Cicero : In Verrem 2.4

Sections 1-54

This speech was delivered against C. Verres, in 70 B.C.

The translation is by L.H.G. Greenwood (1928). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

    ← Part 3

[1.] L   [1] I come now to what he himself speaks of as his favourite pursuit, his friends as a foolish weakness, Sicily as highway robbery. What name I should myself give it I know not: I will put the facts of it before you, and you shall judge of it by its nature and not by its name. Let me first describe it in general terms ; having heard which, you will perhaps be at no great loss to assign the proper name to it. I assert that in all Sicily, the rich and ancient province of Sicily - in all its towns and in all its wealthy households - there was not one vessel of silver, not one of Corinthian or Delian bronze, no pearl or graven jewel, no object of gold or ivory, no bronze or marble or ivory statue, no painting or embroidery, that he did not seek out, examine and (if he liked it) appropriate. [2] This may seem a bold statement; but let me ask you to note what I mean by making it. Its unqualified terms are not an oratorical exaggeration, not an attempt to magnify the guilt of the accused : when I assert that he has left no object of this description anywhere in Sicily, you are to understand that I am not using the conventional language of a prosecutor, but speaking the literal truth, I will put it more exactly still. In no man's house, though the man were his host ; in no public place, though the place were a sanctuary ; in the possession of no man, Sicilian or Roman citizen ; nowhere, in short, throughout Sicily, has he left behind any object, whether private or public property, whether consecrated or not consecrated, that his eyes have beheld and his heart has coveted. -

[3] Well, can I do better than begin with the city that was your favourite, Verres, the city you loved above all others, and by a selection from the very persons who are your eulogists? We shall find it all the easier to appreciate your behaviour towards those who are your enemies, your assailants and your prosecutors, when we have discovered the impudent way in which you have plundered the people of your own Messana. -

[2.] L   Gaius Heius of Messana, as all who have visited that city will readily allow, is in all respects its chief and its wealthiest citizen. His house is perhaps the finest in the place, and at any rate the best known, and its hospitable doors the most widely open to our own countrymen. It was, until Verres arrived, so full of beautiful things as to add much to the beauty of Messana, whose charm mainly consists in its situation and its walls and harbour, for it is empty and destitute of the objects that give pleasure to Verres.

[4] There was in this house of Heius a stately chapel, an ancient inheritance from his forefathers, in which stood four statues ; admirable works of the greatest beauty and artistic merit, capable of giving pleasure not only to so highly gifted an expert as Verres, but also to any of us "outsiders," as he calls us. One was a marble Cupid by Praxiteles - I learnt the artists' names, you will understand, in the course of my investigations as prosecutor. ** It is, I believe, the same sculptor who made the similar Cupid at Thespiae which is what people go to Thespiae to see, there being no other reason to go there. I may add that the celebrated Lucius Mummius, though he took away from that town all the unconsecrated statues, including the "Ladies ** of Thespiae" now standing beside the Temple of Felicitas, ** did not touch this marble Cupid, because it was consecrated.

[3.] L   [5] But to return to the chapel of Heius, there was this marble statue of Cupid that I speak of; and opposite to it stood an admirable bronze Hercules, said to be the work of Myron, I believe - yes, it was so. And in front of these divine figures were altars - unmistakable proof, surely, of the chapel's sanctity. There were two other bronze statues, not very large, but remarkably attractive, in the shape and attire of maidens, who like the Athenian maidens held with their raised hands certain sacred objects resting on their heads. The statues were called the Canephoroe ** ; but the sculptor - who was he ? now who did they say he was? oh yes, thank you - Polyclitus. When visiting Messana, all our countrymen would go to see these statues ; the house was open daily to visitors who wished to see them ; its beauty was for the whole town to enjoy not less than for its owner.

[6] Gaius Claudius, ** the splendours of whose aedileship are well known, borrowed this Cupid for the time during which he had the forum decorated to the glory of the gods and the Roman nation, being the guest-friend of the Heius family and the patron of the Messanians ; but he was as careful to restore it afterwards as he had found them kindly willing to lend it. Such was the way of our distinguished men not long ago, gentlemen: "not long ago," do I say? no, a very little while ago, very recently indeed, we have seen such men decorate the forum and colonnades not with the plunder of our provinces but with the treasures of their friends, with what their hosts had lent them and not with what their guilty hands had stolen; and none the less did they return these statues and art treasures to their several owners. They did not carry them off from the cities of our friends and allies, pretending, as aediles, to be borrowing them for a four-day festival, and then transport them to their own town-mansions and country-houses. [7] But Verres, gentlemen, carried off all the statues I have mentioned from the chapel of Heius ; I assure you, he left not one of them behind, nor indeed anything else except one ancient figure of wood, which I believe represented Good Fortune - this he was not by way of having in his house. [4.] L   What, in the name of all that is just and holy, have we here? Was ever such an impudent rascal accused of such a thing before? Until the statues I speak of were carried off by you, no governor ever came to Messana without going to see them. Of all those governors of Sicily, praetorian and consular, in time of peace and in time of war; of all those governors, good and bad - nay, passing over the honest, the blameless, the conscientious, I will speak only of the greedy, the immoral and the unscrupulous; of all these men, not one conceived himself so determined, so powerful, or so illustrious, as to venture to demand, to remove, to lay one finger upon, any object in that chapel. And shall Verres carry off from place after place the most beautiful things that it holds ? shall no one else be suffered to keep anything ? shall all those wealthy houses go to fill his single house alone? Did his predecessors leave those things untouched in order that he might remove them bodily ? did Gaius Claudius Pulcher give them back in order that Gaius Verres might take them away again? It was not that the Cupid felt any yearning for the house of this profligate or for the society of his mistresses. He was content to remain within the walls of the family chapel ; he knew himself bequeathed to Heius as part of a sacred inheritance from his forefathers, and had no wish to belong to the heir of a courtesan. **

[8] And yet, why this vehement attack upon Verres ? A single word will beat it off. "I bought the things," he tells us. O immortal gods, what a super defence! We have given the powers and the insignia of governor to a trader, and sent him to our province to buy up all the statues and pictures, all the gold and silver plate, all the gems and ivories, and leave nothing there for anyone! Yes, to every single charge of robbery he is evidently ready to reply that he "bought it." - Now in the first place, even should I gratify you by accepting the truth of your statement - this being the one and only answer you mean to give to all charges of this kind - I should like to know what conception you have formed of Roman courts of law, if you conceive that any of their members will accept your defence, when you tell them that, during your tenure of authority as governor, you bought up so many very valuable objects; nay, every object, throughout your province, that had any value at all.

[5.] L   [9] Observe, gentlemen, the forethought of our ancestors. With no fear, as yet, of misdeeds like these of Verres, they did wish to guard against the chance of misconduct in smaller matters. When a man went to his province with the authority of governor or legate, they did not suppose he would be such a fool as to purchase silver plate there, for that was supplied at the public expense, or woven fabrics, for with these he was furnished by law. They did suppose he might buy slaves, which all of us use, and which the state does not provide ; and they forbade any such purchase, unless to supply the place of a slave who had died. Of one who had died in Rome ? no, only of one who had died there in the province. You were not to use the province to equip your house in Rome, but only to fill the gaps in your household service out there. [10] And for what reason were they so careful to prevent our making purchases in our provinces ? The reason was, gentlemen, that they believed it would mean not purchase but pillage, since the seller would not be allowed to sell on his own terms. They saw that if, in the provinces, the wielder of supreme military and civil power desired to buy what belonged to this man or that, and were legally permitted to do so, he would help himself, at his own price, to whatever he fancied, whether its owner wished to sell it or not.

"Yes," I shall be told, "but do not take this line in regard to Verres ; do not examine his conduct by the standard of a scrupulousness that is now obsolete. Let him escape punishment for these purchases, provided that they have been fair purchases, with no abuse of his authority, no forced sale, no injustice to the owner." - By all means : if there is anything that Heius offered for sale, and sold for the price at which he valued it, I will forbear to bid you justify your buying it.

[6.] L   [11] Well, how shall I proceed? Are proofs, in such a case, really needed ? We are to inquire, I take it, whether this man Heius was in debt ; whether he had held a sale of his property ; and whether, even if he had, he was in such financial straits, constrained by such pressure of poverty, as to strip his chapel and sell his family gods. Well, I find that he has held no sale of his property ; that he has never sold anything except the produce of his land ; that, far from being in debt, he has, and always has had, plenty of money to his credit; and that, even if the facts were the opposite of all this, he would yet not have sold these objects that had for so many years been in his household and his family chapel. "Oh? might not the high price have induced him to sell?" It is incredible that a man of such wealth and high standing should value money more than his sense of duty and his ancestral heirlooms. [12] "That may be so; none the less, offer people enough money, and they do sometimes abandon the ruling principles of their lives." Let us see, then, how large the sum was that could make a man who had so much money as Heius, and who cared for it so little, no longer behave like an honourable and conscientious gentleman. - You instructed him, it appears, personally to record in his accounts the sale to Verres of these statues, the work of Praxiteles, Myron, and Polyclitus, for a total sum of 6,500 sesterces : and he did so. - Read us out the entry in the accounts. The clerk reads it. - It is amusing to hear that the high reputation of the artists whom those Greeks extol to the skies has crashed so completely in the judgement of Verres. A Cupid by Praxiteles for 1600 sesterces! ** This surely explains the saying "Better buy than beg."

[7.] L   [13] "Well," someone may say, "but do you yourself set any very high value upon such things?" I reply that, from my own point of view, and for my own purposes, I do not. But what you, I think, have to consider is what such things are worth in the opinion of those who do care for them ; what they are as a rule sold for; what these particular things could have been sold for, if they had been sold openly and freely ; and finally, what Verres himself thought them worth. Would he have exposed himself to popular scandal and violent censure for the sake of that Cupid, if he had really valued it at no more than 1600 sesterces? [14] Well, gentlemen, you are all aware what the value placed upon such things really is. Have we not seen bronzes of quite moderate size fetch 40,000 sesterces at a sale? Could I not name persons who have paid as much as that for them, or even more? The fact is that the value of these things corresponds to the demand for them ; you can hardly limit the price of them, unless you can limit the desires of men. -

It is, then, clear to me that neither inclination, nor a temporary financial difficulty, nor the large price offered, induced Heius to sell these statues ; and that you, Verres, under pretence of buying them, used your official authority to compel and intimidate him, and simply robbed and plundered a man whom, like the rest of our allies there, the nation placed not only under your orders but under your protection.

[15] Now in bringing this charge, gentlemen, there is certainly nothing I should so much hope for as to have my statements corroborated by Heius himself. But is not this too much to hope for? Heius is a citizen of Messana ; the Messanian community, and it alone, has decreed Verres an official eulogy ; while all the rest of the Sicilians loathe him, they are fond of him ; and at the head of the deputation sent to pronounce his eulogy is Heius - who is indeed the foremost of their citizens. Will not his loyalty to his public duties make him silent ** about his private wrongs? [16] Though I saw this and took account of it, gentlemen, I ventured none the less to call Heius as a witness at the first hearing. Nor was this, after all, a risky thing to do; for even were Heius not to behave like the honest man that he is, what could he have said, when questioned? That the statues were still in his own house and not in the house of Verres? He could not possibly say any such thing. Even should he utter the most vile and shameless falsehoods, what he would say would be that he had wished to sell those statues, and had sold them for a satisfactory figure. But this man, the most distinguished citizen of Messana, being anxious that you should take him for the honourable gentleman he is, began by saying that he was officially the eulogist of Verres, because he had been instructed to be so, and went on to say that he had not wished to sell the statues, and that, had he been allowed any choice, he could never, on any terms, have been induced to sell those ancient family heirlooms in his chapel. -

[8.] L   [17] And there you still sit, Verres, and still hope - for what? How can you assert that Centuripa and Catina, Halaesa and Tyndaris, Henna and Agyrium and all the other cities of Sicily, are conspiring to overthrow you? It is your own Messana that does this - your second home, as you used to call it - your own Messana, I repeat, the city that assisted your crimes, witnessed your debaucheries, harboured the proceeds of your thefts and robberies. Her most eminent citizen is here with us, sent hither to attend this trial, in charge of the eulogy of yourself ; which eulogy, in his official capacity, he has pronounced, as he was charged and required to do; though, even so, you remember his reply when he was questioned about that cargo-ship - that the workmen who built it were got together officially and employed officially, and that a Messanian senator had been officially put in charge of its building. This same man, gentlemen, as a private person, implores your help, appealing to that common stronghold of our allies, the law under which this Court is constituted. - But though that law provides for the recovery of moneys extorted, he tells us that his aim is not to recover the money that was extorted from him - he feels this a relatively trifling loss : it is his sacred family heirlooms that he seeks to recover, it is the gods of his house and his fathers that he bids you, Verres, give back to him. [18] Have you no sense of shame ? no fear of God ? no concern for your safety ? You have stayed at Messana in Heius's house, you have seen him perform divine service in his own chapel before those gods almost every day: well, the loss of his money does not trouble him, nor indeed does he so much long for the objects that were purely decorative - keep his Canephoroe if you will, but restore to him the images of his gods. - And because he said this; because, the opportunity being offered him, this friend and ally of Rome quietly submitted his grievance to this Court ; because his fear of heaven inspired not only his demand for the gods of his fathers but the very evidence that he gave as a witness upon oath : you must know that Verres has sent back to Messana one of the deputation, the very man who was officially put in charge of the building of that ship of his, to request the senate there to deprive Heius of his civic rights. ** -

[9.] L   [19] You utter fool, what did you look for? That your request would be granted ? Did you not know how much Heius was valued, and how greatly he was respected, by his fellow-citizens ? And suppose that your request shall be granted; suppose that the Messanians agree to inflict some heavy penalty upon Heius: how much weight do you expect to be attached to their eulogy of you, after their decreeing the punishment of the man who has admittedly spoken the truth as a witness? But, in any case, it is a poor sort of eulogy when cross-examination is bound to turn your eulogist into your enemy. And are not your eulogists my witnesses? Heius is your eulogist, and his evidence has done you the gravest harm. - Suppose I call the others : they will be glad to hold their tongues so far as they can, but they will say what they must say, however reluctantly. Are they to deny that a large freight-ship was built for Verres at Messana ? Let them deny it, if they can. Are they to deny that a Messanian senator was officially put in charge of the construction of that ship? I should like to hear them do that. Nor is this all; but of what remains I prefer to say nothing at present, wishing to afford these persons as little time as may be for the concoction and corroboration of false evidence. - [20] And now, is this an eulogy likely to chime in with your purposes ? are such men as these capable of giving you impressive support ? men who should not help you if they could, and could not help you if they would ; men whom you have wronged and insulted as individuals again and again, and in whose town you have brought lasting shame on family after family by your lecherous outrages. It will be said that you have done good to their community. Not, certainly, without doing much harm to the interests of Rome and to the province of Sicily. Messana was bound to sell Rome 60,000 modii of wheat each year, ** and regularly did so: you, and you alone, exempted it from this duty. The interests of Rome have suffered, because, owing to your action, her imperial rights have been infringed in regard to this one community: the Sicilians have suffered, because the amount of corn concerned was not deducted from their total, but transferred to the free ** states Centuripa and Halaesa, whose burden was to this extent made heavier than they could bear.

[21] It was, by the treaty, your duty to require the supply of a ship. ** For three years, you did not ; and for all that time, you demanded not a single man for military service. You behaved just as the pirates are wont to behave. They are the general enemies of all mankind ; but none the less, there are some people of whom they make friends, not only sparing them but enriching them with stolen wealth. They select, for this purpose, the inhabitants of conveniently situated towns, where it is often desirable and sometimes necessary for them to put in. [10.] L   Thus Phaselis, captured as you know by Publius Servilius, ** was not originally a Cilician pirate town, but inhabited by Lycians, a Greek people. But since its position on a projecting headland was such that the pirates often had to touch there on their outward journey from Cilicia, and land there again on their way back from our own part of the world, they entered into trade relations with it in the first place, and later took it into partnership. [22] Messana too was not, in earlier days, a rascally community ; nay, it was the enemy of rascals, as it showed by withholding the belongings of the consul Gaius Cato ** ; and Cato was no ordinary man, but a very eminent and powerful person. Yet, though an ex-consul, he was prosecuted and found guilty ** ; he, the grandson of two men so famous as Lucius Paulus and Marcus Cato, and the nephew of Publius Africanus; and being thus found guilty was sentenced, in days when our courts did strict Justice, to pay a penalty of - 8000 sesterces! A man like Cato incurred the resentment of a community that has often spent more on a dinner for Timarchides than the sum that Cato had to repay them. [23] Yet this community it was that became the Phaselis of this pirate and plunderer of Sicily. Hither from all quarters everything was brought, and with these people everything was left. All that needed concealment they kept stowed and hidden away. With their help he had everything he chose put on board ship by stealth and secretly carried off from Sicily. And it was they whom he got to build and construct him a large vessel for him to dispatch to Italy loaded with his stolen goods. In return for these same services, he exempted them from money payments, forced labour, military service, everything. For the space of three years they were not the only people in Sicily but, I do believe, at this time anyhow, the only people in the whole world who were totally and completely free and immune from every form of expense, inconvenience and obligation. [24] Hence arose the Verrine Festival, ** and the banquet before which he bade Sextius Cominius to be dragged - the man at whom he threw a cup, and whom he ordered to be gagged and hustled off from the feast to a dark prison cell: and hence the cross to which, before the eyes of a great crowd, he elevated a Roman citizen ** - the cross he dared not plant in any soil but that of the accomplices in all his robberies and crimes.

[11.] L   And now, men of Messana, dare you still come to us with eulogy of any man whatsoever? And who shall heed what you say? Shall it be the Senate, or shall it be the people, of Rome? ** [25] Is there any community, not merely in our own provinces but among the remotest peoples of the earth, so powerful, so independent, nay, so inhuman and uncivilised - is there even a foreign king of such a kind - as not to offer lodging and hospitality to a senator of Rome ? a mark of honour not so much paid to the individual, but in the first place to the Roman nation, by whose favour we senators attain our rank, and in the next place to the great senatorial order, which must be respected by our allies and by foreign peoples, if the glory and dignity of our imperial rule are to be maintained. Well, the people of Messana, officially, offered me no hospitality. The personal insult is a trifle : in thus treating a senator of Rome, they have failed to show due respect not to me but to the Senate. - For myself, as plain Tullius Cicero, the doors of the wealthy and honourable Gnaeus Pompeius Basiliscus stood open to welcome me, and I should have stayed with him, even if you had offered me hospitality ; and there was the house of the much respected Percennius family that also now bears the name of Pompeius, with whom my cousin Lucius stayed as a most welcome guest. But so far as you were concerned, a senator of Rome, in your own town, passed the night sleeping out of doors. Never has any other community behaved like this. "Well, but you were prosecuting our friend." What, shall any man's view of the business in which I am engaged as a private individual be expressed by insulting the senatorial order ? [26] However, I will reserve this complaint until your conduct is reviewed by the order that you, and thus far you only, have treated with contempt.

And now, I ask, how dare you face the people of Rome? Why have you not first pulled up the cross, still dripping with a Roman citizen's blood, the cross planted beside your town and harbour - pulled it up, flung it into the depths of the sea, and purified all the place where it was - before you approached Rome and the Roman people here assembled ? That token of Verres' savagery has been set up on the peaceful soil of our privileged ally Messana. Is it you whose town has been chosen to display, to all who approach it from Italy, the cross of a Roman citizen before they can discern any of Rome's friends ? And you point out that cross to the people of Regium, whose citizen rights you envy them, and to the Roman citizens that live among you, bidding them think less proudly of themselves and less disdainfully of you, since they see Roman citizenship rewarded with such a penalty as this. -

[12.] L   [27] Well, you tell us you bought those statues from Heius. What then of his gold-brocade tapestries, renowned throughout Sicily ? Did you forget to buy them? You might have bought them- - just as you bought the statues. ** What happened, then? Did you wish to save writing-paper? - No; the fool never thought of it; he imagined that robbing a cupboard would be less noticed than robbing a chapel And how was the robbery effected? I cannot tell you this more clearly than Heius himself has told it to you. When I asked him if any of his other possessions had passed into Verres' hands, he replied that Verres had sent him word to send the tapestries to him at Agrigentum. I asked if he had sent them ; he replied, as he was bound to reply, that he had obeyed the governor's orders, and had sent them. I inquired if they reached Agrigentum ; he told me that they did. I asked how they came back to him ; he stated that so far they had not come back. The audience laughed ; and you, gentlemen, were all startled. - [28] Now did it not then occur to you, Verres, to order Heius to enter in his books the sale of these things too to you for 6,500 sesterces ? Were you afraid of running into debt if you paid 6,500 sesterces for what you could easily sell for 200,000 sesterces ? assure you, it would have been worth doing ; you would have had a defence to offer; no one would have inquired what the things were worth ; if only you could state that you bought them, you would easily have justified yourself and your behaviour in anyone's eyes; whereas now you have no way of clearing yourself about these tapestries.

[29] And next, how did you treat the wealthy and nobly-born Phylarchus of Centuripa in the matter of the beautifully wrought bosses that are said to have belonged once to King Hiero ? Did you simply take them, may I ask, or did you buy them ? What I was told when I was in Sicily, both by the Centuripans and by everyone else - for the facts were widely known enough - was this: that you had simply carried off these bosses from Phylarchus of Centuripa, exactly as you had carried off another famous set from Aristus of Aristus of Panhormus, and a third set from Cratippus of Tyndaris. Nor, indeed, if Phylarchus had sold them to you, would you, after this prosecution was instituted, have promised to give them back to him. Knowing that many people were aware of the truth, you reflected that if you did give them back you would be so much the poorer, and the facts would come out in the evidence none the less ; and therefore you did not give them back. Phylarchus has stated on oath that, knowing your weakness, as your friends call it, he was anxious to keep you in the dark about his bosses ; that when he was questioned by you he denied having them ; that, further, he had put them in another man's keeping to prevent their being discovered ; that you were clever enough to get a sight of them by means of the very person into whose keeping he had given them; that he was thus found out, and denial was useless ; and that the bosses were in consequence taken from him, by force and without payment.

[13.] L   [30] Now it is worth while, gentlemen, to see how the man used to track out and discover all these treasures, There are two brothers called Tlepolemus and Hiero, natives of Cibyra, one of whom, I believe, was a modeller in wax, and the other a painter. These men, I understand, were suspected by their fellow-citizens of robbing the temple of Apollo at Cibyra, and being afraid of prosecution and punishment fled into exile. At the time when, as you have been told by my witnesses, Verres arrived at Cibyra with those forged ** bonds, these brothers discovered his fondness for the products of their skill ; and when they later fled into exile, they betook themselves to him, as he was then in Asia. He kept them with him in those days, and made much use of their help and advice in the thefts and robberies of his legateship. ** [31] These are the persons referred to in the accounts of Quintus Tadius ** as the "Greek painters" to whom he paid sums of money by Verres' orders. Having by now tested them well and learnt their worth, Verres took them with him to Sicily. When they got there, they scented their prey and tracked it to its lair, like hounds, in the most remarkable fashion ; there was nothing they did not somehow or other manage to discover. Now they found a thing by threats, and now by promises; helped now by slaves and now by free men, now by a friend and now by an enemy : there was no hope for anything that took their fancy. The one prayer of those whose silver plate was demanded was that it might fail to gain the approval of Hiero and Tlepolemus.

[14.] L   [32] Now there is a story you really must hear, gentlemen. I remember being told by my friend and host Pamphilus of Lilybaeum, a man of high standing there, how Verres used his authority to rob him of a jug made by Boethus, a massive and most beautiful piece of work, and he had gone home melancholy and distressed, of course, at being robbed of such a vessel, a legacy from his father and his forefathers that he was accustomed to use on feast-days and to do honour to his guests. "I was sitting sadly at home," he told me, "when a temple slave marched up to me, and ordered me to bring my embossed cups to the governor without delay. I was much upset," he said, "I had a pair of them; I ordered them both to be got out, that nothing worse might happen, and to be brought along with me to the governor's house. When I got there, the praetor was resting ; but those brothers from Cibyra were walking about, and when they saw me, they cried, 'Where are the cups, Pamphilus ?' I showed them, sadly enough, and they admired them. I began to complain that I should have nothing of any value left, if I were robbed of the cups also: whereupon, seeing me thus put about, 'What will you pay us,' they asked, 'to stop those cups being taken from you?' To cut the story short," he told me, "they asked me for 1000 sesterces, which I promised them. Meanwhile the governor had called for us and demanded the cups." Then, he said, the brothers proceeded to tell the governor that from what they had heard they had supposed the cups of Pamphilus were of some value; but they were rotten stuff, not worthy of a place in Verres' collection. Verres said he thought so too ; and thus Pamphilus carried his most beautiful cups safely home.

[33] Now though I was aware that expert knowledge of such things was a trifling matter enough, I confess that up to that time I had been by way of wondering how it was that Verres had a certain amount of understanding in just these things, when I knew that he was below the level of a human being in all respects. [15.] L   But now, for the first time, I perceived what these brothers from Cibyra were for: Verres was to use his own hands and their eyes for his thefts. Yet he is so eager to acquire this precious reputation of being a connoisseur in such matters that only the other day - to show you what a fool the fellow is - after the adjournment of the trial, when he was already as good as condemned and done for, early on one of the days of the Circus Games, dinner being laid and the silver plate put out in the house of our honoured fellow-citizen Lucius Sisenna, who had a houseful of such distinguished guests as befitted a man of his rank, Verres went up to the silver and proceeded to a leisurely and attentive inspection of one piece after another. Some people marvelled at his folly in thus confirming, during the actual trial, the belief that he was just the greedy criminal he was accused of being ; others at the lunacy of thinking about such things as that when the trial was half over and all those witnesses had given their evidence. No doubt Sisenna's servants, having heard of the evidence given against him, kept their eyes firmly fixed on him, and stayed close by the silver. [34] Now it is the part of a competent judge to infer from trifling circumstances how far a man will indulge or restrain his passion for this thing or that. Here is a man on his trial, and that trial half over, a man practically found guilty by the facts and by general opinion, and he cannot refrain from handling and inspecting Sisenna's silver before the eyes of a crowded gathering : will anyone believe that he could possibly have kept his greedy mind and hands from the Sicilians' silver, when he was the governor in command of their province ?

[16.] L   [35] Let us now, after this digression, go back to Lilybaeum. Pamphilus, the man who was robbed of his jug, has a son-in-law, Diocles, surnamed Popilius, whose sideboard Verres swept clean of all its vessels just as they stood there. Verres may, if he chooses, claim to have bought them ; for in this case, the theft being so considerable, something was, I believe, set down in writing. He told Timarchides to reckon up the value of the silver, and to undervalue it as thoroughly as any man ever did when making a present to an actor. ** - But really it is absurd of me to have spoken at such length about your purchases, and asking whether you did or did not buy this or that, and how you bought it and how much you paid for it, when a single word will settle the matter. Produce me a written statement of the silver plate you acquired in Sicily, and of the vendor and price of the several articles. Well? [36] Not that I ought to be asking you for such documents : I ought to have your accounts already and to be producing them. Well, you tell us that for a part of these three years you have kept no accounts. Come, satisfy my request so far as the silver is concerned, and perhaps I may forgo the rest. "I have no statement written, and I can produce none." What is to be done about it, then? What do you suppose the members of this Court can do? Even before you became praetor, your town house was full of beautiful statues, many more were placed in your country-houses, many more stored in the houses of your friends, many more presented as gifts to other people ; and you have no accounts to show that any of them were bought. All the silver plate in Sicily has been swept off, nothing left to any man that he would care to have called his own. The disreputable defence is concocted that our governor secured all this silver by purchase, and there are no written accounts by which even that can be proved true. If in such accounts as you do produce there is no entry to show how you come to possess what you do possess, and if for the period during which you claim to have bought most largely you produce no accounts whatsoever, is not your conviction inevitably secured alike by the accounts that you do produce and by those that you do not ?

[17.] L   [37] From Marcus Coelius, an excellent young Roman knight at Lilybaeum, you carried off all you cared to take. Without scruple, you carried off all the furniture of the active, accomplished and exceptionally popular Gaius Cacurius. From Quintus Lutatius Diodorus, who through the kind offices of Quintus Catulus was made a Roman citizen by Lucius Sulla, you carried off a large and handsome table of citrus-wood, to the certain knowledge of everyone in Lilybaeum. I will not charge you with your treatment of a very proper victim of your villainy, Apollonius the son of Nico, of Drepana, now called Aulus Clodius, whom you despoiled and pillaged of all his admirable silver plate. Let that pass: for this man does not think himself wronged, inasmuch as you rescued the fellow when he was already lost and the halter closing round his neck, in that affair where you went shares with him in the patrimony of which he robbed his wards at Drepana. ** Any theft of yours from him gives me actual pleasure; I hold that you have never done a more honest action than this. But it was certainly not a proper thing to carry off that statue of Apollo from Lyso, the leading citizen of Lilybaeum, in whose house you were a guest. You will tell me you bought it. I know you did - for 1000 sesterces. "Yes, I think so." I know you did, I tell you. "I will produce the record." Still, it was not a proper transaction. ** And as for Heius, the boy whose guardian is Gaius Marcellus, and from whom you took a huge sum of money, will you claim to have bought from him his chased goblets at Lilybaeum, or will you confess to having taken them ? -

[38] But why, in dealing with this part of the man's offences, do I thus assemble his more commonplace outrages, which would seem to amount to nothing more than theft by himself and loss for his victims ? Let me now tell you of an affair that will reveal to you not merely his greed, but the insanity, the madness, that sets him apart from all other men.

[18.] L   There is a man of Melita named Diodorus, evidence you have already heard. For many years he has been living at Lilybaeum ; he comes of a good family at Melita, and his high character has brought him distinction and popularity in his adopted home. It was reported to Verres about him that he owned some really good chased silver, and in particular, some cups of the kind called Thericlia, highly finished specimens of the art of Mentor. On hearing this, Verres conceived so passionate a desire not only to examine them but to carry them off that he summoned Diodorus and asked for them. Diodorus, having no objection to keeping them, replied that he had not them with him at Lilybaeum ; that he had left them with a relative of his at Melita. [39] Verres forthwith sent special messengers to Melita, and wrote to certain people there, telling them to search for these vessels ; he also asked Diodorus to write to this relative of his. Never did time pass so slowly as while he was waiting to set eyes on that silver. Diodorus, being a good careful fellow who was anxious to keep what was his, wrote to his relative, bidding him tell Verres' men, when they arrived, that within the last few days he had sent the silver off to Lilybaeum. Meanwhile he himself left the country : temporary exile seemed better than staying to witness the loss of his exquisite silver plate. When Verres heard this, he was so thoroughly upset that everyone felt sure he had taken complete leave of his senses. Because he could not himself rob Diodorus of his silver, he talked of himself as "robbed of those lovely vessels," threatened the absent Diodorus, uttered open cries of rage, and now and then even shed tears. The legend tells us that when Eriphyle saw the necklace - made, I suppose, of gold and jewels - its loveliness so excited the grasping woman that she betrayed her husband to his death. The greed of Verres was like hers; but his was of an even fiercer and wilder type, since her desire was for a thing she had seen, while his passions were aroused not only by his eyesight but by his hearing also.

[19.] L   [40] He bade the whole province be searched for Diodorus, who, however, had already struck camp and left Sicily with bag and baggage. ** To get him back somehow to the province, Verres devised the plan - if the word "plan" can be applied to anything so frantic - of getting one of his "hounds" to state that he was ready to prosecute Diodorus of Melita on a capital charge. Everyone was at first astonished to hear of the prosecution of Diodorus, an entirely inoffensive person, whom no one could possibly suspect of crime, or even of the smallest misdemeanour ; but it soon became clear that his silver plate was at the bottom of the whole business. Verres had no hesitation in authorising the prosecution to go forward - this was, if I am not mistaken, the first occasion on which he allowed the prosecution of a person in his absence. [41] All Sicily became aware that his covetous desire for men's figured silver plate was causing him to prosecute its owners on capital charges ; and not only to prosecute them, but to do so in their absence. At Rome, Diodorus put on the garb of distress, and went round to all his supporters and former guests, telling his story everywhere. Verres' father wrote strongly to his son, and his friends also wrote, warning him to take care how he treated Diodorus, and not to proceed too far ; the facts were known, and were arousing ill-feeling ; he must be out of his senses ; this one offence would convict him, if he were not careful. Verres still looked upon his father, if not as his parent, at least as a human being ; he had not yet made adequate provision for his trial ; it was his first year in the province ; he was not stuffed with money as he was at the time of the Sthenius ** affair. His insanity was consequently checked for the moment, not indeed by a sense of decency, but by fear and timidity. He was afraid to find Diodorus guilty in his absence, and removed him from the list of persons committed for trial. But the result was that Diodorus had to keep away from the province where his home was for nearly the whole three years during which Verres was governor. [42] Everyone else, Roman citizens as well as Sicilians, at once felt sure that, since the greed of Verres could lead him so far as this, nobody had any reason for hoping to save or keep in his house anything that Verres fancied at all more than usual. [20.] L   And when they learnt that he was not to be succeeded ** by the gallant Quintus Arrius, for whom the province had been eagerly waiting, they felt sure that they could not possibly keep anything so securely locked up or hidden away as to put any concealment or obstacle in the way of his covetous desires.

And next, he robbed Gnaeus Calidius, the distinguished and popular knight, whose son he knew was a senator and a judge in our courts of his famous silver "horses," ** which once belonged to Quintus Maximus. [43] Oh, I have made a false step here, gentlemen ; he did not rob him of them, he bought them ; I am sorry I spoke; he will ride away from me on these horses in triumph. "I bought them, and paid for them." - I dare say you did. "And I will produce the receipt for them." Well, I may as well see the receipt ; let me have it. By all means explain away this charge about Calidius - provided I may look at the receipt. But . . . why should Calidius have complained at Rome, that during all the long years of his business life in Sicily he was treated by you alone with so much scorn and contempt that he was even stripped of his property along with everyone else in Sicily - if you bought those things ? Why did he declare that he would demand his silver back from you, if he sold it to you of his own free will? And further, could you have avoided giving the things back to such a man as Gnaeus Calidius ? - especially since he was so intimate with your supporter Lucius Sisenna, and you had already given back their property to Sisenna's other intimate friends. [44] And lastly, you will not, I think, deny that Lucius Curidius, an excellent man indeed, but not any more highly esteemed than Calidius is, did get his silver returned to him by you through your friend Potamo. Curidius has indeed made it harder for everyone else to deal with you. For though there were still a good many to whom you had promised their property back, as soon as Curidius had given evidence to the effect that you had given his property back to him, you ceased to give back anything further, perceiving that you would lose your plunder without escaping the evidence of your victims. Gnaeus Calidius, knight, has been allowed by all other governors to possess beautiful silver plate - allowed, when entertaining high officials or persons of rank, to equip and adorn his dining-room with the stuff in his own house. Many holders of civil and military power have been his guests ; and not one of them has shown himself such a madman as to carry off those famous and beautiful pieces of plate, not one so unscrupulous as to demand them, not one so impudent as to ask him to sell them. [45] It is indeed arrogance, gentlemen, intolerable arrogance, for a governor in his province to say to a man of character, wealth and position, '' Sell me your figured silver." This is as good as saying, " You are not worthy to have such works of art ; they are fit only for people in my high position." - And are you to beset higher than Calidius, Verres? I will not compare your manner of life and reputation with his - no such comparison is possible : I will compare you with him only in the matter in which you pretend to be his superior. Does, then, the fact that you paid 300,000 sesterces to bribery-agents to secure your election as praetor, and 300,000 sesterces to that prosecutor ** on condition that he gave you no trouble, entitle you to scorn and despise the order of knights ? Is that why you think it improper for Calidius rather than you to be the owner of anything that takes your fancy ? -

[21.] L   [46] He has been boasting all the time of his behaviour to Calidius, and telling everyone that he bought the things. - What of the censer belonging to Lucius Papinius, that well-known gentleman, that wealthy and highly-respected knight ? did you also buy that? He stated in the witness-box that you asked him to send it for you to look at, wrenched off the embossed work on it, and sent it back to him thus. - You will perceive, gentlemen, that our friend is an art critic, not a money-grubber; precious masterpieces appeal to him, not precious metals. Nor was it only in the case of Papinius that he showed this moderation ; he followed the same plan with all the censers in Sicily. And the number and beauty of these censers passes belief. I conceive that when Sicily was at the height of its wealth and prosperity there was an immense production of objects of art in the island. Before Verres became its governor, there was no person possessed of wealth even slightly above the average in whose house, even if it were otherwise bare of silver plate, you would not find a large dish embossed with representations of the gods, a bowl for the use of women in divine service, and a censer. All these were the work of ancient artists, and products of the finest craftsmanship: one might well infer that everything else in Sicily was once of corresponding excellence, and that, while misfortune had deprived them of many such treasures, they still had with them such as religious feeling bade them hold fast. [47] I have said that of these there were many, that they were in nearly every house in Sicily ; and now I tell you, gentlemen, that to-day there is not one of them. Think what this means. What monstrous abortion is this that we sent to rule our province ? One might well think that it was his aim, when he reached Rome again, to satisfy not his own single appetite, not the lust of his own eyes, but the perverted desires of all the most covetous men alive. No sooner had he arrived at a town than those "hounds" of his from Cibyra were promptly let loose to smell everything out and run it to earth. Any big vessel or other large work of art they found they brought in triumphantly ; if they failed to hunt out something of that kind, at any rate they would bag such small game as I have mentioned - dishes and bowls and censers. And then we can imagine the weeping and wailing of the women, when such things were done : small things, you may think, but things that cause great and bitter distress; to the poor women above all, as the objects are snatched from their hands that they have regularly used in divine service, inherited from their kinsmen, and had in their homes always.

[22.] L   [48] And now, do not expect me to make a house to-house enumeration of all his misdeeds of this kind, to charge him with taking a bowl from Aeschylus of Tyndaris, a dish from Thraso, also of Tyndaris, a censer from Nymphodorus of Agrigentum. When I call my Sicilian witnesses, let him make his choice of one among them for me to question about these dishes and bowls and censers. You will find that not only no single town, but no single house whose owner was at all well off, escaped outrage of this type. When he arrived at a dinner-party, let him catch sight of any piece of figured plate, and he could not, I assure you, keep his fingers off it. There is a man of Tyndaris, Gnaeus Pompeius, formerly known as Philo, who gave a dinner for him at his country-house in the Tyndaris district. He did what the Sicilians dared not do, but what, being a Roman citizen, he thought he would run comparatively little risk in doing: he put on the table a dish with embossed figures of exceptional merit. The moment that Verres saw it, without hesitation he removed from his host's table this symbol sacred to the gods of home and hospitality ; though, to be sure, with the moderation of which I spoke just now, having pulled off the engraved work he very generously sent back what was left of that silver dish. [49] Again, he behaved in the same way to Eupolemus of Calacte, a man of good family who is the guest-friend and intimate of the Lucullus family, and is now serving in our army with Lucius Lucullus. He was dining at this man's house: most of the silver put on table was bare of embossed work, since Eupolemus did not wish to be stripped bare himself ; but there were two cups, of no great size, but with embossed work upon them. Our friend here, as if he were an entertainer at a party anxious to secure his gratuity before he left, then and there had the embossed work torn off, with all the guests looking on.

To make a complete enumeration of Verres' deeds is neither my present purpose, nor necessary, nor at all possible; his villainy takes many forms, and I do no more than put before you indications and specimens of each variety. In all this business, indeed, he did not behave as though he would one day be called to account for it, but just as though either he would never be prosecuted at all, or else, the more extensive his robberies, the less risk he would run when he appeared before his judges. For he came to do the things of which I now speak, not by stealth nor through his friends and agents, but openly and from his official seat, and by the use of his civil and military authority.

[23.] L   [50] On arriving at the wealthy, prosperous and reputable town of Catina, he sent for Dionysiarchus, who was president {proagorus} - that is to say, the chief magistrate - of the town, and openly ordered him to see that all the silver plate in all the houses in Catina was looked out and brought to him. You have heard Phylarchus, by birth, wealth and character the first man in Centuripa, swear to Verres' having ordered him to undertake the task of looking out all the silver plate in Centuripa - easily the largest and richest community in all Sicily - and of ordering it to be brought together to him. In the same way, by his orders, the Corinthian bronzes of Agyrium were carried off from there to Syracuse by the agency of Apollodorus, to whose evidence you have listened. [51] And there is something splendid about the way in which our active painstaking governor, when he reached Haluntium, refused to make the steep and troublesome ascent to the town himself ; he sent for Archagathus, one of the most distinguished men not only in Haluntium but in all Sicily, and gave him instructions to have all the figured silver plate in Haluntium, and even all the Corinthian bronzes, immediately carried down from the town to the seashore. Archagathus went up to the town again. This eminent man, who valued the affection and esteem of his own people, was much distressed by the task that Verres imposed upon him. But he could not help himself ; he announced the order given to him, and bade everyone produce their possessions. Great alarm was felt; for his majesty himself was still close at hand, reclining in his litter on the shore below the town, and awaiting the return of Archagathus with the silver plate. [52] Picture to yourselves the hurrying to and fro in the town, the cries of grief, and the wailing of the women, too; anyone looking on would have thought that the Trojan horse had been admitted, and that the city was in its enemies' hands. Here vessels, stripped of their coverings, were being brought out of doors, there they were being torn from women's resisting hands; in many houses the locks were being wrenched off and the doors burst open. And can you wonder? Even when in some war-time emergency the houses of private persons are ransacked for shields, their owners are reluctant to give them up, though they know it is to save everyone from destruction; and you may be sure that the sharpest distress was felt by everyone who then brought forth his beautiful silver treasures for a stranger to rob him of them. Everything was taken down to the shore; the brothers of Cibyra were sent for; some few objects they rejected ; where they approved, the decorations were removed from the vessels to which they were riveted or soldered. And the people of Haluntium, their precious things torn from them, took their vessels, now stripped and bare, and so returned home. [24.] L   [53] Gentlemen, was ever a province swept by so veritable a broom as Verres? Often enough men would use their official power to appropriate, as secretly as might be, a certain amount of public money; even if sometimes they took a certain amount from private individuals, they took it by stealth ; and such men none the less were tried and convicted. Indeed, if you would have me speak to my own disadvantage, I feel that it is the prosecutors of such men as this who have really earned the name of prosecutor, by running their thefts to earth with no more than their scent or their faintly-traced footmarks to guide them. What does my own chase of Verres ** amount to - this hog, the print of whose whole body shows me where he has been wallowing in the mud? It is indeed a formidable undertaking to assail a man who, as he passes by a town, has his litter set down for a while, and then, not by sleight of hand, but by the open use of his official power, by a single official decree, plunders the whole town, house by house! He did, to be sure, order Archagathus to pay a few coins, for form's sake, to the ex-owners of the silver, so as to be able to say that he had bought it. Archagathus found a few of them who were willing to take the money, and these he paid. But even this sum Verres never repaid to Archagathus. The latter meant to sue him for it at Rome, but was dissuaded by Gnaeus Lentulus Marcellinus, as you have heard from his own lips. - Read their statement. (The evidence of Archagathus and Lentulus is read.)

[54] Now I would not have you think that the man aimed at piling up this great mass of silver ornaments for no reason at all. Let me therefore show you how much he cared for you, or for what Rome thought of him, or for the law and the law-courts, or for the witnesses from Sicily. Having amassed this vast collection of ornaments, and left not a single one behind for anyone, he set up a workshop - and a large one - in the Palace ** at Syracuse. He gave public orders that all skilled workmen - engravers, metal-workers, and so on - should assemble in this place, besides the considerable number that he had in his own service ; and he penned the whole crowd of them in there, giving them enough work to keep them busy for eight months without a break, though every vessel they produced was made of gold. The ornamental work that he had torn from dishes and censers he now proceeded to attach so ingeniously to the outside of the golden cups, and so cleverly to the inside of golden basins, that anyone would have supposed them designed for the purpose ; while our governor himself, who tells us that it was his own watchful attention that kept Sicily at peace, used to sit in this workshop for most of the day, wearing a grey tunic and a Greek mantle. **

Following sections (55-105)


1.(↑)   In any public speech it was "bad form" for a Roman gentleman to profess, or even to imply, any expert knowledge of art, or to assume such knowledge on the part of his hearers. This is brought out by a number of different touches in this 4th book.

2.(↑)   The Muses. Thespiae was near their Mount Helicon.

3.(↑)   In Rome, near the Palatine.

4.(↑)   'Kanēphoroi', "basket-bearers."

5.(↑)   Surnamed Pulcher: aedile in 99 B.C.

6.   Chelidon, who had died and left money to Verres (Book ii. § 116).

7.(↑)   The item in the accounts, as read aloud, clearly specified the price of each of the objects nominally purchased.

8.(↑)   'Ne forte . . . reticeat' is best taken as depending on an implied expression equivalent to "there is reason to be afraid" or the like: less easily as an (ironical) final clause depending on 'princeps est', " to enable him, of course, to complain . . ."

9.(↑)   'atimia', evidently on the ground of misconduct as 'presbus'. The penalty would discredit Heius's evidence, and prevent his giving more of it (Hall).

10.(↑)   i.e. at a fixed rate, Book iii. § 163-187 deals with Verres' misdeeds in connexion with the 'frumentum emptum'.

11.(↑)   Not free from such obligations ; but entitled, by their privileged position, to greater freedom from such acts of injustice than less privileged communities.

12.(↑)   The terms of the 'foedus' between Rome and Messana included the stipulation that Messana should maintain one vessel in the Roman navy.

13.  * One of the Court at this trial: he had conducted operations against the Cilician pirates with credit in 78-76 B.C.

14.(↑)   Consul 114 B.C. Nothing else is known of this affair with the Messanians.

15.(↑)   Apparently for extortion from the Messanians. Cicero's point is that they were then honest folk enough, if so very small an act of oppression could rouse their anger. It is implied that the penalty awarded corresponds to the claim

16.(↑)   i.e., the particular celebration of it at Messana.

17.(↑)   Gavius : see Book v. § 158-170.

18.(↑)   The rest of this paragraph argues that no member of the Senate will heed the Messanlan eulogy.

19.(↑)   For a purely nominal price.

20.(↑)   The speeches have no other allusion to this affair.

21.(↑)   This period of Verres’ career is handled in Book i. § 44-102.

22.(↑)   See Book i. § 128.

23.(↑)   The law that prescribed the maximum value of such presents might be evaded by under-estimating the value of the present made (Hall).

24.(↑)   In Book ii. § 140 he is called Claudius, and one ward only is mentioned.

25.(↑)   The point of this little badinage is that Verres is made to imply that 1000 sesterces is quite a fair price, so that if the fact of the purchase can be proved his conduct is obviously beyond criticism.

26.(↑)   'Vasa colligere', "collect equipment," is a common military phrase in connexion with striking camp: the play on words here is obvious.

27.(↑)   Fully described in Book ii. § 83-118. Sthenius also was prosecuted in absence on a capital charge.

28.(↑)   After his normal single year of office.

29.(↑)   Drinking-vessels, partly or wholly in the shape of horses or horses' heads. (Illustrated in L.C.L. Athenaeus, vol. v. ad fin.)

30.(↑)   In some previous case, actual or threatened : the bribe was probably to desist from the prosecution, possibly to conduct it dishonestly ('praevaricari') so as to ensure the acquittal of the accused.

31.  * There is the usual play on the meaning of Verres' name.

32.(↑)   His official residence as governor, formerly the palace of the Syracusan kings.

33.(↑)   Rather as if an English governor were to be charged with wearing a grey flannel shirt and a blazer. The 'tunica pulla' was a workman’s garment; and the Greek cloak was improper for a Roman official.

Following sections (55-105) →

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