Cicero: In Verrem

In Verrem (“Against Verres”) is a series of speeches made by Cicero in 70 BC, during the corruption and extortion trial of Gaius Verres, the former governor of Sicily. The speeches made Cicero famous. This is the only known case where he acted as prosecutor. Verres basically plundered Sicily as governor, and he went into exile before the case came to a verdict. Thus Cicero, who opened the prosecution by simply presenting the witnesses and their damning stories, never got to make his speeches, but he published them later anyway. Here are some excerpts of the text: 

 In Verrem, I, 1-6

I think that no one of you, O judges, is ignorant that for these many days the discourse of the populace, and the opinion of the Roman people, has been that Caius Verres would not appear a second time before the bench to reply to my charges, and would not again present himself in court; And this idea had not got about merely because he had deliberately determined and resolved not to appear, but because no one believed that any one would be so audacious, so frantic, and so impudent, as, after having been convicted of such nefarious crimes, and by so many witnesses, to venture to present himself to the eyes of the judges, or to show his face to the Roman people. But he is the same Verres that he always was; as he was abandoned enough to dare, so he is hardened enough to listen to anything. He is present; he replies to us; he makes his defence. He does not even leave himself this much of character, to be supposed, by being silent and keeping out of the way when he is so visibly convicted of the most infamous conduct, to have sought for a modest escape for his impudence. I can endure this, O judges, and I am not vexed that I am to receive the reward of my labours, and you the reward of your virtue. For if he had done what he at first determined to, that is, had not appeared, it would have been somewhat less known than is desirable for me what pains I had taken in preparing and arranging this prosecution: and your praise, O judges, would have been exceedingly slight and little heard of. For this is not what the Roman people is expecting from you, nor what it can be contented with,—namely, for a man to be condemned who refuses to appear, and for you to act with resolution in the case of a man whom nobody has dared to defend. Aye, let him appear, let him reply; let him be defended with the utmost influence and the utmost zeal of the most powerful men, let my diligence have to contend with the covetousness of all of them, your integrity with his riches, the consistency of the witnesses with the threats and power of his patrons. Then indeed those things will be seen to be overcome when they have come to the contest and to the struggle. But if he had been condemned in his absence, he would have appeared not so much to have consulted his own advantage as to have grudged you your credit.For neither can there be any greater safety for the republic imagined at this time, than for the Roman people to understand that, if all unworthy judges are carefully rejected by the accusers, the allies, the laws, and the republic can be thoroughly defended by a bench of judges chosen from the senators; nor can any such injury to the fortunes of all happen, as for all regard for truth, for integrity, for good faith, and for religion to be, in the opinion of the Roman people, cast aside by the senatorial body. And therefore, I seem to myself, O judges, to have undertaken to uphold an important, and very failing, and almost neglected part of the republic, and by so doing to be acting not more for the benefit of my own reputation than of yours. For I have come forward to diminish the unpopularity of the courts of justice, and to remove the reproaches which are levelled at them; in order that, when this cause has been decided according to the wish of the Roman people, the authority of the courts of justice may appear to have been re-established in some degree by my diligence; and in order that this matter may be so decided that an end may be put at length to the controversy about the tribunals; and, indeed, beyond all question, O judges, that matter depends on your decision in this cause.

In Verrem II.1.15-16

My own line of conduct, as it is already known to you in what is past, is also provided for, and resolved on, in what is to come. I displayed my zeal for the republic at that time, when, after a long interval, I reintroduced the old custom, and at the request of the allies and friends of the Roman people, who were, however, my own most intimate connections, prosecuted a most audacious man. And this action of mine most virtuous and accomplished men (in which number many of you were) approved of to such a degree, that they refused the man who had been his quaestor, and who, having been offended by him, wished to prosecute his own quarrel against him, leave not only to prosecute the man himself, but even back the accusation against him, when he himself begged to do so. 16I went into Sicily for the sake of inquiring into the business, in which occupation the celerity of my return showed my industry; the multitude of documents and witnesses which I brought with me declared my diligence; and I further showed my moderation and scrupulousness, in that when I had arrived as a senator among the allies of the Roman people, having been quaestor in that province, I, though the defender of the common  cause of them all, lodged rather with my own hereditary friends and connections, than those who had sought that assistance from me.

In Verrem II.1.49-51

But after he arrived in Asia,—why should I enumerate the dinners, the suppers, the horses, and the presents which marked that progress? I am not going to say anything against Verres for everyday crimes. I say that he carried off by force some most beautiful statues from Chios; also from Erythrae; also from Halicarnassus. From Tenedos (I pass over the money which he seized) he carried off Tenes himself, who among the Tenedians is considered a most holy god, who is said to have founded that city, after whose name it is called Tenedos. This very Tenes, I say, most admirably wrought, which you have seen before now in the assembly, he carried off amid the great lamentations of the city. But that storming of that most ancient and most noble temple of the Samian Juno, how grievous was it to the Samians! how bitter to all Asia! how notorious to all men! how notorious to every one of you! And when ambassadors had come from Samos into Asia to Caius Nero, to complain of this attack on that temple, they received for answer, that complaints of that sort, which concerned a lieutenant of the Roman people, ought not to be brought before the praetor, but must be carried to Rome. What pictures did he carry off from thence; what statues! which I saw lately in his house, when I went thither for the sake of sealing[5]it up. And where are those statues now, O Verres? I mean those which I lately saw in your house against every pillar, and also in every space between two pillars, and actually arranged in the grove in the open air? Why were those things left at your house, as long as you thought that another praetor, with the other judges whom you expected to have substituted in the room of these, was to sit in judgment upon your? But when you saw that we preferred suiting the convenience of our own witnesses rather than your convenience as to time, you left not one statue in your house except two which were in the middle of it, and which were themselves stolen from Samos. Did you not think that I would summon your most intimate friends to give evidence of this matter, who had often been at your house, and ask of them whether they knew that statues were there which were not?

In Verrem II.2, 1-3

Many things, O judges, must be necessarily passed over by me, in order that I may be able at last to speak in some manner of those matters which have been entrusted to my good faith. For I have undertaken the cause of Sicily; that is the province which has tempted me to this business. But when I took upon myself this burden, and undertook the cause of Sicily, in my mind I embraced a wider range, for I took upon myself also the cause of my whole order—I took upon myself the cause of the Roman people; because I thought that in that case alone could a just decision be come to, if not only a wicked criminal was brought up, but if at the same time a diligent and firm accuser came before the court. On which account I must the sooner come to the cause of Sicily omitting all mention of his other thefts and iniquities, in order that I may be able to handle it while my strength is yet unimpaired, and that I may have time enough to dilate fully on the business. And before I begin to speak of the distresses of Sicily, it seems to me that I ought to say a little of the dignity and antiquity of that province, and of the advantage which it is to us. For as you ought to have a careful regard for all the allies and provinces, so especially ought you to have a regard for Sicily, O judges, for many, and those the greatest, reasons: First, because of all foreign nations Sicily was the first who joined herself to the friendship and alliance of the Roman people. She was the first to be called a province; and the provinces are a great ornament to the empire. She was the first who taught our ancestors how glorious a thing it was to rule over foreign nations. She alone has displayed such good faith and such good will towards the Roman people, that the states of that island which have once come into our alliance have never revolted afterwards, but many of them, and those the most illustrious of them, have remained firm to our friendship for ever. Therefore our ancestors made their first strides to dominion over Africa from this province. Nor would the mighty power of Carthage so soon have fallen, if Sicily had not been open to us, both as a granary to supply us with corn, and as a harbour for our fleets.

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