This speech was delivered against Q.Caecilius Niger, prior to the prosecution of 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  It may be, gentlemen, that some of you, or some of the audience, are surprised that I have departed from the line of action which I have pursued for all these years with regard to criminal proceedings ; that having defended many accused persons, and attacked nobody, I have now suddenly changed my policy, and entered the arena as a prosecutor. But anyone whom this surprises has only to understand the motives that govern my action, and he will not only recognise that I am doing right, but will certainly take the view that no one can be held better fitted than myself to conduct the case before us.  Gentlemen, I served in Sicily as quaestor, and so discharged my duties there as to leave behind me, in the minds of all Sicilians, lasting and agreeable memories of my year of office and of myself. The result was that, while they regarded a number of their ancient champions as the main bulwark of their fortunes, they felt they had gained something of the sort in myself as well. Thus it is that now, plundered and despoiled, they have all, repeatedly and officially, approached me, to get me to undertake the cause of defending their common fortunes. They have been telling me that I made many professions and promises not to fail to forward their interests, if the time should ever come when they needed me.  They have declared that now the time has come for me, not merely to forward their interests, but to stand up for the life and existence of the whole province : that now they have not even the gods left in their cities to fly to for protection, since Verres has carried off the holy images of the gods from their most sacred shrines. During the three years in which this man has been their praetor, they have endured, they say, every outrage and torture, every spoliation and disgrace, that vice, cruelty, greed, and insolence could inflict. And they pray and beseech me not to spurn the appeal for help of men who, so long as I am alive, should have no need to appeal for help to anyone.
[2.] L  I found myself thrust into a painfully uncomfortable position, gentlemen. Either I must disappoint these people who had come to me for help and succour, or circumstances were forcing upon me the duty of turning prosecutor, after having given myself from my earliest youth to the task of defending the prosecuted. I told them that they could get Caecilius to manage their case, and that he had the advantage of having served as quaestor in the province. That fact, which I had been hoping would help me out of an annoying situation, really told against me more than anything else: the Sicilians would have been far readier to let me off if they had known nothing of Caecilius, or if he had not served as quaestor among them.  Duty, honour, feelings of pity, the noble example of many others, and the established traditional practice of our ancestors - all these, gentlemen, forced me to the same conclusion. Not in my own interests, but in those of my friends, I was bound to shoulder this heavy and toilsome task.
At the same time, this business brings me one consolation. In form, it is an act of prosecution: but it may fairly be regarded as equally an act of defence. I am, in fact, defending a number of individuals, and a number of communities; I am defending the entire province of Sicily ; and therefore, in prosecuting only one single man, I feel that I am almost remaining true to my established custom - that I am not wholly abandoning my mission as rescuer and helper.
 But suppose it otherwise. Suppose the reasons for my action less suitable, less creditable, and less cogent than in fact they are. Suppose that the Sicilians had not made this request to me, or that I were not affected by the strong tie of friendship that binds me to them. Suppose that I were to say that what I am doing I do for the sake of my country. Here is a human monster of unparalleled greed, impudence, and wickedness. We know the vast scale of his vile robberies and outrages - not merely in Sicily, but in Achaia and Asia and Cilicia and Pamphylia, and even in Rome before the eyes of us all. If I bring this man to judgement, who can find fault with me for doing this, or with my purpose in doing it? [3.] L  Tell me, in the name of all that is just and holy, what better service I can do my country at this present time. Nothing should be more acceptable to the people of this country. Nothing can be more eagerly desired by our allies and by foreign nations. Nothing is likely to contribute more to the general safety and prosperity of us all. Our provinces have been ravaged and plundered and utterly ruined; the allies and dependents of the Roman nation have been brought down to the lowest pitch of wretchedness; they no longer entertain any hope of deliverance, and are only looking for some comfort in the midst of calamity.  Those who are anxious to see our courts of law still reserved for the senatorial order are complaining that they cannot get the right men to act as prosecutors. Those who might act as prosecutors look in vain to see strict justice done in our courts of law. The people of this country meanwhile have been visited with many hardships and many disabilities : yet in all the national life there is nothing whose loss they feel so much as the energy and sense of responsibility that our law-courts showed in times gone by. It is because they feel the lack of such courts that the agitation arose for restoring the tribunes' powers. It is the untrustworthiness of our courts that has excited the further demand for another class of citizens to serve on them. It is through the disgraceful conduct of our judges that the censorship, which in former times was seldom popular, is now being clamoured for, and has already come to be held an excellent and democratic institution.  When criminals of the worst sort can now do what they like; when day by day we hear expressions of popular discontent; when the law-courts are disgraced, and the whole senatorial order detested : for all this evil state of things, there is, I have been feeling, only one possible remedy - capable and honest men must take up the cause of their country and their country's laws. And therefore I will admit that it is the safety of the whole country that has brought me forward to help her where she most needs help.
 Having now explained the motives that led me to come forward in this case, I am bound to deal with the contest between Caecilius and myself, so as to give you something to go upon in your choice of prosecutor. The way in which I understand the matter, gentlemen, is this. When anyone is to be prosecuted for extortion, there are two main considerations to be borne in mind, if there is any competition for the right to prosecute. Whom do the sufferers by the alleged injustice most desire to have conducting their case for them? And whom does the alleged doer of the injustice desire least ? [4.] L  In the case before us, gentlemen, the answer to each of these questions seems to me obvious. However, I will deal with each of them : and I will deal first with that one which you are bound to regard as the more important of the two, I mean the wishes of those to whom the injustice has been done, those, in fact, for whose benefit this Extortion Court has been appointed.
The charge against Gaius Verres is that during a period of three years he has laid waste the province of Sicily : that he has plundered Sicilian communities, stripped bare Sicilian homes, and pillaged Sicilian temples. Here before you, here with their tale of wrong, stand the whole Sicilian people. I am the man to whose honour, having proved it in the past and not found it wanting, they now fly for refuge. Through me are they seeking help from you and from the law of Rome. It is I, I and no other, whom they have chosen to protect them in their calamities and avenge their wrongs, to champion their rights and manage their case throughout.  Will you assert, Caecilius, that it is not at the request of the Sicilians that I come forward in this case ? Or that this court need pay no serious attention to the wishes of these good and loyal allies of ours? If you dare to assert that the Sicilians have not asked me to come for ward - a thing which your pretended enemy Verres would particularly like us to believe - then the first thing I have to say is that you will be backing up your enemy's case. It is just this widely-known fact, that all the Sicilians have been looking for someone to maintain their cause against his outrages, which makes people feel that not only a preliminary but a definite and final verdict has already been given against him.  Now, heavily as this fact tells against him, he dares not deny it: and if you, his enemy, do deny it, I am afraid people will think you treat your enemies in rather too friendly a fashion. In the next place, the truth of the fact is confirmed by some of the leading men in the country. I need not name them all: I will appeal to those who are present in court, since if I were lying I should not like to have them exposing my impudence. The fact is known to C. Marcellus, who is here as a member of the court, and to Cn. Lentulus Marcellinus, who I see is also present. These are men in whose honour the Sicilians particularly trust for protection, since Sicily as a whole is closely connected in all respects with their family.  They are aware that this request has not only been made to me, but made so often, and so earnestly, that I had either to take up the case or to disown the obligations of friendship. Yet after all, I need not appeal to their testimony as though the fact itself could be challenged or misunderstood. Men of high rank, who have come here from every part of the province, stand before you, gentlemen, to beg and pray that when you choose the man to manage their case for them, there may be no variance between your judgement and their own. Deputations are present from every community in Sicily except two: and had they come from these two also, it would but mitigate the force of two extremely serious charges against Verres, relating to matters in which he has made these two communities his accomplices. **  It may be asked why they have petitioned me, of all people, for this protection. Well, if there were any doubt whatever about the fact, I should be ready to tell you the reason for the fact. But the fact, as your own eyes can tell you, being perfectly obvious, I cannot see how the charge ** of having been specially chosen can properly be held to tell against my claim.  However, I do not venture to pretend that they have thought me a better man than any of their other supporters; I will not say so in this speech, and I will not even allow anyone to think so, for it is not true. But with each of these others they have had to consider whether it would suit him, whether his health would allow him, and whether he was really able, to act for them. What I have all along felt and wished about the case is just this : I would rather that any suitable person undertook the case instead of me, but I would prefer myself to nobody at all.
[5.] L  There is, then, no doubt that the Sicilians have appealed to me, and we have only to ask how far this fact should influence you, and how far you are bound to consider the views of these allies of Rome, who come to you humbly seeking redress for their wrongs. About this I need surely say very little. There is of course no question that the whole Extortion Law was framed for the benefit of our allies.  For when our own citizens are robbed of their money, they can usually bring civil actions to recover it, in accordance with the civil law. This law is for our allies. This is the foreigners' charter of rights. This is their strong tower; somewhat less strong now, certainly, than it once was; but still, if our allies have any hope left with which to comfort their sad hearts, it must all rest on this law alone. Not the people of Rome only, but the most distant nations of the earth, look to find men who shall maintain this law in all its strictness; and they have long been looking in vain.  Then can anyone deny that those for whose benefit the law was made should be able to choose the method of procedure under it? Could all Sicily speak with a single voice, this is what she would say: "All the gold, all the silver, all the beautiful things that once were in my cities, houses, and temples: all the various privileges of which, by the favour of the Roman senate and people, I was once possessed : all these things you, Verres, have plundered and stolen from me : and on this account I sue you in accordance with the law for the sum of one hundred million sesterces." These, as I say, are the words all Sicily would utter, if she could speak with a single voice : and as she cannot, she has chosen the man whom she herself thinks the right man to conduct her case for her.  When such is the issue, what incredible impudence, that a man should dare to undertake or hope to undertake the cause of other people, when those others, those whose interests are concerned, will not have him! [6.] L Suppose the Sicilians were saying to you, Caecilius, "We have no knowledge of you, we do not know who you are, we have never seen you before to-day. Allow us to defend our fortunes by means of a man whose good faith we have learned to trust." They would only be saying, surely, what everyone would have to recognise as just. What they actually are saying is that they know both of us, and that they are eager to have one of us to champion their interests, and will not have the other at all.  Why they will not have the other they let us know plainly ; their silence would be enough, but they are not silent. In spite of this, will you thrust yourself on them against their will? In spite of this, will you plead in a cause that does not concern you? Defend people who would rather be abandoned by everyone than defended by you? And promise your assistance to people who believe that you neither desire to serve them nor could serve them if you would? Why do you seek to tear away from them the slender hope of future happiness that they still have, founded on the strictness of the law and those who administer the law? Why do you force yourself in, against all the wishes of those whose wishes the law is particularly anxious to consider? Why, after doing none too well by them as an official among them, do you now seek to achieve nothing less than their utter ruin? Why would you make it impossible for them not only to work for their rights but even to lament their wrongs?  You must know that if you take charge of their case not one of them will appear in it. You must know that they are anxious not to use you to be revenged on someone else, but to use someone to be revenged on you. **
[7.] L Well, but this, you may argue, says only that I am the man whom the Sicilians most wish to have as prosecutor. The other point is, By whom does Verres particularly wish not to be prosecuted ? That no doubt is a very hard point to settle! Did any man ever struggle so openly and so savagely to win an election, or to save his own life, as Verres and his friends have struggled to prevent the assignment of this prosecution to me? Verres believes me, Caecilius, to possess many qualities that he knows well you do not possess. As to how we are both qualified in these respects, I shall have something to say a little later;  for the moment I will merely say - and you may support me in this without opening your lips ** - that there is nothing in me that Verres can afford to despise, and nothing in you to make him feel very anxious. That is why his great friend and defender is canvassing on your behalf and working against me. He is openly asking the court to give you the preference over me. It is a perfectly proper request to make, he says, and it can involve nobody in any unpopularity or dislike. "I am not asking," he says, '' for what I do usually get if I exert myself more than usual to get it. I am not asking that the accused should be acquitted ; I am simply asking that one of two men, and not the other, should be his prosecutor. Allow =/5= me this; make me a simple and justifiable concession which nobody will blame you for making ; and by so doing you will at the same time be allowing me, without incurring any risk or discredit yourself, to secure the acquittal of the gentleman in whose behalf I am working."  At the same time, he appeals in some measure to your fears as well as to your kindness. There are, he tells you, certain members of the court to whom he wishes the voting-tablets to be shown (as can quite easily be done), because the votes are to be recorded not one by one but simultaneously, ** and moreover each voter is receiving a tablet waxed properly, as the law requires, ** and not in the scandalous and shocking way that you may remember. ** Not that he is so very deeply concerned on Verres' account; it is rather that he dislikes the whole turn affairs are taking. Hitherto some of the prosecutors have been boys of good social standing: and these he has been able to outwit. Others have been mere profit-hunters : and these, with good reason, he has always despised and neglected. He now sees that courageous men, persons of established reputation, are willing to prosecute: and he is aware, that if this change takes place, his own supremacy in the courts will be at an end.
[8.] L  I give this gentleman fair warning well beforehand, that, if you decide that I am to conduct this case, he will have to make a radical change in his methods of defence. He will find himself forced into a sounder and more respectable position than he at all desires to take up. He will have to follow the example of eminent men like L. Crassus and M. Antonius, whom he once knew: men who did not hold themselves justified in bringing into court any means of helping their friends except their own honesty and talent. If I conduct the case, he will have no reason to think that the court can be bribed without serious danger to a large number of people.  I, feeling that in this trial I have, certainly, consented to undertake the cause of the Sicilians, but have also chosen to undertake the cause of the Roman nation - I have not only to do what the Sicilians ask of me, not only to crush one particular rascal, but also to do what the people of this country has long been demanding should be done - I have to extinguish and exterminate all rascality of every kind. How far I can succeed, how far I can achieve this end, I will rather leave to the hopes of others than declare with my own lips.
 And now, Caecilius, I ask what you can possibly do. When or where have you done anything to make other people believe in you, or even tested yourself on your own account? It has probably never occurred to you what it means to bear on your shoulders the whole weight of a criminal trial. You must set forth in detail the whole history of another man's life. You must not only make it clear to the understanding of the court: you must draw the picture so vividly that the whole of the audience can see it with their own eyes. You have to maintain the security of our allies and the prosperity of our dominions, the efficacy of our laws and the authority of our law-courts. [9.] L Let me instruct you, this being your first opportunity of gaining such instruction, as to the many qualifications a prosecutor must possess: and if you find that you possess any single one of them, you may have what you are seeking, for I shall be willing to withdraw in your favour.
First, a prosecutor must possess a particularly upright and blameless personal character; nothing could be more intolerable than that a man whose own conduct will not stand criticism should proceed to criticise the conduct of someone else.  I will not say much about you in this connexion ; but there is one fact that I imagine nobody has failed to notice. The Sicilians are the only people who have hitherto had the opportunity of knowing much about you; and although the hostility of the Sicilians is directed against the man whose enemy you profess yourself to be, yet what they say is that, if you are to conduct the case, they will not appear at the trial. Why they say so you shall not be told by me ; let these gentlemen surmise what they cannot help surmising. The opinion of the Sicilians, certainly, is not that you are anxious to procure from their country documentary evidence against Verres. They are an unduly shrewd and suspicious race : and what they suspect is that you are anxious to get certain documents safely out of Sicily that contain, under one and the same seal, evidence not only about Verres' praetorship but about your quaestorship also.  In the next place, a prosecutor must show firmness and honesty. Even if I thought you were anxious to show such qualities, it is easy to see that you cannot. I do not assert certain facts which nevertheless you could not call in question if I did. I do not assert that before you left Sicily you made friends with Verres again: nor that your secretary and intimate friend Potamo was retained in Sicily by Verres when you left it: nor that your accomplished and brilliant young brother Marcus has not only failed to come here with you and help you to avenge your wrongs, but is actually in Verres' company and associating with him on thoroughly inti mate and friendly terms. You display all these marks of the counterfeit prosecutor, and many others besides. But I will make no use of them at present. All I maintain is that, however anxious you might be to be a genuine prosecutor, it is simply impossible for you to be one.  For I observe that a great many of the charges against Verres concern matters wherein you have been associated with him in such a way that you dare not refer to them as prosecutor.
[10.] L It is a general complaint of the Sicilians that Verres, having requisitioned corn from the farmers for his private maintenance, exacted 12 sesterces a modius from them in lieu of the corn, when the value of a modius of wheat was 2 sesterces. A serious charge ; a huge sum of money ; a shameless theft ; an intolerable wrong. I could not fail to secure his condemnation on this ground alone ; but what will you do about it, Caecilius ?  Will you pass over a charge of this importance, or bring it up against him? If you bring it up, are you prepared to charge another man with the guilt of doing what you have done yourself at the same time and place? Will you dare to conduct your prosecution of another man in such a way as to leave you no defence against being condemned yourself? If on the other hand you pass this charge over, what can be your value as a prosecutor ? Serious and well-grounded as the charge is, the personal risk to yourself will deter you not merely from any suggestion of its truth, but even from any allusion to its existence.
 Again, during Verres' praetorship a quantity of corn was by decree of the Senate bought from Sicilian growers: and part of the purchase money has never been paid. This is a serious charge against Verres - serious, that is, if I bring it, but nothing at all, if you are to be the prosecutor. For you were his quaestor ; you handled this public money; and to a large extent it was in your power to see that none of it was withheld, however anxious your praetor might be to withhold it. Here, then, is another charge, of which, if you prosecute, no mention will be made. Throughout the trial not a word will be said about the most serious and notorious of Verres' acts of dishonesty and injustice. Believe me, Caecilius, no man can honestly defend our allies as a prosecutor if he has been the ally and accomplice of the person prosecuted.
 Further, the corn-contractors have exacted money from various communities instead of corn. Well, it may be said, has this happened only with Verres as praetor? No, to be sure: also with Caecilius as quaestor. Then, Caecilius, are you likely to include in the charges against him an offence which you could have and should have prevented? Or will you let it pass altogether? So then, Verres at his trial is simply not to hear mentioned a misdeed for which, at the very time when he was committing it, he could think of no possible future defence.
[11.] L Now these facts to which I refer are all such as have been brought into the light of day. There are other more secret robberies, in which Verres has had the kindness to let his quaestor have a share, no doubt in order to mitigate the violence of his quaestor's animosity against him.  You are aware that these latter have been reported to me. If I care to expose them, it will at once be made plain to everyone that your dealings with each other have not only involved a union of hearts, but not even, as yet, led to a division of plunder. ** If therefore you demand the right of giving evidence against him about the misdeeds in which you have helped him, I have no objection, if it can legally be done. But if it is the right of prosecution that we are discussing, you must really withdraw in favour of those who are not prevented by their own misconduct from demonstrating the misconduct of others.  Do but note the vast difference there will be between your method of prosecution and my own. I shall lay to Verres' account even the wrong things you have done without his help, on the ground that he was in supreme command and yet did not stop your doing them: you, on the other hand, will not even charge him with things he has done himself, for fear of being proved to be more or less his accomplice.
There are other qualities, Caecilius, which you may think of small account, but without which no man can possibly manage any case, and especially not one of this magnitude. He must have some little capacity as a pleader; some little experience as a speaker; some little training either in the principles or in the practice of the forum, the law-courts, and the law.  I am aware that I am here treading on dangerous and difficult ground. Vanity of every kind is disagreeable ; but vanity concerning intellectual and oratorical gifts is far more detestable than any other kind. I shall therefore say nothing of my own intellectual capacity. There is nothing I can say, nor, if there were, would I say it. For either the powers, be they more or less, with which I am credited, are sufficient for my purpose; or, if they are not, I can make them no greater than they are by talking about them. [12.] L  But as for you, Caecilius - and I would assure you that I am now going to speak to you as one friend to another, without reference to the present competition between us - I earnestly advise us to examine your own mind. Recollect yourself. Think of what you are, and of what you are fit for. This is a formidable and very painful undertaking, which involves the cause of our allies and the welfare of our province, the rights of our own nation, and the authority of our law and our courts of law. These are not light or simple matters to take upon you: have you the powers of voice and memory, have you the intelligence and the ability to sustain such a burden?  Think of the crimes that Verres has committed as quaestor, as legate, and as praetor, at Rome and in Italy, in Achaia and Asia and Pamphylia: do you think yourself able to charge him with all these, arranging and distinguishing them properly, according to the times and places at which they respectively occurred ? Do you think you can do what is especially necessary in prosecuting a man on such charges as these - make all his acts of lust and impiety and cruelty excite as much pain, and as much indignation, in those who are told of them here, as they excited in those who underwent them there?  I assure you, these things of which I tell you are no trifles, and you must not think of them lightly. You have to mention everything, establish every fact, expound everything in full. You have not merely to state your case : you have to develop it with impressive wealth of detail. If you wish to achieve any sort of success, you must not only make people listen to you: you must make them listen with pleasure, with eagerness. Even had you the advantage of great natural gifts ; had you from boyhood received the best teaching and enjoyed an elaborate and thorough education ; had you studied Greek literature at Athens instead of at Lilybaeum, and Latin at Rome instead of in Sicily: even so, with a case of such magnitude, a case that has aroused such wide public interest, it would be hard to find the industry to master it, the memory to remember it, the eloquence to set it forth, and the strength of voice and body to carry it through.
 "Well," you may say, "what if it be so? do you then possess all these qualities yourself? " Would that I did, indeed. Still, I have done my best, and worked hard from my boyhood, in order to acquire them if I could. And if the task of acquiring them is so immensely difficult that I, who have devoted my whole life to the pursuit of them, have nevertheless failed, you must see how far you are from possessing them - you who have never given them a thought till now, and have no idea of their nature and scope even now, when the time has come to use them. [13.] L  Everyone knows that my life has centred round the forum and the law-courts; that few men, if any, of my age have defended more cases; that all the time I can spare from the business of my friends I spend in the study and hard work that this profession demands, to make myself fitter and readier for forensic practice : yet even I so feel the need of the special favour of heaven, that when I think of the great day when the accused man is summoned to appear and I have to make my speech, I am not merely mentally perturbed but tremble physically from head to foot.  Even now l picture to myself the excitement and the crowds of people, the breathless interest that will be aroused by the importance of the trial, the vast concourse of hearers which the evil name of Verres will bring together, the keen attention which his misconduct will direct to the speech I make against him. Even now the thought of all this fills me with dread, and I wonder if I can possibly make a speech that will satisfy the indignation of those who abhor and detest the man, or that will be worthy of the expectations of the public and the greatness of the occasion.  You have no such fears, no such thoughts, no such anxieties. You imagine that, if you can learn by heart a phrase or two out of some old speech, like "I beseech Jupiter the Best and Greatest" or "I could wish, gentlemen, had it only been possible," you will be excellently prepared for your entrance into court.  Even if no one were going to reply to you, I cannot believe that you would be able to establish your own case. But in fact, though it has not occurred to Pn. you will have opposed to you an eloquent and highly-trained speaker, whom you will at one time have to meet in argument, and at another to fall upon and attack with every weapon available. For myself, I can commend his ability without being terrified by it; I can admire him, and yet believe it possible that he will enchant me more easily than entrap me. [14.] L He will never crush me with his cleverness; he will never lead me astray by any display of ingenuity ; he will never employ his great powers to weaken and dislodge me from my position. I am well acquainted with all the gentleman's methods of attack, and all his oratorical devices. We have often appeared together, on the same side or on opposing sides. However capable he may be, he will feel, when he comes to speak against me, that the trial is among other things a trial of his own capacity.  But as for you, Caecilius, I can see already, in my mind's eye, how he will outwit you, and make sport of you in a hundred ways; how often he will give you the fullest freedom to choose between two alternatives - that a thing has or has not happened, that a statement is true or false; and how, whichever you choose, your choice will tell against you. Heaven help you, poor innocent, how you will be confused, and distracted, and befogged! Think of it, when he begins to subdivide your speech for the prosecution, and tick off with his fingers the separate sections of your case! Think of it, when he proceeds to smash them up, and clear them away, and polish them off one after the other! Upon my word, you will begin to feel alarmed yourself at the thought that you may have set out to bring ruin upon an innocent man.  Think of it when he begins to bewail his client's unhappy condition: to lighten the load of prejudice against Verres, and shift a portion of it on to your own back : to remind us of the close personal tie between a quaestor and his chief, of our national tradition in this matter and the solemn obligation the lot imposes upon them. Can you face the hostility that such arguments will arouse against you? Take care, take care: consider the danger, I beg and implore you. I cannot help feeling the risk that he will not only beat you down with his arguments, but dazzle and confuse your senses with his mere gestures and bodily movements, till he has made you abandon the whole of your intended line of action.  I note, by the way, that we shall almost immediately be able to settle this question. If you show yourself to-day able to reply to what I am now saying ; if you use one single expression that is not contained in the book of extracts from other people's speeches with which some schoolmaster has presented you: then I will allow it possible that you will not be a failure at the trial too, but do justice to the case and your responsible part in it. But if you come to nothing in this preliminary skirmish with me, how can we expect you to stand up against your furious opponent in the actual battle itself ?
[15.] L Very well, Caecilius himself is nothing and counts for nothing; but it is suggested that he comes provided with experienced and eloquent supporters. That is certainly something, though not enough : the man who is in chief charge of a case ought to be thoroughly well prepared and well equipped himself. Still, who are these supporters of his? Lucius Appuleius, I see, is the first of them: and he, though not young in years, is the rawest beginner so far as forensic training and forensic experience go.  The next, I take it, is Titus Alienus ; well, he gets even him from the spectators' seats ** ; nor have I ever observed at all carefully what his powers as a speaker may be, though I am certainly aware that he is a powerful and well-trained shouter. He is the mainstay of your hopes; if you are appointed to conduct the case, it is he who will have to bear the full weight of it. And even so, he will not be able to exert his full powers as a speaker. He will have to think of your credit and your reputation. He will be forgoing some of the success he might achieve by his own speech, in order that you may not, in spite of everything, be a complete failure. We know how Greek actors behave on the stage ; very commonly the man who has the second or third part could speak a good deal more loudly and clearly than the man who has the first part, but lowers his voice considerably, in order that the superiority of the chief actor may be as pronounced as possible. That is what Alienus will be doing. He will subordinate himself to you, and play up to you, and exert himself considerably less than he might.  Now let me ask this court to consider the sort of prosecutors we are likely to have in this important trial, if Alienus himself is going to withhold from us a good part of such capacity as he does possess, and Caecilius can hope to have any sort of success himself only if Alienus moderates his own energy and hands over the chief part as orator to him. Whom he is likely to find as fourth speaker I cannot imagine, unless it is to be one of that gang of obstructionists who applied for the right of supporting the chosen prosecutor whoever he might be:  worse aliens than Alienus, but Caecilius comes here in such a condition that he will have to extend his hospitality to one of them. I shall not pay them the compliment of reserving a definite part of my speech in which to deal with their observations, nor shall I reply to each of them separately. I had no intention of referring to them at all, and I have done so quite by accident ; and I shall therefore dispose of them in a few passing words. [16.] L Do they suppose I am so badly off for friends, that I must be furnished with a supporter from the street instead of from among the gentle men whom I have brought here with me? And are they so badly off for persons to accuse that they must try to snatch my own case out of my hands, instead of finding themselves victims of their own social standing in the neighbourhood of the Maenian Column ** ? "Set me to keep watch on Tullius," says one of them.  Upon my word, I shall want a good many people to keep watch, if I ever let you have access to my cupboards. You will certainly want watching, or you will not only let out my secrets but go off with my property. However, in answer to these gentlemen's proposal to watch me, a few words will be enough. This great case has been undertaken by me and entrusted to me: and & court of the present character is not likely to allow anyone to aspire to the honour of assisting me as prosecutor, unless I am willing to have him: the fact being that my integrity repudiates the need for watchers, and my caution warns me against spies.
 But to return to yourself, Caecilius. You see how many qualifications you lack: you must certainly by this time be aware how much you are what any guilty man would wish his prosecutor to be. Well, what reply can be made to all this? Note that I do not ask what reply you are likely to make. I know well that your reply will not come from you, but from that book which I see in the hands of your adviser there, who, if he wants to give you a really good piece of advice, will insist on your leaving the court without attempting a single word in reply to me. For what reply will you make? Perhaps what you are always repeating, that Verres has wronged you. I can well believe that. He has wronged everyone in Sicily, and it would be too much to expect that he should make you a special exception by forwarding your interests.  But while the rest of the Sicilians have found themselves a man to avenge their wrongs, you are trying to get satisfaction yourself for your own, a thing which you cannot do, and in attempting which you are going the right way to prevent also the infliction of punishment and vengeance for the wrongs of all the others. You forget that it is usual for people to ask not merely who should, but also who can, avenge them. The man who has both qualities is better than any other ; but if a man has only one of these things, it is usual to inquire rather what he can do than what he would like to do.  If, however, you really think that the right to prosecute Verres should be conceded to the greatest sufferer from his wrongdoing, which fact, after all, do you think should excite the greater indignation in the minds of this court - that he has injured you, or that he has ravaged and ruined our province of Sicily ? You will, I presume, allow that the latter is the more serious, and deserves to excite, in every mind, the more serious indignation. You must therefore also allow the province to have preference over you in the privilege of prosecuting - for the province it is that prosecutes, when her case is conducted by the man whom she has definitely chosen to maintain her rights, to avenge her wrongs, and to conduct her case throughout.
[17.] L  You may object that the wrong Verres has done you is serious enough to stir deeply the feelings of all others, even though it does not touch them directly. I deny this. It is not, I take it, beside the point to ask what sort of wrong is alleged as the reason for a personal enmity. I will therefore tell the court what the wrong is: for unless Caecilius is a downright fool he will certainly never allege it himself. There is a certain woman of Lilybaeum, named Agonis, formerly a slave of Venus of Eryx. This woman, in the days before Caecilius was quaestor, had very considerable wealth and property. An admiral serving under Antonius ** wronged her by carrying off a number of her slave musicians, whom he said he required for service in the navy. She thereupon followed the regular practice of those Sicilians who belong to Venus, or who having belonged to her have since become free. She used the name of Venus to make the admiral afraid of committing sacrilege, and stated that she, and all that belonged to her, were the property of the goddess.  When this was reported to Caecilius as quaestor, that excellent man and paragon of justice sent for Agonis, and at once appointed a court with instructions to decide "Whether ** she was guilty of having said that she and her property were the property of Venus." The members of the court gave the only decision possible : for no one had the least doubt that Agonis had spoken thus. Caecilius took possession of the woman's property, and adjudged the woman herself to be the slave of Venus: then he sold her property, and paid the money he got for it into his account. ** Thus Agonis, just for using the sacred name of Venus in order to keep possession of a few slaves, was most unjustly deprived by Caecilius of all her property, and of her freedom as well. Later on, Verres arrived at Lilybaeum. He investigated the matter, annulled the judgement, and obliged his quaestor to pay over to Agonis the full sum he had realised by the sale of her property.  So far, as I see you all note with surprise, Verres is not Verres but a perfect Scaevola. ** Could he have added more gracefully to his public reputation, or relieved a poor woman in distress more equitably, or checked his wanton subordinate more energetically? The whole of his actions here seem to deserve the highest commendation. But suddenly, as though he had drunk of Circe's goblet, he turned in one flash from a man into a Verres, ** became the hog that his name suggests, and resumed his proper character. He appropriated a considerable part of that sum of money, only returning a modest fraction to the woman herself.
[18.] L  Now if you maintain that in this matter Verres has injured you, very good ; I will allow that. But if you complain that he has done you a wrong, I say no, he has not. And finally, if any wrong has been done you, none of us should resent the matter more gravely than yourself, the alleged sufferer. But if you subsequently made friends with him again, if you visited him several times at his house, if later he dined with you - well, which would you have us consider you, a traitor to your friend or a traitor to justice? One or the other it is plain to me you must be: but I do not propose to argue the point with you - you may choose which alternative you will.
 Now if your plea that Verres has wronged you fails as the others have failed, what good reason can you produce for being preferred to me, or indeed to anyone? Possibly one that I am told you do intend to produce, the fact that you were his quaestor. Such a reason would have much force, if the dispute between us were as to which of us was bound to have the more friendly feelings towards him. But we are in fact competing for the right of attacking him as an enemy ; and it is absurd to suppose that a good reason for behaving to him as a friend can also be a good reason for attempting to secure his downfall.  The truth is that even if your praetor had done you a number of wrongs, you would gain yourself more credit by bearing them patiently than by seeking revenge for them : and since he has, in point of fact, never in all his life behaved better than when he did you what you call a wrong, how can this court hold that a reason which they would not admit valid even for someone else can justify you in being false to a personal obligation? Even if he has wronged you deeply, yet, having been his quaestor, you cannot prosecute him without incurring some blame : and if he has not wronged you at all, you cannot prosecute him without incurring criminal guilt. Consequently, the alleged wrong not being proved, can you imagine that there is any member of this court who would not rather you came out of the affair free from blame than guilty of a crime?
[19.] L  Just think how very differently you and I regard this matter. You, who are worse qualified than myself in all other respects, hold that your claim is better than mine, on the sole ground that you have been Verres' quaestor: I should hold, even if you were better qualified in all other respects, that your claim to prosecute should be rejected on this one ground alone. We have inherited from our ancestors the tradition that a praetor and his quaestor must be like father and son ; that no tie of friendship can be imagined more inevitable and more solemnly binding than their close association in the sphere of duty which the lot assigns them and their intimate connexion as servants of the public.  It follows that, as Verres has stood in a parental relation towards you, you could not prosecute him without being guilty of unnatural conduct, even though you were legally justified in doing so: and since you are in fact trying to secure the downfall of your own superior officer without his having wronged you at all, you cannot deny that your intended assault upon him is both unnatural and unjust. Indeed the effect of your quaestorship is to make it exceedingly hard for you to justify your prosecuting the man whose quaestor you were, and not to constitute a ground for your claiming to be specially selected as his prosecutor. Hardly ever has a man's quaestor competed for the right of prosecuting him and not been rejected.  For this reason Lucius Philo was not allowed to prosecute Gaius Servilius; Marcus Aurelius Scaurus was not allowed to prosecute Lucius Flaccus; Gnaeus Pompeius was not allowed to prosecute Titus Albucius. None of them were rejected because they were thought incapable: the court's object was to avoid endorsing, with its authority, the wilful disregard of the obligations of friendship. I may remark that the competition between Gnaeus Pompeius and Gaius Julius was much like the present one between you and myself. For Pompeius had been quaestor to Albucius, just as you have been quaestor to Verres: and Julius as prosecutor was much strengthened by having undertaken his case at the request of the Sardinians, just as I have undertaken mine at the request of the Sicilians.
No prosecutor has ever been held to be better justified, nor to have more honourable reasons for his action, than when he has incurred hostility, faced danger, and spared himself neither pains nor enthusiasm nor hard work, in behalf of our allies, in defence of our dominions or for the good of foreign peoples. [20.] L  The truth is that the motive of a man who seeks to avenge his own wrongs may be unobjectionable, though he is then prompted by his own resentment, and not by desire for his country's good; but surely the motive is far nobler, surely it should be felt not merely unobjectionable but welcome, when a man who has suffered no personal wrong is moved to indignation by the wrongs and miseries inflicted upon our nation's allies and friends. Not along ago that gallant and honourable gentleman Lucius Piso applied for the right to prosecute Publius Gabinius. Quintus Caecilius, making a counter-application, said that he was prompted thereto by the personal enmity that had long existed between him and Gabinius. The personal influence and character of Piso had much to do with his success: still, the strongest reason was that the Achaeans had chosen him as their champion.
 After all, the Extortion Law itself is meant to champion the allies and friends of the Roman nation; surely, therefore, when our allies have decided that they wish for a particular man to conduct their case and defend their interests for them, the merest justice requires us to believe that that man is the right one to conduct the case in court. Can it be denied that the more creditable motive for a man to mention is far the stronger argument in support of his plea? Very well then, which of these two motives is the more creditable and distinguished for a man to mention? "I prosecuted the man whom I served as quaestor, with whom I was associated intimately by the verdict of the lot, by ancient tradition, by the solemn judgement of heaven and earth? " or "I prosecuted him at the request of our allies and friends, I was chosen by the entire province to protect its rights and interests." Is there room for doubt, that it is more creditable in a prosecutor to be helping the people among whom he served, than to be attacking the man under whom he served ?
 The most eminent men in the country, during the best period of our history, counted it among their most honourable and splendid achievements to protect from injury, and to maintain in prosperity, those guests and retainers of theirs, the foreign nations who had been received as friends into the Roman Empire. That wise and distinguished man Marcus Cato Sapiens, history tells us, made many bitter and lasting enemies by standing up for the unfortunate Spaniards, among whom he had served as consul.  More recently, we may remember, Gnaeus Domitius prosecuted Marcus Silanus in connexion with the wrongs of a single friend and guest of his father's, one Aegritomarus. [21.] L Nothing, indeed, has ever alarmed the tyrant and oppressor more than the revival and reintroduction, after long disuse, of this tradition of our forefathers, by which our allies' grievances have been brought before a man not notably inactive, and taken up by a man whom they believed honourable and painstaking enough to defend their interests successfully.  It is just this that is causing, in certain quarters, alarm and anxiety. It is just this custom the introduction of which is resented, or rather - for it was introduced before - its recovery and renewal. They anticipate that, with its gradual extension and advance, the law and the law-courts will pass into the hands of honourable and fearless gentlemen, and out of the hands of raw youths and profit-hunters like our friends yonder.  This custom, this practice, was the pride of our fathers and grandfathers, in the days when Publius Lentulus, princeps senatus, prosecuted Manius Aquilius, and Gaius Rutilius Rufus supported him; the days when Lucius Cotta was summoned to stand his trial by Publius Africanus, at a time when that great and fortunate man had already been consul twice, and also censor, and was at the zenith of his brilliant and successful career. In those days this country had a great name, and deserved to have it: the importance and prestige of the Roman empire were, and deserved to be, tremendous. No one thought it strange then that Africanus should do what people to-day pretend to think strange when done by a man of such moderate wealth and modest capacity as myself.  "What is that fellow up to?" they grumble. "He has always been on the side of the defence so far: why does he want to get a reputation as a prosecutor, particularly now that he is old enough to be a candidate for the aedileship ?" Well, I hold that the prosecution of bad men, and the defence of those in misery and distress, is appropriate to men of my own age, and to men far older than I am; I hold that it is appropriate to men holding the highest offices in the country. And most surely, now that our public life is in a state of serious and almost fatal decay, and the degraded villainy of certain members of our courts has infected and contaminated them as a whole, either the remedy is that the most honourable, incorruptible, and industrious men available should come forward to defend our laws and uphold our courts; or else, if even this can do no good, then most surely no cure for all these grave evils can ever be devised.  Nothing can form a better safeguard of the country's interests, than that the prosecutor should be as deeply concerned for his credit and honour as the man he prosecutes is concerned for his life and property. That is why the most energetic and painstaking prosecutors have always been men who feel that their own reputations are at stake. :
[22.] L Therefore, gentlemen, the conclusion forced upon you is this. No one has ever thought anything of Quintus Caecilius, and no one will have any expectation of him in the present case. He has no earlier reputation that he is anxious to preserve, no hope for the future that he is concerned to justify. He is consequently not likely to display any great severity, or any great care, or any great industry, in handling this case. For he has nothing to lose if he fails: he may come out of the business branded as an infamous scoundrel, and yet not find that he has lost any of his former distinctions.  I have given many hostages to the Roman people; and if I am to preserve them unharmed, to protect them, to secure them, to have them restored to me, I must fight with every weapon at my disposal. What are these hostages? The office to which I seek election; the ambition that I cherish in my heart; the reputation which I have risen early and toiled in the heat to gain. If I can show, in this case, that I have done my duty to the best of my power, I shall, by the favour of my countrymen, be able to keep those precious things unharmed and safe. But I have only to fail, only to take one little false step, and I shall lose in a moment all the good things that I have acquired, one by one, through a long period of years.  It rests with you, then, gentlemen, to choose the man whom you think best qualified by good faith, industry, sagacity and weight of character to maintain this great case before this great court. If you give Quintus Caecilius the preference over me, I shall not think I have been beaten by the better man: but Rome may think that an honourable, strict, and energetic prosecutor like myself was not what you desired, and not what Senators ever would desire. Gentlemen, see that this does not happen.
1.(↑) These two cities (Messana and Syracuse) have not kept away because they object to Cicero as their champion, but because, if they did appear, though they would no doubt help thereby to establish their own innocence, they would also help to establish that of Verres, and they care more for revenge on him than for their own good name.
2.(↑) 'obiciatur' is ironical, like Pitt's "atrocious crime of being a young man."
3.(↑) In §§ 30-33 Cicero gives some details of the conduct of Caecilius in Sicily that go to prove his having been the accomplice of Verres in Sicily.
4.(↑) i.e., Caecilius, even unheard, is not an impressive person : let him reveal his incompetence by speaking, and Cicero's judgement will be further confirmed.
5.(↑) The singular number is used, to suggest that Hortensius is appealing to each member of the court individually.
6.(↑) Two precautions (to ensure secrecy of ballot) which Hortensius bids those judges whom he has bribed, or intimidated, to nullify by showing their tablets to his agents among them.
7.(↑) Cf. i § 40.
8.(↑) The tablets will be all alike, without distinguishing marks or colours on the wax.
9.(↑) i.e., they trusted each other too well for this to be needed.
10.(↑) Subsellium may be any seat in a court. Alienus began his career as a claqueur.
11.(↑) In the Forum: presumably a lounging-place of the "lower orders."
12.(↑) The father of Mark Antony. He had a general commission to suppress piracy.
13.(↑) In these formulae, the apodosis of the 'si' clause is 'condemnato'.
14.(↑) Or possibly "into the public account."
15.(↑) Mucius Scaevola, the eminent jurist, proconsular governor of Asia 94 B.C., where his just rule made his name a synonym for an upright governor.
16.(↑) Verres means "boar."
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