Marcus Holconius Rufus
The Holconii was an old, Pompeian family whose money came not from trade but from land. The family was viticulturists, with vines so notable that Columella notes that one variety, they Holconins vine was named after them. Grape growing and wine made the Holconii wealthy enough to compete for power and influence in Pompeii’s local government. Like Nonius Balbus, they won over the town council and the electorate the traditional way: through Municipal construction. However, no one did quite as well as Marcus Holconius Rufus.
Holconius Rufus enjoyed a long and prominent public life in Pompeii from around 20BC until the Augustan period. Inscriptions on the bases of his statues around the city showed that he enjoyed an unprecedented number of political appointments. He was elected chief magistrate or quinquennalis and was appointed duumvir- one Pompeii’s two City ‘consuls’- no less than five times. At his peak, Pompeii awarded Holconius Rufus his highest monumentalized honor of all: a statue overlooking one of the most prominent parts of the city: the intersection between the Via Stabiana and the Via dell’ Abbondanza- two of Pompeii’s major roads.
Holconius was given all these honors by a city grateful for his Municipal beneficence. In the early Augustan period, Rome finally pardoned Pompeii for its role in the Italic Social Wars. The local elites, previously barred from local politics were back in business. So they began to claw back lost political ground by building. Holconius Rufus was particularly successful. One of his major projects was the renovation of the large theatre. The town council was so grateful for his contribution that they awarded Holconius a permanent seat in the theatre with the best views of the stage- complete with a lavish bronze-lettered inscription.
However, Holconius Rufus was not just courting Pompeii; he was also courting Rome. Around the same time that he was rebuilding the theatre, Holconius also made some alterations to the sanctuary of Apollo. The alterations caused annoyance to some locals when one of the new walls obscured some of their light, obliging Holconius to pay the householders compensation. It seems strange that such a canny local politician would upset potential voters in this way- until you take into account that Augustus was emperor and Apollo was Augustus’s patron deity. Holconius could afford some local upset if he won imperial favor.
Holconius’s tactics worked, and he gained favor from Rome. We know this because he was one of the few members of the local Pompeian elite to have acted as the town’s patron after Pompeii became a Roman colony. The patron was chosen to represent Pompeii’s interests in the capital, so they had to have connections and influence. Past patrons had included Augustus’s nephew, Marcellus. So Holconius had won the ear of someone powerful- maybe the emperor himself. In this respect, Holconius Rufus had succeeded where his near-contemporary Balbus failed.
However, not everyone who went into local politics was from the landed gentry.