Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. II.: The wonderful Guilt and Enormities of Verres in Sicily, confidently committed, from Assurance of Impunity. Cicero' s Character of the Judges: Their bold and constant Venality. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. II.: The wonderful Guilt and Enormities of Verres in Sicily, confidently committed, from Assurance of Impunity. Cicero’ s Character of the Judges: Their bold and constant Venality. - Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline) 
The Works of Sallust, translated into English with Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a translation of Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline (London: R. Ware, 1744).
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The wonderful Guilt and Enormities of Verres in Sicily, confidently committed, from Assurance of Impunity. Cicero’s Character of the Judges: Their bold and constant Venality.
WE may be sure, where the Root was so corrupt, the Branches were not sound. If the People were mercenary, if the Senate was venal, and the Government of the Republic vicious and depraved at home, that of the Provinces must be, at least, as bad, or rather much worse. Let us take a View of the Administration of Verres in Sicily.
From the Moment he entered that Island, whither he was sent by the Republic as Governor, to protect the People in their Lives; Properties, and Laws, he applied himself, with all his Might and Malice, with all possible Arts and Violence, to seize their Property, in spite of their Laws; and to destroy both their Laws and Lives, in order to come at their Property. His Government was, literally, a merciless Course of Hostility and Plunder: He beggared the Rich; starved the common People; murdered such as threatened to complain; and, to shew himself an impartial Oppressor, spared neither the Public nor Individuals; but plundered even the Temples of all their Treasure, Statues, and magnificent Furniture; stripped Men of Fortune to the Skin, nay, hanged and whipped them, though Men of the first Dignity, for not consenting to all his Felonies and Plunder.
His Way of spoiling the religious Edifices was not quite so open: He sent Bands of Villains, by Night, to break into them, and carry off their Gold, their Images, and all their curious Ornaments. I forget whether the Statue of Hercules escaped; a Statue so adored in his Temple at Agrigentum, that his Mouth and Beard were worn away with the devout Kisses of his Worshippers: Probably it did not; since it was charged against him, (nor do I remember the Charge to have been denied) that, in all Sicily, an Island so rich, so large, so populous, so abounding in all Curiosities, wonderful Works of Art, and in all sorts of Luxury, he left not one Vase of Silver, or Corinthian Metal; not a Pearl, or Precious-stone; not a single Piece curiously wrought, either in Gold or Ivory; not a Statue of Brass or Marble; not a fine Picture, either painted, or in Tapestry; not a Piece of nice or antique Armour.
When a Pitate-Ship was seized upon the Coasts, Verres, instead of executing the Crew, as by Law and Justice he ought, claudestinely sold and disposed of all that were well-favoured, and all that were Artists among them; them executed, in their room, so many innocent Men, no Matter whom, as if They had been the Pirates.
By such hideous Oppression, this Governor Verres desolated and wasted Sicily, more than any soreign and hostile Army ever had done; more than ever Asdrubal had done, with all his fierce Africans and Mercenaries; more than ever Athenion had done, with all his cruel Host of Vagabonds and Banditti; and the Oppression of Verres proved more consuming than foreign Arms; drove away and destroyed more of the People; nay, utterly discouraged such as remained, from cultivating the Ground; since not they themselves, but a barbarous Magistrate, and his Blood-suckers, were to reap the Harvest. Nay, when the Government of Verres, or, more properly, his Period of plundering, was over, and he gone, it was a hard Task, to engage the poor broken-hearted Sicilians to manure their Fields any more: Indeed, many of them were fled, and could hardly be brought back again: Several, made desperate by his Violence, and the Rapine of his Harpies, to escape Him and Them, laid violent Hands upon themselves; and preferred the Rope, and the Dagger, to the Mercy and Justice of their Governor.
If any Man, under this insupportable Tyranny, dared to appeal to the Law, Verres, who still had the matchless Assurance to talk of Law and Justice, was provided with a Set of proper Judges; all his own Domestics and Freedmen; such as his Physician, his Augur, his Painter, and his Crier. He had the Impudence to declare to some, who seemed determined to stand a Trial, that, if they were condemned, (as he was sure and resolved they should be, by his faithful Knaves the Judges) they should be scourged till they perished under the Lash.
There is no such thing, as a Governor acting the Oppressor and Plunderer, without the Assistance of trusty Knaves and Confidents; such as those of Verres; his Apronius, his Arthemedorus, and many others. Apronius, particularly, a useful Implement, and in proportionable Favour, had always some of the Pillage for himself, for procuring all the rest to his Master. This is a Condition always understood, though not always stipulated, between the Great Thief and his Subaltern Thieves; who sometimes cheat him, if not always; and get as much, perhaps more than He. Nor is there, I believe, an Instance of any ravening Magistrate who was not the Dupe, if not the Property and Slave, of some Creature and Slave of his own: Nor doth it avail, that he is; but it is melancholy and unnatural, to see a great Magistrate, extremely honest and well-meaning, surrounded with dirty Fellows, and governed by them; sometimes very silly Fellows. This often happens, though he knows it not, when all others do; and seldom fails to be the Misfortune of all who possess great Power, together with great Credulity, and great Indolence; since it is a Misfortune, which, I doubt not, will, in some degree, attend the most active and most vigilant great Man. I could name a great and able Minister, famous for sound Judgment, and clean Hands; yet ingrossed, at his Leisure-hours, by Harpy Gamesters, and Jockies of the same Spirit, and miserable Morals; but for the high Honour I have for his Memory.
Verres, amongst his other bad Instruments, entertained Two Artists and Connoisseurs, and employed them to find out Prey for him. They were two Brothers, Tlepolimus and Hiero, Rogues who had fled from their Country for public Robbery; and proved such active Agents for Verres, that no other Way was found of saving any thing valuable from them, but that of bribeing them to dispraise it to their Master.
Verres was not such a Changeling, not to know what he did.----He was well apprised, that it was all against Law and Trust; and played the Tyrant with his Eyes open. What he depended upon was, either to escape Accusation, (for All guilty Magistrates were not tried, though Some were) or to escape Punishment by corrupting his Judges. The Truth is, the Tribunals of Justice were then become infamous: For, by the Power of Sylla, they had been taken from the Roman Knights, who had administered them for Fifty Years without Reproach; and committed to Senators, who were altogether venal. This gave Hopes to Verres; who, being Three Years Prætor or chief Governor of Sicily, proposed to keep the First Year’s Rapine to Himself; to employ that of the Second amongst his Patrons and Defenders; and that of the Third to bribe his Judges.
Was it not glorious Merit, to implead and pursue such a dareing Parricide, and to patronize such as he had oppressed; especially as he was furnished with powerful Advocates, and appeared to have mighty Interest? Yes, such a shocking Parricide, so glareing a Criminal as Verres, one of the blackest that ever lived, had Protectors, many, and able, and potent Protectors: Nor was it any longer a Wonder, when that bloody Usurper Jugurtha, one of the guiltiest Men that ever the World saw, had, by the Force of Gold, engaged so many Grandees; and thence eluded Chastisement for so many Years. Even the famous Orator Hortensius, otherwise a worthy Roman, was not ashamed to plead for Verres; though, according to Cicero, neither Crassus nor Antonius, nor any of the antient Orators, would have appeared in Behalf of such a notorious Profligate. So corrupt were the Romans then grown, particularly the Senators, that it was difficult, indeed scarce possible, to procure common Justice against a Plunderer of their Order, or of any Order, if he had Money enough. Upon this Verres relied; but the Attack of Cicero was so strong, the Charge so heinous, so horrible, and so well proved, that the People took Fire, and his Judges durst not save him.
Justly, therefore, might that great Orator, and invaluable Citizen, say, in his first Discourse against Verres; ‘How can I, at this Conjuncture, become more useful to the State? What can be more acceptable to the People of Rome; what more to the Wishes of our Allies, and even of strange Nations? What more suitable to human Society, and the Felicity of all Men? The Provinces are ravaged, distressed, nay, totally ruined: The confederate, the tributary Countries are squeezed, harrassed, and reduced to Misery, without Hopes of Deliverance; and only hope for some Ease in this their Desolation.’
He deals honestly and frankly with the Judges; and tells them, ‘There is no longer any Integrity, no longer any Conscience, in our Judgments. We (Senators) are considered as nothing: The Roman People scorn and contemn us; and we have been long decried.’ And, as the blackest Parricides were daily acquitted, he exhorts them, ‘To redeem their Order from that Infamy, that public Indignation and Shame, which they had thus drawn upon themselves.’ He adds, that, ‘When Pompey, upon being designed Consul, began, in his Speech to the People, to declare, that he would restore the Tribunals of Justice to their primitive Credit, he was heard with a pleasing Murmur of Applause: But, when he proceeded to complain, that the Provinces were ravaged and undone, the Decisions of the Judges unjust and scandalous; and that, by his Consular Authority, he would remedy these Evils; it was no longer in a low Murmur, but with loud Acclamations, that all the People of Rome expressed their Sentiments and Joy.
‘In this Accusation, and the Result of it, You (says Cicero to them) will judge Verres; but the Roman People will judge You: And Verres will serve for an Example, whether a Man who is extremely guilty, but extremely rich, can be condemned, when Senators are his Judges. So that, if he be acquitted, no Reasons will be found for it, but such as are most infamous and reproachful.’ He adds, that ‘They had now an Opportunity of obliterating that Blemish and Odium, with which, for several Years, the Order of Senators had been branded.’
The Friends of Verres seem to have judged him in no Danger, notwithstanding all his infinite Guilt and Excesses. Timarchides, directing his Brother Freedman Apronius how to act, namely, so as to save their common Master Verres, advised him to offer to All whatever was found expedient; and declares his Opinion, that, to succeed, he need only be liberal.
It appears from hence, how prevalent such Practices then were; and that a corrupt Man thinks no Man incorruptible; though, surely, there are always some such. Worthy was the Answer of Epaminondas to Diomedon of Cyzicus; who had undertaken, to Artaxerxes, to gain over that extraordinary Theban Magistrate and Commander by the Force of Money; and, for that Purpose, came to Thebes with a mighty Sum: ‘There is no need of Money (said Epaminondas): If the King of Persia aim at such Measures as are for the Interest of the Thebans, I am ready to comply with them, without any Reward: If he aim at contrary Measures, All his Wealth suffices not: Nor will I, for the Riches of the Universe, forego my Affection to my Country. At thy Offer I wonder not: Thou hast tried me, because thou didst not know me, and thoughtest me like Thyself. Hasten, however, from hence, lest thou corrupt Others, though thou didst fail in thy Attempt upon Me.’
It might have been easily foreseen, with what Equity Verres was like to govern Sicily, from his Conduct at Rome, during his Prætorship there. In it he sold All things, as well as Justice and Decrees; every Place, every Charge; even Rank, and Order, and Speech; for he exacted great Sums for Liberty of Pleading. He robbed whatever he could reach, not only Silver and Gold, but Ivory and Stone, Pictures, Statues, Cabinets, Furniture, Stuffs, Cloths, Corn, &c. Even Hyrondilla, his Mistress, (a Bond-woman) was then absolute at Rome. To her, Men of the greatest Worth and Quality were forced to make Application, and Presents: Insomuch that, at her House, a great Court was kept, for the Buying of Business, and the Purchase of Pardons and Injustice. Here, says Cicero, new Decrees were daily solicited, with new Laws, and new Judgments. ‘I come, says one, to have Possession granted me. I beg, says another, that Possession may not be taken from me. I, adds a Third, pray, that Process be not issued out against me. And my Suit, says the next, is, that my Effects may be adjudged to me.’ Thus they severally addressed and petitioned. Some payed ready Money; others signed Notes; and her House was crouded with such a Number of Suitors, that it appeared rather like an Exchange, than the Lodgings of a Courtezan.