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Life of Cicero by Anthony Trollope

Part 3 out of 6

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his life.

We have now come to the first of those episodes, and I have to tell
the way in which Cicero struggled with Verres, and how he conquered
him. In 74 B.C. Verres was Praetor in Rome. At that period of the
Republic there were eight Praetors elected annually, two of whom
remained in the city, whereas the others were employed abroad,
generally with the armies of the Empire. In the next year, 73 B.C.,
Verres went in due course to Sicily with proconsular or propraetorial
authority, having the government assigned to him for twelve months.
This was usual and constitutional, but it was not unusual, even if
unconstitutional, that this period should be prolonged. In the case of
Verres it was prolonged, so that he should hold the office for three
years. He had gone through the other offices of the State, having been
Quaestor in Asia and Aedile afterward in Rome, to the great misfortune
of all who were subjected to his handling, as we shall learn
by-and-by. The facts are mentioned here to show that the great offices
of the Republic were open to such a man as Verres. They were in
fact more open to such a candidate than they would be to one less
iniquitous--to an honest man or a scrupulous one, or to one partially
honest, or not altogether unscrupulous. If you send a dog into a wood
to get truffles, you will endeavor to find one that will tear up as
many truffles as possible. A proconsular robber did not rob only for
himself; he robbed more or less for all Rome. Verres boasted that with
his three years of rule he could bring enough home to bribe all the
judges, secure all the best advocates, and live in splendid opulence
for the rest of his life. What a dog he was to send into a wood for

To such a condition as this had Rome fallen when the deputies from
Sicily came to complain of their late governor, and to obtain the
services of Cicero in seeking for whatever reparation might be
possible. Verres had carried on his plunder during the years 73, 72,
71 B.C. During this time Cicero had been engaged sedulously as an
advocate in Rome. We know the names of some of the cases in which he
was engaged--those, for instance, for Publius Oppius, who, having
been Quaestor in Bithynia, was accused by his Proconsul of having
endeavored to rob the soldiers of their dues. We are told that the
poor province suffered greatly under these two officers, who were
always quarrelling as to a division of their plunder. In this case the
senior officer accused the younger, and the younger, by Cicero's aid,
was acquitted. Quintilian more than once refers to the speech made
for Oppius. Cicero also defended Varenus, who was charged with having
murdered his brother, and one Caius Mustius, of whom we only know
that he was a farmer of taxes. He was advocate also for Sthenius, a
Sicilian, who was accused before the Tribunes by Verres. We shall hear
of Sthenius again among the victims in Sicily. The special charge in
this case was that, having been condemned by Verres as Praetor in
Sicily, he had run away to Rome, which was illegal. He was, however,
acquitted. Of these speeches we have only some short fragments, which
have been quoted by authors whose works have come down to us, such as
Quintilian; by which we know, at any rate, that Cicero's writings had
been so far carefully preserved, and that they were commonly read in
those days. I will translate here the concluding words of a short
paper written by M. du Rozoir in reference to Cicero's life at this
period: "The assiduity of our orator at the bar had obtained for him
a high degree of favor among the people, because they had seen how
strictly he had observed that Cincian law which forbade advocates to
take either money or presents for then pleadings--which law, however,
the advocates of the day generally did not scruple to neglect."[97]
It is a good thing to be honest when honesty is in vogue; but to be
honest when honesty is out of fashion is magnificent.

In the affair with Verres, there are two matters to interest the
reader--indeed, to instruct the reader--if the story were sufficiently
well told. The iniquity of Verres is the first--which is of so
extravagant a nature as to become farcical by the absurdity of the
extent to which he was not afraid to go in the furtherance of his
avarice and lust. As the victims suffered two thousand years ago, we
can allow ourselves to be amused by the inexhaustible fertility of the
man's resources and the singular iniquity of his schemes. Then we
are brought face to face with the barefaced corruption of the Roman
judges--a corruption which, however, became a regular trade, if not
ennobled, made, at any rate, aristocratic by the birth, wealth high
names, and senatorial rank of the robbers. Sulla, for certain State
purposes--which consisted in the maintenance of the oligarchy--had
transferred the privileges of sitting on the judgment-seat from
the Equites, or Knights, to the Senators. From among the latter a
considerable number--thirty, perhaps, or forty, or even fifty--were
appointed to sit with the Praetor to hear criminal cases of
importance, and by their votes, which were recorded on tablets, the
accused person was acquitted or condemned. To be acquitted by the most
profuse corruption entailed no disgrace on him who was tried, and
often but little on the judges who tried him. In Cicero's time the
practice, with all its chances, had come to be well understood. The
Provincial Governors, with their Quaestors and lieutenants, were
chosen from the high aristocracy, which also supplied the judges.
The judges themselves had been employed, or hoped to be employed, in
similar lucrative service. The leading advocates belonged to the same
class. If the proconsular thief, when he had made his bag, would
divide the spoil with some semblance of equity among his brethren,
nothing could be more convenient. The provinces were so large, and
the Greek spirit of commercial enterprise which prevailed in them so
lively, that there was room for plunder ample, at any rate, for a
generation or two. The Republic boasted that, in its love of pure
justice, it had provided by certain laws for the protection of its
allied subjects against any possible faults of administration on the
part of its own officers. If any injury were done to a province, or a
city, or even to an individual, the province, or city, or individual
could bring its grievance to the ivory chair of the Praetor in Rome
and demand redress; and there had been cases not a few in which a
delinquent officer had been condemned to banishment. Much, indeed, was
necessary before the scheme as it was found to exist by Verres could
work itself into perfection. Verres felt that in his time everything
had been done for security as well as splendor. He would have all the
great officers of State on his side. The Sicilians, if he could manage
the case as he thought it might be managed, would not have a leg to
stand upon. There was many a trick within his power before they could
succeed in making good even their standing before the Praetor. It was
in this condition of things that Cicero bethought himself that he
might at one blow break through the corruption of the judgment-seat,
and this he determined to do by subjecting the judges to the light of
public opinion. If Verres could be tried under a bushel, as it were,
in the dark, as many others had been tried, so that little or nothing
should be said about the trial in the city at large, then there would
be no danger for the judges. It could only be by shaming them, by
making them understand that Rome would become too hot to hold them,
that they could be brought to give a verdict against the accused. This
it was that Cicero determined to effect, and did effect. And we see
throughout the whole pleadings that he was concerned in the matter not
only for the Sicilians, or against Verres. Could something be done for
the sake of Rome, for the sake of the Republic, to redeem the courts
of justice from the obloquy which was attached to them? Might it
be possible for a man so to address himself not only to the
judgment-seat, but to all Rome, as to do away with this iniquity once
and forever? Could he so fill the minds of the citizens generally
with horror at such proceedings as to make them earnest in demanding
reform? Hortensius, the great advocate of the day, was not only
engaged on behalf of Verres, but he was already chosen as Consul for
the next year. Metellus, who was elected Praetor for the next year,
was hot in defence of Verres. Indeed, there were three Metelluses
among the friends of the accused, who had also on his side the Scipio
of the day. The aristocracy of Rome was altogether on the side of
Verres, as was natural. But if Cicero might succeed at all in this
which he meditated, the very greatness of his opponents would help
him. When it was known that he was to be pitted against Hortensius as
an advocate, and that he intended to defy Hortensius as the coming
Consul, then surely Rome would be awake to the occasion; and if Rome
could be made to awake herself, then would this beautiful scheme of
wealth from provincial plunder be brought to an end.

I will first speak of the work of the judges, and of the attempts
made to hinder Cicero in the business he had undertaken. Then I will
endeavor to tell something of the story of Verres and his doings. The
subject divides itself naturally in this way. There are extant seven
so-called orations about Verres, of which the two first apply to the
manner in which the case should be brought before the courts. These
two were really spoken, and were so effective that Verres--or probably
Hortensius, on his behalf--was frightened into silence. Verres pleaded
guilty, as we should say, which, in accordance with the usages of
the court, he was enabled to do by retiring and going into voluntary
banishment. This he did, sooner than stand his ground and listen to
the narration of his iniquities as it would be given by Cicero in the
full speech--the "perpetua oratio"--which would follow the examination
of the witnesses. "What the orator said before the examination of the
witnesses was very short. He had to husband his time, as it was a part
of the grand scheme of Hortensius to get adjournment after adjournment
because of certain sacred rites and games, during the celebration
of which the courts could not sit. All this was arranged for in the
scheme; but Cicero, in order that he might baffle the schemers, got
through his preliminary work as quickly as possible, saying all that
he had to say about the manner of the trial, about the judges,
about the scheme, but dilating very little on the iniquities of the
criminal. But having thus succeeded, having gained his cause in a
great measure by the unexpected quickness of his operations, then he
told his story. Then was made that "perpetua oratio" by which we have
learned the extent to which a Roman governor could go on desolating a
people who were intrusted to his protection. This full narration is
divided into five parts, each devoted to a separate class of iniquity.
These were never spoken, though they appear in the form of speeches.
They would have been spoken, if required, in answer to the defence
made by Hortensius on behalf of Verres after the hearing of the
evidence. But the defence broke down altogether, in the fashion thus
described by Cicero himself. "In that one hour in which I spoke"--this
was the speech which we designate as the Actio Prima contra Verrem,
the first pleading made against Verres, to which we shall come
just now--"I took away all hope of bribing the judges from the
accused--from this brazen-faced, rich, dissolute, and abandoned man.
On the first day of the trial, on the mere calling of the names of
the witnesses, the people of Rome were able to perceive that if
this criminal were absolved, then there could be no chance for the
Republic. On the second day his friends and advocates had not only
lost all hope of gaining their cause, but all relish for going on with
it. The third day so paralyzed the man himself that he had to bethink
himself not what sort of reply he could make, but how he could escape
the necessity of replying by pretending to be ill."[98] It was in this
way that the trial was brought to an end.

But we must go back to the beginning. When an accusation was to be
made against some great Roman of the day on account of illegal public
misdoings, as was to be made now against Verres, the conduct of the
case, which would require probably great labor and expense, and would
give scope for the display of oratorical excellence, was regarded as a
task in which a young aspirant to public favor might obtain honor and
by which he might make himself known to the people. It had, therefore,
come to pass that there might be two or more accusers anxious to
undertake the work, and to show themselves off as solicitous on behalf
of injured innocence, or desirous of laboring in the service of the
Republic. When this was the case, a court of judges was called upon to
decide whether this man or that other was most fit to perform the work
in hand. Such a trial was called "Divinatio," because the judges had
to get their lights in the matter as best they could without the
assistance of witnesses--by some process of divination--with the aid
of the gods, as it might be. Cicero's first speech in the matter of
Verres is called In Quintum Caecilium Divinatio, because one Caecilius
came forward to take the case away from him. Here was a part of the
scheme laid by Hortensius. To deal with Cicero in such a matter would
no doubt be awkward. His purpose, his diligence, his skill, his
eloquence, his honesty were known. There must be a trial. So much was
acknowledged; but if the conduct of it could be relegated to a man who
was dishonest, or who had no skill, no fitness, no special desire for
success, then the little scheme could be carried through in that way.
So Caecilius was put forward as Cicero's competitor, and our first
speech is that made by Cicero to prove his own superiority to that of
his rival.

Whether Caecilius was or was not hired to break down in his assumed
duty as accuser, we do not know. The biographers have agreed to say
that such was the case,[99] grounding their assertion, no doubt, on
extreme probability. But I doubt whether there is any evidence as to
this. Cicero himself brings this accusation, but not in that direct
manner which he would have used had he been able to prove it. The
Sicilians, at any rate, said that it was so. As to the incompetency
of the man, there was probably no doubt, and it might be quite as
serviceable to have an incompetent as a dishonest accuser. Caecilius
himself had declared that no one could be so fit as himself for
the work. He knew Sicily well, having been born there. He had been
Quaestor there with Verres, and had been able to watch the governor's
doings. No doubt there was--or had been in more pious days--a feeling
that a Quaestor should never turn against the Proconsul under whom he
had served, and to whom he had held the position almost of a son.[100]

But there was less of that feeling now than heretofore. Verres had
quarrelled with his Quaestor. Oppius was called on to defend himself
against the Proconsul with whom he had served. No one could know the
doings of the governor of a province as well as his own Quaestor; and,
therefore, so said Caecilius, he would be the preferable accuser.
As to his hatred of the man, there could be no doubt as to that.
Everybody knew that they had quarrelled. The purpose, no doubt, was
to give some colorable excuse to the judges for rescuing Verres, the
great paymaster, from the fangs of Cicero.

Cicero's speech on the occasion--which, as speeches went in those
days, was very short--is a model of sagacity and courage. He had to
plead his own fitness, the unfitness of his adversary, and the wishes
in the matter of the Sicilians. This had to be done with no halting
phrases. It was not simply his object to convince a body of honest men
that, with the view of getting at the truth, he would be the better
advocate of the two. We may imagine that there was not a judge there,
not a Roman present, who was not well aware of that before the orator
began. It was needed that the absurdity of the comparison between them
should be declared so loudly that the judges would not dare to
betray the Sicilians, and to liberate the accused, by choosing the
incompetent man. When Cicero rose to speak, there was probably not one
of them of his own party, not a Consul, a Praetor, an Aedile, or
a Quaestor, not a judge, not a Senator, not a hanger-on about the
courts, but was anxious that Verres with his plunder should escape.
Their hope of living upon the wealth of the provinces hung upon it.
But if he could speak winged words--words that should fly all over
Rome, that might fly also among subject nations--then would the judges
not dare to carry out this portion of the scheme.

"When," he says, "I had served as Quaestor in Sicily, and had left the
province after such a fashion that all the Sicilians had a grateful
memory of my authority there, though they had older friends on whom
they relied much, they felt that I might be a bulwark to them in their
need. These Sicilians, harassed and robbed, have now come to me in
public bodies, and have implored me to undertake their defence. 'The
time has come,' they say, 'not that I should look after the interest
of this or that man, but that I should protect the very life and
well-being of the whole province.' I am inclined by my sense of duty,
by the faith which I owe them, by my pity for them, by the example of
all good Romans before me, by the custom of the Republic, by the old
constitution, to undertake this task, not as pertaining to my own
interests, but to those of my close friends."[101] That was his own
reason for undertaking the case. Then he reminds the judges of what
the Roman people wished--the people who had felt with dismay the
injury inflicted upon them by Sulla's withdrawal of all power from the
Tribunes, and by the putting the whole authority of the bench into the
hands of the Senators. "The Roman people, much as they have been
made to suffer, regret nothing of that they have lost so much as the
strength and majesty of the old judges. It is with the desire of
having them back that they demand for the Tribunes their former power.
It is this misconduct of the present judges that has caused them to
ask for another class of men for the judgment-seat. By the fault and
to the shame of the judges of to-day, the Censor's authority, which
has hitherto always been regarded as odious and stern, even that is
now requested by the people."[102] Then he goes on to show that, if
justice is intended, this case will be put into the hands of him whom
the Sicilians have themselves chosen. Had the Sicilians said that they
were unwilling to trust their affairs to Caecilius because they had
not known him, but were willing to trust him, Cicero, whom they did
know, would not even that have been reasonable enough of itself? But
the Sicilians had known both of them, had known Caecilius almost as
well as Cicero, and had expressed themselves clearly. Much as they
desired to have Cicero, they were as anxious not to have Caecilius.
Even had they held their tongues about this, everybody would have
known it; but they had been far from holding their tongues. "Yet you
offer yourself to these most unwilling clients," he says, turning to
Caecilius. "Yet you are ready to plead in a cause that does not belong
to you! Yet you would defend those who would rather have no defender
than such a one as you!"[103] Then he attacks Hortensius, the advocate
for Verres. "Let him not think that, if I am to be employed here, the
judges can be bribed without infinite danger to all concerned. In
undertaking this cause of the Sicilians, I undertake also the cause of
the people of Rome at large. It is not only that one wretched sinner
should be crushed, which is what the Sicilians want, but that this
terrible injustice should be stopped altogether, in compliance with
the wishes of the people."[104] When we remember how this was spoken,
in the presence of those very judges, in the presence of Hortensius
himself, in reliance only on the public opinion which he was to create
by his own words, we cannot but acknowledge that it is very fine.

After that he again turns upon Caecilius. "Learn from me," he says,
"how many things are expected from him who undertakes the accusation
of another. If there be one of those qualities in you, I will give
up to you all that you ask."[105] Caecilius was probably even now in
alliance with Verres. He himself, when Quaestor, had robbed the people
in the collection of the corn dues, and was unable therefore to
include that matter in his accusation. "You can bring no charge
against him on this head, lest it be seen that you were a partner with
him in the business."[106]

He ridicules him as to his personal insufficiency. "What, Caecilius!
as to those practices of the profession without which an action such
as this cannot be carried on, do you think that there is nothing in
them? Need there be no skill in the business, no habit of speaking,
no familiarity with the Forum, with the judgment-seats, and the
laws?"[107] "I know well how difficult the ground is. Let me advise
you to look into yourself, and to see whether you are able to do that
kind of thing. Have you got voice for it, prudence, memory, wit? Are
you able to expose the life of Verres, as it must be done, to divide
it into parts and make everything clear? In doing all this, though
nature should have assisted you"--as it has not at all, is of course
implied--"if from your earliest childhood you had been imbued
with letters; if you had learned Greek at Athens instead of at
Lilybaeum--Latin in Rome instead of in Sicily--still would it not be a
task beyond your strength to undertake such a case, so widely thought
of, to complete it by your industry, and then to grasp it in your
memory; to make it plain by your eloquence, and to support it with
voice and strength sufficient? 'Have I these gifts,' you will ask.
Would that I had! But from my childhood I have done all that I could
to attain them."[108]

Cicero makes his points so well that I would fain go through the whole
speech, were it not that a similar reason might induce me to give
abridgments of all his speeches. It may not be that the readers of
these orations will always sympathize with the orator in the matter
which he has in hand--though his power over words is so great as to
carry the reader with him very generally, even at this distance
of time--but the neatness with which the weapon is used, the
effectiveness of the thrust for the purpose intended, the certainty
with which the nail is hit on the head--never with an expenditure of
unnecessary force, but always with the exact strength wanted for the
purpose--these are the characteristics of Cicero's speeches which
carry the reader on with a delight which he will want to share with
others, as a man when he has heard a good story instantly wishes to
tell it again. And with Cicero we are charmed by the modernness, by
the tone of to-day, which his language takes. The rapid way in which
he runs from scorn to pity, from pity to anger, from anger to public
zeal, and then instantly to irony and ridicule, implies a lightness of
touch which, not unreasonably, surprises us as having endured for so
many hundred years. That poetry should remain to us, even lines so
vapid as some of those in which Ovid sung of love, seems to be more
natural, because verses, though they be light, must have been labored.
But these words spoken by Cicero seem almost to ring in our ears as
having come to us direct from a man's lips. We see the anger gathering
on the brow of Hortensius, followed by a look of acknowledged defeat.
We see the startled attention of the judges as they began to feel that
in this case they must depart from their intended purpose. We can
understand how Caecilius cowered, and found consolation in being
relieved from his task. We can fancy how Verres suffered--Verres
whom no shame could have touched--when all his bribes were becoming
inefficient under the hands of the orator.

Cicero was chosen for the task, and then the real work began. The
work as he did it was certainly beyond the strength of any ordinary
advocate. It was necessary that he should proceed to Sicily to obtain
the evidence which was to be collected over the whole island. He must
rate up, too, all the previous details of the life of this robber. He
must be thoroughly prepared to meet the schemers on every point. He
asked for a hundred and ten days for the purpose of getting up his
case, but he took only fifty. We must imagine that, as he became more
thoroughly versed in the intrigues of his adversaries, new lights came
upon him. Were he to use the whole time allotted to him, or even half
the time, and then make such an exposition of the criminal as he would
delight to do were he to indulge himself with that "perpetua oratio"
of which we hear, then the trial would be protracted till the coming
of certain public games, during which the courts would not sit. There
seem to have been three sets of games in his way--a special set for
this year, to be given by Pompey, which were to last fifteen days;
then the Ludi Romani, which were continued for nine days. Soon after
that would come the games in honor of Victory--so soon that an
adjournment over them would be obtained as a matter of course. In this
way the trial would be thrown over into the next year, when Hortensius
and one Metellus would be Consuls, and another Metellus would be the
Praetor, controlling the judgment-seats.

Glabrio was the Praetor for this present year. In Glabrio Cicero could
put some trust. With Hortensius and the two Metelluses in power,
Verres would be as good as acquitted. Cicero, therefore, had to be
on the alert, so that in this unexpected way, by sacrificing his own
grand opportunity for a speech, he might conquer the schemers. We hear
how he went to Sicily in a little boat from an unknown port, so as to
escape the dangers contrived for him by the friends of Verres.[109] If
it could be arranged that the clever advocate should be kidnapped by a
pirate, what a pleasant way would that be of putting an end to these
abominable reforms! Let them get rid of Cicero, if only for a time,
and the plunder might still be divided. Against all this he had to
provide. When in Sicily he travelled sometimes on foot, for the sake
of caution--never with the retinue to which he was entitled as a Roman
senator. As a Roman senator he might have demanded free entertainment
at any town he entered, at great cost to the town. But from all this
he abstained, and hurried back to Rome with his evidence so quickly
that he was able to produce it before the judges, so as to save the
adjournments which he feared.

Verres retired from the trial, pleading guilty, after hearing the
evidence. Of the witness, and of the manner in which they told the
story, we have no account. The second speech which we have--the
Divinatio, or speech against Caecilius, having been the first--is
called the Actio Prima contra Verrem--"the first process against
Verres." This is almost entirely confined to an exhortation to the
judges. Cicero had made up his mind to make no speech about Verres
till after the trial should be over. There would not be the requisite
time. The evidence he must bring forward. And he would so appall these
corrupt judges that they should not dare to acquit the accused. This
Actio Prima contains the words in which he did appall the judges. As
we read them, we pity the judges. There were fourteen, whose names we
know. That there may have been many more is probable. There was the
Praetor Urbanus of the day, Glabrio. With him were Metellus, one
of the Praetors for the next year, and Caesonius, who, with Cicero
himself, was Aedile designate. There were three Tribunes of the
people and two military Tribunes. There was a Servilius, a Catulus, a
Marcellus. Whom among these he suspected can hardly say. Certainly he
suspected Metellus. To Servilius[110] he paid an ornate compliment in
one of the written orations published after the trial was over, from
whence we may suppose that he was well inclined toward him. Of Glabrio
he spoke well. The body, as a body, was of such a nature that he found
it necessary to appall them. It is thus that he begins: "Not by human
wisdom, O ye judges, but by chance, and by the aid, as it were, of the
gods themselves, an event has come to pass by which the hatred now
felt for your order, and the infamy attached to the judgment seat,
may be appeased; for an opinion has gone abroad, disgraceful to the
Republic, full of danger to yourselves--which is in the mouths of
all men not only here in Rome but through all nations--that by these
courts as they are now constituted, a man, if he be only rich enough,
will never be condemned, though he be ever so guilty." What an
exordium with which to begin a forensic pleading before a bench of
judges composed of Praetors, Aediles, and coming Consuls! And this at
a time, too, when men's minds were still full of Sulla's power; when
some were thinking that they too might be Sullas; while the idea was
still strong that a few nobles ought to rule the Roman Empire for
their own advantage and their own luxury! What words to address to a
Metellus, a Catulus, and a Marcellus! I have brought before you such
a wretch, he goes on to say, that by a just judgment upon him you can
recover your favor with the people of Rome, and your credit with other
nations. "This is a trial in which you, indeed, will have to judge
this man who is accused, but in which also the Roman people will have
to judge you. By what is done to him will be determined whether a man
who is guilty, and at the same time rich, can possibly be condemned
in Rome.[111]If the matter goes amiss here, all men will declare, not
that better men should be selected out of your order, which would be
impossible, but that another order of citizens must be named from
which to select the judges."[112] This short speech was made. The
witnesses were examined during nine days; then Hortensius, with hardly
a struggle at a reply, gave way, and Verres stood condemned by his own

When the trial was over, and Verres had consented to go into exile,
and to pay whatever fine was demanded, the "perpetua oratio" which
Cicero thought good to make on the matter was published to the world.
It is written as though it was to have been spoken, with counterfeit
tricks of oratory--with some tricks so well done in the first part
of it as to have made one think that, when these special words were
prepared, he must have intended to speak them. It has been agreed,
however, that such was not the case. It consists of a narration of the
villainies of Verres, and is divided into what have been called five
different speeches, to which the following appellations are given: De
Praetura Urbana, in which we are told what Verres did when he was city
Praetor, and very many things also which he did before he came to that
office, De Jurisdictione Siciliensi, in which is described his conduct
as a Roman magistrate on the island; De Re Frumentaria, setting forth
the abomination of his exactions in regard to the corn tax; De Signis,
detailing the robberies he perpetuated in regard to statues and other
ornaments; and De Suppliciis, giving an account of the murders he
committed and the tortures he inflicted. A question is sometimes
mooted in conversation whether or no the general happiness of the
world has been improved by increasing civilization When the reader
finds from these stories, as told by a leading Roman of the day, how
men were treated under the Roman oligarchy--not only Greek allies but
Romans also--I think he will be inclined to answer the question in
favour of civilization.

I can only give a few of the many little histories which have been
preserved for us in this Actio Secunda; but perhaps these few may
suffice to show how a great Roman officer could demean himself in his
government. Of the doings of Verres before he went to Sicily I will
select two. It became his duty on one occasion--a job which he seems
to have sought for purpose of rapine--to go to Lampsacus, a town in
Asia, as lieutenant, or legate, for Dolabella, who then had command
in Asia. Lampsacus was on the Hellespont, an allied town of specially
good repute. Here he is put up as a guest, with all the honors of a
Roman officer, at the house of a citizen named Janitor. But he heard
that another citizen, one Philodamus, had a beautiful daughter--an
article with which we must suppose that Janitor was not equally well
supplied. Verres, determined to get at the lady, orders that his
creature Rubrius shall be quartered at the house of Philodamus.
Philodamus, who from his rank was entitled to be burdened only
with the presence of leading Romans, grumbles at this; but, having
grumbled, consents, and having consented, does the best to make his
house comfortable. He gives a great supper, at which the Romans eat
and drink, and purposely create a tumult. Verres, we understand, was
not there. The intention is that the girl shall be carried away and
brought to him. In the middle of their cups the father is desired to
produce his daughter; but this he refuses to do. Rubrius then orders
the doors to be closed, and proceeds to ransack the house.
Philodamus, who will not stand this, fetches his son, and calls his
fellow-citizens around him. Rubrius succeeds in pouring boiling water
over his host, but in the row the Romans get the worst of it. At last
one of Verres's lictors--absolutely a Roman lictor--is killed, and the
woman is not carried off. The man at least bore the outward signs of
a lictor, but, according to Cicero, was in the pay of Verres as his

So far Verres fails; and the reader, rejoicing at the courage of the
father who could protect his own house even against Romans, begins to
feel some surprise that this case should have been selected. So far
the lieutenant had not done the mischief he had intended, but he
soon avenges his failure. He induces Dolabella, his chief, to have
Philodamus and his son carried off to Laodicea, and there tried before
Nero, the then Proconsul, for killing the sham lictor. They are tried
at Laodicea before Nero, Verres himself sitting as one of the judges,
and are condemned. Then in the market place of the town, in the
presence of each other, the father and son are beheaded--a thing, as
Cicero says, very sad for all Asia to behold. All this had been done
some years ago; and, nevertheless, Verres had been chosen Praetor, and
sent to Sicily to govern the Sicilians.

When Verres was Praetor at Rome--the year before he was sent to
Sicily--it became his duty, or rather privilege, as he found it, to
see that a certain temple of Castor in the city was given up in proper
condition by the executors of a defunct citizen who had taken a
contract for keeping it in repair. This man, whose name had been
Junius, left a son, who was a Junius also under age, with a large
fortune in charge of various trustees, tutors, as they were called,
whose duty it was to protect the heir's interests. Verres, knowing of
old that no property was so easily preyed on as that of a minor, sees
at once that something may be done with the temple of Castor. The heir
took oath, and to the extent of his property he was bound to keep the
edifice in good repair. But Verres, when he made an inspection, finds
everything to be in more than usually good order. There is not a
scratch on the roof of which he can make use. Nothing has been allowed
to go astray. Then "one of his dogs"--for he had boasted to his friend
Ligur that he always went about with dogs to search out his game for
him--suggested that some of the columns were out of the perpendicular.
Verres does not know what this means; but the dog explains. All
columns are, in fact, by strict measurement, more or less out of the
perpendicular, as we are told that all eyes squint a little, though we
do not see that they squint. But as columns ought to be perpendicular,
here was a matter on which he might go to work. He does go to work.
The trustees knowing their man--knowing also that in the present
condition of Rome it was impossible to escape from an unjust Praetor
without paying largely--went to his mistress and endeavored to settle
the matter with her. Here we have an amusing picture of the way
in which the affairs of the city were carried on in that lady's
establishment; how she had her levee, took her bribes, and drove
a lucrative trade. Doing, however, no good with her, the trustees
settled with an agent to pay Verres two hundred thousand sesterces to
drop the affair. This was something under L2000. But Verres repudiated
the arrangement with scorn. He could do much better than that with
such a temple and such a minor. He puts the repairs up to auction; and
refusing a bid from the trustees themselves--the very persons who are
the most interested in getting the work done, if there were work to
do--has it knocked down to himself for five hundred and sixty thousand
sesterces, or about L5000.[113] Then we are told how he had the
pretended work done by the putting up of a rough crane. No real work
is done, no new stones are brought, no money is spent. That is the way
in which Verres filled his office as Praetor Urbanus; but it does not
seem that any public notice is taken of his iniquities as long as he
confined himself to little jobs such as this.

Then we come to the affairs of Sicily--and the long list of robberies
is commenced by which that province was made desolate. It seems that
nothing gave so grand a scope to the greed of a public functionary who
was at the same time governor and judge as disputed wills. It was not
necessary that any of the persons concerned should dispute the will
among them. Given the facts that a man had died and left property
behind him, then Verres would find means to drag the heir into court,
and either frighten him into payment of a bribe or else rob him of
his inheritance. Before he left Rome for the province he heard that a
large fortune had been left to one Dio on condition that he should put
up certain statues in the market-place.[114] It was not uncommon for a
man to desire the reputation of adorning his own city, but to choose
that the expense should be borne by his heir rather than by himself.
Failing to put up the statues, the heir was required to pay a fine to
Venus Erycina--to enrich, that is, the worship of that goddess, who
had a favorite temple under Mount Eryx. The statues had been duly
erected. But, nevertheless, here there was an opening. So Verres goes
to work, and in the name of Venus brings an action against Dio. The
verdict is given, not in favor of Venus but in favor of Verres.

This manner of paying honor to the gods, and especially to Venus, was
common in Sicily. Two sons[115] received a fortune from their father,
with a condition that, if some special thing were not done, a fine
should be paid to Venus. The man had been dead twenty years ago. But
"the dogs" which the Praetor kept were very sharp, and, distant as was
the time, found out the clause. Action is taken against the two sons,
who indeed gain their case; but they gain it by a bribe so enormous
that they are ruined men. There was one Heraclius,[116] the son of
Hiero, a nobleman of Syracuse, who received a legacy amounting to
3,000,000 sesterces--we will say L24,000--from a relative, also a
Heraclius. He had, too, a house full of handsome silver plate, silk
and hangings, and valuable slaves. A man, "Dives equom, dives pictai
vestis et auri." Verres heard, of course. He had by this time taken
some Sicilian dogs into his service, men of Syracuse, and had learned
from them that there was a clause in the will of the elder Heraclius
that certain statues should be put up in the gymnasium of the city.
They undertake to bring forward servants of the gymnasium who should
say that the statues were never properly erected. Cicero tells us how
Verres went to work, now in this court, now in that, breaking all
the laws as to Sicilian jurisdiction, but still proceeding under the
pretence of law, till he got everything out of the wretch--not only
all the legacies from Heraclius, but every shilling, and every article
left to the man by his father. There is a pretence of giving some of
the money to the town of Syracuse; but for himself he takes all the
valuables, the Corinthian vases, the purple hangings, what slaves he
chooses. Then everything else is sold by auction. How he divided the
spoil with the Syracusans, and then quarrelled with them, and how he
lied as to the share taken by himself, will all be found in Cicero's
narrative. Heraclius was of course ruined. For the stories of
Epicrates and Sopater I must refer the reader to the oration. In that
of Sopater there is the peculiarity that Verres managed to get paid by
everybody all round.

The story of Sthenius is so interesting that I cannot pass it by.
Sthenius was a man of wealth and high standing, living at Therma in
Sicily, with whom Verres often took up his abode; for, as governor,
he travelled much about the island, always in pursuit of plunder.
Sthenius had had his house full of beautiful things. Of all these
Verres possessed himself--some by begging, some by demanding, and
some by absolute robbery. Sthenius, grieved as he was to find himself
pillaged, bore all this. The man was Roman Praetor, and injuries such
as these had to be endured. At Therma, however, in the public place of
the city, there were some beautiful statues. For these Verres longed,
and desired his host to get them for him.

Sthenius declared that this was impossible. The statues had, under
peculiar circumstances, been recovered by Scipio Africanus from
Carthage, and been restored by the Roman General to the Sicilians,
from whom they had been taken, and had been erected at Therma. There
was a peculiarly beautiful figure of Stesichorus, the poet, as an old
man bent double, with a book in his hand--a very glorious work of art;
and there was a goat--in bronze probably--as to which Cicero is at the
pains of telling us that even he, unskilled as he was in such matters,
could see its charms. No one had sharper eyes for such pretty
ornaments than Cicero, or a more decided taste for them. But as
Hortensius, his rival and opponent in this case, had taken a marble
sphinx from Verres, he thought it expedient to show how superior he
was to such matters. There was probably something of joke in this,
as his predilections would no doubt be known to those he was

In the matter Sthenius was incorruptible, and not even the Praetor
could carry them away without his aid. Cicero, who is very warm in
praise of Sthenius, declares that "here at last Verres had found one
town, the only one in the world, from which he was unable to carry
away something of the public property by force, or stealth, or open
command, or favor."[118]

The governor was so disgusted with this that he abandoned Sthenius,
leaving the house which he had plundered of everything, and betook
himself to that of one Agathinus, who had a beautiful daughter,
Callidama, who, with her husband, Dorotheus, lived with her father
They were enemies of Sthenius, and we are given to understand that
Verres ingratiated himself with them partly for the sake of Callidama,
who seems very quickly to have been given up to him,[119] and partly
that he might instigate them to bring actions against Sthenius. This
is done with great success; so that Sthenius is forced to run away,
and betake himself, winter as it was, across the seas to Rome. It
has already been told that when he was at Rome an action was brought
against him by Verres for having run away when he was under judgment,
in which Cicero defended him, and in which he was acquitted. In the
teeth of his acquittal, Verres persecuted the man by every form of law
which came to his hands as Praetor, but always in opposition to the
law. There is an audacity about the man's proceedings, in his open
contempt of the laws which it was his special duty to carry out,
making us feel how confident he was that he could carry everything
before him in Rome by means of his money. By robbery and concealing
his robberies, by selling his judgments in such a way that he should
maintain some reticence by ordinary precaution, he might have made
much money, as other governors had done. But he resolved that it would
pay him better to rob everywhere openly, and then, when the day of
reckoning came, to buy the judges wholesale. As to shame at such
doings, there was no such feelings left among Romans.

Before he comes to the story of Sthenius, Cicero makes a grandly
ironical appeal to the bench before him: "Yes, O judges, keep this
man; keep him in the State! Spare him, preserve him so that he,
too, may sit with us as a judge here so that he, too, may, with
impartiality, advise us, as a Senator, what may be best for us as to
peace and war! Not that we need trouble ourselves as to his senatorial
duties. His authority would be nothing. When would he dare, or when
would he care, to come among us? Unless it might be in the idle month
of February, when would a man so idle, so debauched, show himself in
the Senate-house? Let him come and show himself. Let him advise us
to attack the Cretans; to pronounce the Greeks of Byzantium free; to
declare Ptolemy King.[120] Let him speak and vote as Hortensius
may direct. This will have but little effect upon our lives or
our property. But beyond this there is something we must look to;
something that would be distrusted; something that every good man has
to fear! If by chance this man should escape out of our hands, he
would have to sit there upon that bench and be a judge. He would be
called upon to pronounce on the lives of a Roman citizen. He would be
the right-hand officer in the army of this man here,[121] of this man
who is striving to be the lord and ruler of our judgment-seats. The
people of Rome at least refuse this! This at least cannot be endured!"

The third of these narratives tells us how Verres managed in his
province that provision of corn for the use of Rome, the collection
of which made the possession of Sicily so important to the Romans. He
begins with telling his readers--as he does too frequently--how great
and peculiar is the task he has undertaken; and he uses an argument
of which we cannot but admit the truth, though we doubt whether any
modern advocate would dare to put it forward. We must remember,
however, that Romans were not accustomed to be shamefaced in praising
themselves. What Cicero says of himself all others said also of
themselves; only Cicero could say it better than others. He reminds
us that he who accuses another of any crime is bound to be especially
free from that crime himself. "Would you charge any one as a thief?
you must be clear from any suspicion of even desiring another man's
property. Have you brought a man up for malice or cruelty? take care
that you be not found hard-hearted. Have you called a man a seducer or
an adulterer? be sure that your own life shows no trace of such vices.
Whatever you would punish in another, that you must avoid yourself. A
public accuser would be intolerable, or even a caviller, who should
inveigh against sins for which he himself is called in question. But
in this man I find all wickednesses combined. There is no lust, no
iniquity, no shamelessness of which his life does not supply with
ample evidence." The nature of the difficulty to which Cicero is thus
subjected is visible enough. As Verres is all that is bad, so must he,
as accuser, be all that is good; which is more, we should say, than
any man would choose to declare of himself! But he is equal to the
occasion. "In regard to this man, O judges, I lay down for myself the
law as I have stated it. I must so live that I must clearly seem to
be, and always have been, the very opposite of this man, not only in
my words and deeds, but as to that arrogance and impudence which you
see in him." Then he shows how opposite he is to Verres at any rate,
in impudence! "I am not sorry to see," he goes on to say, "that that
life which has always been the life of my own choosing, has now
been made a necessity to me by the law which I have laid down for
myself."[122] Mr. Pecksniff spoke of himself in the same way, but no
one, I think, believed him. Cicero probably was believed. But the most
wonderful thing is, that his manner of life justified what he said
of himself. When others of his own order were abandoned to lust,
iniquity, and shamelessness, he lived in purity, with clean hands,
doing good as far as was in his power to those around him. A laugh
will be raised at his expense in regard to that assertion of his that,
even in the matter of arrogance, his conduct should be the opposite of
that of Verres. But this will come because I have failed to interpret
accurately the meaning of those words, "oris oculorumque illa
contumacia ac superbia quam videtis." Verres, as we can understand,
had carried himself during the trial with a bragging, brazen, bold
face, determined to show no shame as to his own doings. It is in this,
which was a matter of manner and taste, that Cicero declares that he
will be the man's opposite as well as in conduct. As to the ordinary
boastings, by which it has to be acknowledged that Cicero sometimes
disgusts his readers, it will be impossible for us to receive a just
idea of his character without remembering that it was the custom of
a Roman to boast. We wait to have good things said of us, or are
supposed to wait. The Roman said them of himself. The "veni, vidi,
vici" was the ordinary mode of expression in those times, and in
earlier times among the Greeks.[123] This is distasteful to us; and it
will probably be distasteful to those who come after us, two or three
hundred years hence, that this or that British statesman should have
made himself an Earl or a Knight of the Garter. Now it is thought by
many to be proper enough. It will shock men in future days that
great peers or rich commoners should have bargained for ribbons and
lieutenancies and titles. Now it is the way of the time. Though virtue
and vice may be said to remain the same from all time to all time, the
latitudes allowed and the deviations encouraged in this or the
other age must be considered before the character of a man can be
discovered. The boastings of Cicero have been preserved for us. We
have to bethink ourselves that his words are 2000 years old. There
is such a touch of humanity in them, such a feeling of latter-day
civilization and almost of Christianity, that we are apt to condemn
what remains in them of paganism, as though they were uttered
yesterday. When we come to the coarseness of his attacks, his
descriptions of Piso by-and-by, his abuse of Gabinius, and his
invectives against Antony; when we read his altered opinions, as shown
in the period of Caesar's dominion, his flattery of Caesar when in
power, and his exultations when Caesar has been killed; when we find
that he could be coarse in his language and a bully, and servile--for
it has all to be admitted--we have to reflect under what
circumstances, under what surroundings, and for what object were used
the words which displease us. Speaking before the full court at this
trial, he dared to say he knew how to live as a man and to carry
himself as a gentleman. As men and gentlemen were then, he was

The description of Verres's rapacity in regard to the corn tax is long
and complex, and need hardly be followed at length, unless by those
who desire to know how the iniquity of such a one could make the most
of an imposition which was in itself very bad, and pile up the burden
till the poor province was unable to bear it. There were three kinds
of imposition as to corn. The first, called the "decumanum," was
simply a tithe.

The producers through the island had to furnish Rome with a tenth of
their produce, and it was the Praetor's duty, or rather that of the
Quaestor under the Praetor, to see that the tithe was collected. How
Verres saw to this himself, and how he treated the Sicilian husbandmen
in regard to the tithe, is so told that we are obliged to give the
man credit for an infinite fertility of resources. Then there is the
"emptum," or corn bought for the use of Rome, of which there were two
kinds. A second tithe had to be furnished at a price fixed by the
Roman Senate, which price was considered to be below that of its
real value, and then 800,000 bushels were purchased, or nominally
purchased, at a price which was also fixed by the Senate, but which
was nearer to the real value. Three sesterces a bushel for the first
and four for the last, were the prices fixed at this time. For making
these payments vast sums of money were remitted to Verres, of which
the accounts were so kept that it was hard to say whether any found
its way into the hands of the farmers who undoubtedly furnished the
corn. The third corn tax was the "aestimatum". This consisted of a
certain fixed quantity which had to be supplied to the Praetor for the
use of his governmental establishment--to be supplied either in grain
or in money. What such a one as Verres would do with his, the reader
may conceive.

All this was of vital importance to Rome. Sicily and Africa were the
granaries from which Rome was supplied with its bread. To get supplies
from a province was necessary. Rich men have servants in order that
they may live at ease themselves. So it was with the Romans to whom
the provinces acted as servants. It was necessary to have a sharp
agent, some Proconsul or Propraetor; but when there came one so sharp
as Verres, all power of recreating supplies would for a time be
destroyed. Even Cicero boasted that in a time of great scarcity, he,
being then Quaestor in Sicily, had sent extraordinary store of corn
over to the city.[124] But he had so done it as to satisfy all who
were concerned.

Verres, in his corn dealings with the Sicilians, had a certain friend,
companion, and minister--one of his favorite dogs, perhaps we may call
him--named Apronius, whom Cicero specially describes. The description
I must give, because it is so powerful; because it shows us how one
man could in those days speak of another in open court before all the
world; because it affords us an instance of the intensity of hatred
which the orator could throw into his words; but I must hide it in the
original language, as I could not translate it without offence."[125]

Then we have a book devoted to the special pillage of statues and
other ornaments, which, for the genius displayed in story-telling, is
perhaps of all the Verrine orations the most amusing. The Greek people
had become in a peculiar way devoted to what we generally call Art.
We are much given to the collecting of pictures, china, bronze,
and marbles, partly from love of such things, partly from pride in
ornamenting our houses so as to excite the admiration of others,
partly from a feeling that money so invested is not badly placed with
a view to future returns. All these feelings operated with the Greeks
to a much greater extent. Investments in consols and railway shares
were not open to them. Money they used to lend at usury, no doubt,
but with a great chance of losing it. The Greek colonists were
industrious, were covetous, and prudent. From this it had come to pass
that, as they made their way about the world--to the cities which they
established round the Mediterranean--they collected in their new homes
great store of ornamental wealth. This was done with much profusion at
Syracuse, a Greek city in Sicily, and spread from them over the whole
island. The temples of the gods were filled with the works of the
great Greek artists, and every man of note had his gallery. That
Verres, hog as he is described to have been, had a passion for these
things, is manifest to us. He came to his death at last in defence of
some favorite images. He had returned to Rome by means of Caesar's
amnesty, and Marc Antony had him murdered because he would not
surrender some treasures of art. When we read the De Signis--About
Statues--we are led to imagine that the search after these things was
the chief object of the man throughout his three years of office--as
we have before been made to suppose that all his mind and time had
been devoted to the cheating of the Sicilians in the matter of corn.
But though Verres loved these trinkets, it was not altogether for
himself that he sought them. Only one third of his plunder was for
himself. Senators, judges, advocates, Consuls, and Praetors could be
bribed with articles of _vertu_ as well as with money.

There are eleven separate stories told of these robberies. I will give
very shortly the details of one or two. There was one Marcus Heius,
a rich citizen of Messana, in whose house Verres took great delight.
Messana itself was very useful to him, and the Mamertines, as the
people of Messana were called were his best friends in all Sicily: for
he made Messana the depot of his plunder, and there he caused to be
built at the expense of the Government an enormous ship called the
_Cybea_,[126] in which his treasures were carried out of the island.
He therefore specially favored Messana, and the district of Messana
was supposed to have been scourged by him with lighter rods than
those used elsewhere in Sicily. But this man Heius had a chapel, very
sacred, in which were preserved four specially beautiful images. There
was a Cupid by Praxiteles, and a bronze Hercules by Myro, and two
Canoephrae by Polycletus These were treasures which all the world came
to see, and which were open to be seen by all the world. These Verres
took away, and caused accounts to be forged in which it was made to
appear that he had bought them for trifling sums. It seems that some
forced assent had been obtained from Heius as to the transaction. Now
there was a plan in vogue for making things pleasant for a Proconsul
retiring from his government, in accordance with which a deputation
would proceed from the province to Rome to declare how well and kindly
the Proconsul had behaved in his government. The allies, even when
they had been, as it were, skinned alive by their governor, were
constrained to send their deputations. Deputations were got up in
Sicily from Messana and Syracuse, and with the others from Messana
came this man Heius. Heius did not wish to tell about his statues; but
he was asked questions, and was forced to answer. Cicero informs us
how it all took place. "He was a man," he said--this is what Cicero
tells us that Heius said--"who was well esteemed in his own country,
and would wish you"--you judges--"to think well of his religious
spirit and of his personal dignity. He had come here to praise Verres
because he had been required to do so by his fellow-citizens. He,
however, had never kept things for sale in his own house; and had he
been left to himself, nothing would have induced him to part with
the sacred images which had been left to him by his ancestors as the
ornaments of his own chapel.[127]

Nevertheless, he had come to praise Verres, and would have held his
tongue had it been possible."

Cicero finishes his catalogue by telling us of the manifold robberies
committed by Verres in Syracuse, especially from the temples of the
gods; and he begins his account of the Syracusan iniquities by drawing
a parallel between two Romans whose names were well known in that
city: Marcellus, who had besieged it as an enemy and taken it, and
Verres, who had been sent to govern it in peace. Marcellus had saved
the lives of the Syracusans; Verres had made the Forum to run with
their blood. The harbor which had held its own against Marcellus,
as we may read in our Livy, had been wilfully opened by Verres to
Cilician pirates. This Syracuse which had been so carefully preserved
by its Roman conqueror the most beautiful of all the Greek cities on
the face of the earth--so beautiful that Marcellus had spared to it
all its public ornaments--had been stripped bare by Verres. There was
the temple of Minerva from which he had taken all the pictures. There
were doors to this temple of such beauty that books had been written
about them. He stripped the ivory ornaments from them, and the golden
balls with which they had been made splendid. He tore off from them
the head of the Gorgon and carried it away, leaving them to be rude
doors, Goth that he was!

And he took the Sappho from the Prytaneum, the work of Silanion! a
thing of such beauty that no other man can have the like of it in his
own private house; yet Verres has it--a man hardly fit to carry such
a work of art as a burden, not possess it as a treasure of his own.
"What, too!" he says, "have you not stolen Paean from the temple of
Aesculapius--a statue so remarkable for its beauty, so well-known for
the worship attached to it, that all the world has been wont to visit
it? What! has not the image of Aristaeus been taken by you from the
temple of Bacchus? Have you not even stolen the statue of Jupiter
Imperator, so sacred in the eyes of all men--that Jupiter which the
Greeks call Ourios? You have not hesitated to rob the temple of
Proserpine of the lovely head in Parian marble."[128] Then Cicero
speaks of the worship due to all these gods as though he himself
believed in their godhead. As he had begun this chapter with the
Mamertines of Messana, so he ends it with an address to them. "It is
well that you should come, you alone out of all the provinces, and
praise Verres here in Rome. But what can you say for him? Was it not
your duty to have built a ship for the Republic? You have built none
such, but have constructed a huge private transport-vessel for Verres.
Have you not been exempted from your tax on corn? Have you not been
exempted in regard to naval and military recruits? Have you not been
the receptacle of all his stolen goods? They will have to confess,
these Mamertines, that many a ship laden with his spoils has left
their port, and especially this huge transport-ship which they built
for him!"

In the De Suppliciis--the treatise about punishments, as the last
division of this process is called--Cicero tells the world how Verres
exacted vengeance from those who were opposed to him, and with what
horrid cruelty he raged against his enemies. The stories, indeed, are
very dreadful. It is harrowing to think that so evil a man should have
been invested with powers so great for so bad a purpose. But that
which strikes a modern reader most is the sanctity attached to the
name of a Roman citizen, and the audacity with which the Roman
Proconsul disregarded that sanctity. "Cives Romanus" is Cicero's cry
from the beginning to the end. No doubt he is addressing himself to
Romans, and seeking popularity, as he always did. But, nevertheless,
the demands made upon the outside world at large by the glory of that
appellation are astonishing, even when put forward on such an occasion
as this. One Gavius escapes from a prison in Syracuse, and, making his
way to Messana, foolishly boasts that he would be soon over in
Italy, out of the way of Praetor Verres and his cruelties. Verres,
unfortunately, is in Messana, and soon hears from some of his friends,
the Mamertines, what Gavius was saying. He at once orders Gavius to
be flogged in public. "Cives Romanus sum!" exclaims Gavius, no doubt
truly. It suits Verres to pretend to disbelieve this, and to declare
that the man is a runagate slave. The poor wretch still cries "Cives
Romanus!" and trusts alone to that appeal. Whereupon Verres puts up a
cross on the sea-shore, and has the man crucified in sight of Italy,
so that he shall be able to see the country of which he is so proud.
Whether he had done anything to deserve crucifixion, or flogging, or
punishment at all, we are not told. The accusation against Verres is
not for crucifying the man, but for crucifying the Roman. It is on
this occasion that Cicero uses the words which have become proverbial
as to the iniquity of this proceeding.[129] During the telling of this
story he explains this doctrine, claiming for the Roman citizen, all
the world over, some such protection as freemasons are supposed to
give each other, whether known or unknown. "Men of straw," he says,
"of no special birth, go about the world. They resort to places they
have never seen before, where they know none, and none know them.
Here, trusting to their claim solely, they feel themselves to be
safe--not only where our magistrates are to be found, who are bound
both by law and by opinion, not only among other Roman citizens who
speak their language and follow the same customs, but abroad, over the
whole world, they find this to be sufficient protection."[130] Then
he goes on to say that if any Praetor may at his will put aside this
sanctity, all the provinces, all the kingdoms, all the free states,
all the world abroad, will very soon lose the feeling.

But the most remarkable story is that told of a certain pirate
captain. Verres had been remiss in regard to the pirates--very
cowardly, indeed, if we are to believe Cicero. Piracy in the
Mediterranean was at that time a terrible drawback to trade--that
piracy that a year or two afterward Pompey was effectual in
destroying. A governor in Sicily had, among other special duties, to
keep a sharp lookout for the pirates. This Verres omitted so entirely
that these scourges of the sea soon learned that they might do almost
as they pleased on the Sicilian coasts. But it came to pass that
on one day a pirate vessel fell by accident into the hands of the
governor's officers. It was not taken, Cicero says, but was so
overladen that it was picked up almost sinking.[131] It was found to
be full of fine, handsome men, of silver both plated and coined, and
precious stuffs. Though not "taken," it was "found," and carried into
Syracuse. Syracuse is full of the news, and the first demand is that
the pirates, according to Roman custom, shall all be killed. But this
does not suit Verres. The slave-markets of the Roman Empire are open,
and there are men among the pirates whom it will suit him better to
sell than to kill. There are six musicians, "symphoniacos homines,"
whom he sends as a present to a friend at Rome. But the people of
Syracuse are very much in earnest. They are too sharp to be put off
with pretences, and they count the number of slaughtered pirates.
There are only some useless, weak, ugly old fellows beheaded from day
to day; and being well aware how many men it must have taken to row
and manage such a vessel, they demand that the full crew shall be
brought to the block. "There is nothing in victory more sweet," says
Cicero, "no evidence more sure, than to see those whom you did
fear, but have now got the better of, brought out to tortures or
death."[132] Verres is so much frightened by the resolution of the
citizens that he docs not dare to neglect their wishes. There are
lying in the prisons of Syracuse a lot of prisoners, Roman citizens,
of whom he is glad to rid himself. He has them brought out, with
their heads wrapped up so that they shall not be known, and has them
beheaded instead of the pirates! A great deal is said, too, about the
pirate captain--the arch-pirate, as he is called. There seems to have
been some money dealings personally between him and Verres, on account
of which Verres kept him hidden. At any rate, the arch-pirate was
saved. "In such a manner this celebrated victory is managed.[133] The
pirate ship is taken, and the chief pirate is allowed to escape. The
musicians are sent to Rome. The men who are good-looking and young
are taken to the Praetor's house. As many Roman citizens as will fill
their places are carried out as public enemies, and are tortured and
killed! All the gold and silver and precious stuffs are made a prize
of by Verres!"

Such are the accusations brought against this wonderful man--the truth
of which has, I think, on the whole been admitted. The picture of
Roman life which it displays is wonderful, that such atrocities should
have been possible; and equally so of provincial subjection, that such
cruelties should have been endured. But in it all the greatest wonder
is that there should have risen up a man so determined to take the
part of the weak against the strong with no reward before him,
apparently with no other prospect than that of making himself odious
to the party to which he belonged. Cicero was not a Gracchus, anxious
to throw himself into the arms of the people; he was an oligarch by
conviction, born to oligarchy, bred to it, convinced that by it alone
could the Roman Republic be preserved. But he was convinced also that
unless these oligarchs could be made to do their duty the Republic
could not stand. Therefore it was that he dared to defy his own
brethren, and to make the acquittal of Verres an impossibility. I
should be inclined to think that the day on which Hortensius threw
up the sponge, and Verres submitted to banishment and fine, was the
happiest in the orator's life. Verres was made to pay a fine which was
very insufficient for his crimes, and then to retire into comfortable
exile. From this he returned to Rome when the Roman exiles were
amnestied, and was shortly afterward murdered by Antony, as has been
told before.


[97] M. du Rozoir was a French critic, and was joined with M. Gueroult
and M. de Guerle in translating and annotating the Orations of Cicero
for M. Pauckoucke's edition of the Latin classics.

[98] In Verrem Actio Secunda, lib.i., vii.

[99] Plutarch says that Caecilius was an emancipated slave, and a Jew,
which could not have been true, as he was a Roman Senator.

[100] De Oratore, lib.ii., c.xlix. The feeling is beautifully
expressed in the words put into the mouth of Antony in the discussion
on the charms and attributes of eloquence: "Qui mihi in liberum loco
more majorum esse deberet."

[101] In Q. Caec. Divinatio, ca.ii.

[102] Divinatio, ca.iii.

[103] Ibid., ca.vi.

[104] Ibid., ca.viii.

[105] Divinatio, ca.ix.

[106] Ibid., ca.xi.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Ibid., ca.xii.

[109] Actio Secunda, lib. ii., xl. He is speaking of Sthenius, and the
illegality of certain proceedings on the part of Verres against him.
"If an accused man could be condemned in the absence of the accuser,
do you think that I would have gone in a little boat from Vibo to
Vella, among all the dangers prepared for me by your fugitive slaves
and pirates, when I had to hurry at the peril of my life, knowing that
you would escape if I were not present to the day?"

[110] Actio Secunda, I. xxi.

[111] In Verrem, Actio Prima, xvi.

[112] In Verrem, Actio Prima, xvi.

[113] We are to understand that the purchaser at the auction having
named the sum for which he would do the work, the estate of the minor,
who was responsible for the condition of the temple, was saddled with
that amount.

[114] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.ii., vii.

[115] Ibid, ix.

[116] Ibid., lib.ii., xiv.

[117] See Appendix C.

[118] In Verrem, Actio Secunde, lib. ii., ca. xxxvi.

[119] Ibid. "Una nox intercesserat, quam iste Dorotheum sic diligebat,
ut diceres, omnia inter eos esse communia."--wife and all. "Iste"
always means Verres in these narratives.

[120] These were burning political questions of the moment. It was as
though an advocate of our days should desire some disgraced member
of Parliament to go down to the House and assist the Government in
protecting Turkey in Asia and invading Zululand.

[121] "Sit in ejus exercitu signifer." The "ejus" was Hortensius, the
coming Consul, too whom Cicero intended to be considered as pointing.
For the passage, see In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.ii., xxxi.

[122] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.iii., II.

[123] "Exegi monumentum aere perennius," said Horace, gloriously. "Sum
pius Aeneas" is Virgil's expression, put into the mouth of his hero.
"Ipse Menaleas," said Virgil himself. Homer and Sophocles introduce
their heroes with self-sounded trumpetings:

[Greek: _Eiae Odysseus Daertiadaes os pasi doloisi
Anthropoisi melo, kai meu kleos ouranon ikei_.]
Odyssey, book ix., 19 and 20.

[Greek: _Ho pasi kleinos Oidipous kaloumenos_.]
Oedipus Tyrannus, 8.

[124] Pro Plancio, xxvi.: "Fumenti in summa caritate maximum numerum
miseram; negotiatoribus comis, mercatoribus justus, municipibus
liberalis, sociis abstinens, omnibus eram visus in omni officio

[125] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib. iii., ix.: "is erit Apronius
ille; qui, ut ipse non solum vita, sed etiam corpore atque
ore significat, immensa aliqua vorago est ac gurges vitiorum
turpitudinumque omnium. Hunc in omnibus stupris, hunc in fanorum
expilationibus, hunc in impuris conviviis principera adhibebat;
tantamque habebat morum similitudo conjuncnorum atque concordiam,
ut Apronius, qui aliis inhumanus ac barbarus, isti uni commodus ac
disertus videretur; ut quem omnes odissent neque videre vellent sine
eo iste esse non posset; ut quum alii ne conviviis quidem iisdem
quibus Apronius, hic iisdem etiam poculis uteretur, postremo, ut, odor
Apronii teterrimus oris et corporis, quem, ut aiunt, ne bestiae quidem
ferre possent, uni isti suavis et jucundus videretur. Ille erat in
tribunali proximus; in cubiculo socius; in convivio dominus, ac tum
maxime, quum, accubante praetextato praetoris filio, in convivio
saltare nudus coeperat".

[126] A great deal is said of the _Cybea_ in this and the last speech.
The money expended on it was passed through the accounts as though the
ship had been built for the defence of the island from pirates, but it
was intended solely for the depository of the governor's plunder.

[127] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.iv., vii.

[128] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.iv., lvii.

[129] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.v., lxvi.: "Facinus est vinciri
civem Romanum; scelus verberari; prope parricidium necari; quid dicam
in crucem!"

[130] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.v., lxv.

[131] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.v., xx.: "Onere suo plane captam
atque depressam."

[132] In Verrem, Actio Secunda, lib.v., xxvi.

[133] Ibid., xxviii.



[Sidenote: B.C. 69, _aetat_. 38.]

The year after the trial of Verres was that of Cicero's Aedileship.
We know but little of him in the performance of the duties of this
office, but we may gather that he performed them to the satisfaction
of the people. He did not spend much money for their amusements,
although it was the custom of Aediles to ruin themselves in seeking
popularity after this fashion; and yet when, two years afterward, he
solicited the Praetorship from the people, he was three times elected
as first Praetor in all the comitia--three separate elections having
been rendered necessary by certain irregularities and factious
difficulties. To all the offices, one after another, he was elected
in his first year--the first year possible in accordance with his
age--and was elected first in honor, the first as Praetor, and then
the first as Consul. This, no doubt, was partly due to his compliance
with those rules for canvassing which his brother Quintus is said to
have drawn out, and which I have quoted; but it proves also the trust
which was felt in him by the people. The candidates, for the most part,
were the candidates for the aristocracy. They were put forward with
the idea that thus might the aristocratic rule of Rome be best
maintained. Their elections were carried on by bribery, and the people
were for the most part indifferent to the proceeding. Whether it might
be a Verres, or an Antony, or a Hortensius, they took the money that
was going. They allowed themselves to be delighted with the games, and
they did as they were bid. But every now and then there came up a name
which stirred them, and they went to the voting pens--ovilia--with a
purpose of their own. When such a candidate came forward, he was sure
to be first. Such had been Marius, and such had been the great Pompey,
and such was Cicero. The two former were men successful in war, who
gained the voices of the people by their victories. Cicero gained them
by what he did inside the city. He could afford not to run into debt
and ruin himself during his Aedileship, as had been common with Aediles,
because he was able to achieve his popularity in another way. It was
the chief duty of the Aediles to look after the town generally--to see
to the temples of the gods, to take care that houses did not tumble
down, to look to the cleansing of the streets, and to the supply of
water. The markets were under them, and the police, and the recurrent
festivals. An active man, with common-sense, such as was Cicero, no
doubt did his duty as Aedile well.

He kept up his practice as an advocate during his years of office. We
have left to us the part of one speech and the whole of another spoken
during this period. The former was in favor of Fonteius, whom the
Gauls prosecuted for plundering them as Propraetor, and the latter is
a civil case on behalf of Caecina, addressed to the "Recuperatores,"
as had been that for Marcus Tullius. The speech for Fonteius is
remarkable as being as hard against the provincial Gauls as his speech
against Verres had been favorable to the Sicilians. But the Gauls were
barbarians, whereas the Sicilians were Greeks. And it should be always
remembered that Cicero spoke as an advocate, and that the praise and
censure of an advocate require to be taken with many grains of salt.
Nothing that these wretched Gauls could say against a Roman citizen
ought to be accepted in evidence! "All the Romans," he says, "who have
been in the province wish well to Fonteius. Would you rather believe
these Gauls--led by what feeling? By the opinion of men! Is the
opinion, then, of your enemies of greater weight than that of your
fellow-citizens, or is it the greater credibility of the witnesses?
Would you prefer, then, unknown men to known--dishonest men to
honest--foreigners to your own countrymen--greedy men to those who
come before you for nothing--men of no religion to those who fear the
gods--those who hate the Empire and the name of Rome to allies and
citizens who are good and faithful?"[134] In every word of this he
begs the question so as to convince us that his own case was weak; and
when he makes a final appeal to the pity of the judges we are sure
that Fonteius was guilty. He tells the judges that the poor mother of
the accused man has no other support than this son, and that there is
a sister, one of the virgins devoted to the service of Vesta, who,
being a vestal virgin, cannot have sons of her own, and is therefore
entitled to have her brother preserved for her. When we read such
arguments as these, we are sure that Fonteius had misused the Gauls.
We believe that he was acquitted, because we are told that he bought a
house in Rome soon afterward; but we feel that he escaped by the too
great influence of his advocate. We are driven to doubt whether the
power over words which may be achieved by a man by means of natural
gifts, practice, and erudition, may not do evil instead of good. A man
with such a tongue as that of Cicero will make the listener believe
almost whatever he will; and the advocate is restrained by no horror
of falsehood. In his profession alone it is considered honorable to be
a bulwark to deception, and to make the worse appear the better cause.
Cicero did so when the occasion seemed to him to require it, and has
been accused of hypocrisy in consequence. There is a passage in one of
the dialogues, De Oratore, which has been continually quoted against
him because the word "fibs" has been used with approval. The orator is
told how it may become him to garnish his good story with little white
lies--"mendaciunculis."[135] The advice does not indeed refer to
facts, or to evidence, or to arguments. It goes no farther than to
suggest that amount of exaggeration which is used by every teller of a
good story in order that the story may be good. Such "mendaciuncula"
are in the mouth of every diner-out in London, and we may pity the
dinner-parties at which they are not used. Reference is made to them
now because the use of the word by Cicero, having been misunderstood
by some who have treated his name with severity, has been brought
forward in proof of his falsehood. You shall tell a story about a very
little man, and say that he is only thirty-six inches. You know
very well that he is more than four feet high. That will be a
"mendaciunculum," according to Cicero. The phrase has been passed
on from one enemy to another, till the little fibs of Cicero's
recommending have been supposed to be direct lies suggested by him to
all advocates, and therefore continually used by him as an advocate.
They have been only the garnishing of his drolleries. As an advocate,
he was about as false and about as true as an advocate of our own
day.[136] That he was not paid, and that our English barristers are
paid for the work they do, makes, I think, no difference either in the
innocency or the falseness of the practice. I cannot but believe that,
hereafter, an improved tone of general feeling will forbid a man of
honor to use arguments which he thinks to be untrue, or to make others
believe that which he does not believe himself. Such is not the state
of things now in London, nor was it at Rome in Cicero's time. There
are touches of eloquence in the plea for Fonteius, but the reader will
probably agree with me that the orator was well aware that the late
governor who was on his trial had misused those unfortunate Gauls.

In the year following that of Cicero's Aedileship were written the
first of his epistles which have come to us. He was then not yet
thirty-nine years old--B.C. 68--and during that year and the next
seven were written eleven letters, all to Atticus. Those to his other
friends--Ad Familiares, as we have been accustomed to call them; Ad
Diversos, they are commonly called now--began only with the close
of his consular year. How it has come to pass that there have been
preserved only those which were written after a period of life at
which most men cease to be free correspondents, cannot be said with
certainty. It has probably been occasioned by the fact that he caused
his letters to be preserved as soon as he himself perceived how great
would be their value. Of the nature of their value it is hardly
possible to speak too highly. I am not prepared, indeed, to agree with
the often quoted assertion of Cornelius Nepos that he who has read
his letters to Atticus will not lack much of the history of those
days.[137] A man who should have read them and nothing else, even in
the days of Augustus, would not have learned much of the preceding
age. But if not for the purpose of history, the letters generally
have, if read aright, been all but enough for the purpose of
biography. With a view to the understanding of the man's character,
they have, I think, been enough. From them such a flood of light has
been turned upon the writer that all his nobility and all his defects,
all his aspirations and all his vacillations, have been made visible.
We know how human he was, and how, too, he was only human--how he
sighed for great events, and allowed himself to think sometimes that
they could be accomplished by small manoeuvres--how like a man he
could be proud of his work and boast--how like a man he could despair
and almost die. But I wish it to be acknowledged, by those who read
his letters in order that they may also read his character, that they
were, when written, private letters, intended to tell the truth, and
that if they are to be believed in reference to his weaknesses, they
are also to be believed in reference to his strength. If they are
singularly transparent as to the man--opening, especially to Atticus,
the doors of his soul more completely than would even any girl of the
nineteenth century when writing to her bosom friend--they must be
taken as being more honestly true. To regard the aspirations as
hypocritical, and only the meaner effusions of his mind as emblematic
of the true man, is both unreasonable and uncharitable. Nor, I think,
will that reader grasp the way to see the truth who cannot teach
himself what has in Cicero's case, been the effect of daring to tell
to his friend an unvarnished tale. When with us some poor thought does
make its way across our minds, we do not sit down and write it to
another, nor, if we did, would an immortality be awarded to the
letter. If one of us were to lose his all--as Cicero lost his all when
he was sent into exile--I think it might well be that he should for a
time be unmanned; but he would either not write, or, in writing, would
hide much of his feelings. On losing his Tullia, some father of to-day
would keep it all in his heart, would not maunder out his sorrows.
Even with our truest love for our friends, some fear is mingled which
forbids the use of open words. Whether this be for good or for evil
I will not say, but it is so. Cicero, whether he did or did not know
that his letters would live, was impeded by no such fear. He said
everything that there was within him--being in this, I should say,
quite as unlike to other Romans of the day as he was to ourselves. In
the collection as it has come to us there are about fifty letters--not
from Cicero--written to Cicero by his brother, by Decimus Brutus, by
Plancus, and others. It will, I think, be admitted that their tone is
quite different from that used by himself. There are none, indeed,
from Atticus--none written under terms of such easy friendship as
prevailed when many were written by Cicero himself. It will probably
be acknowledged that his manner of throwing himself open to his
correspondent was peculiar to him. If this be so, he should surely
have the advantage as well as the disadvantage of his own mode of
utterance. The reader who allows himself to think that the true
character of the man is to be read in the little sly things he said to
Atticus, but that the nobler ideas were merely put forth to cajole the
public, is as unfair to himself as he is to Cicero.

In reading the entire correspondence--the letters from Cicero either
to Atticus or to others--it has to be remembered that in the ordinary
arrangement of them made by Graevius[138] they are often incorrectly
paced in regard to chronology. In subsequent times efforts have been
made to restore them to their proper position, and so they should be
read. The letters to Atticus and those Ad Diversos have generally been
published separately. For the ordinary purpose of literary pleasure
they may perhaps be best read in that way. The tone of them is
different. The great bulk of the correspondence is political,
or quasi-political. The manner is much more familiar, much less
severe--though not on that account indicating less seriousness--in
those written to Atticus than in the others. With one or two signal
exceptions, those to Atticus are better worth reading. The character
of the writer may perhaps be best gathered from divided perusal; but
for a general understanding of the facts of Cicero's life, the
whole correspondence should be taken as it was written. It has been
published in this shape as well as in the other, and will be used
in this shape in my effort to portray the life of him who wrote

[Sidenote: B.C. 68, _aetat._ 39.]

We have three letters written when he was thirty-eight, in the year
after his Aedileship. In the first he tells his friend of the death of
his cousin, Lucius Cicero, who had travelled with him into Sicily, and
alludes to the disagreements which had taken place between Pomponia,
the sister of Atticus, and her husband, Quintus Cicero--our Cicero's
brother. Marcus, in all that he says of his brother, makes the best
of him. That Quintus was a scholar and a man of parts there can be no
doubt; one, too, who rose to high office in the Republic. But he
was arrogant, of harsh temper, cruel to those dependent on him,
and altogether unimbued with the humanity which was the peculiar
characteristic of his brother. "When I found him to be in the wrong,"
says Cicero, in his first letter," "I wrote to him as to a brother
whom I loved; but as to one younger than myself, and whom I was bound
to tell of his fault." As is usual with correspondents, half the
letter is taken up with excuses for not writing sooner; then he gives
commissions for the purchase of statues for his Tusculan villa, of
which we now hear for the first time, and tells his friend how his
wife, Terentia, sends her love, though she is suffering from the gout.
Tullia also, the dear little Tullia, "deliciae nostrae,"[140]sends
her love. In the next, he says how a certain house which Atticus
had intended to purchase had been secured by Fonteius for 130,000
sesterces--something over L1000, taking the sesterce at 2 _d_. This no
doubt was part of the plunder which Fonteius had taken from the Gauls.
Quintus is getting on better with his wife. Then he tells his friend
very abruptly that his father died that year on the eighth day before
the kalends of December--on the 24th of November. Some question as
to the date of the old man's death had probably been asked. He gives
further commissions as to statues, and declares of his Tusculan
villa that he is happy only when he is there. In the third letter he
promises that he will be ready to pay one Cincius L170 on a certain
day, the price probably of more statues, and gives orders to his
friend as to the buying of books. "All my prospect of enjoying myself
at my ease depends on your goodness." These were the letters he wrote
when he had just ceased to be Aedile.

From the next two years five letters remain to us, chiefly noticeable
from the continued commissions given by Cicero to Atticus for statues.
Statues and more statues are wanted as ornaments for his Tusculanum.
Should there be more than are needed for that villa, he will begin to
decorate another that he has, the Formianum, near Caieta. He wants
whatever Atticus may think proper for his "palaestra" and "gymnasium."
Atticus has a library or collection of maps for sale, and Cicero
engages to buy them, though it seems that he has not at present quite
got the money. He reserves, he says, all his little comings-in,
"vindemiolas"--what he might make by selling his grapes as a lady in
the country might get a little income from her spare butter--in order
that he may have books as a resource for his old age. Again, he bids
Atticus not to be afraid but what he, Cicero, will be able to buy them
some day--which if he can do he will be richer than Crassus, and will
envy no one his mansions or his lawns. He also declares that he has
betrothed Tullia, then ten years old, to Caius Piso, son of Lucius
Piso Frugi. The proposed marriage, which after three years of
betrothal was duly solemnized, was considered to be in all respects
desirable. Cicero thought very highly of his son-in-law, who was
related to Calpurnius Piso, one of the Consuls of that year. So far
everything was going well with our orator.

[Sidenote: B.C. 67, _aetat._ 40]

He was then candidate for the Praetorship, and was elected first, as
has been already said. It was in that year, too that a law was passed
in Rome, at the instance of one Gabinius, a tribune, authorizing
Pompey to exterminate the pirates in the Mediterranean, and giving him
almost unlimited power for this object. Pompey was not, indeed, named
in this law. A single general, one who had been Consul, was to be
approved by the Senate, with exclusive command by sea and for fifty
miles on shore. He was to select as his own officers a hitherto
unheard-of number, all of senatorial rank. It was well understood when
the law was worded that Pompey alone could fill the place. The Senate
opposed the scheme with all its power, although, seven years before,
it had acknowledged the necessity of some measure for extirpating
the pirates. But jealousies prevailed, and the Senate was afraid of
Pompey. Gabinius, however, carried his law by the votes of the people,
and Pompey was appointed.

Nothing tells us more clearly the wretched condition of things in
Rome at this time than this infliction of pirates, under which their
commerce was almost destroyed. Sulla had re-established the outside
show of a strong government--a government which was strong enough to
enable rich men to live securely in Rome; but he had done nothing to
consolidate the Empire. Even Lucullus in the East had only partially
succeeded, leaving Mithridates still to be dealt with by Pompey.
Of what nature was the government of the provinces under Sulla's
aristocracy we learn from the trials of Verres, and of Fonteius,
and of Catiline. The Mediterranean swarmed with pirates, who taught
themselves to think that they had nothing to fear from the hands of
the Romans. Plutarch declares to us--no doubt with fair accuracy,
because the description has been admitted by subsequent writers--how
great was the horror of these depredations.[141] It is marvellous to
us now that this should have been allowed--marvellous that pirates
should reach such a pitch of importance that Verres had found it worth
his while to sacrifice Roman citizens in their place. Pompey went
forth with his officers, his fleets, and his money, and cleared the
Mediterranean in forty days, as Plutarch says. Floras tells us that
not a ship was lost by the Romans, and not a pirate left on the

In the history of Rome at this time we find men of mark whose
characters, as we read, become clear to us, or appear to become clear.
Of Marius and of Sulla we have a defined idea. Caesar, with his
imperturbable courage, absence of scruples, and assurance of success,
comes home to us. Cicero, I think, we certainly may understand.
Catiline, Cato, Antony, and Brutus have left their portraits with
us. Of Pompey I must acknowledge for myself that I have but a vague

His wonderful successes seem to have been produced by so very little
power of his own! He was not determined and venomous as was Marius;
not cold-blooded and ruthless as was Sulla; certainly not confident as
was Caesar; not humane as was Cicero; not passionate as Catiline; not
stoic as was Cato; not reckless as was Antony, nor wedded to the idea
of an oligarchy as was Brutus. Success came in his way, and he found
it--found it again and again, till fortune seemed to have adopted him.
Success lifted him higher and higher, till at last it seemed to him
that he must be a Sulla whether he would or no.[143]

But he could not endure the idea of a rival Sulla. I doubt whether
ambition would have prompted him to fight for the empire of the
Republic, had he not perceived that that empire would fall into
Caesar's hands did he not grasp it himself. It would have satisfied
him to let things go, while the citizens called him "Magnus," and
regarded him as the man who could do a great thing if he would, if
only no rivalship had been forced upon him. Caesar did force it on
him, and then, as a matter of course, he fell. He must have understood
warfare from his youth upward, knowing well the purposes of a Roman
legion and of Roman auxiliaries. He had destroyed Sertorius in Spain,
a man certainly greater than himself, and had achieved the honor of
putting an end to the Servile war when Spartacus, the leader of
the slaves and gladiators, had already been killed. He must have
appreciated at its utmost the meaning of those words, "Cives Romanus".
He was a handsome man, with good health, patient of labor, not given
to luxury, reticent, I should say ungenerous, and with a strong touch
of vanity; a man able to express but unable to feel friendship;
with none of the highest attributes of manhood, but with all the
second-rate attributes at their best; a capable, brave man, but one
certain to fall crushed beneath the heel of such a man as Caesar, and
as certain to leave such a one as Cicero in the lurch.

It is necessary that the reader should attempt to realize to himself
the personal characteristics of Pompey, as from this time forward
Cicero's political life--and his life now became altogether
political--was governed by that of Pompey. That this was the case to a
great extent is certain--to a sad extent, I think. The two men were of
the same age; but Pompey had become a general among soldiers before
Cicero had ceased to be a pupil among advocates. As Cicero was making
his way toward the front, Pompey was already the first among Romans.
He had been Consul seven years before his proper time, and had lately,
as we have seen, been invested with extraordinary powers in that
matter of putting down the pirates. In some sort the mantle of Sulla
had fallen upon him. He was the leader of what we may call the
conservative party. If, which I doubt, the political governance of men
was a matter of interest to him, he would have had them governed by
oligarchical forms. Such had been the forms in Rome, in which, though
the votes of the people were the source of all power, the votes hardly
went further than the selection of this or that oligarch. Pompey no
doubt felt the expediency of maintaining the old order of things, in
the midst of which he had been born to high rank, and had achieved
the topmost place either by fortune or by merit. For any heartfelt
conviction as to what might be best for his country or his countrymen,
in what way he might most surely use his power for the good of the
citizens generally, we must, I think, look in vain to that Pompey whom
history has handed down to us. But, of all matters which interested
Cicero, the governance of men interested him the most. How should the
great Rome of his day rise to greater power than ever, and yet be as
poor as in the days of her comparative insignificance? How should Rome
be ruled so that Romans might be the masters of the world, in mental
gifts as well as bodily strength, in arts as well as in arms--as by
valor, so by virtue? He, too, was an oligarch by strongest conviction.
His mind could conceive nothing better than Consuls, Praetors,
Censors, Tribunes, and the rest of it; with, however, the stipulation
that the Consuls and the Praetors should be honest men. The condition
was no doubt an impossible one; but this he did not or would not see.
Pompey himself was fairly honest. Up to this time he had shown no
egregious lust for personal power. His hands were clean in the midst
of so much public plunder. He was the leader of the conservative
party. The "Optimates," or "Boni," as Cicero indifferently calls
them--meaning, as we should say, the upper classes, who were minded
to stand by their order--believed in him, though they did not just at
that time wish to confide to him the power which the people gave him.
The Senate did not want another Sulla; and yet it was Sulla who had
reinstated the Senate. The Senate would have hindered Pompey, if
it could, from his command against the pirates, and again from his
command against Mithridates. But he, nevertheless, was naturally their
head, as came to be seen plainly when, seventeen years afterward,
Caesar passed the Rubicon, and Cicero in his heart acknowledged Pompey
as his political leader while Pompey lived. This, I think, was the
case to a sad extent, as Pompey was incapable of that patriotic
enthusiasm which Cicero demanded. As we go on we shall find that
the worst episodes in Cicero's political career were created by his
doubting adherence to a leader whom he bitterly felt to be untrue to
himself, and in whom his trust became weaker and weaker to the end.

Then came Cicero's Praetorship. In the time of Cicero there were eight
Praetors, two of whom were employed in the city, and the six others in
the provinces. The "Praetor Urbanus" was confined to the city, and was
regarded as the first in authority.

This was the office filled by Cicero. His duty was to preside among
the judges, and to name a judge or judges for special causes.

[Sidenote: B.C. 66, _aetat._ 41.]

Cicero at this time, when he and Pompey were forty or forty-one,
believed thoroughly in Pompey. When the great General was still away,
winding up the affairs of his maritime war against the pirates, there
came up the continually pressing question of the continuation of the
Mithridatic war. Lucullus had been absent on that business nearly
seven years, and, though he had been at first grandly victorious, had
failed at last. His own soldiers, tired of their protracted absence,
mutinied against him, and Glabrio, a later Consul, who bad been sent
to take the command out of his hands, had feared to encounter the
difficulty. It was essential that something should be done, and one
Manilius, a Tribune, a man of no repute himself, but whose name has
descended to all posterity in the oration Pro Lege Manilia, proposed
to the people that Pompey should have the command. Then Cicero first
entered, as we may say, on political life. Though he had been Quaestor
and Aedile, and was now Praetor, he had taken a part only in executive
administration. He had had his political ideas, and had expressed them
very strongly in that matter of the judges, which, in the condition of
Rome, was certainly a political question of great moment. But this he
had done as an advocate, and had interfered only as a barrister of
to-day might do, who, in arguing a case before the judges, should make
an attack on some alleged misuse of patronage. Now, for the first
time, he made a political harangue, addressing the people in a public
meeting from the rostra. This speech is the oration Pro Lego Manilia.
This he explains in his first words. Hitherto his addresses had been
to the judges--Judices; now it is to the people--Quirites: "Although,
Quirites, no sight has ever been so pleasant to me as that of seeing
you gathered in crowds--although this spot has always seemed to me
the fittest in the world for action and the noblest for speech
--nevertheless, not my own will, indeed, but the duties of the
profession which I have followed from my earliest years have hitherto
hindered me from entering upon this the best path to glory which is
open to any good man." It is only necessary for our purpose to say, in
reference to the matter in question, that this command was given to
Pompey in opposition to the Senate.

As to the speech itself, it requires our attention on two points. It
is one of those choice morsels of polished Latinity which have given
to Cicero the highest rank among literary men, and have, perhaps, made
him the greatest writer of prose which the world has produced. I have
sometimes attempted to make a short list of his _chefs d'oeuvre_--of
his tidbits, as I must say, if I am bound to express myself in
English. The list would never allow itself to be short, and so has
become almost impossible; but, whenever the attempt has been made,
this short oration in its integrity has always been included in it. My
space hardly permits me to insert specimens of the author's style, but
I will give in an appendix[144] two brief extracts as specimens of the
beauty of words in Latin. I almost fancy that if properly read they
would have a grace about them even to the ears of those to whom Latin
is unknown. I venture to attach to them in parallel columns my own
translation, acknowledging in despair how impossible I have found it
to catch anything of the rhythm of the author. As to the beauty of the
language I shall probably find no opponent. But a serious attack has
been made on Cicero's character, because it has been supposed that his
excessive praise was lavished on Pompey with a view of securing the
great General's assistance in his candidature for the Consulship. Even
Middleton repeats this accusation, and only faintly repels it. M. Du
Rozoir, the French critic, declares that "in the whole oration there
is not a word which was not dictated to Cicero the Praetor by his
desire to become Consul, and that his own elevation was in his
thoughts all through, and not that of Pompey." The matter would be one
to us but of little moment, were it not that Cicero's character for
honesty as a politician depends on the truth or falsehood of his
belief in Pompey. Pompey had been almost miraculously fortunate up
to this period of his life's career. He had done infinitely valuable
service to the State. He had already crushed the pirates. There was
good ground for believing that in his hands the Roman arms would
be more efficacious against Mithridates than in those of any other
General. All that Cicero says on this head, whatever might have been
his motive for saying it, was at any rate true.

A man desirous of rising in the service of his country of course
adheres to his party. That Cicero was wrong in supposing that the
Republic, which had in fact already fallen, could be re-established by
the strength of any one man, could be bolstered up by any leader, has
to be admitted; that in trusting to Pompey as a politician he leaned
on a frail reed I admit; but I will not admit that in praising the
man he was hypocritical or unduly self-seeking. In our own political
contests, when a subordinate member of the Cabinet is zealously
serviceable to his chief, we do not accuse him of falsehood because by
that zeal he has also strengthened his own hands. How shall a patriot
do the work of his country unless he be in high place? and how shall
he achieve that place except by co-operation with those whom he
trusts? They who have blamed Cicero for speaking on behalf of Pompey
on this occasion, seem to me to ignore not only the necessities but
the very virtues of political life.

One other remarkable oration Cicero made during his Praetorship--that,
namely, in defence of Aulus Cluentius Habitus. As it is the longest,
so is it the most intricate, and on account of various legal points
the most difficult to follow of all his speeches. But there are none
perhaps which tell us more of the condition, or perhaps I should
say the possibilities, of life among the Romans of that day. The
accusation against Roscius Amerinus was accompanied by horrible
circumstances. The iniquities of Verres, as a public officer who
had the power of blessing or of cursing a whole people, were very
terrible; but they do not shock so much as the story here told of
private life. That any man should have lived as did Oppianicus, or
any woman as did Sassia, seems to prove a state of things worse than
anything described by Juvenal a hundred and fifty years later. Cicero
was no doubt unscrupulous as an advocate, but he could have gained
nothing here by departing from verisimilitude. We must take the
picture as given us as true, and acknowledge that, though law
processes were common, crimes such as those of this man and of this
woman were not only possible, but might be perpetrated with impunity.
The story is too long and complicated to be even abridged; but it
should be read by those who wish to know the condition of life in
Italy during the latter days of the Republic.

[Sidenote: B.C. 65, aetat. 42.]

In the year after he was Praetor--in the first of the two years
between his Praetorship and Consulship, B.C. 65--he made a speech in
defence of one Caius Cornelius, as to which we hear that the pleadings
in the case occupied four days. This, with our interminable "causes
celebres," does not seem much to us, but Cicero's own speech was
so long that in publishing it he divided it into two parts. This
Cornelius had been Tribune in the year but one before, and was accused
of having misused his power when in office. He had incurred the enmity
of the aristocracy by attempts made on the popular side to restrain
the Senate; especially by the stringency of a law proposed for
stopping bribery at elections. Cicero's speeches are not extant. We
have only some hardly intelligible fragments of them, which were
preserved by Asconius,[145] a commentator on certain of Cicero's
orations; but there is ground for supposing that these Cornelian
orations were at the time matter of as great moment as those spoken
against Verres, or almost as those spoken against Catiline. Cicero
defended Cornelius, who was attacked by the Senate--by the rich men
who desired office and the government of provinces. The law proposed
for the restriction of bribery at elections no doubt attempted to do
more by the severity of its punishment than can be achieved by such
means: it was mitigated, but was still admitted by Cicero to be too
rigorous. The rancor of the Senate against Cornelius seems to have
been due to this attempt; but the illegality with which he was
charged, and for which he was tried, had reference to another law
suggested by him--for restoring to the people the right of pardon
which had been usurped by the Senate. Caius Cornelius seems to have
been a man honest and eager in his purpose to save the Republic from
the greed of the oligarchs, but--as had been the Gracchi--ready in his
eagerness to push his own authority too far in his attempt to restrain
that of the Senate. A second Tribune, in the interest of the Senate,
attempted to exercise an authority which undoubtedly belonged to him,
by inhibiting the publication or reading of the proposed law. The
person whose duty it was to read it was stopped; then Cornelius pushed
aside the inferior officer, and read it himself. There was much
violence, and the men who brought the accusation about Cornelius--two
brothers named Cominii--had to hide themselves, and saved their lives
by escaping over the roofs of the houses.

This took place when Cicero was standing for the Praetorship, and
the confusion consequent upon it was so great that it was for awhile
impossible to carry on the election. In the year after his Praetorship
Cornelius was put upon his trial, and the two speeches were made.

The matter seems to have been one of vital interest in Rome. The
contest on the part of the Senate was for all that made public life
dear to such a body. Not to bribe--not to be able to lay out money in
order that money might be returned ten-fold, a hundred-fold--would be
to them to cease to be aristocrats. The struggles made by the Gracchi,
by Livius Drusus, by others whose names would only encumber us here,
by this Cornelius, were the expiring efforts of those who really
desired an honest Republic. Such were the struggles made by Cicero
himself; though there was present always to him an idea, with which,
in truth, neither the demagogues nor the aristocrats sympathized,
that the reform could be effected, not by depriving the Senate of
its power, but by teaching the Senate to use it honestly. We can
sympathize with the idea, but we are driven to acknowledge that it was

Though we know that this was so, the fragments of the speeches, though
they have been made intelligible to us by the "argument" or story
of them prefixed by Asconius in his notes, cannot be of interest to
readers. They were extant in the time of Quintilian, who speaks of
them with the highest praise.[146] Cicero himself selects certain
passages out of these speeches as examples of eloquence or
rhythm,[147] thus showing the labor with which he composed them,
polishing them by the exercise of his ear as well as by that of his
intellect. We know from Asconius that this trial was regarded at the
time as one of vital interest.

We have two letters from Cicero written in the year after his
Praetorship, both to Atticus, the first of which tells us of his
probable competition for the Consulship; the second informs his friend
that a son is born to him--he being then forty-two years old--and that
he is thinking to undertake the defence of Catiline, who was to
be accused of peculation as Propraetor in Africa. "Should he be
acquitted," says Cicero, "I should hope to have him on my side in the
matter of my canvass. If he should be convicted, I shall be able to
bear that too." There were to be six or seven candidates, of whom two,
of course, would be chosen. It would be much to Cicero "to run," as
our phrase goes, with the one who among his competitors would be the
most likely to succeed. Catiline, in spite of his then notorious
character--in the teeth of the evils of his government in Africa--was,
from his birth, his connections, and from his ability, supposed to
have the best chance. It was open to Cicero to defend Catiline as he
had defended Fonteius, and we know from his own words that he thought
of doing so. But he did not; nor did Cicero join himself with Catiline
in the canvassing. It is probable that the nature of Catiline's
character and intentions were now becoming clearer from day to day.
Catiline was tried and acquitted, having, it is said, bribed the


[134] Pro Fonteio, xiii.

[135] De Oratore, lib.ii., lix.: "Perspicitis, hoc genus quam sit
facetum, quam elegans, quam oratorium, sive habeas vere, quod narrare
possis, quod tamen, est mendaciunculis aspergendum, sive fingas."
Either invent a story, or if you have an old one, add on something
so as to make it really funny. Is there a parson, a bishop, an
archbishop, who, if he have any sense of humor about him, does not do
the same?

[136] Cicero, Pro Cluentio, l., explains very clearly his own idea as
to his own speeches as an advocate, and may be accepted, perhaps, as
explaining the ideas of barristers of to-day. "He errs," he says, "who
thinks that he gets my own opinions in speeches made in law courts;
such speeches are what the special cases require, and are not to be
taken as coming from the advocate as his own."

[137] When the question is discussed, we are forced rather to wonder
how many of the great historical doings of the time are not mentioned,
or are mentioned very slightly, in Cicero's letters. Of Pompey's
treatment of the pirates, and of his battling in the East, little or
nothing is said, nothing of Caesar's doings in Spain. Mention is
made of Caesar's great operations in Gaul only in reference to the
lieutenancy of Cicero's brother Quintus, and to the employment of his
young friend Trebatius. Nothing is said of the manner of Caesar's
coming into Rome after passing the Rubicon; nothing of the manner of
fighting at Dyrrachium and Pharsalia; very little of the death of
Pompey; nothing of Caesar's delay in Egypt. The letters deal with
Cicero's personal doings and thoughts, and with the politics of Rome
as a city. The passage to which allusion is made occurs in the life
of Atticus, ca. xvi: "Quae qui legat non multum desideret historiam
contextam illorum temporum."

[138] Jean George Greefe was a German, who spent his life as a
professor at Leyden, and, among other classical labors, arranged and
edited the letters of Cicero. He died in 1703.

[139] It must be explained, however, that continued research and
increased knowledge have caused the order of the letters, and the
dates assigned to them, to be altered from time to time; and, though
much has been done to achieve accuracy, more remains to be done. In
my references to the letters I at first gave them, both to the
arrangement made by Graevius and to the numbers assigned in the
edition I am using; but I have found that the numbers would only
mislead, as no numbering has been yet adopted as fixed. Arbitrary and
even fantastic as is the arrangement of Graevius, it is better to
confine myself to that because it has been acknowledged, and will
enable my readers to find the letters if they wish to do so. Should
Mr. Tyrell continue and complete his edition of the correspondence,
he will go far to achieve the desired accuracy. A second volume has
appeared since this work of mine has been in the press.

[140] The peculiarities of Cicero's character are nowhere so clearly
legible as in his dealings with and words about his daughter. There
is an effusion of love, and then of sorrow when she dies, which is
un-Roman, almost feminine, but very touching.

[141] I annex a passage from our well known English translation: "The
power of the pirates had its foundation in Cilicia. Their progress was
the more dangerous, because at first it had been but little noticed.
In the Mithridatic war they assumed new confidence and courage, on
account of some services which they had rendered the king. After this,
the Romans being engaged in civil war at the very gates of their
capital, the sea was left unguarded, and the pirates by degrees
attempted higher things--not only attacking ships, but islands and
maritime towns. Many persons distinguished for their wealth, birth and
capacity embarked with them, and assisted in their depredations, as if
their employment had been worthy the ambition of men of honor. They
had in various places arsenals, ports, and watch-towers, all strongly
fortified. Their fleets were not only extremely well manned, supplied
with skilful pilots, and fitted for their business by their lightness
and celerity, but there was a parade of vanity about them, more
mortifying than their strength, in gilded sterns, purple canopies, and
plated oars, as if they took a pride and triumphed in their villany.
Music resounded, and drunken revels were exhibited on every coast.
Here generals were made prisoners; and there the cities which the
pirates had seized upon were paying their ransom, to the great
disgrace of the Roman power. The number of their galleys amounted to a
thousand, and the cities taken to four hundred." The passage is taken
from the life of Pompey.

[142] Florus, lib.iii., 6: "An felicitatem, quod ne una cuidam navis
amissa est; an vero perpetuetatem, quod ampluis piratae non fuerunt."

[143] Of the singular trust placed in Pompey there are very many
proofs in the history of Rome at this period, but none, perhaps,
clearer than the expection made in this favor in the wording of laws.
In the agrarian law proposed by the Tribune Rullus, and opposed by
Cicero when he was Consul, there is a clause commanding all Generals
under the Republic to account for the spoils taken by them in war. But
there is a special exemption in favor of Pompey. "Pompeius exceptus
esto." It is as though no Tribune dared to propose a law affecting

[144] See Appendix D.

[145] Asconius Pedianus was a grammarian who lived in the reign of
Tiberius, and whose commentaries on Cicero's speeches, as far as they
go, are very useful in explaining to us the meaning of the orator.
We have his notes on these two Cornelian orations and some others,
especially on that of Pro Milone. There are also commentaries on some
of the Verrine orations--not by Asconius, but from the pen of some
writer now called Pseudo-Asconius, having been long supposed to have
come from Asconius. They, too, go far to elucidate much which would
otherwise be dark to us.

[146] Quint., lib.viii., 3. The critic is explaining the effect of
ornament in oratory--of that beauty of language which with the people
has more effect than argument--and he breaks forth himself into
perhaps the most eloquent passage in the whole Institute: "Cicero, in
pleading for Cornelius, fought with arms which were as splendid as
they were strong. It was not simply by putting the facts before the
judges, by talking usefully, in good language and clearly, that he
succeeded in forcing the Roman people to acknowledge by their voices
and by their hands their admiration; it was the grandeur of his words,
their magnificence, their beauty, their dignity, which produced that

[147] Orator., lxvii. and lxx.



Hitherto everything had succeeded with Cicero. His fortune and his
fame had gone hand-in-hand. The good-will of the citizens had been
accorded to him on all possible occasions. He had risen surely, if not
quickly, to the top of his profession, and had so placed himself there
as to have torn the wreath from the brow of his predecessor and rival,
Hortensius. On no memorable occasion had he been beaten. If now and
then he had failed to win a cause in which he was interested, it was
as to some matter in which, as he had said to Atticus in speaking of
his contemplated defence of Catiline, he was not called on to break
his heart if he were beaten. We may imagine that his life had been as
happy up to this point as a man's life may be. He had married well.
Children had been born to him, who were the source of infinite
delight. He had provided himself with houses, marbles, books, and
all the intellectual luxuries which well-used wealth could produce.
Friends were thick around him. His industry, his ability, and his
honesty were acknowledged. The citizens had given him all that it
was in their power to give. Now at the earliest possible day, with
circumstances of much more than usual honor, he was put in the highest
place which his country had to offer, and knew himself to be the one
man in whom his country at this moment trusted. Then came the one
twelve-month, the apex of his fortunes; and after that, for the twenty
years that followed, there fell upon him one misery after another--one
trouble on the head of another trouble--so cruelly that the reader,
knowing the manner of the Romans, almost wonders that he condescended
to live.

[Sidenote: B.C. 64, _aetat._ 43]

He was chosen Consul, we are told, not by the votes but by the
unanimous acclamation of the citizens. What was the exact manner of
doing this we can hardly now understand. The Consuls were elected by
ballot, wooden tickets having been distributed to the people for the
purpose; but Cicero tells us that no voting tickets were used in his
case, but that he was elected by the combined voice of the whole
people.[148] He had stood with six competitors. Of these it is only
necessary to mention two, as by them only was Cicero's life affected,
and as out of the six, only they seem to have come prominently forward
during the canvassing. These were Catiline the conspirator, as we
shall have to call him in dealing with his name in the next chapter,
and Caius Antonius, one of the sons of Marc Antony, the great orator
of the preceding age, and uncle of the Marc Antony with whom we are
all so well acquainted, and with whom we shall have so much to do
before we get to the end of this work. Cicero was so easily the first
that it may be said of him that he walked over the course. Whether

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