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Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53-86

Ingo Gildenhard


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1[53] Aspendos, as you know, is an old and famous town in Pamphylia, chockfull of the most precious statues. I am not going to say that this or that statue was taken away from there. I am saying this: that you, Verres, did not leave a single statue in Aspendos; all were loaded up and carried away from the shrines, from the public places, openly, with everybody looking on, on wagons. And even that lyre-player of Aspendos, about whom you have often heard what is a proverbial expression among the Greeks – they used to say that he played all of his music inside – he took away and put in the innermost part of his house so that he seems to have outdone even the lyre player at his art.

2[54] We know that there is a very ancient and sacred shrine of Diana in Perge. I say that it, too, was stripped bare and despoiled by you, that from the cult statue of Diana herself whatever gold it had was removed and carried away. What, on earth, is this outrageous impudence and insanity! For if you had entered into the cities of our allies and friends, which you visited with the right and the title of a legate, by force with an army and holding a military command, you nevertheless, I think, should not have carried away the statues and treasures that you lifted from these cities into your house or the country houses of your friends, but to Rome as public possession.

3[55] What should I say about M. Marcellus, who captured Syracuse, a city most richly adorned with works of art? What about L. Scipio, who waged war in Asia and vanquished Antiochus, a most powerful king? What about Flamininus, who subdued Philip and Macedonia? What about L. Paulus, who overcame king Perses by force and excellence? What about L. Mummius, who took the most beautiful and most richly adorned city, Corinth, chockfull of every kind of treasure, and brought many cities of Achaia and Boeotia under the power and dominion of the Roman people?

4Their houses, even though they shone by virtue of public distinction and personal excellence, were empty of statues and paintings; yet we see the entire city, the temples of the gods, and all regions of Italy richly adorned with their gifts and monuments.

5[56] I fear that someone might consider these examples excessively ancient and by now obsolete; for back then all were uniformly of such a kind that this praise of outstanding excellence and integrity seems to belong not only to the men, but also those times. P. Servilius, a most illustrious man, having performed the greatest deeds, is present to give his verdict on you: he captured Olympus by means of force, troops, good counsel, and personal excellence – an ancient city amplified and adorned with every kind of ornament. I put forward a recent example of a most courageous man: for Servilius, a general of the Roman people, captured Olympus, a hostile town, after you, a legate of the rank of a quaestor in those same regions, saw to it that the pacified townships of allies and friends be plundered and devastated.

6[57] What you have carried off in crime and banditry from the most sacred shrines we are unable to see except in your house or the houses of your friends: the statues and works of art that P. Servilius took according to the law of war and the right of the general from a hostile town captured by military force and excellence, these he brought to the Roman people, paraded in his triumph, and took care to have entered into the public records for the treasury. Learn from the public records the meticulous attentiveness of the most eminent man! Read them out! The Registered Accounts of P. Servilius. You see that not just the number of the statues, but even the size, shape and condition of each and any are described with precision in the records. Surely the agreeable feeling of excellence and victory is greater than that pleasure derived from lustfulness and desire! I declare that Servilius had the spoils of the Roman people far more carefully itemized and entered in the records than you your thefts.

7[58] You will state that your statues and paintings, too, served to adorn the city and the forum of the Roman people. O yes, I remember! Together with the Roman people I saw the forum and the comitium decorated with adornment that was spectacular to behold, but bitter and distressing to feeling and thought. I saw how everything shone in the splendour of your thefts, the plunder of the provinces, the spoils of allies and friends. Indeed on this occasion, judges, this man received the greatest possible encouragement to carry out future misdeeds in like manner; for he saw that those, who wished to be called masters of the courts, were in fact slaves to these desires.

8[59] But our allies and foreign nations at that time first gave up all hope of recovering their possessions and fortunes because by chance a great number of ambassadors from Asia and Achaia were at Rome at the time, who kept worshipping in our forum the images of the gods that had been taken from their shrines; and likewise, when they recognized other statues and precious objects, they tearfully kept looking at each wherever it stood. At the time, we kept hearing that all of them expressed the opinion that there was no longer any reason why anyone should doubt the final destruction of allies and friends, when they actually saw that in the forum of the Roman people – the very location where previously those who had inflicted injury on the allies used to be put on trial and sentenced – those items were on public display that had been criminally carried and snatched away from the allies.

9[60] In the circumstances just indicated, I do not think that he will deny having in his possession statues galore and too many paintings to count; yet I believe he is in the habit of declaring over and again that he bought the objects he plundered and stole – because, indeed, he was sent to Achaia, Asia, and Pamphylia on public expenses and with the title of a legate as buyer of statues and paintings. I have all the account books both of this man and of his father, and I have read and studied them with utmost care – of the father for as long as he lived, yours for as long as you say you kept them. For as concerns this man, judges, you will discover the following innovation. We have heard that someone never kept accounts; this is the common opinion about Antonius, a wrong one, for he kept them with utmost care; but may this count as one possible approach, though in no way to be approved. We have heard that someone else did not keep them from the start, but began to do so from a certain point in time; there is a certain rationale even to this approach. But that practice is assuredly new and absurd, which this man mentioned in his response to us when we demanded his accounts from him, namely that he kept them up to the consulship of M. Terentius and C. Cassius, but ceased to do so afterwards.

10[61] We shall look elsewhere into what kind of practice this is; at the moment, it does not matter to me. For for the period I am now concerned with I have your accounts and those of your father. You cannot deny that you have brought to Rome a great number of outstandingly beautiful statues and a great number of superb paintings. If only you denied it! Show me one, in either your accounts or those of your father, that has been bought: you have won. Not even for those two outstandingly beautiful statues that now stand at the pool in your inner courtyard, which for many years stood in front of the doors of the temple of Samnian Juno you are in a position to show how you bought them – these two, I mean, which are the only ones left in your house at this point, waiting for a buyer, left abandoned by the other statues.

11[62] I suppose, then, that in these matters only was he wont to act on his untamed and unbridled lusts: his other desires were contained within some means or measure. How many free-born persons, how many married mothers do you think this man violated during his disgraceful and foul stint as legate? Has he set foot in any town without leaving more (im)prints of his adulteries and sexual assaults than (foot)prints of his coming? But I shall omit to mention anything that can be denied. Even matters that are utterly undeniable and absolutely notorious I shall leave aside. One only of his wicked deeds I shall select so that thereby I can come quicker at last to Sicily, which has laid this burdensome business upon me.

12[63] On the Hellespont, there is a town called Lampsacus, members of the jury, among the best of the provinces of Asia, famous and renowned; the inhabitants, on the other hand, the Lampsacenes themselves, are not just in the highest degree obliging to all Roman citizens, but are, moreover, also extremely calm and peace-loving, predisposed almost more than the others towards the supreme leisure of the Greeks instead of violence of any kind or hostile disorder. It so happened – after this man here had demanded of Gnaeus Dolabella that he send him on an embassy to King Nicomedes and King Sadalas and had imperiously insisted on an itinerary for himself better suited to his own gain than the interest of the commonwealth – that he came in the course of this journey to Lampsacus, to the great disaster and near destruction of its citizenry. This man here was escorted to a certain host named Ianitor, and his entourage were likewise lodged with other hosts. As was the habit of this man here, and as his criminal lusts urged him to do, he instantly issued his companions, human beings of the most worthless and disgraceful type, with the task of scouting around and inquiring about any young girl or woman worth his while, for the sake of which he might prolong his stay in Lampsacus.

13[64] One of his followers was a certain Rubrius, a man tailor-made for the lusts of this man here, who was wont to track all of this down with remarkable skill wherever they went. This man reported to Verres the following matter, namely that there was a certain Philodamus, easily the leading man among the inhabitants of Lampsacus in terms of family, standing, wealth, and reputation; that he had a daughter who lived with her father since she had no husband – a woman of outstanding beauty; but that she was thought to be of the highest probity and chastity. When our man heard this, he was so on fire with passion for something which he had never seen himself or even heard about from someone who had seen it, that he declared he wished to move in with Philodamus at once. His host Ianitor, who suspected nothing but feared that something about himself was causing offence, began to keep our man back with all his might. This one here, since he was unable to find a reason to leave his host, began to build a road towards the consumption of his illicit desire by alternative means. He declares that his darling Rubrius, his helper and confidant in all matters of this sort, has lodgings of insufficient quality; he gives orders to have him transferred to Philodamus.

14[65] When this was conveyed to Philodamus, even though he was ignorant of how much evil was already at this point decided for himself and his children, he nevertheless came to see this man here; he made it clear that this was not an obligation of his; that, when it was his turn to host visitors, he was accustomed to house praetors and consuls, not the hanger-ons of legates. This man here, who was carried along by one exclusive passion, ignored his entire request and reasoning; he gave orders that Rubrius be transferred by force to Philodamus, who had no obligation to house him. At this point, Philodamus, after having failed to obtain what was his right, tried hard to preserve his usual human kindness. As a man, who had always been considered most welcoming and friendly towards our men, he did not want to make it seem that he received even someone like Rubrius into his house against his will. He has a dinner prepared in grand and lavish fashion, as he was especially wealthy among his countrymen. He asks Rubrius to invite anyone whom he pleases and, if he so wished, reserve just one place for himself alone. He even sends his son, an outstanding young man, away to dine with some relative of his.

15[66] Rubrius invites the followers of this man here; Verres makes sure that all know what was required of them. They arrive punctually; everyone takes his place at table. Conversation arises among the diners and the suggestion to drink in the Greek manner: the host encourages everyone, they issue challenges with greater cups, the dinner swings through the conversation and the good mood of all. After it seemed to Rubrius that the matter has been sufficiently fired up, he says: ‛Tell me, Philodamus, why don’t you issue orders to have your daughter called inside to us?’ Philodamus, as a human being of the highest seriousness and of advanced age and as her father, was taken aback by the suggestion of this disgraceful man. Rubrius urges him on. In response, so as to say something, he declared that it wasn’t customary among the Greeks to have women lay down at a dinner-party of men. At this point, people from all over start yelling: ‛This is truly intolerable! Let the woman be called!’ At the same time Rubrius orders his slaves to lock the door and assume guard at the entrance.

16[67] As soon as Philodamus realized that what was happening and what was being prepared was the rape of his daughter, he summons his slaves. He commands them to disregard him, to defend his daughter; gives orders that someone should run off to report to his son this utmost evil threatening the house. In the meantime, uproar arises all over the house; a fight breaks out between the slaves of Rubrius and his own; the outstanding and highly regarded man is being thrown around in his own house. Everyone is fighting for himself. Finally Philodamus is drenched in boiling water by none other than Rubrius. As soon as these matters have been conveyed to his son, he instantly and breathlessly rushes to the house to save the life of the father and the chastity of his sister. In the same spirit, all Lampsacenes, as soon as they heard of this, came together at the house at night, moved by both the rank of Philodamus and, especially, by the magnitude of the outrage. At this point, Cornelius, the lictor of this man here, who had been stationed together with the slaves of Verres by Rubrius as if on guard to abduct the woman, is killed; some of the slaves suffer wounds; Rubrius himself is injured in the melee. This man here, who saw how great an uproar he had incited through his lust, wishes to flee somehow if he could.

17[68] On the following day, the men come together early in a meeting; they explore what best to do; those who possessed the highest degree of authority spoke in turn to the people, each presenting his own view. No-one was found who did not think and speak as follows, namely that if the Lampsacenes were to avenge the unspeakable crime of this man here with the force of violence, they should not fear that the senate and the people of Rome would think this citizenry as deserving of punishment; but if legates of the Roman people employed the legal principle against allies and external nations that they were not permitted to keep the chastity of their children safe from their lust, it would be more satisfactory to suffer anything else than be the victims of such bitter violence.

18[69] Since all felt this and since everyone spoke in this way on account of his feeling of grief, all set out for the house in which this man was lodging. They began to break down the door with stones, to attack with swords, to set around wood and brush and to lay fire. At that point Roman citizens, who were in Lampsacus for business, rush together. They plead with the Lampsacenes to consider the name of the office of legate a more serious matter than the injustice of a legate; they say that they understand that that human being is impure and wicked but since he had not brought to fruition what he had attempted to do and would not be in Lampsacus afterwards, their transgression would be lighter if they spared a wicked human being than if they failed to spare a legate.

19[70] And thus this man, by far more criminal and wicked than that Hadrianus, was still considerably luckier. That one, because the Roman citizens were unable to tolerate his greed, was burned alive in his house in Utica; and it was considered to have befallen him so deservedly that all were glad and no punitive measure was taken. This one, having been singed in a conflagration set ablaze by allies, nevertheless escaped from that perilous fire, and yet he has until now been unable to contrive any explanation why he did what he did or why it happened that he fell into such danger. For he is unable to say ‛since I wanted to put down a rebellion, since I was issuing an order for provision, since I was enforcing a tribute, since, finally, I did something on behalf of the commonwealth, because I gave an order too harshly, because I took punitive action, because I issued a threat.’ Even if he were saying these things, he still ought not to be pardoned if he seemed to have been brought into such danger by giving orders to allies in an excessively harsh way.

20[71] Now, since he dares neither to state the true cause of this uproar nor to fabricate a false one, yet one of the most honest men of his own order, who at the time was an attendant to C. Nero, P. Tettius, stated that he had found out these same things in Lampsacus, and a man distinguished in every respect, C. Varro, who at the time was military tribune in Asia, states that he had heard these same things from Philodamus himself, can you doubt that fortune did not wish so much to snatch this man from that danger as to reserve him for your judgment? Unless indeed he will say what Hortensius interjected at the testimony of Tettius in the previous hearing – on that occasion he made it sufficiently clear that he is unable to remain silent if there is anything at all that he could say so that we all are able to understand that he had absolutely nothing to say when he remained silent with the other witnesses: at the time he said that Philodamus and his son were condemned by C. Nero.

21[72] So as not to lose too many words about this, let me say only this, that Nero and his advisers endorsed the position that, since it was a matter of fact that the lictor Cornelius had been killed, they deemed that no-one ought to have the power to kill a human being, not even to avenge an injustice. By this judgment of Nero I do not see you to have been absolved of your wickedness, but those men to have been convicted of murder. But of what kind was this condemnation? Please listen, judges, and finally take pity on your allies and demonstrate that your tutelage ought to afford them some protection. Because to all of Asia that man who was in name a lictor of this man here, but in fact a servant of his most wicked lust, seemed to have been justly killed, this man here feared that Philodamus would be acquitted by Nero’s verdict. He urged and entreated Dolabella to leave his province and travel to Nero. He makes it clear that he could not be secure if Philodamus were allowed to live and at some future time come to Rome.

22[73] Dolabella was won over; he did what many have censured, namely that he left his army, his province, his war and marched into Asia, into the province of someone else because of an utterly worthless human being. After he had come to Nero, he demanded of him to look into the case of Philodamus. He had come himself in order to be part of the group of advisors and to give his vote first. He had even brought along his prefects and military tribunes, all of whom Nero called into his advisory council. Part of the council was also that fairest of judges, Verres himself. There were also some Roman creditors of the Greeks, for whom the gratitude of whoever was the most wicked legate was of greatest use for the collection of money.

23[74] That wretched man was unable to find anyone to argue his case; for what Roman was there who was unmoved by Dolabella’s influence or what Greek who was unmoved by the power and imperial command of the same man? But as prosecutor a Roman citizen was appointed from among the creditors of the Lampsacenes; [he was told that] if he said what this man here ordered, he could extract his money from the people with the aid of the lictors of that very same man here. Even though all this was put into motion with such urgency and such expenditure of resources; even though many were accusing that wretched man, and no-one was defending him; and even though Dolabella was fighting together with his prefects in the advisory group for a conviction, Verres kept repeating that his existence was at issue, was also giving testimony, was also present in the advisory group, and had also informed the prosecutor – even though all of this happened and even though it was a matter of fact that a man had been killed, nevertheless the force of this injustice and the wickedness in this man here was deemed to be such that the decision on Philodamus was postponed.

24[75] Why should I now report on Cn. Dolabella’s imperious demeanour during the second hearing, why on the tears and the constant pacing of this man, why on the mindset of C. Nero, an excellent and most upright man, which was frequently overly apprehensive and subdued? In this matter, he did not have anything in his power that he could have done, if not perhaps what everyone at the time kept wishing for, namely deal with this matter without Verres and without Dolabella. Whatever would have been the outcome in the absence of these two, all would have approved of; but the verdict that was then announced was deemed not to have been a judgement passed by Nero, but one exacted by Dolabella. By very few votes Philodamus and his son are condemned. Dolabella was at hand, he urged, he insisted that they should be executed with the axe as quickly as possible so that as few as possible would be able to hear from them about the wicked crime of this man.

25[76] In the marketplace of Laodicea a spectacle – bitter and wretched and depressing for the entire province of Asia – is put on display; the elderly father is brought forth to his execution, from another part his son, the former since he had defended the chastity of his children, the latter because he had defended the life of his father and the reputation of his sister. Each of the two was lamenting not his own punishment, but the father the death of his son, the son the death of his father. How many tears, do you think, Nero himself shed? What weeping there was through all of Asia? What grief and sorrow among the inhabitants of Lampsacus? Innocent and high-ranking humans, allies and friends of the Roman people were struck by the axe of the executioner because of the unique worthlessness and most wicked lust of this most disgraceful human being!

26[77] After all this, Dolabella, I am unable to pity either you or your children, whom you have left wretchedly in poverty and devoid of any friends. Was Verres so dear to you that you wished to wash away his lust with the blood of innocent humans? Were you therefore leaving behind the army and the enemy so that you could mitigate through your violence and cruelty the dangers faced by this utterly wicked man here? Did you think that just because you had appointed him in the place of your quaestor, he would therefore be your friend forever? Did you not know that the consul Cn. Carbo, whose real quaestor he had been, was not only abandoned by him, but also stripped of supplies and money, and was attacked and betrayed by him in shameful fashion? Hence you experienced his treachery only when he joined the side of your personal enemies, when that man, himself guilty, gave the harshest evidence against you, when he refused to give accounts to the treasury until and unless you had been condemned.

27[78] Will your passions, Verres, be so great that the provinces of the Roman people, that foreign nations cannot fulfill and endure them? What you see, what you hear, what you desire, what you conceive of, unless it will be present at a mere nod of yours, unless it obeys your passion and desire, will humans be sent out, will houses be stormed, will citizenries not only pacified, but of allies and friends, flee to violence and arms so that they are able to fend off from themselves and their children the crime and lust of a legate of the Roman people? I ask you: were you beleaguered at Lampsacus, did the multitude begin to set fire to the house in which you took up lodgings, did the inhabitants of Lampsacus wish to burn alive a legate of the Roman people? You are unable to deny this. I have your own testimony, which you made in front of Nero, I have the letter that you sent to the same person. Read out this very passage from the testimony. The testimony of C. Verres against Artemidorus. Not much later against the house.

28[79] Did the citizenry of Lampsacus try to wage war on the Roman people? Did it want to defect from our command and name? For I see and understand from what I have read and heard that in whichever civic community a legate of the Roman people suffered any degree of physical harm, let alone was beset, let alone was attacked with fire, sword, by force, and with troops, against that citizenry war tends to be declared and brought unless a sufficient reparation has been made by the entire community.

29[80] What, then, was the reason that the entire citizenry of Lampsacus rushed from the assembly to your house, as you yourself write? For neither in the letter that you send to Nero nor in your testimony do you give any reason for such an uproar. You say that you were beset, you say that fire was brought, that brushwood was heaped up all around, that your lictor was killed, you say that you were denied the right to appear in public: the reason for this enormous threat you keep secret. For if Rubrius had committed some harm in his own name and not at your prompting and because of your desire, they would have come to you to complain about the harm caused by your companion rather than to attack you. Since, therefore, the witnesses that I produced said what the reason of that uproar was and he himself kept it secret, does not the testimony of those and in particular the lasting silence of this man here confirm that reason we put forward?

30[81] Will you spare this human, then, judges, whose transgressions are so great that those whom he has harmed were unable to wait the time appointed by law to get their revenge or to postpone the force of their grief to a point in the future? You were set upon? By whom? By the inhabitants of Lampsacus. By barbarian humans, I suppose, or those who hold the name of the Roman people in contempt. In fact by humans most gentle in nature, habit, and education, and further, in terms of their legal status, allies of the Roman people, in terms of their fortune, slaves, in terms of their free will, suppliants. Hence it is utterly obvious to everyone that, unless the bitterness of the harm suffered and the violence of the crime had not been so great that the Lampsacenes believed they ought to die rather than to endure, they would never have advanced to the point that they were moved more energetically by the hatred of your lust than fear of the legate’s office.

31[82] By the immortal gods, do not force allies and foreign nations to use that refuge which they use out of necessity, unless you vindicate them. Nothing would have ever calmed the inhabitants of Lampsacus towards this man here if they had not believed that he would receive punishment in Rome: even though they had suffered such harm, for which they could not gain proper satisfaction through any law, they still preferred to submit their grievances to our laws and law courts rather than to yield to their grief. Although you have been beset by such a renowned citizenry because of your crime and outrage, although you have forced wretched and miserable human beings, once they had all but despaired of our laws and law courts, to take refuge in violence, physical resistance and arms, although you have shown yourself in the town and citizenries of our friends not as a legate of the Roman people, but as a passionate and savage tyrant, although you have violated with your wicked and outrageous deeds the reputation of our imperial sway and name with foreign nations, although you have snatched yourself from the sword of friends of the Roman people and fled from the fire set by allies, you hope that this here will serve as a refuge for you? You are wrong: they suffered you to depart alive so that you might fall into our hands here, not that you might find peace here.

32[83] And you say that a verdict has been given that you were beset unlawfully in Lampsacus because Philodamus was condemned together with his son. What if I show, if I demonstrate with a worthless human being as witness, but nevertheless suited for this purpose – with you yourself as witness, I say, will I show that you transferred the reason and the responsibility for this mobbing of yours onto others and that against those, whom you had implicated, no punitive action has been taken. Then the judgement of Nero no longer helps you at all. Read out the letter he wrote to Nero. The letter of C. Verres to Nero. Themistagoras and Thessalus. You write that Themistagoras and Thessalus roused the people. Which people? Those who beset you, those who tried to burn you alive. Where do you prosecute these men, where do you accuse them, where do you defend the right and the name of the legate? Will you say that this was done in the proceedings against Philodamus?

33[84] Show me the testimony of Verres himself: let us see what this same man said under oath. Read. Cross-examined by the prosecutor, he replied that he did not press his claim in this trial; he had in mind to do so some other time. How, therefore, does the verdict of Nero help you, how the sentencing of Philodamus? Even though you had been beset as a legate, and even though, as you yourself have written to Nero, a signal harm had been done to the Roman people and the common cause of the legates, you did not press any charges. You say you have in mind to do so some other time. What was that time? When did you press your charges? Why did you diminish the legal position of the office of legate, why have you abandoned and betrayed the cause of the Roman people, why have you let be harms both personal and public? Was there no need to bring the case before the senate, to complain about such dreadful injuries, to see to it that those humans who had roused the people be summoned by a letter of the consuls?

34[85] Recently, at the application of M. Aurelius Scaurus, because he said that as quaestor he had been prohibited by force in Ephesus from dragging out of Diana’s shrine his slave, who had fled into this place of asylum, the Ephesian Pericles, a human of the highest renown, was summoned to Rome because he was charged with having been the instigator of this injustice. You, if you had shown to the senate that you as legate had been treated in Lampsacus so that your followers were wounded, your lictor killed, you yourself were beset and almost burnt alive, but that the leaders, instigators, and main perpetrators of this thing were, as you write, Themistagoras and Thessalus, who would not have been moved, who would not have been concerned for himself because of the injustice which you had suffered, who would not have believed that in this matter your case as well as a common danger was at issue? For the name of the office of the legate ought to be such that it remains inviolate not only under the legal arrangements of our allies but even among the missiles of the enemy.

35[86] This crime of passion and utterly wicked lust at Lampsacus is great; listen now to a crime of greed hardly less serious in its kind...


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