Researchers recently published their findings in the Pompeii Archaeological Park’s journal, Pompeii Scavi.
The inscription was found inside a home that may have belonged to one of the man’s supporters or friends. Archaeologists were already familiar with the man, whose full name was Aulus Rustius Verus, because they had previously discovered evidence that he later held a more powerful elected position. He shared that role, called a duumvir, with a man named Julius Polybius, according to a statement from the archaeological park.
Researchers aren’t sure what happened to Verus when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. and buried Pompeii and several surrounding towns in volcanic rock and ash. However, because he later became duumvir, they suspect he won the election for aedile referenced in the inscription.
The electoral message was found inside the room that contained the home’s shrine, called the lararium. This location is somewhat unusual, as political ads were typically displayed on the exteriors of buildings for people to see as they passed by, according to the statement. In this case, the homeowner may have been hosting an event to help Verus get elected.
The home, which had been undergoing renovations at the time of the disastrous eruption, also housed a bakery. Archaeologists found Verus’ initials on a millstone leaning against the house, which suggests he may have been providing the bakery with financial support. This is unsurprising, as “vote buying” was common practice in Pompeii, per the researchers.
The candidate and the baker likely collaborated in a way that “verged on being illegal,” says study co-author Maria Chiara Scappaticcio, a philologist at Federico II University, in the statement.
“Verus may well have realized from the start, when he was scheming to become aedile and at the height of his electoral campaign, that voters (above all else) live on bread,” she adds.
In addition to the electoral inscription, archaeologists discovered what was likely the final votive offering the homeowner made before the eruption. On the lararium’s painted masonry altar—decorated with two stucco snakes—they found the remains of burned dates and figs; they also found what they suspect to be the remains of earlier offerings, including meat, fish and grapes.
Researchers made these discoveries in the Regio IX area of the Pompeii archaeological site. Regio IX is a previously unexplored area, which archaeologists began excavating in February. They suspect it encompasses nearly an entire city block of the buried city.
In a nearby house in the same region, they also recently uncovered a colorful fresco depicting flatbread, fruit and wine.