There are six episodes, or, as I may say, divisions in the life of Cicero to which special interest attaches itself. The first is the accusation against Verres, in which he drove the miscreant howling out of the city. The second is his Consulship, in which he drove Catiline out of the city, and caused certain other conspirators who were joined with the arch rebel to be killed, either legally or illegally. The third was his exile, in which he himself was driven out of Rome. The fourth was a driving out, too, though of a more honorable kind, when he was compelled, much against his will, to undertake the government of a province. The fifth was Cæsar’s passing of the Rubicon, the battle of Pharsalia, and his subsequent adherence to Cæsar. The last was his internecine combat with Antony, which produced the Philippics, and that memorable series of letters in which he strove to stir into flames the expiring embers of the Republic. The literary work with which we are acquainted is spread, but spread very unequally, over his whole life. I have already told the story of Sextus Roscius Amerinus, having taken it from his own words. From that time onward he wrote continually; but the fervid stream of his eloquence came forth from him with unrivalled rapidity in the twenty last miserable months of his life.
We have now come to the first of those episodes, and I have to tell the way in which Cicero struggled with Verres, and how he conquered him. In 74 B.C. Verres was Prætor in Rome. At that period of the Republic there were eight Prætors elected annually, two of whom remained in the city, whereas the others were employed abroad, generally with the armies of the Empire. In the next year, 73 B.C., Verres went in due course to Sicily with proconsular or proprætorial authority, having the government assigned to him for twelve months. This was usual and constitutional, but it was not unusual, even if unconstitutional, that this period should be prolonged. In the case of Verres it was prolonged, so that he should hold the office for three years. He had gone through the other offices of the State, having been Quæstor in Asia and Ædile afterward in Rome, to the great misfortune of all who were subjected to his handling, as we shall learn by-and-by. The facts are mentioned here to show that the great offices of the Republic were open to such a man as Verres. They were in fact more open to such a candidate than they would be to one less iniquitous — to an honest man or a scrupulous one, or to one partially honest, or not altogether unscrupulous. If you send a dog into a wood to get truffles, you will endeavor to find one that will tear up as many truffles as possible. A proconsular robber did not rob only for himself; he robbed more or less for all Rome. Verres boasted that with his three years of rule he could bring enough home to bribe all the judges, secure all the best advocates, and live in splendid opulence for the rest of his life. What a dog he was to send into a wood for truffles!
To such a condition as this had Rome fallen when the deputies from Sicily came to complain of their late governor, and to obtain the services of Cicero in seeking for whatever reparation might be possible. Verres had carried on his plunder during the years 73, 72, 71 B.C. During this time Cicero had been engaged sedulously as an advocate in Rome. We know the names of some of the cases in which he was engaged — those, for instance, for Publius Oppius, who, having been Quæstor in Bithynia, was accused by his Proconsul of having endeavored to rob the soldiers of their dues. We are told that the poor province suffered greatly under these two officers, who were always quarrelling as to a division of their plunder. In this case the senior officer accused the younger, and the younger, by Cicero’s aid, was acquitted. Quintilian more than once refers to the speech made for Oppius. Cicero also defended Varenus, who was charged with having murdered his brother, and one Caius Mustius, of whom we only know that he was a farmer of taxes. He was advocate also for Sthenius, a Sicilian, who was accused before the Tribunes by Verres. We shall hear of Sthenius again among the victims in Sicily. The special charge in this case was that, having been condemned by Verres as Prætor in Sicily, he had run away to Rome, which was illegal. He was, however, acquitted. Of these speeches we have only some short fragments, which have been quoted by authors whose works have come down to us, such as Quintilian; by which we know, at any rate, that Cicero’s writings had been so far carefully preserved, and that they were commonly read in those days. I will translate here the concluding words of a short paper written by M. du Rozoir in reference to Cicero’s life at this period: “The assiduity of our orator at the bar had obtained for him a high degree of favor among the people, because they had seen how strictly he had observed that Cincian law which forbade advocates to take either money or presents for then pleadings — which law, however, the advocates of the day generally did not scruple to neglect.”1 It is a good thing to be honest when honesty is in vogue; but to be honest when honesty is out of fashion is magnificent.
In the affair with Verres, there are two matters to interest the reader — indeed, to instruct the reader — if the story were sufficiently well told. The iniquity of Verres is the first — which is of so extravagant a nature as to become farcical by the absurdity of the extent to which he was not afraid to go in the furtherance of his avarice and lust. As the victims suffered two thousand years ago, we can allow ourselves to be amused by the inexhaustible fertility of the man’s resources and the singular iniquity of his schemes. Then we are brought face to face with the barefaced corruption of the Roman judges — a corruption which, however, became a regular trade, if not ennobled, made, at any rate, aristocratic by the birth, wealth high names, and senatorial rank of the robbers. Sulla, for certain State purposes — which consisted in the maintenance of the oligarchy — had transferred the privileges of sitting on the judgment-seat from the Equites, or Knights, to the Senators. From among the latter a considerable number — thirty, perhaps, or forty, or even fifty — were appointed to sit with the Prætor to hear criminal cases of importance, and by their votes, which were recorded on tablets, the accused person was acquitted or condemned. To be acquitted by the most profuse corruption entailed no disgrace on him who was tried, and often but little on the judges who tried him. In Cicero’s time the practice, with all its chances, had come to be well understood. The Provincial Governors, with their Quæstors and lieutenants, were chosen from the high aristocracy, which also supplied the judges. The judges themselves had been employed, or hoped to be employed, in similar lucrative service. The leading advocates belonged to the same class. If the proconsular thief, when he had made his bag, would divide the spoil with some semblance of equity among his brethren, nothing could be more convenient. The provinces were so large, and the Greek spirit of commercial enterprise which prevailed in them so lively, that there was room for plunder ample, at any rate, for a generation or two. The Republic boasted that, in its love of pure justice, it had provided by certain laws for the protection of its allied subjects against any possible faults of administration on the part of its own officers. If any injury were done to a province, or a city, or even to an individual, the province, or city, or individual could bring its grievance to the ivory chair of the Prætor in Rome and demand redress; and there had been cases not a few in which a delinquent officer had been condemned to banishment. Much, indeed, was necessary before the scheme as it was found to exist by Verres could work itself into perfection. Verres felt that in his time everything had been done for security as well as splendor. He would have all the great officers of State on his side. The Sicilians, if he could manage the case as he thought it might be managed, would not have a leg to stand upon. There was many a trick within his power before they could succeed in making good even their standing before the Prætor. It was in this condition of things that Cicero bethought himself that he might at one blow break through the corruption of the judgment-seat, and this he determined to do by subjecting the judges to the light of public opinion. If Verres could be tried under a bushel, as it were, in the dark, as many others had been tried, so that little or nothing should be said about the trial in the city at large, then there would be no danger for the judges. It could only be by shaming them, by making them understand that Rome would become too hot to hold them, that they could be brought to give a verdict against the accused. This it was that Cicero determined to effect, and did effect. And we see throughout the whole pleadings that he was concerned in the matter not only for the Sicilians, or against Verres. Could something be done for the sake of Rome, for the sake of the Republic, to redeem the courts of justice from the obloquy which was attached to them? Might it be possible for a man so to address himself not only to the judgment-seat, but to all Rome, as to do away with this iniquity once and forever? Could he so fill the minds of the citizens generally with horror at such proceedings as to make them earnest in demanding reform? Hortensius, the great advocate of the day, was not only engaged on behalf of Verres, but he was already chosen as Consul for the next year. Metellus, who was elected Prætor for the next year, was hot in defence of Verres. Indeed, there were three Metelluses among the friends of the accused, who had also on his side the Scipio of the day. The aristocracy of Rome was altogether on the side of Verres, as was natural. But if Cicero might succeed at all in this which he meditated, the very greatness of his opponents would help him. When it was known that he was to be pitted against Hortensius as an advocate, and that he intended to defy Hortensius as the coming Consul, then surely Rome would be awake to the occasion; and if Rome could be made to awake herself, then would this beautiful scheme of wealth from provincial plunder be brought to an end.
I will first speak of the work of the judges, and of the attempts made to hinder Cicero in the business he had undertaken. Then I will endeavor to tell something of the story of Verres and his doings. The subject divides itself naturally in this way. There are extant seven so-called orations about Verres, of which the two first apply to the manner in which the case should be brought before the courts. These two were really spoken, and were so effective that Verres — or probably Hortensius, on his behalf — was frightened into silence. Verres pleaded guilty, as we should say, which, in accordance with the usages of the court, he was enabled to do by retiring and going into voluntary banishment. This he did, sooner than stand his ground and listen to the narration of his iniquities as it would be given by Cicero in the full speech — the “perpetua oratio”— which would follow the examination of the witnesses. What the orator said before the examination of the witnesses was very short. He had to husband his time, as it was a part of the grand scheme of Hortensius to get adjournment after adjournment because of certain sacred rites and games, during the celebration of which the courts could not sit. All this was arranged for in the scheme; but Cicero, in order that he might baffle the schemers, got through his preliminary work as quickly as possible, saying all that he had to say about the manner of the trial, about the judges, about the scheme, but dilating very little on the iniquities of the criminal. But having thus succeeded, having gained his cause in a great measure by the unexpected quickness of his operations, then he told his story. Then was made that “perpetua oratio” by which we have learned the extent to which a Roman governor could go on desolating a people who were intrusted to his protection. This full narration is divided into five parts, each devoted to a separate class of iniquity. These were never spoken, though they appear in the form of speeches. They would have been spoken, if required, in answer to the defence made by Hortensius on behalf of Verres after the hearing of the evidence. But the defence broke down altogether, in the fashion thus described by Cicero himself. “In that one hour in which I spoke”— this was the speech which we designate as the Actio Prima contra Verrem, the first pleading made against Verres, to which we shall come just now —“I took away all hope of bribing the judges from the accused — from this brazen-faced, rich, dissolute, and abandoned man. On the first day of the trial, on the mere calling of the names of the witnesses, the people of Rome were able to perceive that if this criminal were absolved, then there could be no chance for the Republic. On the second day his friends and advocates had not only lost all hope of gaining their cause, but all relish for going on with it. The third day so paralyzed the man himself that he had to bethink himself not what sort of reply he could make, but how he could escape the necessity of replying by pretending to be ill.”2 It was in this way that the trial was brought to an end.
But we must go back to the beginning. When an accusation was to be made against some great Roman of the day on account of illegal public misdoings, as was to be made now against Verres, the conduct of the case, which would require probably great labor and expense, and would give scope for the display of oratorical excellence, was regarded as a task in which a young aspirant to public favor might obtain honor and by which he might make himself known to the people. It had, therefore, come to pass that there might be two or more accusers anxious to undertake the work, and to show themselves off as solicitous on behalf of injured innocence, or desirous of laboring in the service of the Republic. When this was the case, a court of judges was called upon to decide whether this man or that other was most fit to perform the work in hand. Such a trial was called “Divinatio,” because the judges had to get their lights in the matter as best they could without the assistance of witnesses — by some process of divination — with the aid of the gods, as it might be. Cicero’s first speech in the matter of Verres is called In Quintum Cæcilium Divinatio, because one Cæcilius came forward to take the case away from him. Here was a part of the scheme laid by Hortensius. To deal with Cicero in such a matter would no doubt be awkward. His purpose, his diligence, his skill, his eloquence, his honesty were known. There must be a trial. So much was acknowledged; but if the conduct of it could be relegated to a man who was dishonest, or who had no skill, no fitness, no special desire for success, then the little scheme could be carried through in that way. So Cæcilius was put forward as Cicero’s competitor, and our first speech is that made by Cicero to prove his own superiority to that of his rival.
Whether Cæcilius was or was not hired to break down in his assumed duty as accuser, we do not know. The biographers have agreed to say that such was the case,3 grounding their assertion, no doubt, on extreme probability. But I doubt whether there is any evidence as to this. Cicero himself brings this accusation, but not in that direct manner which he would have used had he been able to prove it. The Sicilians, at any rate, said that it was so. As to the incompetency of the man, there was probably no doubt, and it might be quite as serviceable to have an incompetent as a dishonest accuser. Cæcilius himself had declared that no one could be so fit as himself for the work. He knew Sicily well, having been born there. He had been Quæstor there with Verres, and had been able to watch the governor’s doings. No doubt there was — or had been in more pious days — a feeling that a Quæstor should never turn against the Proconsul under whom he had served, and to whom he had held the position almost of a son.4 But there was less of that feeling now than heretofore. Verres had quarrelled with his Quæstor. Oppius was called on to defend himself against the Proconsul with whom he had served. No one could know the doings of the governor of a province as well as his own Quæstor; and, therefore, so said Cæcilius, he would be the preferable accuser. As to his hatred of the man, there could be no doubt as to that. Everybody knew that they had quarrelled. The purpose, no doubt, was to give some colorable excuse to the judges for rescuing Verres, the great paymaster, from the fangs of Cicero.
Cicero’s speech on the occasion — which, as speeches went in those days, was very short — is a model of sagacity and courage. He had to plead his own fitness, the unfitness of his adversary, and the wishes in the matter of the Sicilians. This had to be done with no halting phrases. It was not simply his object to convince a body of honest men that, with the view of getting at the truth, he would be the better advocate of the two. We may imagine that there was not a judge there, not a Roman present, who was not well aware of that before the orator began. It was needed that the absurdity of the comparison between them should be declared so loudly that the judges would not dare to betray the Sicilians, and to liberate the accused, by choosing the incompetent man. When Cicero rose to speak, there was probably not one of them of his own party, not a Consul, a Prætor, an Ædile, or a Quæstor, not a judge, not a Senator, not a hanger-on about the courts, but was anxious that Verres with his plunder should escape. Their hope of living upon the wealth of the provinces hung upon it. But if he could speak winged words — words that should fly all over Rome, that might fly also among subject nations — then would the judges not dare to carry out this portion of the scheme.
“When,” he says, “I had served as Quæstor in Sicily, and had left the province after such a fashion that all the Sicilians had a grateful memory of my authority there, though they had older friends on whom they relied much, they felt that I might be a bulwark to them in their need. These Sicilians, harassed and robbed, have now come to me in public bodies, and have implored me to undertake their defence. ‘The time has come,’ they say, ‘not that I should look after the interest of this or that man, but that I should protect the very life and well-being of the whole province.’ I am inclined by my sense of duty, by the faith which I owe them, by my pity for them, by the example of all good Romans before me, by the custom of the Republic, by the old constitution, to undertake this task, not as pertaining to my own interests, but to those of my close friends.”5 That was his own reason for undertaking the case. Then he reminds the judges of what the Roman people wished — the people who had felt with dismay the injury inflicted upon them by Sulla’s withdrawal of all power from the Tribunes, and by the putting the whole authority of the bench into the hands of the Senators. “The Roman people, much as they have been made to suffer, regret nothing of that they have lost so much as the strength and majesty of the old judges. It is with the desire of having them back that they demand for the Tribunes their former power. It is this misconduct of the present judges that has caused them to ask for another class of men for the judgment-seat. By the fault and to the shame of the judges of today, the Censor’s authority, which has hitherto always been regarded as odious and stern, even that is now requested by the people.”6 Then he goes on to show that, if justice is intended, this case will be put into the hands of him whom the Sicilians have themselves chosen. Had the Sicilians said that they were unwilling to trust their affairs to Cæcilius because they had not known him, but were willing to trust him, Cicero, whom they did know, would not even that have been reasonable enough of itself? But the Sicilians had known both of them, had known Cæcilius almost as well as Cicero, and had expressed themselves clearly. Much as they desired to have Cicero, they were as anxious not to have Cæcilius. Even had they held their tongues about this, everybody would have known it; but they had been far from holding their tongues. “Yet you offer yourself to these most unwilling clients,” he says, turning to Cæcilius. “Yet you are ready to plead in a cause that does not belong to you! Yet you would defend those who would rather have no defender than such a one as you!”7 Then he attacks Hortensius, the advocate for Verres. “Let him not think that, if I am to be employed here, the judges can be bribed without infinite danger to all concerned. In undertaking this cause of the Sicilians, I undertake also the cause of the people of Rome at large. It is not only that one wretched sinner should be crushed, which is what the Sicilians want, but that this terrible injustice should be stopped altogether, in compliance with the wishes of the people.”8 When we remember how this was spoken, in the presence of those very judges, in the presence of Hortensius himself, in reliance only on the public opinion which he was to create by his own words, we cannot but acknowledge that it is very fine.
After that he again turns upon Cæcilius. “Learn from me,” he says, “how many things are expected from him who undertakes the accusation of another. If there be one of those qualities in you, I will give up to you all that you ask.”9 Cæcilius was probably even now in alliance with Verres. He himself, when Quæstor, had robbed the people in the collection of the corn dues, and was unable therefore to include that matter in his accusation. “You can bring no charge against him on this head, lest it be seen that you were a partner with him in the business.”10 He ridicules him as to his personal insufficiency. “What, Cæcilius! as to those practices of the profession without which an action such as this cannot be carried on, do you think that there is nothing in them? Need there be no skill in the business, no habit of speaking, no familiarity with the Forum, with the judgment-seats, and the laws?”11 “I know well how difficult the ground is. Let me advise you to look into yourself, and to see whether you are able to do that kind of thing. Have you got voice for it, prudence, memory, wit? Are you able to expose the life of Verres, as it must be done, to divide it into parts and make everything clear? In doing all this, though nature should have assisted you”— as it has not at all, is of course implied —“if from your earliest childhood you had been imbued with letters; if you had learned Greek at Athens instead of at Lilybæum — Latin in Rome instead of in Sicily — still would it not be a task beyond your strength to undertake such a case, so widely thought of, to complete it by your industry, and then to grasp it in your memory; to make it plain by your eloquence, and to support it with voice and strength sufficient? ‘Have I these gifts,’ you will ask. Would that I had! But from my childhood I have done all that I could to attain them.”12
Cicero makes his points so well that I would fain go through the whole speech, were it not that a similar reason might induce me to give abridgments of all his speeches. It may not be that the readers of these orations will always sympathize with the orator in the matter which he has in hand — though his power over words is so great as to carry the reader with him very generally, even at this distance of time — but the neatness with which the weapon is used, the effectiveness of the thrust for the purpose intended, the certainty with which the nail is hit on the head — never with an expenditure of unnecessary force, but always with the exact strength wanted for the purpose — these are the characteristics of Cicero’s speeches which carry the reader on with a delight which he will want to share with others, as a man when he has heard a good story instantly wishes to tell it again. And with Cicero we are charmed by the modernness, by the tone of today, which his language takes. The rapid way in which he runs from scorn to pity, from pity to anger, from anger to public zeal, and then instantly to irony and ridicule, implies a lightness of touch which, not unreasonably, surprises us as having endured for so many hundred years. That poetry should remain to us, even lines so vapid as some of those in which Ovid sung of love, seems to be more natural, because verses, though they be light, must have been labored. But these words spoken by Cicero seem almost to ring in our ears as having come to us direct from a man’s lips. We see the anger gathering on the brow of Hortensius, followed by a look of acknowledged defeat. We see the startled attention of the judges as they began to feel that in this case they must depart from their intended purpose. We can understand how Cæcilius cowered, and found consolation in being relieved from his task. We can fancy how Verres suffered — Verres whom no shame could have touched — when all his bribes were becoming inefficient under the hands of the orator.
Cicero was chosen for the task, and then the real work began. The work as he did it was certainly beyond the strength of any ordinary advocate. It was necessary that he should proceed to Sicily to obtain the evidence which was to be collected over the whole island. He must rate up, too, all the previous details of the life of this robber. He must be thoroughly prepared to meet the schemers on every point. He asked for a hundred and ten days for the purpose of getting up his case, but he took only fifty. We must imagine that, as he became more thoroughly versed in the intrigues of his adversaries, new lights came upon him. Were he to use the whole time allotted to him, or even half the time, and then make such an exposition of the criminal as he would delight to do were he to indulge himself with that “perpetua oratio” of which we hear, then the trial would be protracted till the coming of certain public games, during which the courts would not sit. There seem to have been three sets of games in his way — a special set for this year, to be given by Pompey, which were to last fifteen days; then the Ludi Romani, which were continued for nine days. Soon after that would come the games in honor of Victory — so soon that an adjournment over them would be obtained as a matter of course. In this way the trial would be thrown over into the next year, when Hortensius and one Metellus would be Consuls, and another Metellus would be the Prætor, controlling the judgment-seats. Glabrio was the Prætor for this present year. In Glabrio Cicero could put some trust. With Hortensius and the two Metelluses in power, Verres would be as good as acquitted. Cicero, therefore, had to be on the alert, so that in this unexpected way, by sacrificing his own grand opportunity for a speech, he might conquer the schemers. We hear how he went to Sicily in a little boat from an unknown port, so as to escape the dangers contrived for him by the friends of Verres.13 If it could be arranged that the clever advocate should be kidnapped by a pirate, what a pleasant way would that be of putting an end to these abominable reforms! Let them get rid of Cicero, if only for a time, and the plunder might still be divided. Against all this he had to provide. When in Sicily he travelled sometimes on foot, for the sake of caution — never with the retinue to which he was entitled as a Roman senator. As a Roman senator he might have demanded free entertainment at any town he entered, at great cost to the town. But from all this he abstained, and hurried back to Rome with his evidence so quickly that he was able to produce it before the judges, so as to save the adjournments which he feared.
Verres retired from the trial, pleading guilty, after hearing the evidence. Of the witnesses and of the manner in which they told the story, we have no account. The second speech which we have — the Divinatio, or speech against Cæcilius, having been the first — is called the Actio Prima contra Verrem —“the first process against Verres.” This is almost entirely confined to an exhortation to the judges. Cicero had made up his mind to make no speech about Verres till after the trial should be over. There would not be the requisite time. The evidence he must bring forward. And he would so appall these corrupt judges that they should not dare to acquit the accused. This Actio Prima contains the words in which he did appall the judges. As we read them, we pity the judges. There were fourteen, whose names we know. That there may have been many more is probable. There was the Prætor Urbanus of the day, Glabrio. With him were Metellus, one of the Prætors for the next year, and Cæsonius, who, with Cicero himself, was Ædile designate. There were three Tribunes of the people and two military Tribunes. There was a Servilius, a Catulus, a Marcellus. Whom among these he suspected we can hardly say. Certainly he suspected Metellus. To Servilius14 he paid an ornate compliment in one of the written orations published after the trial was over, from whence we may suppose that he was well inclined toward him. Of Glabrio he spoke well. The body, as a body, was of such a nature that he found it necessary to appall them. It is thus that he begins: “Not by human wisdom, O ye judges, but by chance, and by the aid, as it were, of the gods themselves, an event has come to pass by which the hatred now felt for your order, and the infamy attached to the judgment seat, may be appeased; for an opinion has gone abroad, disgraceful to the Republic, full of danger to yourselves — which is in the mouths of all men not only here in Rome but through all nations — that by these courts as they are now constituted, a man, if he be only rich enough, will never be condemned, though he be ever so guilty.” What an exordium with which to begin a forensic pleading before a bench of judges composed of Prætors, Ædiles, and coming Consuls! And this at a time, too, when men’s minds were still full of Sulla’s power; when some were thinking that they too might be Sullas; while the idea was still strong that a few nobles ought to rule the Roman Empire for their own advantage and their own luxury! What words to address to a Metellus, a Catulus, and a Marcellus! I have brought before you such a wretch, he goes on to say, that by a just judgment upon him you can recover your favor with the people of Rome, and your credit with other nations. “This is a trial in which you, indeed, will have to judge this man who is accused, but in which also the Roman people will have to judge you. By what is done to him will be determined whether a man who is guilty, and at the same time rich, can possibly be condemned in Rome.15If the matter goes amiss here, all men will declare, not that better men should be selected out of your order, which would be impossible, but that another order of citizens must be named from which to select the judges.”16 This short speech was made. The witnesses were examined during nine days; then Hortensius, with hardly a struggle at a reply, gave way, and Verres stood condemned by his own verdict.
When the trial was over, and Verres had consented to go into exile, and to pay whatever fine was demanded, the “perpetua oratio” which Cicero thought good to make on the matter was published to the world. It is written as though it was to have been spoken, with counterfeit tricks of oratory — with some tricks so well done in the first part of it as to have made one think that, when these special words were prepared, he must have intended to speak them. It has been agreed, however, that such was not the case. It consists of a narration of the villainies of Verres, and is divided into what have been called five different speeches, to which the following appellations are given: De Prætura Urbana, in which we are told what Verres did when he was city Prætor, and very many things also which he did before he came to that office, De Jurisdictione Siciliensi, in which is described his conduct as a Roman magistrate on the island; De Re Frumentaria, setting forth the abomination of his exactions in regard to the corn tax; De Signis, detailing the robberies he perpetuated in regard to statues and other ornaments; and De Suppliciis, giving an account of the murders he committed and the tortures he inflicted. A question is sometimes mooted in conversation whether or no the general happiness of the world has been improved by increasing civilization When the reader finds from these stories, as told by a leading Roman of the day, how men were treated under the Roman oligarchy — not only Greek allies but Romans also — I think he will be inclined to answer the question in favour of civilization.
I can only give a few of the many little histories which have been preserved for us in this Actio Secunda; but perhaps these few may suffice to show how a great Roman officer could demean himself in his government. Of the doings of Verres before he went to Sicily I will select two. It became his duty on one occasion — a job which he seems to have sought for purpose of rapine — to go to Lampsacus, a town in Asia, as lieutenant, or legate, for Dolabella, who then had command in Asia. Lampsacus was on the Hellespont, an allied town of specially good repute. Here he is put up as a guest, with all the honors of a Roman officer, at the house of a citizen named Janitor. But he heard that another citizen, one Philodamus, had a beautiful daughter — an article with which we must suppose that Janitor was not equally well supplied. Verres, determined to get at the lady, orders that his creature Rubrius shall be quartered at the house of Philodamus. Philodamus, who from his rank was entitled to be burdened only with the presence of leading Romans, grumbles at this; but, having grumbled, consents, and having consented, does the best to make his house comfortable. He gives a great supper, at which the Romans eat and drink, and purposely create a tumult. Verres, we understand, was not there. The intention is that the girl shall be carried away and brought to him. In the middle of their cups the father is desired to produce his daughter; but this he refuses to do. Rubrius then orders the doors to be closed, and proceeds to ransack the house. Philodamus, who will not stand this, fetches his son, and calls his fellow-citizens around him. Rubrius succeeds in pouring boiling water over his host, but in the row the Romans get the worst of it. At last one of Verres’s lictors — absolutely a Roman lictor — is killed, and the woman is not carried off. The man at least bore the outward signs of a lictor, but, according to Cicero, was in the pay of Verres as his pimp.
So far Verres fails; and the reader, rejoicing at the courage of the father who could protect his own house even against Romans, begins to feel some surprise that this case should have been selected. So far the lieutenant had not done the mischief he had intended, but he soon avenges his failure. He induces Dolabella, his chief, to have Philodamus and his son carried off to Laodicea, and there tried before Nero, the then Proconsul, for killing the sham lictor. They are tried at Laodicea before Nero, Verres himself sitting as one of the judges, and are condemned. Then in the market place of the town, in the presence of each other, the father and son are beheaded — a thing, as Cicero says, very sad for all Asia to behold. All this had been done some years ago; and, nevertheless, Verres had been chosen Prætor, and sent to Sicily to govern the Sicilians.
When Verres was Prætor at Rome — the year before he was sent to Sicily — it became his duty, or rather privilege, as he found it, to see that a certain temple of Castor in the city was given up in proper condition by the executors of a defunct citizen who had taken a contract for keeping it in repair. This man, whose name had been Junius, left a son, who was a Junius also under age, with a large fortune in charge of various trustees, tutors, as they were called, whose duty it was to protect the heir’s interests. Verres, knowing of old that no property was so easily preyed on as that of a minor, sees at once that something may be done with the temple of Castor. The heir took oath, and to the extent of his property he was bound to keep the edifice in good repair. But Verres, when he made an inspection, finds everything to be in more than usually good order. There is not a scratch on the roof of which he can make use. Nothing has been allowed to go astray. Then “one of his dogs”— for he had boasted to his friend Ligur that he always went about with dogs to search out his game for him — suggested that some of the columns were out of the perpendicular. Verres does not know what this means; but the dog explains. All columns are, in fact, by strict measurement, more or less out of the perpendicular, as we are told that all eyes squint a little, though we do not see that they squint. But as columns ought to be perpendicular, here was a matter on which he might go to work. He does go to work. The trustees knowing their man — knowing also that in the present condition of Rome it was impossible to escape from an unjust Prætor without paying largely — went to his mistress and endeavored to settle the matter with her. Here we have an amusing picture of the way in which the affairs of the city were carried on in that lady’s establishment; how she had her levee, took her bribes, and drove a lucrative trade. Doing, however, no good with her, the trustees settled with an agent to pay Verres two hundred thousand sesterces to drop the affair. This was something under £2000. But Verres repudiated the arrangement with scorn. He could do much better than that with such a temple and such a minor. He puts the repairs up to auction; and refusing a bid from the trustees themselves — the very persons who are the most interested in getting the work done, if there were work to do — has it knocked down to himself for five hundred and sixty thousand sesterces, or about £5000.17 Then we are told how he had the pretended work done by the putting up of a rough crane. No real work is done, no new stones are brought, no money is spent. That is the way in which Verres filled his office as Prætor Urbanus; but it does not seem that any public notice is taken of his iniquities as long as he confined himself to little jobs such as this.
Then we come to the affairs of Sicily — and the long list of robberies is commenced by which that province was made desolate. It seems that nothing gave so grand a scope to the greed of a public functionary who was at the same time governor and judge as disputed wills. It was not necessary that any of the persons concerned should dispute the will among them. Given the facts that a man had died and left property behind him, then Verres would find means to drag the heir into court, and either frighten him into payment of a bribe or else rob him of his inheritance. Before he left Rome for the province he heard that a large fortune had been left to one Dio on condition that he should put up certain statues in the market-place.18 It was not uncommon for a man to desire the reputation of adorning his own city, but to choose that the expense should be borne by his heir rather than by himself. Failing to put up the statues, the heir was required to pay a fine to Venus Erycina — to enrich, that is, the worship of that goddess, who had a favorite temple under Mount Eryx. The statues had been duly erected. But, nevertheless, here there was an opening. So Verres goes to work, and in the name of Venus brings an action against Dio. The verdict is given, not in favor of Venus but in favor of Verres.
This manner of paying honor to the gods, and especially to Venus, was common in Sicily. Two sons19 received a fortune from their father, with a condition that, if some special thing were not done, a fine should be paid to Venus. The man had been dead twenty years ago. But “the dogs” which the Prætor kept were very sharp, and, distant as was the time, found out the clause. Action is taken against the two sons, who indeed gain their case; but they gain it by a bribe so enormous that they are ruined men. There was one Heraclius,20 the son of Hiero, a nobleman of Syracuse, who received a legacy amounting to 3,000,000 sesterces — we will say £24,000 — from a relative, also a Heraclius. He had, too, a house full of handsome silver plate, silk and hangings, and valuable slaves. A man, “Dives equom, dives pictai vestis et auri.” Verres heard, of course. He had by this time taken some Sicilian dogs into his service, men of Syracuse, and had learned from them that there was a clause in the will of the elder Heraclius that certain statues should be put up in the gymnasium of the city. They undertake to bring forward servants of the gymnasium who should say that the statues were never properly erected. Cicero tells us how Verres went to work, now in this court, now in that, breaking all the laws as to Sicilian jurisdiction, but still proceeding under the pretence of law, till he got everything out of the wretch — not only all the legacies from Heraclius, but every shilling, and every article left to the man by his father. There is a pretence of giving some of the money to the town of Syracuse; but for himself he takes all the valuables, the Corinthian vases, the purple hangings, what slaves he chooses. Then everything else is sold by auction. How he divided the spoil with the Syracusans, and then quarrelled with them, and how he lied as to the share taken by himself, will all be found in Cicero’s narrative. Heraclius was of course ruined. For the stories of Epicrates and Sopater I must refer the reader to the oration. In that of Sopater there is the peculiarity that Verres managed to get paid by everybody all round.
The story of Sthenius is so interesting that I cannot pass it by. Sthenius was a man of wealth and high standing, living at Therma in Sicily, with whom Verres often took up his abode; for, as governor, he travelled much about the island, always in pursuit of plunder. Sthenius had had his house full of beautiful things. Of all these Verres possessed himself — some by begging, some by demanding, and some by absolute robbery. Sthenius, grieved as he was to find himself pillaged, bore all this. The man was Roman Prætor, and injuries such as these had to be endured. At Therma, however, in the public place of the city, there were some beautiful statues. For these Verres longed, and desired his host to get them for him. Sthenius declared that this was impossible. The statues had, under peculiar circumstances, been recovered by Scipio Africanus from Carthage, and been restored by the Roman General to the Sicilians, from whom they had been taken, and had been erected at Therma. There was a peculiarly beautiful figure of Stesichorus, the poet, as an old man bent double, with a book in his hand — a very glorious work of art; and there was a goat — in bronze probably — as to which Cicero is at the pains of telling us that even he, unskilled as he was in such matters, could see its charms. No one had sharper eyes for such pretty ornaments than Cicero, or a more decided taste for them. But as Hortensius, his rival and opponent in this case, had taken a marble sphinx from Verres, he thought it expedient to show how superior he was to such matters. There was probably something of joke in this, as his predilections would no doubt be known to those he was addressing.21
In the matter Sthenius was incorruptible, and not even the Prætor could carry them away without his aid. Cicero, who is very warm in praise of Sthenius, declares that “here at last Verres had found one town, the only one in the world, from which he was unable to carry away something of the public property by force, or stealth, or open command, or favor.”22 The governor was so disgusted with this that he abandoned Sthenius, leaving the house which he had plundered of everything, and betook himself to that of one Agathinus, who had a beautiful daughter, Callidama, who, with her husband, Dorotheus, lived with her father They were enemies of Sthenius, and we are given to understand that Verres ingratiated himself with them partly for the sake of Callidama, who seems very quickly to have been given up to him,23 and partly that he might instigate them to bring actions against Sthenius. This is done with great success; so that Sthenius is forced to run away, and betake himself, winter as it was, across the seas to Rome. It has already been told that when he was at Rome an action was brought against him by Verres for having run away when he was under judgment, in which Cicero defended him, and in which he was acquitted. In the teeth of his acquittal, Verres persecuted the man by every form of law which came to his hands as Prætor, but always in opposition to the law. There is an audacity about the man’s proceedings, in his open contempt of the laws which it was his special duty to carry out, making us feel how confident he was that he could carry everything before him in Rome by means of his money. By robbery and concealing his robberies, by selling his judgments in such a way that he should maintain some reticence by ordinary precaution, he might have made much money, as other governors had done. But he resolved that it would pay him better to rob everywhere openly, and then, when the day of reckoning came, to buy the judges wholesale. As to shame at such doings, there was no such feelings left among Romans.
Before he comes to the story of Sthenius, Cicero makes a grandly ironical appeal to the bench before him: “Yes, O judges, keep this man; keep him in the State! Spare him, preserve him so that he, too, may sit with us as a judge here so that he, too, may, with impartiality, advise us, as a Senator, what may be best for us as to peace and war! Not that we need trouble ourselves as to his senatorial duties. His authority would be nothing. When would he dare, or when would he care, to come among us? Unless it might be in the idle month of February, when would a man so idle, so debauched, show himself in the Senate-house? Let him come and show himself. Let him advise us to attack the Cretans; to pronounce the Greeks of Byzantium free; to declare Ptolemy King.24 Let him speak and vote as Hortensius may direct. This will have but little effect upon our lives or our property. But beyond this there is something we must look to; something that would be distrusted; something that every good man has to fear! If by chance this man should escape out of our hands, he would have to sit there upon that bench and be a judge. He would be called upon to pronounce on the lives of a Roman citizen. He would be the right-hand officer in the army of this man here,25 of this man who is striving to be the lord and ruler of our judgment-seats. The people of Rome at least refuse this! This at least cannot be endured!”
The third of these narratives tells us how Verres managed in his province that provision of corn for the use of Rome, the collection of which made the possession of Sicily so important to the Romans. He begins with telling his readers — as he does too frequently — how great and peculiar is the task he has undertaken; and he uses an argument of which we cannot but admit the truth, though we doubt whether any modern advocate would dare to put it forward. We must remember, however, that Romans were not accustomed to be shamefaced in praising themselves. What Cicero says of himself all others said also of themselves; only Cicero could say it better than others. He reminds us that he who accuses another of any crime is bound to be especially free from that crime himself. “Would you charge any one as a thief? you must be clear from any suspicion of even desiring another man’s property. Have you brought a man up for malice or cruelty? take care that you be not found hard-hearted. Have you called a man a seducer or an adulterer? be sure that your own life shows no trace of such vices. Whatever you would punish in another, that you must avoid yourself. A public accuser would be intolerable, or even a caviller, who should inveigh against sins for which he himself is called in question. But in this man I find all wickednesses combined. There is no lust, no iniquity, no shamelessness of which his life does not supply with ample evidence.” The nature of the difficulty to which Cicero is thus subjected is visible enough. As Verres is all that is bad, so must he, as accuser, be all that is good; which is more, we should say, than any man would choose to declare of himself! But he is equal to the occasion. “In regard to this man, O judges, I lay down for myself the law as I have stated it. I must so live that I must clearly seem to be, and always have been, the very opposite of this man, not only in my words and deeds, but as to that arrogance and impudence which you see in him.” Then he shows how opposite he is to Verres at any rate, in impudence! “I am not sorry to see,” he goes on to say, “that that life which has always been the life of my own choosing, has now been made a necessity to me by the law which I have laid down for myself.”26 Mr. Pecksniff spoke of himself in the same way, but no one, I think, believed him. Cicero probably was believed. But the most wonderful thing is, that his manner of life justified what he said of himself. When others of his own order were abandoned to lust, iniquity, and shamelessness, he lived in purity, with clean hands, doing good as far as was in his power to those around him. A laugh will be raised at his expense in regard to that assertion of his that, even in the matter of arrogance, his conduct should be the opposite of that of Verres. But this will come because I have failed to interpret accurately the meaning of those words, “oris oculorumque illa contumacia ac superbia quam videtis.” Verres, as we can understand, had carried himself during the trial with a bragging, brazen, bold face, determined to show no shame as to his own doings. It is in this, which was a matter of manner and taste, that Cicero declares that he will be the man’s opposite as well as in conduct. As to the ordinary boastings, by which it has to be acknowledged that Cicero sometimes disgusts his readers, it will be impossible for us to receive a just idea of his character without remembering that it was the custom of a Roman to boast. We wait to have good things said of us, or are supposed to wait. The Roman said them of himself. The “veni, vidi, vici” was the ordinary mode of expression in those times, and in earlier times among the Greeks.27 This is distasteful to us; and it will probably be distasteful to those who come after us, two or three hundred years hence, that this or that British statesman should have made himself an Earl or a Knight of the Garter. Now it is thought by many to be proper enough. It will shock men in future days that great peers or rich commoners should have bargained for ribbons and lieutenancies and titles. Now it is the way of the time. Though virtue and vice may be said to remain the same from all time to all time, the latitudes allowed and the deviations encouraged in this or the other age must be considered before the character of a man can be discovered. The boastings of Cicero have been preserved for us. We have to bethink ourselves that his words are 2000 years old. There is such a touch of humanity in them, such a feeling of latter-day civilization and almost of Christianity, that we are apt to condemn what remains in them of paganism, as though they were uttered yesterday. When we come to the coarseness of his attacks, his descriptions of Piso by-and-by, his abuse of Gabinius, and his invectives against Antony; when we read his altered opinions, as shown in the period of Cæsar’s dominion, his flattery of Cæsar when in power, and his exultations when Cæsar has been killed; when we find that he could be coarse in his language and a bully, and servile — for it has all to be admitted — we have to reflect under what circumstances, under what surroundings, and for what object were used the words which displease us. Speaking before the full court at this trial, he dared to say he knew how to live as a man and to carry himself as a gentleman. As men and gentlemen were then, he was justified.
The description of Verres’s rapacity in regard to the corn tax is long and complex, and need hardly be followed at length, unless by those who desire to know how the iniquity of such a one could make the most of an imposition which was in itself very bad, and pile up the burden till the poor province was unable to bear it. There were three kinds of imposition as to corn. The first, called the “decumanum,” was simply a tithe.
The producers through the island had to furnish Rome with a tenth of their produce, and it was the Prætor’s duty, or rather that of the Quæstor under the Prætor, to see that the tithe was collected. How Verres saw to this himself, and how he treated the Sicilian husbandmen in regard to the tithe, is so told that we are obliged to give the man credit for an infinite fertility of resources. Then there is the “emptum,” or corn bought for the use of Rome, of which there were two kinds. A second tithe had to be furnished at a price fixed by the Roman Senate, which price was considered to be below that of its real value, and then 800,000 bushels were purchased, or nominally purchased, at a price which was also fixed by the Senate, but which was nearer to the real value. Three sesterces a bushel for the first and four for the last, were the prices fixed at this time. For making these payments vast sums of money were remitted to Verres, of which the accounts were so kept that it was hard to say whether any found its way into the hands of the farmers who undoubtedly furnished the corn. The third corn tax was the “æstimatum.” This consisted of a certain fixed quantity which had to be supplied to the Prætor for the use of his governmental establishment — to be supplied either in grain or in money. What such a one as Verres would do with his, the reader may conceive.
All this was of vital importance to Rome. Sicily and Africa were the granaries from which Rome was supplied with its bread. To get supplies from a province was necessary. Rich men have servants in order that they may live at ease themselves. So it was with the Romans to whom the provinces acted as servants. It was necessary to have a sharp agent, some Proconsul or Proprætor; but when there came one so sharp as Verres, all power of recreating supplies would for a time be destroyed. Even Cicero boasted that in a time of great scarcity, he, being then Quæstor in Sicily, had sent extraordinary store of corn over to the city.28 But he had so done it as to satisfy all who were concerned.
Verres, in his corn dealings with the Sicilians, had a certain friend, companion, and minister — one of his favorite dogs, perhaps we may call him — named Apronius, whom Cicero specially describes. The description I must give, because it is so powerful; because it shows us how one man could in those days speak of another in open court before all the world; because it affords us an instance of the intensity of hatred which the orator could throw into his words; but I must hide it in the original language, as I could not translate it without offence.29
Then we have a book devoted to the special pillage of statues and other ornaments, which, for the genius displayed in story-telling, is perhaps of all the Verrine orations the most amusing. The Greek people had become in a peculiar way devoted to what we generally call Art. We are much given to the collecting of pictures, china, bronze, and marbles, partly from love of such things, partly from pride in ornamenting our houses so as to excite the admiration of others, partly from a feeling that money so invested is not badly placed with a view to future returns. All these feelings operated with the Greeks to a much greater extent. Investments in consols and railway shares were not open to them. Money they used to lend at usury, no doubt, but with a great chance of losing it. The Greek colonists were industrious, were covetous, and prudent. From this it had come to pass that, as they made their way about the world — to the cities which they established round the Mediterranean — they collected in their new homes great store of ornamental wealth. This was done with much profusion at Syracuse, a Greek city in Sicily, and spread from them over the whole island. The temples of the gods were filled with the works of the great Greek artists, and every man of note had his gallery. That Verres, hog as he is described to have been, had a passion for these things, is manifest to us. He came to his death at last in defence of some favorite images. He had returned to Rome by means of Cæsar’s amnesty, and Marc Antony had him murdered because he would not surrender some treasures of art. When we read the De Signis — About Statues — we are led to imagine that the search after these things was the chief object of the man throughout his three years of office — as we have before been made to suppose that all his mind and time had been devoted to the cheating of the Sicilians in the matter of corn. But though Verres loved these trinkets, it was not altogether for himself that he sought them. Only one third of his plunder was for himself. Senators, judges, advocates, Consuls, and Prætors could be bribed with articles of vertu as well as with money.
There are eleven separate stories told of these robberies. I will give very shortly the details of one or two. There was one Marcus Heius, a rich citizen of Messana, in whose house Verres took great delight. Messana itself was very useful to him, and the Mamertines, as the people of Messana were called were his best friends in all Sicily: for he made Messana the depot of his plunder, and there he caused to be built at the expense of the Government an enormous ship called the Cybea,30 in which his treasures were carried out of the island. He therefore specially favored Messana, and the district of Messana was supposed to have been scourged by him with lighter rods than those used elsewhere in Sicily. But this man Heius had a chapel, very sacred, in which were preserved four specially beautiful images. There was a Cupid by Praxiteles, and a bronze Hercules by Myro, and two Can[oe]phræ by Polycletus. These were treasures which all the world came to see, and which were open to be seen by all the world. These Verres took away, and caused accounts to be forged in which it was made to appear that he had bought them for trifling sums. It seems that some forced assent had been obtained from Heius as to the transaction. Now there was a plan in vogue for making things pleasant for a Proconsul retiring from his government, in accordance with which a deputation would proceed from the province to Rome to declare how well and kindly the Proconsul had behaved in his government. The allies, even when they had been, as it were, skinned alive by their governor, were constrained to send their deputations. Deputations were got up in Sicily from Messana and Syracuse, and with the others from Messana came this man Heius. Heius did not wish to tell about his statues; but he was asked questions, and was forced to answer. Cicero informs us how it all took place. “He was a man,” he said — this is what Cicero tells us that Heius said —“who was well esteemed in his own country, and would wish you”— you judges —“to think well of his religious spirit and of his personal dignity. He had come here to praise Verres because he had been required to do so by his fellow-citizens. He, however, had never kept things for sale in his own house; and had he been left to himself, nothing would have induced him to part with the sacred images which had been left to him by his ancestors as the ornaments of his own chapel.31 Nevertheless, he had come to praise Verres, and would have held his tongue had it been possible.”
Cicero finishes his catalogue by telling us of the manifold robberies committed by Verres in Syracuse, especially from the temples of the gods; and he begins his account of the Syracusan iniquities by drawing a parallel between two Romans whose names were well known in that city: Marcellus, who had besieged it as an enemy and taken it, and Verres, who had been sent to govern it in peace. Marcellus had saved the lives of the Syracusans; Verres had made the Forum to run with their blood. The harbor which had held its own against Marcellus, as we may read in our Livy, had been wilfully opened by Verres to Cilician pirates. This Syracuse which had been so carefully preserved by its Roman conqueror, the most beautiful of all the Greek cities on the face of the earth — so beautiful that Marcellus had spared to it all its public ornaments — had been stripped bare by Verres. There was the temple of Minerva from which he had taken all the pictures. There were doors to this temple of such beauty that books had been written about them. He stripped the ivory ornaments from them, and the golden balls with which they had been made splendid. He tore off from them the head of the Gorgon and carried it away, leaving them to be rude doors, Goth that he was!
And he took the Sappho from the Prytaneum, the work of Silanion! a thing of such beauty that no other man can have the like of it in his own private house; yet Verres has it — a man hardly fit to carry such a work of art as a burden, not possess it as a treasure of his own. “What, too!” he says, “have you not stolen Pæan from the temple of Æsculapius — a statue so remarkable for its beauty, so well-known for the worship attached to it, that all the world has been wont to visit it? What! has not the image of Aristæus been taken by you from the temple of Bacchus? Have you not even stolen the statue of Jupiter Imperator, so sacred in the eyes of all men — that Jupiter which the Greeks call Ourios? You have not hesitated to rob the temple of Proserpine of the lovely head in Parian marble.”32 Then Cicero speaks of the worship due to all these gods as though he himself believed in their godhead. As he had begun this chapter with the Mamertines of Messana, so he ends it with an address to them. “It is well that you should come, you alone out of all the provinces, and praise Verres here in Rome. But what can you say for him? Was it not your duty to have built a ship for the Republic? You have built none such, but have constructed a huge private transport-vessel for Verres. Have you not been exempted from your tax on corn? Have you not been exempted in regard to naval and military recruits? Have you not been the receptacle of all his stolen goods? They will have to confess, these Mamertines, that many a ship laden with his spoils has left their port, and especially this huge transport-ship which they built for him!”
In the De Suppliciis — the treatise about punishments, as the last division of this process is called — Cicero tells the world how Verres exacted vengeance from those who were opposed to him, and with what horrid cruelty he raged against his enemies. The stories, indeed, are very dreadful. It is harrowing to think that so evil a man should have been invested with powers so great for so bad a purpose. But that which strikes a modern reader most is the sanctity attached to the name of a Roman citizen, and the audacity with which the Roman Proconsul disregarded that sanctity. “Cives Romanus” is Cicero’s cry from the beginning to the end. No doubt he is addressing himself to Romans, and seeking popularity, as he always did. But, nevertheless, the demands made upon the outside world at large by the glory of that appellation are astonishing, even when put forward on such an occasion as this. One Gavius escapes from a prison in Syracuse, and, making his way to Messana, foolishly boasts that he would be soon over in Italy, out of the way of Prætor Verres and his cruelties. Verres, unfortunately, is in Messana, and soon hears from some of his friends, the Mamertines, what Gavius was saying. He at once orders Gavius to be flogged in public. “Cives Romanus sum!” exclaims Gavius, no doubt truly. It suits Verres to pretend to disbelieve this, and to declare that the man is a runagate slave. The poor wretch still cries “Cives Romanus!” and trusts alone to that appeal. Whereupon Verres puts up a cross on the sea-shore, and has the man crucified in sight of Italy, so that he shall be able to see the country of which he is so proud. Whether he had done anything to deserve crucifixion, or flogging, or punishment at all, we are not told. The accusation against Verres is not for crucifying the man, but for crucifying the Roman. It is on this occasion that Cicero uses the words which have become proverbial as to the iniquity of this proceeding.33 During the telling of this story he explains this doctrine, claiming for the Roman citizen, all the world over, some such protection as freemasons are supposed to give each other, whether known or unknown. “Men of straw,” he says, “of no special birth, go about the world. They resort to places they have never seen before, where they know none, and none know them. Here, trusting to their claim solely, they feel themselves to be safe — not only where our magistrates are to be found, who are bound both by law and by opinion, not only among other Roman citizens who speak their language and follow the same customs, but abroad, over the whole world, they find this to be sufficient protection.”34 Then he goes on to say that if any Prætor may at his will put aside this sanctity, all the provinces, all the kingdoms, all the free states, all the world abroad, will very soon lose the feeling.
But the most remarkable story is that told of a certain pirate captain. Verres had been remiss in regard to the pirates — very cowardly, indeed, if we are to believe Cicero. Piracy in the Mediterranean was at that time a terrible drawback to trade — that piracy that a year or two afterward Pompey was effectual in destroying. A governor in Sicily had, among other special duties, to keep a sharp lookout for the pirates. This Verres omitted so entirely that these scourges of the sea soon learned that they might do almost as they pleased on the Sicilian coasts. But it came to pass that on one day a pirate vessel fell by accident into the hands of the governor’s officers. It was not taken, Cicero says, but was so overladen that it was picked up almost sinking.35 It was found to be full of fine, handsome men, of silver both plated and coined, and precious stuffs. Though not “taken,” it was “found,” and carried into Syracuse. Syracuse is full of the news, and the first demand is that the pirates, according to Roman custom, shall all be killed. But this does not suit Verres. The slave-markets of the Roman Empire are open, and there are men among the pirates whom it will suit him better to sell than to kill. There are six musicians, “symphoniacos homines,” whom he sends as a present to a friend at Rome. But the people of Syracuse are very much in earnest. They are too sharp to be put off with pretences, and they count the number of slaughtered pirates. There are only some useless, weak, ugly old fellows beheaded from day to day; and being well aware how many men it must have taken to row and manage such a vessel, they demand that the full crew shall be brought to the block. “There is nothing in victory more sweet,” says Cicero, “no evidence more sure, than to see those whom you did fear, but have now got the better of, brought out to tortures or death.”36 Verres is so much frightened by the resolution of the citizens that he does not dare to neglect their wishes. There are lying in the prisons of Syracuse a lot of prisoners, Roman citizens, of whom he is glad to rid himself. He has them brought out, with their heads wrapped up so that they shall not be known, and has them beheaded instead of the pirates! A great deal is said, too, about the pirate captain — the arch-pirate, as he is called. There seems to have been some money dealings personally between him and Verres, on account of which Verres kept him hidden. At any rate, the arch-pirate was saved. “In such a manner this celebrated victory is managed.37 The pirate ship is taken, and the chief pirate is allowed to escape. The musicians are sent to Rome. The men who are good-looking and young are taken to the Prætor’s house. As many Roman citizens as will fill their places are carried out as public enemies, and are tortured and killed! All the gold and silver and precious stuffs are made a prize of by Verres!”
Such are the accusations brought against this wonderful man — the truth of which has, I think, on the whole been admitted. The picture of Roman life which it displays is wonderful, that such atrocities should have been possible; and equally so of provincial subjection, that such cruelties should have been endured. But in it all the greatest wonder is that there should have risen up a man so determined to take the part of the weak against the strong with no reward before him, apparently with no other prospect than that of making himself odious to the party to which he belonged. Cicero was not a Gracchus, anxious to throw himself into the arms of the people; he was an oligarch by conviction, born to oligarchy, bred to it, convinced that by it alone could the Roman Republic be preserved. But he was convinced also that unless these oligarchs could be made to do their duty the Republic could not stand. Therefore it was that he dared to defy his own brethren, and to make the acquittal of Verres an impossibility. I should be inclined to think that the day on which Hortensius threw up the sponge, and Verres submitted to banishment and fine, was the happiest in the orator’s life.
Verres was made to pay a fine which was very insufficient for his crimes, and then to retire into comfortable exile. From this he returned to Rome when the Roman exiles were amnestied, and was shortly afterward murdered by Antony, as has been told before.
1 M. du Rozoir was a French critic, and was joined with M. Guéroult and M. de Guerle in translating and annotating the Orations of Cicero for M. Panckoucke’s edition of the Latin classics.
2 In Verrem Actio Secunda, lib. i., vii.
3 Plutarch says that Cæcilius was an emancipated slave, and a Jew, which could not have been true, as he was a Roman Senator.
4 De Oratore, lib. ii., c. xlix. The feeling is beautifully expressed in the words put into the mouth of Antony in the discussion on the charms and attributes of eloquence: “Qui mihi in liberum loco more majorum esse deberet.”
5 In Q. Cæc. Divinatio, ca. ii.
6 Divinatio, ca. iii.
7 Ibid., ca. vi.
8 Ibid., ca. viii.
9 Divinatio, ca. ix.
10 Ibid., ca. xi.
12 Ibid., ca. xii.
13 Actio Secunda, lib. ii., xl. He is speaking of Sthenius, and the illegality of certain proceedings on the part of Verres against him. “If an accused man could be condemned in the absence of the accuser, do you think that I would have gone in a little boat from Vibo to Velia, among all the dangers prepared for me by your fugitive slaves and pirates, when I had to hurry at the peril of my life, knowing that you would escape if I were not present to the day?”
14 Actio Secunda, l. xxi.
15 In Verrem, Actio Prima, xvi.
16 In Verrem, Actio Prima, xvi.
17 We are to understand that the purchaser at the auction having named the sum for which he would do the work, the estate of the minor, who was responsible for the condition of the temple, was saddled with that amount.
18 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. ii., vii.
19 Ibid., ix.
20 Ibid., lib. ii., xiv.
21 See Appendix C.
22 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. ii., ca. xxxvi.
23 Ibid. “Una nox intercesserat, quam iste Dorotheum sic diligebat, ut diceres, omnia inter eos esse communia.”— wife and all. “Iste” always means Verres in these narratives.
24 These were burning political questions of the moment. It was as though an advocate of our days should desire some disgraced member of Parliament to go down to the House and assist the Government in protecting Turkey in Asia and invading Zululand.
25 “Sit in ejus exercitu signifer.” The “ejus” was Hortensius, the coming Consul, too whom Cicero intended to be considered as pointing. For the passage, see In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. ii., xxxi.
26 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. iii., 11.
27 “Exegi monumentum ære perennius,” said Horace, gloriously. “Sum pius Æneas” is Virgil’s expression, put into the mouth of his hero. “Ipse Menaleas,” said Virgil himself. Homer and Sophocles introduce their heroes with self-sounded trumpetings:
[Greek: Eim’ Odysseus Daertiadês hos pasi doloisi
Anthrôpoisi melô, kai meu kleos ouranon ikei.]
Odyssey, book ix., 19 and 20.
[Greek: Ho pasi kleinos Oidipous kaloumenos.]
[OE]dipus Tyrannus, 8.
28 Pro Plancio, xxvi.: “Frumenti in summa caritate maximum numerum miseram; negotiatoribus comis, mercatoribus justus, municipibus liberalis, sociis abstinens, omnibus eram visus in omni officio diligentissimus.”
29 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. iii., ix.: “Is erit Apronius ille; qui, ut ipse non solum vita, sed etiam corpore atque ore significat, immensa aliqua vorago est ac gurges vitiorum turpitudinumque omnium. Hunc in omnibus stupris, hunc in fanorum expilationibus, hunc in impuris conviviis principem adhibebat; tantamque habebat morum similitudo conjunctionem atque concordiam, ut Apronius, qui aliis inhumanus ac barbarus, isti uni commodus ac disertus videretur; ut quem omnes odissent neque videre vellent sine eo iste esse non posset; ut quum alii ne conviviis quidem iisdem quibus Apronius, hic iisdem etiam poculis uteretur, postremo, ut, odor Apronii teterrimus oris et corporis, quem, ut aiunt, ne bestiæ quidem ferre possent, uni isti suavis et jucundus videretur. Ille erat in tribunali proximus; in cubiculo socius; in convivio dominus, ac tum maxime, quum, accubante prætextato prætoris filio, in convivio saltare nudus c[oe]perat.”
30 A great deal is said of the Cybea in this and the last speech. The money expended on it was passed through the accounts as though the ship had been built for the defence of the island from pirates, but it was intended solely for the depository of the governor’s plunder.
31 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. iv., vii.
32 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. iv., lvii.
33 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. v., lxvi.: “Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum; scelus verberari; prope parricidium necari; quid dicam in crucem tollere!”
34 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. v., lxv.
35 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. v., xx.: “Onere suo plane captam atque depressam.”
36 In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. v., xxvi.
37 Ibid., xxviii.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01