Renzi needs the skills of Cicero to persuade voters at referendum

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced the date of a key referendum on constitutional reforms to overhaul the size and role of the Italian Senate. Barry Strauss, chair of the history department at Cornell University and author of the book The Death of Caesar, says Italians are skeptical about changing what has been a mark of wisdom and experience since the Roman times.

Media Note: Barry Strauss is currently in Italy researching and writing a book on Roman emperors.


Strauss says:

“The word ‘senate’ comes from the Latin ‘senex’ or old man. A senate’s job is to slow down the youth and enthusiasm of others and to deploy instead its wisdom and experience. When the Senate loses power, it rarely goes back to the people; rather it tends to flow into the hands of the ruler, be it a dictator, prince or prime minister. That’s the lesson of Italy’s long history, going back to ancient Rome.

“Many Italian voters are skeptical about Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s proposed reform to cut the number of senators and power of the senate in Italy’s bicameral legislature. Few deny that the result would make government more efficient and hence more powerful, but many disagree as to whether that would be a good thing or bad. Italian government is famously inefficient but Italians are famously independent, so they don’t entirely mind.

“Renzi has stated that he will step down if he loses, so the process will inevitably be a referendum not only on constitutional matters, but also on Renzi himself and his popularity as a leader. Given the deadlock in the polls, he may need the skills of Cicero in order to persuade the voters.”

For interviews contact:
Rebecca Valli
office: 607-255-7701
cell: 607-793-1025

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.