The Ancient Library

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empire of Rome. We shall, therefore, briefly give the dates and periods of Verres's public career, and dwell rather on the history of the cause than on that of the criminal.

That he took an active part in Sulla's proscrip­tion may be inferred from Cicero (Verrin. i. 1. § 16), who, while exploring the darkest recesses of the defendant's life, purposely passes over his apprenticeship in crime,—" Omni tempore Sullano ex accusations circumscripto "—as common to the times, and not peculiar to the man. For a like reason he excepts from exposure whatever vices and excesses Verres had displayed or committed previous to his holding a public magistracy.

Verres was quaestor to Cn. Papirius Carbo (No. 7) in his third consulship b. c. 82. He was therefore at that period of the Marian faction (Schol. Gronov. in Verrin. p. 387, Orelli), which he quitted for that of Sulla, betraying Carbo by desertion, and the republic by embezzling the monies with which as quaestor he was intrusted for the administration of Cisalpine Gaul. Sulla sent his new adherent to Beneventum, where he was allowed a share of the confiscated estates, but at the same time narrowly watched by the veterans. He was, however, called to account for his receipts from the treasury by the quaestores a>erarii for b.c. 81, with what result is unknown. Verres next appears in the suite of Cn. Cornelius Dolabella (No. 6), praetor of Cilicia ins. c. 80— 79, and one of the most rapacious and oppressive of the provincial governors. On the death of the regular quaestor C. Malleolus, Verres, who had been Dolabella's legatus, became his pro-quaestor. In Verres Dolabella found an active and unscru­pulous agent, and, in return, connived at his ex­cesses. But the proquaestor proved as faithless to Dolabella as he had been to Carbo ; turned evidence against him on his prosecution by M. Scaurus in b. c. 78, and by shifting his own crimes to the praetor's account, and stipulating for a par­don for himself, mainly contributed to the verdict against Dolabella. During this pro-quaestorship Verres first acquired or affected a taste for the fine arts. It is not clear, indeed, whether Cicero be­lieved him to possess a genuine relish for the beautiful, or whether he considered the legate's appropriations as a mere brutal lust of pillage, and a means of purchasing the support of the oligarchy at Rome. The criminality of the acts was the same. But Cicero at one time describes Verres, ironically, as a fine gentleman and a connoisseur ; and, at another, as better fitted for a porter than an artist (Verrin. ii. 4. 44, 57). The wealth Verres acquired in Achaia and Asia, he employed in securing a praetorship in B. c. 74. The lot as­signed to him the urbana jurisdictio, and he re­hearsed at Rome the blunders, the venality, and the licence, which afterwards marked his Sicilian administration. His official duties were mostly discharged by his clerks and his freedwoman and mistress Chelidon. Without the interest of the latter, indeed, nothing could be obtained from him, and she, accordingly, charged high for exert­ing it. The city-praetor was the guardian of orphans ; the curator of public buildings, civil and religious ; the chief judge in equity ; and the sit­ting magistrate within the bounds of the pomae-riunij during his year of office. In each of these departments, according to Cicero, Verres vio­lated a trust. He defrauded the son of his pre-


decessor in the Cilician quaestorship, C. Malleolus, of his patrimony: he exacted from the heir and executors of P. Junius a heavy fine for neglecting to repair the temple of Castor ; and intercepted the fine from the state's coffers ; and, instead of rebuilding, whitewashed the defective columns of the temple ; his edicts varied with the person or rather with the price, and were drawn in defiance of precedent, law, and common sense ; and un­less his political preferences were for the moment suspended by his avarice or his lust, his summary decisions were invariably favourable to the oligar­chical party. In B. c. 74, occurred the notorious Judicium Junianum [junius, No. 5]. In this transaction, Verres was not so deeply involved as others of his party ; but neither was he exempt from the ignominy attached to the verdict, since he declared that the list of the judices had been tampered with, and their signatures forged, him­self having previously subscribed the list, and sanctioned the verdict officially. The repeal of Sulla's laws had been guarded against by the dictator himself, who imposed a mulct on any person who should attempt to abrogate or modify any portion of the Cornelian constitution. But in b. c. 75, M. Aurelius Cotta as consul brought forward a bill for exempting the tribunes of the plebs from that clause of the Lex Cornelia which excluded them from the higher offices of the commonwealth, and Q. Opimius, tribune of the plebs, introduced it to the comitia. Opimius, in the following year, was condemned and fined by Verres for this offence : his property was put up to auction, and Verres enriched himself equally at the expense of the defendant and the treasury. On the expiration of his praetorship, Verres ob­tained the wealthiest and most important province of the empire. Sicily was not merely the granary of Rome, but from its high civilisation, its pro­ductive soil and vicinity to Italy, had long been the favourite resort of Roman capitalists. The yoke of conquest pressed more lightly on this island than on any other of the state's dependencies. The ancient Greek nobility had rather gained than lost by their change of rulers: the fiscal re­gulations of the Hieros and Gelos were retained : the exemptions which the Marcelli had granted and the Scipios confirmed, were respected ; and the Sicilians hardly regretted their turbulent de­mocracies in the enjoyment of personal freedom and social luxury. Verres and his predecessor Sacerdos came to the government of that province at a critical period. Two servile wars had re­cently swept over the island, and during the two years of Verres's administration, Italy itself was ravaged by Spartans, and the Mediterranean swarmed with the Cilician pirates. The loss or the retention of Sicily was, therefore, an object of higher moment than ever to Rome ; and even an ordinary praetor might have risked by supineness or ca­price this portion of the state demesnes. But in Verres, Sicily received a governor, who, even in tranquil times, would have tried its allegiance or provoked disaffection. Accompanied by his son, his daughter's husband, and a suite of rapacious clerks, parasites and pandars, he began his extor­tions even before he landed in the island. No class of its inhabitants was exempted from his avarice, his cruelty, or his insults. The wealthy had money or works of art to yield up ; the middle classes might be made to pay heavier im-

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