back

Cicero : In Verrem 2.4

Sections 55-105

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.



    ← Previous sections (1-54)

[25.] L   [55] Gentlemen, I should not dare to mention these things, were I not afraid of your possibly saying that you have heard more about the man from the conversation of others than from my own speech in court. For who has not heard of this workshop of his, of those golden vessels, of his Greek mantle ? - I will bring forward any one you choose to name of the honest men who make up the Roman colony at Syracuse ; not one of them but will tell us that he has heard about all this, if he has not seen it. What an age we live in! Yet I will speak of what is not very ancient history: there are a good many of you who can remember Lucius Piso, father of the present Lucius Piso the ex-praetor. While he was praetorian governor in Spain - he was killed there while holding this command - he was taking part in some military exercise, and somehow broke to pieces a golden ring that he was wearing. Wishing to have a ring made for him, he ordered a goldsmith to be summoned before his seat of judgement in the market-place at Corduba, and openly weighed out a certain amount of gold, told the man to set up his chair in the market-place, and make the ring where every one could see him. Some may call him over-scrupulous: they may, if they will, but this is the worst that can be said of him. And after all, he must be forgiven: he was the son of the Lucius Piso who carried the first extortion law. [57] Now it is absurd for me to speak of Verres in the same breath as of Piso Frugi ; and yet, consider how they differ. Verres manufactures enough golden cups to furnish half a dozen sideboards, without caring what may be said of him in the Roman law-courts, let alone in Sicily : Piso will have all Spain know whence comes the half-ounce of gold to make the governor's ring, acting up, plainly, to his third name, ** just as Verres acts up to his second.

[26.] L   Now I cannot possibly either bring to mind or include in my speech all the man's misdeeds ; my aim is simply to indicate briefly the heads under which they may be divided, and this ring of Piso's has just reminded of one such that I had quite forgotten. You could hardly conceive the number of respectable persons whose rings he has stripped from their fingers. He never hesitated to do so whenever some one's ring, or the stone in it, caught his fancy. What I will now mention passes belief, but is so notorious that I believe the man himself will not deny it. [58] A letter from Agrigentum was delivered to his agent Valentius, and he happened to notice the impression of the seal. He liked it, asked where the letter came from, and was told that it came from Agrigentum. He wrote to the usual people, ordering the ring to be brought to him at the earliest possible moment; and as the result of his letter, Lucius Titius, a Roman citizen and the head of a family, had that ring dragged off his finger.

There is another thing for which he had an incredible passion; and one would have thought he had got himself a mighty liberal supply of it, even if, for each of his dining-rooms, not only in Rome but in his country-houses too, he had aimed at completely furnishing thirty ** couches with coverings and all accessories for the use of his guests. There was not one wealthy house in Sicily where he did not set up a weaving establishment. [59] At Segesta there is a lady of wealth and rank named Lamia, who for three years had her house full of looms making woven fabrics for him, and the whole of them dyed with purple. There was the wealthy Attalus at Netum, Lyso at Lilybaeum, Critolaus at Aetna, Aeschrio and Cleomenes and Theomnastus at Syracuse, Archonidas at Helorus - time is too short to give you all their names. "He provided the purple himself; his friends supplied the labour only." Well, possibly ; parts of his misconduct I am willing for the present to pass over; and one would think it enough for me to accuse him of being able to provide all that purple, of planning to take so much out of the country, and finally of doing what he admits he did - making use of his friends' workpeople for such purposes as this. [60] Besides which, do you imagine that bronze-covered couches and bronze lamp-stands were ever made at Syracuse, during those three years, for anyone but Verres? He paid for them? Perhaps he did : all I am doing, gentlemen, is to give you an account of his conduct as governor of his province ; I should not like any of you to regard him as having been wanting in energy, or as having failed to use his official authority to furnish and equip himself adequately.

[27.] L   I come now to an action that is no mere theft, no mere piece of grasping cupidity, but is such, as I look at it, that it embraces and includes every possible type of wickedness - sacrilege, injury to the reputation and prestige of Rome, treacherous robbery of guests, the loss, through Verres' crime, of the goodwill of all the foreign kings that were most friendly to us, and of the peoples whom they rule and govern. [61] You are aware that the young Syrian princes, the sons of King Antiochus, were not long ago in Rome. Their visit had no connexion with the Syrian throne, which was indisputably theirs, inherited from their father and their ancestors : it had to do with the Egyptian throne, to which they thought themselves and their mother Selene entitled. Prevented by the serious condition of public affairs from pleading their case before the Senate as they had hoped to do, they began the return journey to the dominions of their ancestors in Syria. One of them, Antiochus, chose to travel through Sicily, and thus came to Syracuse, Verres being then governor. [62] It made Verres feel as if a legacy had come to him, when he saw come into his dominions, and under his power, a man who, as he had been told and was ready to believe, had with him many valuable treasures. He sent the prince quite generous supplies for his ordinary household needs - as much oil and wine as he thought proper, and also, from his own tithe-corn, as much wheat as was likely to be needed. Then he invited the prince himself to dinner. He had the dining-room arrayed with lavish splendour, setting out the numerous lovely silver vessels of which he had so ample a stock - he had not yet made the golden ones I spoke of; and he took care that nothing should be lacking to the richness and completeness of the entertainment. The prince of course went home thinking of Verres as a wealthy man who had entertained him nobly. Then he himself asked the governor to dinner, and had all his treasures put on table, including a great deal of silver plate, and also a number of golden cups, which, as is common with kings and especially those of Syria, were adorned with splendid jewels. There was also a wine-vessel, a ladle hollowed out of a single enormous precious stone, with a handle of gold : about this you have heard the evidence of Quintus Minucius - nor can we, I conceive, desire a better or more impressive witness. [63] Verres took the various vessels up one by one, praising and admiring them ; and the prince was delighted that his party was proving acceptable and agreeable to the great Roman governor. After the party broke up, Verres' one thought, as the sequel showed, was how to dismiss the prince from his province stripped and plundered. He sent to ask for the loan of the most beautiful vessels he had seen at his house, saying that he wished to show them to his own artificers. The prince, not knowing Verres, suspected nothing, and readily handed them over. Verres also sent to ask for the ladle carved out of precious stone, saying that he would like to examine it more carefully ; and this too was sent to him.

[28.] L   [64] And now, gentleman, note carefully the end of this story. You have yourself heard the facts ; the Roman nation will not hear them now for the first time; the tale of them has gone abroad to foreign nations, even to the uttermost parts of the earth. There is a lamp-stand, fashioned of the most precious stones, a wonderful piece of workmanship, which these princes of whom I speak brought to Rome, intending to dedicate it in the Capitol. Finding the temple building not yet completed, ** they could not dedicate their gift; so they were unwilling to expose it to public view, feeling that its dedication in the sanctuary of Jupiter Optimus Maximus would be more impressive if performed at the proper time, and that its beauty would be more striking if it were presented to men's eyes with its novelty unimpaired. They therefore resolved to take it back with them to Syria, with the purpose, as soon as they heard that the image of Jupiter had been consecrated, of sending an embassy to convey to the Capitol this most choice and lovely offering, together with others. These facts somehow or other came to the knowledge of Verres : the prince had wished them to be kept secret, not because he had any fear or suspicion, but in order that few eyes might behold the gift before those of the people of Rome. Verres asked the prince, implored him at great length, to send it to him, saying that he was eager to examine it and would allow no one else to see it. [65] The youthful prince naturally had no suspicion of his evil intentions, and bade his people convey it to the governor's house, concealed in its wrappings as completely as possible. They did so, pulled off the wrappings and set it up; whereupon Verres broke into loud exclamations: it was worthy of the Syrian kingdom - of the royal munificence - of the Capitol. And indeed it could not but be a splendid object, thus fashioned of the most brilliant and beautiful stones; so intricate was its workmanship that its artistic quality seemed to vie with the richness of its material ; and it was so large that it was easy to see it had been made not to furnish any human dwelling but to adorn the most magnificent temple. When they thought enough time had been allowed for its inspection, they began to lift it up in order to take it back again. Verres said that he wished to look at it again and again, that he had by no means had his fill of it ; he told the men to go away and leave it behind. Accordingly, they returned to Antiochus empty-handed.

[29.] L   [66] At first the prince felt no fear or suspicion. One day passed, another, several days: it was not returned. Then he sent word asking him kindly to restore it. "Come again to-morrow," was the answer. Antiochus, surprised, repeated his request : it was still not returned. He went in person to see Verres and ask for its return, And now observe the cool impudence of this brazen rascal. Though he knew, from the prince's own lips, that it was to be dedicated in the Capitol, though he was aware that it was being kept for Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the Roman people, he proceeded to ask, to entreat most earnestly, that it should be given to himself. Antiochus declared himself prevented from doing this by fear of Capitoline Jupiter and respect for public opinion ; many nations could testify to why it had been made, and to whom it had been vowed. At this, Verres began to threaten him in the fiercest manner ; and when he found that threats moved him as little as entreaties, he suddenly ordered him to be gone from the province before nightfall, saying that he had received information that pirates were on their way from his dominions to Sicily. [67] Before a great gathering in the market-place at Syracuse - I say this lest I should by some chance be thought to be charging Verres with something of which no one knows, and building up a case out of circumstantial evidence - in the market-place at Syracuse, I repeat, with tears in his eyes calling on gods and men to be his witnesses, the prince in a loud voice declared that a lamp-stand wrought of precious stones, which he was intending to send to the Capitol, and which he had meant to be a lasting token in that most famous temple of his own alliance and friendship with the Roman nation, had been taken from him by Gaius Verres ; he was not concerned for his other works of art, in gold or precious stones, that were in Verres' hands, but that this one should be taken from him was a shame and a scandal. Though, in the purpose and intention of his brother and himself, it had already been consecrated, yet he declared that then and there, before that assembly of Roman citizens, he gave and offered it, hallowed and consecrated it, to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and called the divine Father himself to witness his solemn and sacred purpose.

[30.] L   Can any man's voice, or lungs, or bodily strength avail adequately to describe the heinousness of this single deed ? This prince Antiochus had lived at Rome in the sight of us all for nearly two years with all the retinue and pomp of royalty ; he was the friend and ally of the Roman nation, which had always had the friendliest relations with his father, his grandfather and his ancestors, the ancient and famous sovereigns of a rich and mighty kingdom ; and this man was now flung out headlong from a Roman province. - [68] What feelings did you suppose this affair would arouse in foreign peoples? With what effect would the news of your conduct reach the dominions of other kings and penetrate to the furthest regions of the earth - this tale of how a Roman governor in a Roman province insulted a king's majesty, plundered his own guest, and drove out the ally and friend of Rome ? - Gentlemen, be assured of this, that your name, and the name of Rome, will spell bitterness and hatred to all foreign peoples, if this foul wrong that Verres has done is suffered to pass unpunished. They will all believe, and the more readily because the report of Roman covetousness and greed has become common talk, that this crime is not the crime of Verres only, but also he crime of those who have sanctioned it. Many monarchs, many free states, many wealthy and powerful individuals, are assuredly disposed to give our Capitol the adornment which the majesty of the temple and the renown of our empire demand. Let these understand that the malversation of this royal gift has excited your indignation, and they will believe that their own goodwill and their own gifts will be acceptable to you and to Rome. But let them hear that so grievous a wrong, done to so famous a prince in connexion with so splendid a gift, has been treated by you with indifference, and they will not be so lacking in sense as to spend labour, thought and expense upon things in whose acceptableness to you they do not believe.

[31.] L   [69] And in this matter I appeal to you, Quintus Catulus ; for it is of your own famous and beautiful building that I am speaking. It is proper for you to endue yourself as regards this charge, not only with the strict justice of a judge, but with something like the violence of a personal enemy and accuser. By grace of the Senate and people of Rome, your own glory is being hallowed within that temple ; and together with that temple, the memory of your own name is being made sacred for all time. It is you who must concern yourself, and you who must exert yourself, to ensure that as the Capitol has been rebuilt with greater splendour, so it shall be adorned with greater richness than before; let us thus feel that conflagration to have been the will of heaven, and its purpose not to destroy the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, but to require of us one more splendid and magnificent. [70] You have heard Quintus Minucius state that the prince Antiochus stayed in his house at Syracuse; that, to his knowledge, the lamp-stand was taken to Verres, and that, to his knowledge, it was not sent back again. You have heard Roman citizens of the Syracuse district state, and you shall hear others state, that it was vowed and consecrated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus by the prince Antiochus in their own hearing. Were you not a judge in these Courts, and had you been invited to prosecute for this offence, it is yourself above all others whose duty it would be to seek for vengeance, for satisfaction, for legal punishment of this outrage. And therefore I have no doubt of your proper attitude as a judge towards this charge, since, were you pleading before other men as judges, it would be proper for you to prosecute with far more vehemence than I myself have done.

[32.] L   [71] But I would ask all the members of this Court if they can conceive any action more outrageous and more intolerable than this one. Shall Verres include in his furniture this lamp-stand, wrought in gold and precious stones, that belongs to Jupiter himself? Its resplendent brightness should have illuminated the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus: shall it stand in Verres' private house, amid the orgies already alight with the flames of his debaucheries and wickedness ? In the home of that foul profligate, shall the adornments of the Capitol be set among all those others that came to him from Chelidon? Is there anything, do you suppose, that will ever seem hallowed, or has ever seemed sacred in the past, to a man who, having committed so awful a crime, has at this moment no sense of guilt, who dares to face trial for a deed that leaves him no room even to entreat the mercy of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, to ask the help of him that all men are wont to ask ? a man from whom the gods themselves claim restitution before this Court that was instituted to hear the claims of men. Do we wonder at the sins committed against Minerva at Athens, Apollo at Delos, Juno at Samos, Diana at Perga, and many another divine being in Asia and in Greece, by a man who could not keep his hands from violating the Capitol? Private persons are giving, and will give, their wealth to adorn that place: its adornment by royal princes has been prevented by Gaius Verres.

[72] Once he had planned so fearful a crime as this, of course he felt nothing holy or sacred in all Sicily from that time onward : for three years his conduct in the province made men feel that he had declared war not only on the human race but on the gods in heaven. [33.] L   There is, gentlemen, a very ancient town in Sicily named Segesta ; it is alleged to have been founded by Aeneas, when he fled from Troy and arrived in our part of the world ; and the Segestans in consequence regard themselves as bound to Rome not only by permanent alliance and friendship but also by ties of blood. Long ago, when Segesta was independently at war with Carthage on its own account, the town was assaulted, captured and destroyed by the Carthaginians, and everything in it that might add to the beauty of the city of Carthage was carried away thither. There was in the town a bronze image of Diana, regarded from very ancient times as highly sacred, and moreover, a work of art of extremely fine workmanship. Its removal to Carthage was no more than a change of home and worshippers; the reverence formerly felt for it remained, for its exceptional beauty made even an enemy people feel it worthy of the most devout adoration. [73] In the third Punic War, some centuries later, Publius Scipio captured Carthage. In the hour of victory - I would have you observe his scrupulous uprightness, that you may rejoice in the noble patterns of upright conduct that our countrymen afford to us, and may hold Verres' incredible lack of scruple the more detestable on that account - knowing that Sicily had repeatedly and for long periods been ravaged by the Carthaginians, he called all the Sicilians together, and ordered a general search to be made, promising to do his utmost for the restoration to the several communities of all that was once theirs. Then it was that the treasures formerly removed from Himera were, as I have already related, given back to the people of Thermae ; others to Gela; others to Agrigentum, including the famous bull said to have belonged to Phalaris, the most cruel of all tyrants, in which he tortured men by thrusting them into it alive and lighting a fire underneath it. When restoring this bull to the people of Agrigentum, Scipio is said to have recommended them to ask themselves whether it were better to be the slaves of their own countrymen or the subjects of Rome, now that they possessed this memorial both of their countrymen's cruelty and of Roman kindness.

[34.] L   [74] It was at this time that the utmost care was taken to return to the Segestans the very statue of Diana that I speak of ; it was brought back to their town, and set up once more in its ancient home, amid the loud rejoicings of the grateful citizens. There it was erected on a quite high pedestal, upon which was inscribed in large letters the name of Publius Africanus, and the statement of how he had restored the statue after the capture of Carthage. It was worshipped by the townsfolk, and all visitors went to look at it - when I was quaestor, it was the first thing they took me to see there. The figure, draped in a long robe, was of great size and height ; but in spite of its dimensions, it well suggested the youthful grace of a maiden, with quiver hung from one shoulder, bow in the left hand, and the right hand holding forth a blazing torch. [75] No sooner had yonder enemy of all religion and plunderer of all sacred things beheld it than his heart was kindled with the flames of insane desire, as though that torch had actually smitten him ; he ordered the magistrates to take it down and give it to him, as the greatest favour they could confer on him. They replied that this would be a wicked thing for them to do, and that extreme fear of legal punishment, as well as the strongest religious motives, forbade them to do it. Verres besought and threatened them by turns, seeking now to encourage and now to frighten them. Among other arguments, they brought up against him the name of Africanus, saying that the statue was the property of the Roman nation, and that they had no authority to dispose of what an illustrious Roman general, after capturing the enemy's city, had intended to be the memorial of a Roman victory. [76] Verres abating nothing of his urgency, and indeed growing more violent every day, the matter was brought before their senate, where it met with the most violent opposition from everyone; and on this occasion of Verres' first visit their refusal was maintained. Verres then proceeded to impose on Segesta greater burdens than on any other place in Sicily in the way of requisitioning sailors and rowers, or supplies of corn - considerably more than they were capable of bearing. In addition, he would summon their magistrates to his presence, sending for their best and most distinguished men, and dragging them round all the assize-towns of the province; he would tell each man severally that he would ruin him, and all of them together that he meant to smash their community to pieces. And thus, in the end, crushed by their many sufferings and fears, the Segestans agreed that the governor's command should be obeyed. Amid the grief and lamentation of the whole community, with tears and cries of grief from every man and every woman in it, a contract was authorised for the removal of the image of Diana.

[35.] L   [77] Mark now the strength of religious feeling this evoked at Segesta. Gentlemen, let me assure you that not one person could be found, neither free man nor slave, neither citizen nor immigrant, who would venture to lay hands upon that statue ; some foreign labourers were got in from Lilybaeum, who, knowing nothing of the affair or its religious bearings, for a certain sum of money ultimately removed it. As it was being carried out of the town, you can imagine the crowd of women that gathered, and the tears of the older people, some of whom could still remember the great day when this same Diana had been brought back from Carthage to Segesta, carrying with it the news of the Roman victory. What a difference they would feel between now and then! Then, the illustrious commander of the Roman armies was bringing the god of Segesta, recovered from an enemy city, back to its own home : now, an evil and filthy Roman governor was committing the awful sin of carrying off that same god from an allied and friendly city. No story is better known throughout Sicily than that of how, when Diana was being borne out of the town, all the matrons and maidens of Segesta flocked to the spot, anointed her with perfumes, covered her with garlands and flowers, and burning incense and spices escorted her to the frontier of their land. - [78] Even if then, in the day of your power, blinded by your unscrupulous greed, you felt no great fear of a divine power so mighty, do you not shake and tremble before it now, when you and yours are in such awful danger? To what human being can you look for the help that heaven forbids him give you? and to what god, when you have violated religious sanctions so tremendous ? Did you feel no reverence for that holy image in the quiet days of peace ? ** - And yet, though it beheld the capture and burning of two cities where it was lodged, it was twice saved from the sword and flames of war: changing its home after the triumph of Carthage, it did not lose its sanctity, and the great Africanus restored it to its ancient sanctity along with its ancient home, And I will add that, after this deed had been perpetrated, the sight of the bare pedestal, with the name of Africanus carved upon it, roused fierce resentment in every heart, not only because of the sacrilege, but because this man Verres had done away with the glory of the deeds, the memory of the valour, the record of the triumph of our gallant Publius Africanus. [79] When Verres was told this about the pedestal and inscription, he imagined that the whole affair would be forgotten if he were also to remove the pedestal that stood there to tell of his wicked deed. And so, at his command, the Segestans made a contract for its removal ; the text of this contract, extracted from the public records of Segesta, was read aloud to you in the first part of this trial.

[36.] L   And now, Publius Scipio, ** I appeal to you - to you, with your youth and high character and eminent abilities - asking, demanding, that you perform the duty that you owe to your name and family. Why are you struggling on behalf of the man who has filched away the honour and glory of the Scipios ? why are you hoping for the success of his defence ? why am I playing the part that you should play, and shouldering the burden that you should shoulder ? why does one Tullius demand the restoration of the memorials of Africanus, and a Scipio defend the man who carried them off? It is our tradition, inherited from our ancestors, that every man should so stoutly guard his own ancestors' memorials as to resist even their further adornment at the hands of other persons: will you support this man, who has not encroached in this way or that upon the memorial of Publius Scipio, ** but destroyed and done away with it altogether? [80] Who then, by the immortal gods, shall guard the memory of Publius Scipio in his grave, who shall guard the records and tokens of his greatness, if you abandon and desert them, not only suffering them to be despoiled, but even supporting their ravisher and despoiler ?

Segestans are here in court - your own dependents, the allies and friends of Rome. They tell you that after the capture of Carthage Africanus restored the image of Diana to their ancestors, and that it was set up and consecrated at Segesta in the great general's name. They tell you that Verres had it taken down and sent out of the country, and the name of Publius Scipio totally removed and destroyed. They beg and pray you to restore them the object of their worship, to restore to your family its honour and its glory, so that what they once recovered by the help of Africanus from the city of their enemies they may now save by your help from the house of a robber. [37.] L   What answer can you honourably give to this? And what can they do but make this appeal to you and to your honour? See, they are here and make it.

It is in your power, Scipio, to maintain the splendour of your family tradition ; it is assuredly in your power, who possess all the advantages that nature and fortune can bestow upon a human being. I would not snatch from you the reward that the fulfilment of duty will bring you, nor covet the credit that belongs to another man ; I would not be so forward as to offer myself as champion and protector of the memorials of Publius Scipio, when there is a Publius Scipio alive and well and at the height of his youthful powers. [81] If, therefore, you will undertake to defend the great name of your family, it will be for me not only to say nothing of the memorials of the Scipios, but to rejoice over the good fortune of Scipio Africanus in finding after his death kinsmen of his own to protect his famous memory, so that he needs no help from outside sources, If, however, your friendship with Verres ties your hands, if you think what I bid you do no part of your duty, then I will step in as your substitute to discharge your office, and will undertake to play what I have looked upon as another man's part. And if I do, let the illustrious aristocracy of which you are a member cease to complain that the Roman nation is, and always has been, glad to entrust active men of humble birth with public office. No man should complain that character counts for more than anything in Rome, when it is character that makes Rome the mistress of the world. Let not the Scipios alone possess the portrait of Scipio Africanus, nor them alone derive lustre from the great hero's renown : he was such a man, and so served Rome, that not one family but the whole country has the right to protect his fame. In this right I myself have a share, as a citizen of the empire whose proud and glorious fame is due to him; the more so because I do my best to follow him in the path where he leads the way for us all, the path of justice and temperance and strenuous endeavour, as the champion of the distressed and the enemy of the wicked ; and the kinship of aims and pursuits that I thus have with him is hardly less close than the kinship of name and blood that is so precious to yourselves. -

[38.] L   [82] So, Verres, I demand from you this memorial of Scipio Africanus. I abandon my undertaking to plead the cause of Sicily ; for the moment, let this trial for extortion not take place; let the wrongs of Segesta go unheeded. But let Scipio's pedestal be given back again ; let the name of our invincible commander be engraved upon it ; and let the lovely statue that he took from Carthage be set up in its place once more. Who makes these demands of you? Not the champion of Sicily, not your prosecutor, not the people of Segesta, but he who has undertaken the protection and preservation of the great Scipio's name and fame. - And in thus doing my duty there is one member of this Court, Publius Servilius, of whose approval I am sure. He is a man who has done great things, and he is at this moment setting up memorials of what he himself has done and devoting all his attention to this task ; and he will assuredly desire to leave these memorials to be guarded not merely by his own posterity but by all brave men and all true patriots, and not to be pillaged by scoundrels. - And you, Quintus Catulus, whose memorial is the greatest and noblest in all the world, will not, I am sure, regret that the protectors of our memorials should be as many in number as possible, nor that every honest man should reckon it a part of his duty to guard other men's renown. - [83] For my own part, the rest of Verres' robberies and villainies stir my heart no further than to make me feel that they call for denunciation ; but this one afflicts me with such intense pain that I feel that nothing more shameful, nothing more intolerable could come to pass. Shall Verres take the memorials of Scipio of Africa to adorn his own house, a house full of lust and wickedness and foulness ? Shall Verres take this memorial of a wholly temperate and upright man, this image of Diana the virgin goddess, and set it up in a house defiled without ceasing by the debauches of whores and whoremongers ? -

[39.] L   [84] Shall we be told that this is the only memorial of Scipio on which you have laid hands ? What then of your robbing the town of Tyndaris of the beautifully-wrought image of Mercury set up there by the same generous benefactor ? - And by the immortal gods, how unscrupulous and wanton and shameless his methods were! A day or two ago you heard the statement of the excellent men and leading citizens who represent the community of Tyndaris: how deeply they reverence this Mercury, and how they hold a yearly festival in his honour ; how, after the taking of Carthage, Scipio gave them this statue, to mark and commemorate not merely his own triumph but their loyal conduct as our allies ; and with what wicked violence Verres used his official power to take it from them. On his first visit to their town, with as little hesitation as if such conduct were proper and even unavoidable, or as if he were executing the instructions of the Roman senate and the decrees of the Roman nation, he promptly ordered them to take the statue down and convey it to Messana. [85] Those who heard the order given were so deeply shocked, and those who were told of it found it so incredible, that he did not, on this first visit, persist in his attempt. As he was departing, he instructed their president {proagorus} Sopater, whose statement you have heard, to take the statue down, uttered savage threats when Sopater refused, and left the town immediately afterwards. Sopater reported the matter to his senate ; his words were received on every side with shouts of indignation. Well, some time later Verres came back again, and at once asked about the statue. He was told that the senate had refused permission, and that it had been declared a capital offence to touch the statue without orders from the senate ; and they spoke, also, of the veneration felt for it. "What is all this nonsense ? " cried Verres ; '' veneration - capital offence - senate's permission? I'll have the life out of you ; you will be flogged to death, unless the statue is anded over to me." Sopater, with tears in his eyes, reported the matter once more to his senate, and described the man's cupidity and threatening words. No answer was returned: the assembly broke up in panic-stricken confusion. Summoned by a message from the governor, Sopater explained the position, and said the thing was quite impossible. [40.] L   [86] What now happened - it seems right to give all the details of what this brazen rascal did - was done in open court and from the governor's official seat of judgement. It was midwinter ; the weather, as Sopater himself has told you, was very cold, and it was raining hard, when Verres bade his lictors take Sopater, fling him headlong from the colonnade where he himself was sitting into the market-place below, and strip him naked. The command had hardly been fully given before Sopater could be seen stripped of his clothes and surrounded by the lictors. Everyone expected to see the poor innocent fellow receive a flogging. But here they were mistaken. What, Verres have a friend and ally of Rome flogged for nothing ? Oh no, he was not such a scoundrel as that : no one is bad all through, and Verres was never cruel. He treated the man quite gently and kindly. In the middle of the market-place, as in most other Sicilian towns, are equestrian statues of the Marcelli; and Verres, selecting that of Gaius Marcellus, whose services to Tyndaris, and to the province as a whole, were the most recent and extensive, ordered Sopater to be set astride on it and bound fast to it - Sopater, a man of high rank in his community, and the holder of its highest office. [87] It must be evident to all what agony he underwent, bound naked to the metal surface amid all the rain and cold. Yet this cruel outrage continued until the cries of the whole crowd of the assembled people, overcome by the brutality of the deed and their pity for its victim, forced the senate to promise Verres the statue of Mercury. The gods above, they cried, would one day avenge their own wrongs: meanwhile an innocent man must not be allowed to die. Thereupon the senate in a body waited upon Verres, and promised him the statue ; and so it was that, already nearly frozen stiff, Sopater was removed half-dead from the statue of Gaius Marcellus.

I cannot, if I would, prosecute Verres in any systematic fashion: to do so would require no mere ability, but a quite exceptional ingenuity. [41.] L   [88] This matter of the Mercury of Tyndaris may appear to be a single charge, and as such do I put it forward ; but it is in fact a group of charges, and I do not know how I can distinguish them or treat them separately. I may charge him with extorting money, for he has robbed our allies of a statue worth much money ; with public embezzlement, for he has not scrupled to carry off a statue that belonged to the Roman nation, was part of the plunder taken from Rome's enemies, and was erected by the authority of a Roman general ; with treason, for he has dared to pull down and remove from the country a memorial of our country's power and fame and triumphs ; with impiety, for he has profaned the holiest of religious sanctions ; with cruelty, for he has devised a new and peculiarly horrible form of torture for an innocent man who is a friend and ally of Rome. [89] Under what head to class, by what name to describe, his use of the statue of Marcellus for his crime, it is indeed beyond my power to tell. What does it mean? Was it because Marcellus was their patron? Why, what should that fact imply? Should it have tended to the ruin, or to the rescue, of men bound to Marcellus by the ties of service and hospitality ? - Perhaps your purpose was to make it clear that no protector could do anything to save your victims from your violence? The moral would be plain enough, that the legal authority of a rascally governor on the spot had more force than the support of honest protectors who were far away. Or are we to take this as a demonstration of the haughty and overbearing insolence that sets you apart from all other men? You reckoned, it would seem, on doing something to tarnish the fair fame of the Marcellus family. And of course that is why the members of that family are not the protectors of Sicily now, and Verres has taken their place. [90] With what measure of worth and dignity did you credit yourself, that you should seek to divert to yourself the loyalty of that famous and illustrious province, and deprive it of protectors who have served it so faithfully and so long? You slothful and empty-headed rascal, are you capable of protecting the interests, I will not say of Sicily, but of the poorest and meanest Sicilian? Would you use the statue of a Marcellus as a whipping-block for the loyal dependents of his family ? would you seek to make the token of his honour the means of torturing the very men who thus honoured him ? And as to the future, what, may I ask, did you think would happen to your own statues ? - Perhaps what did happen to them : he had ordered the people of Tyndaris to erect a statue to him near those of the Marcelli, on a still loftier pedestal, and as soon as they heard that his successor had arrived, they threw it to the ground. [42.] L   Well, the good fortune of Sicily has assigned as one of your judges: under your governorship, Sicilians were bound to his statue ; and now we deliver you, yourself bound hand and foot, for him to do justice upon you.

[91] I may add, gentlemen, that Verres originally asserted that the people of Tyndaris had sold this statue of Mercury to Marcus Marcellus Aeserninus, who is here in court, and that he hoped, moreover, that Marcus Marcellus himself would support him by saying so. It never seemed likely to me that a young man of his rank, who was a protector of Sicily, would thus lend his name for the purpose of shifting the charge off Verres' shoulders. In any case, I have had the foresight to take such complete precautions in this affair that, however eager we might find Marcellus to take upon himself censure and prosecution for what Verres did, he would be bound to fail completely. I have brought over witnesses from Sicily, and brought with me written documents, that will make the facts of Verres' conduct clear to everyone. [92] There are official statements that the Mercury was conveyed to Messana at the publie expense ; they will tell you what that expense was, and that one Poleas was officially appointed to see to this business. And where is Poleas? here in court, as a witness. Further, that this was done by order of their president Sopater. Who is Sopater? the man who was tied to the statue. And where is he? You have seen him, and heard his statement. The demolition of the statue was seen to by the keeper of the gymnasium, Demetrius, who was responsible for the place where it stood. And is it I who say so? On the contrary, Demetrius himself is here and says so. That not long ago, here in Rome, Verres himself promised to return the statue to the town's representatives if the written evidence about the affair were withdrawn and a guarantee given that they would not appear as witnesses - that this is so you have heard from Zosippus, and also from Ismenias, men of high rank and political importance at Tyndaris.

[43.] L   [93] I charge you next with the robbery, from the much-venerated temple of Aesculapius at Agrigentum, of another memorial of Scipio, a beautiful statue of Apollo, on whose thigh was inscribed the name of Myron in small silver letters. This, gentlemen, he did by stealth, after securing a number of villains to direct and assist him in this impious and abominable theft. The community was grievously distressed : they felt the loss of so many things at once - Scipio's benefaction, their own religious peace of mind, their city's art treasure, the record of our victory, the evidence for their alliance with Rome. Their chief civic authorities in consequence charged their treasurers and police-officers with the duty of maintaining a watch by night over their sacred edifices. The fact is that at Agrigentum - no doubt because the people of the town are numerous and stout-hearted, and also because a large number of excellent and respected Roman citizens live and carry on business in the town, maintaining the most friendly relations with the townsfolk themselves - Verres did not dare to demand or remove openly the objects that took his fancy. [94] Now not far from the market-place of Agrigentum there is a temple of Hercules which they regard with much awe and reverence. In this temple there is a bronze image of Hercules himself : I do not know that I have ever seen a lovelier work of art - not that my understanding of such things is equal to the number of them I have seen ; but it is so lovely, gentlemen, that its mouth and chin are quite noticeably rubbed from the way in which people, when praying or offering thanks, not only do reverence to it but actually kiss it. A body of armed slaves, led by Timarchides, suddenly descended upon this temple late one night when Verres was staying in the town. The watchmen and temple guards raised the alarm, and at first did their best to resist and repel the attack, but were savagely knocked about with clubs and cudgels, and in the end beaten off. Then the bolts were wrenched off and the doors broken open, and they tried to loosen the statue and lever it off its pedestal with crowbars. Meanwhile the shouts of alarm had informed the whole town that an assault was being made on their ancestral gods : no unforeseen invasion by an enemy or surprise attack by pirates - a company of armed and equipped gaol-birds taken from the governor's staff had come there from the governor's house. [95] There was not a man in Agrigentum that night so old or infirm that he did not get out of his bed, when this news aroused him, and lay hold of the first weapon that came to hand ; so that in a short time there was a rush to the temple from all parts of the town. Already for more than an hour a crowd of fellows had been trying hard to get the statue off its pedestal, without its coming loose anywhere for all their efforts, though some tried to lever it up from below, and others to drag it forward with ropes tied to its arms and legs. Then suddenly the townsfolk in a body went for them with a great shower of stones, and the nocturnal troops of our eminent commander took to their heels and fled. However, they carried off a couple of small statuettes, so as not to report back to this sacrilegious pirate quite empty-handed. Sicilians are always ready with some appropriate jest, even under the most trying circumstances ; thus on the present occasion they observed that this monstrous hog ought to be counted among the labours of Hercules quite as much as the celebrated Erymanthian boar.

[44.] L   [96] The plucky behaviour of these Agrigentines was subsequently copied by the people of Assorus ; stout trustworthy folk, though they belong to a much smaller and obscurer community. Through their land flows the river Chrysas, regarded by them as a god and worshipped with much reverence. His temple, which is in the open country close to the road from Assorus to Henna, contains a statue of him, a beautiful work in marble. Owing to the exceptional sanctity of the temple, Verres dared not demand this statue of the people of Assorus, but put the matter into the hands of Tlepolemus and Hiero, who collected and armed a band of men, went one night to the temple, and broke open the doors. The keepers and guards of the temple had timely warning of their coming ; a signal well known to the neighbourhood was sounded on a cow-horn; a crowd gathered from the surrounding farms, and Tlepolemus was ejected and put to flight, with the result that nothing was found missing from the temple of Chrysas, except one small statue of bronze.

[97] Near Engyion there is a sanctuary of the Great___Mother. (I must now deal with these several cases briefly, and indeed pass over a great many of them altogether, so that we may get on to the more important and notorious of such of the man's acts of theft and sacrilege as we are now considering.) In this sanctuary there were breastplates and helmets of Corinthian chased bronze, and some large water-pots, of the same type and wrought in the same beautiful style, which the great Scipio of whom we have been speaking, that model of all human excellence, placed there, with an inscription containing his own name. I will make no long tale of the sad fate of these treasures. Verres carried them all off, gentlemen; he left nothing behind in that holy sanctuary save the traces of this sacrilegious outrage and the name of Scipio. ** Those spoils taken from our foes, those memorials of our great commander, those ornaments that adorned that holy place, shall no longer be described thus nobly, but only as items in the household furniture of Gaius Verres. - [98] It would appear that you are the one person to whom Corinthian bronzes can appeal, and who has an expert's appreciation of the fine temper of the metal and the craftsmanship of the design ; that an educated and cultivated man like Scipio had no understanding of such things, whereas an utter savage like yourself, uncivilised and stupid and illiterate, can understand and appreciate them. Ask yourself if Scipio was not superior, in understanding as well as in temper, to you and to those friends of yours who aspire to be considered men of taste. He did understand how beautiful those things were, and for that very reason regarded them as meant not for the luxurious enjoyment of individuals, but for the adornment of temples and cities, and to be hallowed memorials in the sight of future generations.

[45.] L   [99] Let me now tell you, gentlemen, of an out standing instance of the man's insane and unscrupulous greed, whereby he chose to defile those holy things which it is a sin not merely to lay one's hands upon but even to desecrate in thought. At Catina there is a shrine of Ceres that is reverenced no less than such shrines at Rome, in other lands, almost throughout the world. In its innermost chamber was a very ancient statue of Ceres, the appearance and indeed the existence of which was unknown to men, since men are not allowed to enter the shrine, and the sacred rites are regularly performed by women and girls. This statue was stolen one night from this ancient and hallowed place by Verres' slaves. Next day the theft was reported to the local magistrates by the priestesses of Ceres and the elderly women of high birth and character who were in charge of this sanctuary ; the news was received by all with grief, indignation, and mourning. [100] Alarmed by the very wickedness of this impious act, and hoping to divert suspicion from himself, Verres instructed a man with whom he had been staying to find somebody whom he could accuse of having done it, and to see that this person was found guilty when charged with it, so that Verres might not be charged with it himself. His wishes were promptly carried out; after he had left Catina, information was laid against a certain slave, who was prosecuted, witnesses being secured to swear falsely to his guilt. The trial was held before the whole senate of Catina, in accordance with the law of that state. The priestesses were summoned and privately examined by the court. Asked what they believed had happened, and how the statue had been stolen, they replied that slaves of the governor's had been seen about the place. Even before that, there had been little doubt what the truth of the matter was, and the priestesses' evidence made it quite plain. The court considered its verdict, and the innocent slave was unanimously acquitted - to make it all the easier for you to be unanimous in finding the man now before you guilty. [101] Why, what would you have, Verres ? what do you hope or look for ? on what help can you count from god or man? You dared to send slaves to rob of its treasures a sanctuary that it is sin for free men to enter even to add to its treasures ? you shrank not from laying your hands upon those holy things from which the laws of religion bade you even avert your eyes? Though indeed it was not even the lust of the eye that made you plunge into this foul and impious crime : you desired a thing you had never seen - yes, you conceived a passion for what your eyes had not yet beheld ; it was your ears that begot in you a greed so fierce that neither fear nor scruple, neither the power of the gods nor the censure of men could stay its course. [102] Well, well, no doubt you heard of it from some honest man who could tell you the honest truth about it. And how can that be, when you could not have heard of it from any man at all? It follows that you heard of it from a woman, since the men could neither have seen it nor known of it. - Well then, gentlemen, what sort of woman do you take her to have been? a modest woman, if she engaged in conversation with Verres, and a god-fearing woman, if she showed him how to rob the sanctuary! After all, it is not strange that the sacred things whose worship involved the utmost purity on the part of men and women should have been desecrated by means of the unclean lust of Verres.

[46.] L   And was this statue the only thing for which his desire was kindled by hearing of it without having seen it himself? Far from it. There were many other such cases, out of which I will select for mention that robbery of a most famous and ancient sanctuary about which you heard evidence given in the first part of this trial. Let me, if you please, tell you the story again, and give me the careful attention that you have given me hitherto.

[103] The island of Melita, gentlemen, is separated from Sicily by a rather wide and dangerous stretch of sea. In it there is a town, also called Melita, which Verres never visited, but which none the less he turned for three years into a factory for the weaving of women's dresses. On a headland not far from the town stands an ancient temple of Juno, which has ever been held in such reverence that its sanctity has not once been violated not only in the old days of the Punic Wars, the naval operations of which took place in and around this region, but even by the pirate hordes of our own days. Nay, there is also the story of how King Masinissa's fleet once put in there, and the king's admiral carried off from the shrine certain ivory tusks of astonishing size, conveyed them to Africa, and presented them to Masinissa. At first, the king was delighted with the gift ; but presently, when he was told where they came from, he dispatched a chosen body of men in a large warship to restore the tusks to their place ; and upon the tusks was engraved an inscription in Punic characters, recording how king Masinissa had received them unwittingly, and on learning the truth had caused them to be brought back and put in their place again. Besides these tusks there was a great quantity of other ivory, and many objects of art, including some ivory figures of Victory, of ancient and exquisite workmanship. [104] Well, to omit details, one attempt, one message was enough for Verres' purpose: by means of temple slaves dispatched for the purpose, he had every one of these treasures removed and carried away.

[47.] L   In God's name, what manner of man am I prosecuting ? against whom am I invoking the laws, and the rights this Court should uphold? concerning whom are you, gentlemen, to record your verdicts ? The representatives of the people of Melita state officially that the temple of Juno has been robbed, that Verres has left nothing behind in that most holy . sanctuary ; that the place where our enemies have often landed and the pirates are in the habit of passing winter after winter, without any pirate's ever desecrating it or any enemy's laying hands upon it - this place has now been so me robbed by Verres that nothing at all has been left there. Is this man a defendant, am I a prosecutor, is this a trial, in any fair sense of the words? Is this man brought to trial on charges supported by argument and inference? We find the gods' images stolen, their sanctuaries plundered, whole cities stripped to the skin ; of all these deeds Verres has not left himself either grounds for denying or means of justifying a single one ; his guilt is demonstrated throughout by my words as prosecutor, by the evidence of witnesses, by his own damaging admissions; from the certainty of his malpractices there is no possible escape. And yet he stands his ground and silently joins me in my review of his behaviour !

[105] I feel, gentlemen, that I have too long been engaged with charges of one type, and perceive that I must beware of surfeiting your ears and minds therewith. I shall therefore pass over many of them; but there is more that I do mean to tell you, to which I implore your renewed attention, gentlemen, in the name of the ever-living gods, the gods of whose solemn claims upon us I have so long been speaking, while I put before you the tale of one deed wrought by Verres that stirred the whole province profoundly. And if I shall seem to begin this tale too far back, and to go too deeply into the religious history involved, forgive me: the importance of the affair forbids my handling with superficial haste so horrible a charge.

Following sections (106-151)



FOOTNOTES



34.(↑)   Frugi, "honest.”

35.(↑)   Instead of the usual three.

36.(↑)   Its restoration, after its burning in 83, was not completed till 69.

37.(↑)   It is implied that in war-time such feelings may be overpowered - though with this Diana this had not happened even then.

38.(↑)   Surnamed Nasica,

39.(↑)   The two first names of Africanus are used to point the appeal to a man who is, so far, his exact namesake,

40.(↑)   Scipio's inscription, which Verres left behind, formed part if not all of the "traces" of the robbery.


Following sections (106-151) →


Attalus' home page   |   01.04.24   |   Any comments?