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What is the history of the expression: vox populi vox dei?

The term “vox populi” sounds like the sort of thing that would have been commonly evoked in the Roman Republic, but the earliest known reference to equating it with the voice of God (“Vox populi, vox Dei)—in a disapproving way—is attributed to Saxon scholar and teacher Alcuin of York (735–804), then Master of the Palace School at Aachen. In a letter to the Emperor Charlemagne in 800, he wrote, “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always close to insanity.”


Jon Guttman
Research Director