Cicero : In Verrem 1

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.

[1.] L   [1] Gentlemen of the Court : At this great political crisis, there seems to have been offered to you, not through man's wisdom but almost as the direct gift of heaven, the very thing that was most to be desired ; a thing that will help, more than anything else, to mitigate the unpopularity of your Order and the discredit attaching to these Courts of Law. A belief has by this time established itself, as harmful to the whole nation as it is perilous to yourselves, and everywhere expressed not merely by our own people but by foreigners as well: the belief that these Courts, constituted as they now are, will never convict any man, however guilty, if only he has money. [2] And now, at the moment of supreme danger for your Order and your judicial privileges, when preparations have been made for an attempt, by means of public meetings and proposals for legislation, to fan the flames of senatorial unpopularity, Gaius Verres appears, to stand his trial before you : a man already condemned, in the world's opinion, by his life and deeds; already acquitted, according to his own confident assertions, by his vast fortune. In this case, gentlemen, I appear as prosecutor, backed by the strong approval and keen interest of the nation; not to increase the unpopularity of your Order, but to help in allaying the discredit which is mine as well as yours. The character of the man I am prosecuting is such, that you may use him to restore the lost good name of these Courts, to regain favour at home, and to give satisfaction abroad: he has robbed the Treasury, and plundered Asia and Pamphylia ; he has behaved like a pirate in his city praetorship, and like a destroying pestilence in his province of Sicily. [3] You have only to pronounce against this man an upright and conscientious verdict, and you will continue to possess that public respect which ought always to belong to you. If, however, the vastness of his wealth shatters the conscience and the honesty of the judges in these Courts, I shall achieve one thing at least: it will be felt that the nation lacked the right judges in this case, and not that the judges lacked the right prisoner to convict, or the prisoner the right man to prosecute him.

[2.] L   May I make you a personal confession, gentlemen? Many are the stealthy attacks that Verres has delivered against me by land and sea, some of which I have eluded by my own carefulness, repelling the rest with the help of my energetic and loyal friends. Yet never have I felt myself facing such grave danger, nor been so thoroughly alarmed, as now when the trial has begun. [4] And it is not the eagerness with which my speech for the prosecution is awaited, nor the huge crowd assembled here, that thus affects me, profoundly disturbing as these things are to me: it is rather the unscrupulous assault that Verres is secretly attempting to launch, at once against myself, and you, and the praetor Manius Glabrio, ** and the Roman nation, and their allies, and the foreign world, and the senatorial order, and all that the Senate means and is. He goes about saying that people have reason to fear the consequences of filching enough for themselves only, but that he himself has carried off enough for a great many people; that no sanctuary is too holy for money to defile it, no fortress too strong for money to capture it.

[5] If only the audacity of his designs were equalled by his secrecy in carrying them out, he might perhaps have contrived, at some time or in some detail, to hide them from me. But it has very fortunately come about, hitherto, that his incredible audacity has been accompanied by unparalleled folly. Just as he has been quite open in amassing his stolen wealth, so he has revealed quite clearly to everybody the plans and schemes by which he aims at corrupting his judges. He says he was really frightened once in his life - on the day when I first issued the summons against him ; not only because he had newly arrived from his province to face a blaze of hatred and dislike, which, so far from being new, had burnt steadily for a long time past, but also because he had stumbled upon a time unsuitable for corrupting the Court. [6] That is why, when I had applied for a very short space of time in which to go and collect my evidence in Sicily, he found himself another man to apply for a period shorter by two days in which to do the like in Achaea ; not with any idea that the latter should effect by his carefulness and energy what I have achieved by my own hard work and watchfulness - indeed, this collector of evidence in Achaea never got even so far as Brundisium ; whereas I covered the whole of Sicily in fifty days, so effectively, that I acquired knowledge of the wrongs, and the documents recording the wrongs, of all the communities and individuals concerned : so that anyone could see quite clearly that Verres secured the man not to prosecute his own victim but to block the way for me.

[3.] L   [7] Let me tell you of the impudent and insane plan that is now in his mind. It is plain to him that I am approaching this case so well equipped and prepared for it that I shall be able to pin him down as a robber and a criminal, not merely in the hearing of this Court, but before the eyes of the whole world. He sees how many senators, and how many Roman knights, have come to testify to his evil violence; he sees also the throng of those, citizens of our own and of allied states, to whom he has himself done conspicuous wrong; he sees, too, from communities that are among our best friends, how many deputations, formed of responsible men and armed with official documents, are assembled here against him. [8] But in spite of this, he holds so low an opinion of the whole upper class, he believes the senatorial Courts to be so utterly abandoned and corrupt, that he goes about remarking openly what good reason he had to set his heart on making money, since he finds his money such a tower of strength to him; how he bought himself the hardest thing to buy, the right date for his own trial, so that he might be able to buy all else the more easily afterwards, and since he could not possibly escape the rough waters of prosecution, might at least avoid the gales of the stormy season. [9] And yet if he could have placed any trust, I do not say in the strength of his case, but in any honourable kind of defence, in the eloquence, or in the popularity, of any of his supporters, he would certainly not have been driving and hunting such game as that; he would not have held a view of the senatorial order so low and contemptuous as to set about the selection of a senator, ** chosen by his own caprice, to be the object of a prosecution, and to stand his trial first, while he himself meanwhile was making the preparations he needed.

[10] Now, in all this, I can see easily enough what his hopes are, and what ends he has in view: but with such a court and such a president of the court as we now have sitting here, I do fail to understand how he can expect to gain his ends at all. One thing alone I do understand - and the people of Rome were convinced of this when the challenging of the judges took place : his hopes were of such a kind that he looked upon his money as his only possible means of escape, and never supposed that, if this support were taken from him, anything else could help him.

[4.] L   And indeed what brain could be powerful enough, what eloquence ready or rich enough, to defend with even partial success the career of Verres, a career convicted already of countless vices and countless crimes, and condemned long ago by the feelings, and by the judgement, of all the world? [11] I pass over the stained and shameful record of his youthful days : what is the story of his quaestorship, the first stage in his official career? ** It is the story of how Gnaeus Carbo was robbed, by his own quaestor, of money belonging to the state: the story of a consular superior left helpless and deserted, of an army abandoned to its fate, of duty left undone, of the violation of the personal tie that the lot had imposed and hallowed. His term of service as legate was a disaster to the whole of the provinces of Asia and Pamphylia, where few private houses, very few cities, and not one single sanctuary escaped his depredations. It was now that he carried out, at Gnaeus Dolabella's expense, a fresh performance of the ** wickedness that had already distinguished his quaestorship, bringing discredit through his own misconduct on a man whom he had served not only as legate but as acting-quaestor also, and not merely failing to support him in the hour of danger, but deliberately attacking and betraying him. [12] His city praetorship was occupied in a plundering onslaught upon sanctuaries and public buildings, and in awarding, or failing to award, in the civil courts, personal and real property in violation of all legal precedents.

But nowhere did he multiply and magnify the memorials and the proofs of all his evil qualities so thoroughly as in his governorship of Sicily ; which island for the space of three years he devastated and ruined so effectually that nothing can restore it to its former condition, and it hardly seems possible that a long lapse of years and a succession of upright governors can in time bring it a partial revival of prosperity. [13] So long as Verres was governing it, its people were protected neither by their own laws, nor by the decrees of the Roman Senate, nor by the rights that belong to all nations alike. None of them has anything left to-day, except what either escaped the notice of this avaricious and intemperate ruffian, or remained over when his greed was glutted. [5.] L   For the space of three years, the law awarded nothing to anybody unless Verres chose to agree; and nothing was so undoubtedly inherited from a man's father or grandfather that the courts would not cancel his right to it, if Verres bade them do so. Countless sums of money, under a new and unprincipled regulation, were wrung from the purses of the farmers ; our most loyal allies were treated as if they were national enemies; Roman citizens were tortured and executed like slaves; the guiltiest criminals bought their legal acquittal, while the most honourable and honest men would be prosecuted in absence, and condemned and banished unheard ; strongly fortified harbours, mighty and well-defended cities, were left open to the assaults of pirates and buccaneers; Sicilian soldiers and sailors, our allies and our friends, were starved to death; fine fleets, splendidly equipped, were to the great disgrace of our nation destroyed and lost to us. [14] Famous and ancient works of art, some of them the gifts of wealthy kings, who in tended them to adorn the cities where they stood, others the gifts of Roman generals, who gave or restored them to the communities of Sicily in the hour of victory - this same governor stripped and despoiled every one of them. Nor was it only the civic statues and works of art that he treated thus; he also pillaged the holiest and most venerated sanctuaries ; in fact, he has not left the people of Sicily a single god whose workmanship he thought at all above the average of antiquity or artistic merit. As to his adulteries and the like vile offences, a sense of decency makes me afraid to repeat the tale of his acts of wanton wickedness: and besides, I would not wish, by repeating it, to add to the calamities of those who have not been suffered to save their children and their wives from outrage at the hands of this lecherous scoundrel. [15] Is it alleged that he did these things so secretly that they were not known everywhere? I do not believe that one human being lives, who has heard the name of Verres spoken, and cannot also repeat the tale of his evil doings. I have therefore more reason to fear criticism for passing over charges of which he is guilty, than for inventing against him charges of which he is innocent. And indeed the purpose of the great audience that has gathered to attend this trial is not, I conceive, to learn the facts of the case from me, but to join me in reviewing the facts that it knows already.

[6.] L   The knowledge of all these things has led this abandoned madman to adopt a new method of fighting me. It is not his real purpose to find an eloquent advocate to oppose me. He relies upon no man's popularity or influence or power. He does indeed pretend that it is here his confidence lies ; but I can see what his purpose is, of which, to be sure, he makes no great secret. He displays against me a hollow show of titled names, the names of a very arrogant set of persons, who harm my cause by their being noble less than they forward it by their being known: and he pretends to put his trust in their protection, while all the time he has been engineering a quite different scheme. [16] I will explain briefly to you, gentlemen, the hope that now possesses him, and the object of his present exertions: but before coming to that, I will ask you to note what he was aiming at in the earlier stages of this affair.

No sooner was he back from his province than he bought up this Court for a large sum of money. ** The terms of the contract held good as arranged, until the challenging took place. When the challenging had taken place - since the good destiny of our country had prevailed over Verres' hopes when the lots were cast, and when the members of the Court were challenged my carefulness prevailed over the effrontery of him and his supporters - the contractor threw up his undertaking entirely. ** Everything now promised well. ** [17] The list of your names, as members of this Court, was accessible to everyone : this verdict, it seemed, could be given without any fear that special signs, colours, or smudges could be marked upon the voting-tablets. ** Verres, from looking lively and cheerful, had been plunged suddenly into so gloomy a state of depression, that he was looked on as an already condemned man by everyone in Rome, himself included. And now behold, equally suddenly, within these last few days, since the result of the consular elections has been known, the same old methods are being set going again, and more money than before is being spent upon them: the same insidious attacks are being organised, by the same agents, upon your good name, gentlemen, and upon the well-being of the community at large. This fact was first revealed to me by a slender thread of circumstantial evidence ; but once the door was opened to admit suspicion, a direct path led me to the inmost secrets of Verres and his friends.

[7.] L   [18] What happened was this. Hortensius had just been declared consul-elect, and was being escorted home from the Campus ** by a large crowd of his supporters, when it chanced that they were met by Gaius Curio. ** (I do not wish my reference to this gentleman to be taken as disparaging him, but rather the reverse. If he had wished that the remark I am going to quote should not be repeated, he would not have made it so openly in the hearing of so large a gathering. None the less, what I am going to say shall be said with cautious hesitation, showing that I am mindful of his high rank, and of the personal friendship between us.) [19] Just near the Arch of Fabius, ** he noticed Verres among the crowd, called out to him, and congratulated him loudly. He said not a word to the newly-elected consul Hortensius himself, nor to the relatives and friends of Hortensius who were there at the time. No, it was Verres with whom he stopped to talk, Verres whom he embraced and told to put aside all anxiety. "I hereby inform ** you," he said, '' that to-day's election means your acquittal." This remark, being overheard by a number of honest gentlemen, was forthwith reported to me; or I should rather say, everyone told me of it as soon as he saw me. Some found it distressing, others absurd : it was absurd to those who regarded the issue of the case as depending on the credit of the witnesses, the methods of the prosecution, and the Court's power to decide, not on the consular election; distressing to those who could look further beneath the surface. and saw that this speech of congratulation pointed to the corruption of the members of the Court. [20] For they argued thus, and honest gentlemen kept saying so to one another and to me, that it was at last unmistakably plain that our law-courts were worthless. An accused man one day regards his own condemnation as an accomplished fact, and the next day is acquitted by the election of his advocate to the consulship ? Why, is the presence at Rome of all Sicily and its inhabitants, of all its business men, of all its public and private records - is all this, then, to count for nothing? No, not if the consul-elect will not have it so. Why, will the Court have no regard for the statements of the prosecution, the evidence of the witnesses, the credit of the Roman nation? No; everything is to be steered and directed by the hand of one powerful man. [8.] L   I will speak frankly, gentlemen. This circumstance disturbed me profoundly. Everywhere the soundest men were saying, "Verres will certainly escape your clutches, but the law-courts will be in our keeping no longer ; for who can possibly hesitate about transferring them to other hands, if Verres is acquitted ? " [21] Everyone was distressed ; less disturbed, however, by this scoundrel's sudden exultation, than by this unheard-of speech of congratulation from a man of such high position. I did my best to pretend that I felt no uneasiness myself; I did my best, with the help of calm looks and silence, to mask and conceal the anguish that I felt.

But to my surprise, only a few days later, when the praetors-elect were casting lots, ** and it fell to Marcus Metellus to be president of the Extortion Court, I received the news that Verres had been so warmly congratulated on this that he even sent off slaves to his house to carry the news to his wife. [22] Now I admit that the way the lot had fallen was a new source of regret to me: but still, I could not see what special reason I had to be alarmed by it. One thing I did learn from certain persons who were my regular detectives: that a number of baskets of Sicilian money had been transferred from a particular senator to a particular knight, that some ten or more of these baskets were left at this senator's house for a purpose connected with my own candidature, ** and that a meeting of the bribery-agents for all the tribes was held one night at Verres' house. [23] One of these agents, a man who felt bound to give me all the help he could, called on me that same night, and told me what Verres had been saying to them: he had reminded them how liberally he had dealt with them, both when he was himself a candidate for the praetorship some time ago, and at the recent elections of consuls and praetors ; and then had at once proceeded to promise them what they chose to ask for turning me out of my aedileship. At this, some of them had said they would not dare to try it, others had replied that they did not believe it could be managed ; however, a stout ally turned up from among his own kinsmen, Quintus Verres of the Romilian tribe, a fine old specimen of the bribery-agent, who had been the pupil and friend of Verres' father ; this man undertook to manage the business for 500,000 sesterces down, and some of the others said after all that they would join him. In view of all this my friend very kindly warned me to take every possible precaution.

[9.] L   [24] Within the same short space of time I had now to face more than one pressing anxiety. My election was upon me ; and here, as in the trial, a great sum of money was fighting against me. The trial was approaching ; and in this matter also those baskets of Sicilian gold were threatening me. I was deterred by concern for my election from giving my mind freely to the business of the trial; the trial prevented my devoting my whole attention to my candidature ; and to crown all, there was no sense in my trying to intimidate the bribery-agents, ** since I could see they were aware that the conduct of this present trial would tie my hands completely. [25] It was just at this moment that I heard for the first time how Hortensius had sent the Sicilians word to call on him at his house - and how they had behaved like free and independent men, refusing to go when they understood why they were being sent for. And now began my election, which Verres supposed to be under his own control like all the other elections of this year. He flew about, this great potentate, with his amiable and popular son, canvassing the tribes, and interviewing the family friends - to wit, the bribery-agents - and summoning them to the fray. As soon as this was noticed and understood, the people of Rome, with prompt enthusiasm, ensured my not being thrust out of my office by the money of a man whose wealth had failed to lure me out of my honour.

[26] Once relieved of the heavy anxieties of my candidature, I began, with a mind much less occupied and distracted, to devote my thoughts and energies to the trial alone. I now discovered, gentlemen, that the plan of action formed and adopted by Verres and his friends was this: so to prolong proceedings, by whatever method might be necessary, that the trial should take place under the presidency of Marcus Metellus as praetor. This would have several advantages. First, the strong friendly support of Marcus Metellus. Next, not only Hortensius would be consul, but Quintus Metellus too, the strength of whose friendship for Verres I will ask you to note : he has indeed given so clear a preliminary token of goodwill that Verres feels himself already paid in fuIl for those preliminary votes ** at the election. [27] Indeed? did you ** count on my saying nothing of so serious a matter ? on my caring for anything, when the country and my own reputation are in such danger, except my duty and my honour? The second consul-elect sent for the Sicilians, and some of them came, remembering that Lucius Metellus was now praetor in Sicily. He talked to them in this sort of way: "I am consul; one of my brothers is governing Sicily, the other is going to preside over the Extortion Court; many steps have been taken to secure that no harm can happen to Verres." [10.] L   [28] To attempt to intimidate witnesses, especially these timorous and calamity-stricken Sicilians, not merely by your personal influence, but by appealing to their awe of you as consul, and to the power of the two praetors - if this is not judicial corruption, Metellus, I should be glad to know what is. What would you not do for an innocent kinsman, if you forsake duty and honour for an utter rascal who is no kin of yours at all, and make it possible for those who do not know you to believe in the truth of his allegations concerning you ? [29] For Verres was reported to have been saying that you were made consul, not, like the rest of your family, by fate, ** but by his own exertions. Well then, he will have the two consuls, and the president of the Court, to suit him. He says to himself: "We shall not only escape having Manius Glabrio as President of the Court - a man who is far too conscientious and too subservient to considerations of the national honour. We shall also gain in the following ways. At present one of the judges is Marcus Caesonius, who is the colleague ** of our prosecutor, and whose behaviour as a judge has already been publicly tested and approved; a man whom it would be most undesirable to have as member of any court that we may try in any way to corrupt ; for before this, when he was a judge in the court over which Junius presided, he did not simply take to heart the scandalous wickedness then committed, ** but took steps to expose it publicly. We shall not have this man as a judge after the Ist of January; [30] nor shall we have Quintus Manlius and Quintus Cornificius, two judges of entirely scrupulous and upright character, because they will then be tribunes of the plebs ; that stern and upright judge Publius Sulpicius will have to enter upon his magistracy on the 5th of December; Marcus Crepereius, who belongs to an equestrian family of the strictest traditions, Lucius Cassius, whose family has shown the highest integrity in judicial as in all other matters, and Gnaeus Tremellius, who is a particularly scrupulous and conscientious man - these three men of the fine old school have all been designated for military tribuneships, and after the 1st of January will not be judges. We shall also be having a supplementary ballot to fill the place of Marcus Metellus, since he is to preside over this actual Court. So that after the 1st of January, both the president and practically the whole of the Court will be changed; and thus we shall baffle the formidable threats of the prosecutor, and the widespread hopes that are centred upon this trial. Just as we think best and feel most inclined." [31] To-day, the 5th of August, the Court did not assemble till the eighth hour {three o'clock}: they are already reckoning that to-day does not count at all. It is only ten days to the Votive Games that Gnaeus Pompeius is to hold; these games will occupy fifteen days, and will be followed immediately by the Roman Games. Thus it is not till after an interval of nearly forty days that they expect to begin their reply, at last, to the charges that we on this side shall have brought against them. They count on being able then, with the help of long speeches and technical evasions, to prolong the trial till the Games of Victory begin. These games are followed without a break by the Plebeian Games, after which there will be very few days, or none at all, on which the Court can sit. In this way they reckon that all the impetus of the prosecution will be spent and exhausted, and that the whole case will come up afresh before Marcus Metellus as president of the Court. Now so far as this gentleman is concerned, I should not have retained him as a member of the Court, if I had had any doubts of his honesty ; [32] but even so, my feeling is that I would prefer this issue to be decided while he is only a member of the Court, and not when he is presiding over it ; I would rather trust him under oath with his own voting-tablet, than not under oath with the voting-tablets of other persons.

[11.] L   And now, gentlemen, I should really like to ask you what, in your opinion, I ought to do: for I am sure the unspoken advice that you give me will be to do just that which my own understanding shows me I am bound to do. If I spend upon my speech the full time allotted me by law, I shall indeed secure some return to myself for all my toilsome and concentrated exertions ; my conduct of this prosecution will show that no man in all history ever came into court more ready and watchful and well-prepared than I come now. But there is the gravest danger that, while I am thus reaping the credit due to my hard work, the man I am prosecuting will slip through my fingers. What, then, can be done? A thing that is surely plain and obvious enough. [33] The harvest of fame that might have been gathered by making a long continuous speech let us reserve for another occasion, and let us now prosecute our man by means of documents and witnesses, the written statements and official pronouncements of private persons and public bodies. It is you, Hortensius, with whom I shall have to reckon throughout. I will speak frankly. If I could suppose that, in this case, your method of opposing me was that of fair speech in palliation of the charges I am bringing, I too would be for devoting my energies to a speech for the prosecution setting forth the charges in full. But since, as it is, you have chosen to fight me in a way less well suited to your own personal character than to the emergency in which Verres finds himself and to the badness of Verres' case, tactics such as you have adopted must somehow or other be countered. [34] Your plan is, that you should not begin your speech for the defence till both the festivals are over. My plan is, to reach the adjournment of the case before the first festival begins. It amounts to this, that you will have the credit of planning an ingenious move, and I of making the inevitable reply to it.

[12.] L   But with regard to what I began just now to speak of - that it is you with whom I have to reckon - what I mean is this. Although, when I undertook this case at the request of the Sicilians, I felt that there was a full measure of honour for me in the fact that the people who had made trial of my integrity and self-control were willing now to make trial of my good faith and energy : yet the task once undertaken, I put before myself a still greater object, whereby to let the Roman people perceive my loyalty to my country. [35] For I reflected that to prosecute in court a man who already stood condemned by the court of humanity was a task very far from worthy of the toil and effort it would cost me, were it not that your intolerably despotic power, and the self-seeking that you have exhibited in more than one trial of recent years, were being engaged once more in the defence of that desperate scoundrel yonder. But as things now stand, since you take so much pleasure in all this tyrannical domination of our courts of law, and since men do exist who find nothing shameful, nothing disgusting, in their own wanton deeds and vile reputations, but appear to challenge, as though of set purpose, the hatred and anger of the people of Rome : I will declare boldly, that the burden I have shouldered may indeed be heavy and dangerous for myself, but is nevertheless such that my manhood and determination may fitly strain every muscle to bear it. [36] Since the whole of our poorer class is being oppressed by the hand of recklessness and crime, and groaning under the infamy of our law-courts, I declare myself to these criminals as their enemy and their accuser, as their pertinacious, bitter, and unrelenting adversary. It is this that I choose, this that I claim, as my duty in my public office, as my duty in that position in which the people of Rome have willed that, from the first day of next January, I should take counsel with them for the public welfare and the punishment of evil men. This is the most splendid and noble spectacle that I can promise to bestow during my aedileship on the people of Rome. ** I here issue this warning, this public notice, this preliminary proclamation: To all those who are in the habit of depositing or receiving deposits ** for bribery, of undertaking to offer or offering bribes, or of acting as agents or go-betweens for the corruption of judges in our courts, and to all those who have offered to make use of their power or their shamelessness for these purposes: in this present trial, take care that your hands and your minds are kept clear of this vile crime. [13.] L   [37] Hortensius will then be consul, endowed with supreme command and authority, while I shall be an aedile, nothing much grander than an ordinary citizen: yet the thing that I now promise to do is of such a kind, so welcome and acceptable to the people of Rome, that the consul himself must seem even less than an ordinary citizen, if that were possible, when matched against me on this issue.

The whole story shall not only be recalled, but set forth and corroborated in detail, the story of all the judicial crimes and villainies that have been committed during the ten years since the transfer of the law-courts to the Senate. [38] The people of Rome shall learn from me how it is that, so long as the law-courts were in the hands of the Equestrian Order, for nearly fifty years together, not even the faintest suspicion rested upon one single Roman knight, gentlemen, when sitting as a judge, of accepting a bribe to give a particular verdict ; how it is that, when the courts had been transferred to the Senatorial Order, and the power of the people over you as individuals had been taken away, Quintus Calidius observed, upon being convicted, that a man of praetorian rank could not decently be convicted for less than three million sesterces, ** how it is that, when Quintus Hortensius was president of the Extortion Court, the penalty inflicted on the condemned senator Publius Septimius was assessed with express reference to the fact of his having received a bribe as judge ; [39] that in the cases of the senators Gaius Herennius and Gaius Popilius, who were both found guilty of embezzlement, and of Marcus Atilius, who was found guilty of treason, the fact was established that they had taken bribes as judges; that when Gaius Verres was presiding at a trial as City Praetor, senators were found to vote against ** a man whom they were condemning without having attended his trial; that a senator was once found who, when sitting as a judge, in one and the same case received money from the accused man with which to bribe the other judges, and from the prosecutor to vote for the accused man's condemnation. [40] And now, what words can I find to deplore that foul and disastrous blot upon the honour of our whole Order, the fact that in this land of ours, with the law courts in the Senatorial Order's hands, such a thing happened as that the voting-tablets, given to judges who were under oath, were marked with wax of different colours ? ** With all these facts I promise you I will deal sternly and faithfully.

[14.] L   And now what do you conceive that my feelings will be, if in this very trial I shall find that any offence of this description has been committed ? For you must note that I can bring many witnesses to prove that Gaius Verres, when in Sicily, has frequently said, in the presence of many listeners, that he had a powerful friend in whose protection he trusted while plundering the province; and that he was not trying to make money for himself alone, but had those three years of his Sicilian praetorship so parcelled out as to feel he would do well if he might apply the profits of one year to increasing his own fortune, hand over those of the second year to his advocates and defenders, and reserve the whole of the great third year, the richest and most profitable of the three, for his judges. [41] And this suggests to me the repetition of a remark which I made before Manius Glabrio recently when the challenging of judges was taking place, and which I could see made a profound impression upon the people of Rome. I said that I believed the day would come when our foreign subjects would be sending deputations to our people, asking for the repeal of the existing law and the abolition of the Extortion Court. Were there no such Court, they imagine that any one governor would merely carry off what was enough for himself and his family : whereas with the courts as they now are, each governor carries off what will be enough to satisfy himself, his advocates and supporters, and his judges and their president: and this is a wholly unlimited amount. They feel that they may meet the demands of a greedy man's cupidity, but cannot meet those of a guilty man's acquittal. [42] How illustrious are our Courts of Law, how splendid is the reputation of our Order, if the allies of Rome desire the abolition of that very Extortion Court which our ancestors established for those allies' benefit! Would Verres, indeed, ever have cherished fair hopes for himself, had his mind not been saturated with this foul opinion of you? An opinion that should make him yet more loathsome, if that be possible, to you than to the Roman people, this man who believes you to be as avaricious, as criminal, as false and perjured as he is himself.

[15.] L   [43] Now I entreat you, gentlemen, in God's name to take thought, and to devise measures, to meet this state of affairs. ** I would warn you and solemnly remind you of what is clear to me, that heaven itself has granted you this opportunity of delivering our whole Order from unpopularity and hatred, from dishonour and disgrace. Men reckon that our courts of law have no strictness left, no conscience - nay, by now, no existence worth the name. The result is that we are disdained and despised by the people of Rome. We have been groaning, and that for many years, under a heavy load of infamy. [44] Let me tell you that it was for this reason, and for no other, that the people of Rome have expressed so strong a desire for the restoration of the powers of the tribunes. Their demand for that was but nominally and apparently a demand for the thing itself: their real demand was for honest law courts. This fact was not missed by that wise and eminent man Quintus Catulus. When our distinguished general Gnaeus Pompeius introduced his measure to restore the powers of the tribunes, Catulus, on being called upon to speak, began his speech with a most impressive declaration, that the members of that House were proving ineffective and immoral guardians of our courts of justice ; and that had they only chosen, in their capacity as judges, to maintain the honour of Rome, people would not have felt so acutely their loss of the tribunes' powers.

[45] In fact, when Gnaeus Pompeius himself, as consul-elect, for the first time addressed a public meeting near the city, and, in accordance with what appeared to be a very general expectation, declared his intention of restoring the powers of the tribunes, his words elicited a murmuring noise of grateful approval from the assembly : but when he observed, in the course of the same speech, that our provinces had been wasted and laid desolate, that our law-courts were behaving scandalously and wickedly, and that he meant to take steps to deal with this evil - then it was with no mere murmur, but with a mighty roar, that the people of Rome showed their satisfaction.

[16.] L   [46] To-day the eyes of the world are upon us, waiting to see how far the conduct of each man among us will be marked by obedience to his conscience and by observance of the law. It is noted that since the passage of the tribunician law a single senator, a man of quite slender means, has been condemned; an act which, though not censured, nevertheless affords no great room for commendation, for integrity cannot be commendable where no man has either the power or the will to corrupt it.

[47] It is the present trial in which, even as you will pass your verdict upon the prisoner, so the people of Rome will pass its verdict upon yourselves. It is this man's case that will determine whether, with a court composed of Senators, the condemnation of a very guilty and very rich man can possibly occur. And further, the prisoner is such that he is distinguished by nothing except his monstrous offences and immense wealth: if, therefore, he is acquitted, it will be impossible to imagine any explanation but the most shameful; it will not appear that there has been any liking for him, any family bond, any record of other and better actions, no, nor even any moderation in some one vice, that could palliate the number and enormity of his vicious deeds. [48] And lastly, gentlemen, I shall so handle this case, I shall put before you facts of such a kind - so notorious, so well corroborated by evidence, so sweeping, and so convincing - that nobody will seek to urge you to acquit this man as a personal favour. I have a definite plan of procedure by which to unearth and set my hands upon all the intrigues of him and his friends; and I shall deal with this business in such a fashion that all their stratagems will seem to stand revealed, not merely to men's ears, but to the very eyes of the people of this country.

[49] You have the power of removing and destroying the dishonour and the disgrace that have for several years past attached to this our Order. It is admitted upon all hands that, since these Courts were first constituted in their present shape, no body of judges has assembled of equal eminence and equal distinction. If this body of judges shall in any way come to grief, the universal opinion will be, that for the administration of justice we must seek, not fitter men from the same Order, for none such could be found, but some other Order altogether. [17.] L   [50] And therefore, gentlemen, in the first place, I pray Heaven to justify the confidence I feel, that no man in this Court will be detected in evil-doing, save that one man whose evil-doing has been long since discovered ; and in the next place I declare to you, and, gentlemen, I declare to the people of Rome, that if other evil-doers there shall be, I will, by Hercules, sooner lose my life than lose the vigour and the resolution that shall secure their punishment for the evil they have done.

[51] But indeed this same scandal, for which, when once committed, I thus undertake to secure drastic punishment at the cost of toil and danger and hostility to myself, you, Manius Glabrio, with the help of your strength and wisdom and watchfulness, can prevent from coming to pass at all. Be the champion of our courts of law: be the champion of justice and integrity, of honour and conscience: be the champion of the Senate, that it may pass the test of this trial, and recover the esteem and favour of the Roman people. Think of the great place you hold, of the duty that you owe to Rome, and the tribute that you owe to your own ancestors. Remember the Acilian Law, ** your father's work - the law whereby the nation gained efficient courts and strictly honourable judges to deal with extortion claims. [52] You are hedged about with an army of great precedents, forbidding you to forget the high honour your family has won, reminding you night and day of your gallant father, of your wise grandfather, ** of your noble father-in-law. ** Show therefore the keen vigour of your father Glabrio, by repelling the assaults of unscrupulous knaves ; show the foresight of your grandfather Scaevola, by anticipating the plots now being hatched against your honour and the honour of these gentlemen; show the steadfastness of your father-in-law Scaurus, by letting no man succeed in shaking you out of the truth and certainty of your judgement : and the people of Rome shall see, that when a man of high honour and integrity is presiding over a court of chosen judges, the accused, if he be guilty, will find that his vast fortune has tended rather to heighten belief in his guilt than to furnish him with the means of escaping his doom.

[18.] L   [53] I am firmly resolved to prevent our having a change of president or judges for the case before us. I will not allow the decision to be delayed to a time when men who, by a gross innovation, have been collectively summoned before a consul-elect by his servants, ** and who as yet have refused to go, may be ordered before a consul in office by his lictors: to a time when those unhappy persons, who were once the allies and friends of Rome, but now are slaves and suppliants, will not only be deprived, through these men's official power, of their rights and their whole fortunes, but will be denied even the opportunity of remonstrating ** about their loss. [54] Assuredly I will not suffer the reply to our case to be made only when forty days have passed after I have ended my speech for the prosecution, and the lapse of time has blurred the memory of the charges we bring. I will not permit the settlement of this case to be delayed until after the departure from Rome of these multitudes that have simultaneously assembled, from all parts of Italy, to attend the elections, the games, and the census. As, in this trial, it is for you to reap the reward of popularity and risk the danger of disapproval, and for us to face the toil and anxiety involved ; so, I hold, it is for all men to be admitted to the knowledge of what shall here take place, and to record in their memories the words that each speaker shall utter. [55] My calling of my witnesses at once will be no novelty ; that has been done before, and by men who now hold leading positions in the country. The novelty that you will note, gentlemen, is this : I shall so deal with the evidence of my witnesses as first to state each charge in full, and after supporting it by questioning, argument, and comment, then to bring forward my witnesses to that particular charge. There will thus be no difference between the usual method of prosecution and this new one of mine, except that in the former the witnesses are not called until all the speeches are over, whereas in the latter they will be called with reference to each charge in turn : so that, further, our opponents will have the same facilities as ourselves for questions, arguments, and comments. If there is anyone who regrets the absence of the continuous speech for the prosecution, he shall hear it in the second part of the trial: for the moment he must see that our line of action, being directed to thwarting, by rational means, the trickery of our adversaries, is the only one possible. [56] The scope of the prosecution in the first part of the trial will be this. We submit that Gaius Verres has been guilty of many acts of lust and cruelty towards Roman citizens and Roman allies, of many outrageous offences against gods and men ; and that he has, moreover, illegally robbed Sicily of forty million sesterces. This fact we will use witnesses, and private records, and official written statements, to make so plain to you that you will conclude that, even had we had days to spare and time to speak at leisure, there would still have been no need to speak at any great length. - I thank you, gentlemen.


1.   President of the Extortion Court,

2.   The accused in the rival prosecution already mentioned (§ 6).

3.   See Book I. of the Actio Secunda for full details of the earlier career of Verres, here only summarised.

4.   'suum' is perhaps to be stressed : " . . of the peculiarly Verrine wickedness that had ..."

5.   i.e. promised a bribery agent a large sum if he would secure his acquittal by bribing the jurors.

6.   The court thus left was too honest to be bribed for the sum promised.

7.   For Cicero and justice.

8.   Divinatio, § 24 note.

9.   The Campus Martius, where the elections were held.

10.   Consul 76 B.C. : father of Caesar's famous supporter.

11.   In the Via Sacra.

12.   'Renuntio' is the regular word for making official announcements, such as election results.

13.   To decide the sphere of office each was to occupy.

14.   For the aedileship. The electors were to be bribed to vote against him.

15.   By threatening to prosecute them for their conduct in either connexion.

16.   Lit. "(tribes, or centuries) voting first," and by their example influencing the votes of those that followed. Verres had bribed the tribes, and perhaps the centuriae praerogativae most heavily, to vote for Q. Metellus as one consul.

17.   Cicero seems to address Verres and his supporters.

18.   The verse 'Fato Metelli Romae fiunt consules' was attributed, by a doubtful tradition, to the poet Naevius.

19.   As aedile elect.

20.   A majority of the iudices, bribed by Aulus Cluentius the prosecutor, found his stepfather Oppianicus guilty of attempted poisoning.

21.   The aediles were expected to provide entertainments on a large scale for the Roman public.

22.   There is some doubt about the technical meaning of 'accipere' and 'polliceri' here.

23.   i.e., the treachery of voting for the condemnation of a member of one's own class could only be justified by a really heavy bribe.

24.   This meaning of 'exirent in' is conjectural.

25.   This implies that (1) the secrecy of the voting was violated, (2) that it was done because the judges had been bribed, (3) that the takers of bribes could not be trusted. See Divinatio, § 24, and this speech, § 17.

26.   The exact sense of 'loco' is doubtful: it may be (i) "critical situation" ('tempori', Greek 'kairōi'), (ii.) "weak spot" in your defences, (iii.) "assumption" (so Long translates), "line of argument."

27.   This law made the knights judges in such cases.

28.   A Scaevola, probably the great jurist.

29.   Marcus Aemilius Scaurus.

30.   Cicero refers to the incident related in § 27.

31.   By appearing to give evidence against Verres.

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