The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

VERRES.

posts ; and the exports of the vineyards, the arable land, and the loom, be saddled with heavier burdens. By capricious changes or violent abro­gation of their compacts, Verres reduced to beg­gary both the producers and the farmers of the revenue. On the native Greeks, he accumulated worse evils than the worst of their ancient despots, the worst of their mobs, or the worst of their pre­vious praetors had inflicted. His three years' rule desolated the island more effectually than the two recent servile wars, and than the old struggle be­tween Carthage and Rome for the possession of the island. Messana alone, where he deposited his spoils and provided for himself a retreat, was spared by Verres ; but even Messana sighed for the mild government of Sacerdos, and for the ar­rival of the new praetor Arrius, whom the war with Spartacus detained in Italy, and whose de­tention added eighteen months to the sufferings of the Sicilians. Verres, therefore, instead of re­turning to Italy in B. c. 72, remained nearly three years in his government, and so diligently em­ployed his opportunities, that he boasted of having amassed enough for a life of opulence, even if he were compelled to disgorge two-thirds of his plunder in stifling inquiry or purchasing an ac­quittal. The remainder of Verres's life is con­tained in the history of the Verrine orations, which we shall presently examine. On his condemnation, he retired to Marseilles, retaining so much of his ill-gotten wealth, as to render him careless of public opinion, and so many of his treasures of art, as to cause, eventually, his proscription by M. Antonius in b. c. 43. Before his death, Verres had the consolation of hearing of the murder of his great enemy Cicero, and during his long exile of twenty-seven years, had the satisfaction of wit­nessing from his retreat the convulsions of the republic, and the calamities of the friends who abandoned, and of the judges who convicted him. Verres married a sister of a Roman eques, Vettius Chilo (Ver-rin. ii. 3. 71, 72), by whom he had a son, whom, at fifteen years of age, he admitted as the spectator and partner of his vices (76. 9. 68 ; Pseudo Ascon. in loc.\ and a daughter, who was married at the time of her accompanying Verres to Sicily. (Sen. sums. p. 43, Bip. ed. ; Lactant. Div. Inst. ii. 4.)

The trial of Verres was a political as well as a judicial cause. From the tribunate of the Gracchi (b. c. 133—123), when the judicia were trans­ferred to the equites, to the dictatorship of Sulla (b.c. 81—79), who restored them to the senate, there had been an eager contest at Rome for the judicial power. The equites and the senators had proved equally corrupt, and the Marian party, sup­ported by the Italians and the provincials, cla­moured loudly for a reform of the courts. Verres was a criminal whose condemnation might justify Sulla's law, whose acquittal would prove the unfit-ness of the senate for the judicial office. Cicero, accordingly, in his introductory speech (Verrin. i.), puts " this alternative prominently forward." In Verres's condemnation, he urges upon the senato-rian bench of judices, " lies your order's safety ; in his acquittal, your degradation now and hence­forward." This rather than the weight of evi­dence adduced was the a priori ground for Verres's condemnation. The defendant himself had neither previous reputation nor ancestral honours to re­commend him. At first, guilty compliance, and

1243

VERRES.

afterwards unblushing corruption, had been his steps to preferment. He was supported by the Metelli, the Scipios, and Hortensius, because their interests were accidentally involved with his. But the reasons which detract from the individual im­portance of Verres add historical value to the im­peachment. Verres was the representative of the grosser elements of a revolutionary era, as Catiline was of its periodical crimes and turbulence. And with every allowance for exaggeration on Cicero's part, Verres was a type of Roman provincial go­vernors, and, as such, his career forms no unim­portant chapter in the annals of the expiring com­monwealth.

Cicero had been Lilybaean quaestor in Sicily in b. c. 75, and on his departure from that island had promised his good offices to the Sicilians, when­ever they might demand them. They committed to him the prosecution of Verres. For a rising advocate at the bar, depending on his own exer­tions alone for preferment, the opportunity was critical, xvhether for advancement or defeat. On the one hand, Cicero's attack on the aristocracy would win for him the equites'and the people ; on the other, it closed upon him an effective source of patronage, and involved him with a party which he deserted on the first occasion. He seems, however, without scruple to have redeemed his promise to the Sicilians, and to have heartily entered into their cause. The Verrine trial is.one of the three eras of Cicero's life, and perhaps that in which his cause was best, and his motives were most pure. He may have amplified the vices of Verres ; he could scarcely exaggerate the faults of the provincial government of Rome. In the con­duct of the prosecution, he infringed upon no law: on obtaining his verdict, he displayed no offen­sive vanity. In Catiline and Antonius, he was op­posed to political rivals : in Verres, he encountered the enemy of the law, of social and domestic sanc­tities, of the faith of compacts, and the security of life and property. Neither during his admini­stration, nor after his return to Rome, had Verres neglected to enlist for himself staunch and nume­rous supporters. With some, a bribe in its crudest form sufficed ; but in many cases it was accom­panied with some choice production of the chisel, the easel, or the loom. But his services were most in demand when his partisans in their official characters exhibited games in the forum. Horten­sius and the Metelli were thus enabled to exhibit, for the first time, to a Roman mob many of the

' */

most exquisite specimens of Mentor, Myron, and Polycleitus, collected from nearly every province from the foot of Mount Taurus to the Lilybaean promontory. The practice of borrowing works of art from the provincials with which to adorn the capital on festivals, was not indeed peculiar to Verres or his age. But neither the refined Cor-nelii nor the rude Mummii had, when the occasion ended, adorned their own villas with these trea­sures, or distributed them among the galleries of their friends and adherents.

Meanwhile, neither threats nor offers were spared. Hortensius and Verres at Rome, and M. Metellus, the successor of Verres in Sicily, alter­nately flattered and bullied the deputies of that island, and Cicero more than once insinuates that money. was indirectly offered to himself. The prosecutors, however, had nothing further to lose, and were desperate; Cicero had reputation to

Pages
About | First

1241

1242

1243
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.