cicero sicily roman greek
VERRES (c. 112-43 E.c.), whose name has been branded with everlasting infamy by the speeches of Cicero, was the this is very doubtful, he may have belonged to some branch of the Cornelian family, or have been adopted into it. The younger Verres held his first important appointment about 62 B.C. as quustor of the consul Carbo in Cisalpine Gaul. This implies that he was then of the democratic party of Marius ; but he left it the same year, after having deserted and betrayed Carbo and embezzled the public moneys of which, as qumstor he had the handling. As a reward for his treachery he got out of Sulla a slice of the landed property of some of the proscribed citizens of Beneventum, and Sulla probably screened him in the following year when he was threatened with an action by the treasury officials for his peculations under Carbo. Next year, 80 B.C., he was in Asia on the staff of Dolabella, governor of Cilicia, where he again acted as qudestor. The governor and his subordinate plundered in concert, till in 78 B.C. Dolabella had to stand his trial at Rome, and was convicted, mainly on the evidence of Verres, who thus secured a pardon for himself. In 74 B.C. he was elected prmtor, bribing heavily, it was said, and he had what was termed the city pnetorship, which gave him all the powers of an English lord chancellor, with but inadequate checks on their abuse. Verres, as a creature of Sulla's, in several of his judicial decisions turned them to political ends for the advantage of himself and his party. After his year of prmtorship Verres went as governor to Sicily, the richest and most attractive of the Roman provinces, with its treasures of Greek art, its Greek civilization, and its many noble and beautiful cities. Rome had recognized the claims of Sicily to a kindly and indulgent rule, and the people were for the most part comfortable and contented. But under Verres the island experienced more utter misery and desolation than it had felt amid the horrors of that long and fierce struggle, the First Punic War. The corn-growers, and the revenue collectors or "publicans," were ruined by exorbitant imposts or by the iniquitous cancelling of contracts ; temples and private houses were robbed of their works of art, which to the Sicilian Greek were even dearer than his money ; and to all this were added insult and outrage. Men who had the Roman franchise, which was now beginning to be widely diffused, were among the victims of Verres : one was scourged publicly at Messana on an unproved charge. Verres returned to Rome in 70 B.c., with plunder which he boasted would enable him to live in ease and luxury, even if he had to surrender two-thirds of it to bribe a Roman jury. The prosecution which he anticipated was commenced the same year by the provincials of Sicily, and was at their request undertaken by Cicero. Verres entrusted his defence to the most eminent of Roman advocates, Hortensius, and he had the sympathy and support of several of the leading Roman nobles. The court before which he was to be tried was composed exclusively of senators, some of whom might be his personal friends. But the presiding judge, the city praetor Acilius Glabrio, was a thoroughly honest man, and his assessors were at least not accessible to bribery. Cicero took care that the evidence should be overwhelming, and he had a host of witnesses in readiness, not only from the ill-used towns of Sicily, but from every part of the Greek world. The trial, one of the most memorable in antiquity, began early in the August of 70 B.C., after an unsuccessful attempt by the counsel for Verres to get it adjourned to the following year, when Hortensius would himself be consul and the presiding judge, Metellus, one of his political friends. Cicero opened the case with a comparatively brief speech (Actin Prima in Verrent), following it up with the examination of witnesses and documentary evidence, and convincing Hortensius that his client's cause was hopeless. Before the expiration of the nine days allowed for the prosecution Verres was on his way to Marseilles : there he lived in exile to the year 43 B.C., with abundant means of enjoying life in his own way. The story went (Pliny, N. If., xxxiv. 2) that his name was on the proscription list of Marcus Antonius, and that in fact he owed his death to the murderer of Cicero.
Verres may not have been quite so black as he is painted by Cicero, on whose speeches we depend entirely for our knowledge of the man, but there can hardly be a doubt that he stood pre-eminent among the worst specimens of Boman provincial governors. It is cruelly unjust to the memory of Warren Hastings to suggest a comparison between him and Verres, though between the two trials, between the charges made, and the general character and circumstances of the proceedings there are points of striking resemblance. But there is a clearly marked difference. Verres cared simply for himself ; Hastings thought much of the greatness and glory of his country. For one thing indeed we have to thank Verres, - for the detailed description of Sicily and its Greek art treasures which we have in Cicero's famous Verrine orations.