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Gaius Verres (c. 120–43 BC) was a
Roman magistrate The Roman magistrates were elected officials in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest hi ...
, notorious for his misgovernment of
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
. His extortion of local farmers and plundering of temples led to his prosecution by
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
, whose accusations were so devastating that his defence advocate could only recommend that Verres should leave the country. Cicero's prosecution speeches were later published as the ''Verrine Orations''.


Biography


Public career

During
Sulla's civil war Sulla's civil war was fought between the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Ancient Romans, Roman List of Roman generals, general and Politician, statesman. He w ...
(83–82 BC), Verres deserted the government faction of Marius and
Carbo Carbo or accented Carbó may refer to Places *Carbó Municipality, a municipality in Sonora, Mexico **Carbó, the municipal seat of Carbó Municipality, Sonora, Mexico *Enrique Carbó, Argentina, a village and municipality in Entre Ríos Province, ...
and went over to
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...

Sulla
. Sulla made him a present of land at
Beneventum
Beneventum
and secured him against punishment for embezzlement. In 80 BC Verres served on the staff of
Gnaeus Cornelius DolabellaGnaeus Cornelius Dolabella was a Roman consul, consul of the Roman Republic in 81 BC, with Marcus Tullius Decula, during the dictatorship of Sulla. Biography Possibly a military tribune in 89 BC, Dolabella soon was attached to the staff of Sulla as ...
, governor of
Cilicia Cilicia (); el, Κιλικία, ''Kilikía''; Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the litera ...
. According to Cicero, the governor and his subordinate both ruthlessly plundered the province. In 78 BC Dolabella had to stand trial at Rome accused of extortion and was found guilty with the evidence of Verres, who had secured a pardon. In 74 BC, by lavish use of
bribes Bribery is defined by ''Black's Law Dictionary ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most widely used law dictionary Image:Legal Dictionaries.jpg, 300px, Several English and Russian legal dictionaries A law dictionary (also known as legal dictionary) ...

bribes
, Verres secured a praetorship. He abused his authority to further the political ends of his party. As a reward, the Senate sent him as governor (''
propraetor In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
'') to
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
, the
breadbasket The breadbasket of a country or of a region is an area which, because of the richness of the soil Soil is a mixture In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural ...
of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
– a particularly rich province thanks to its central position in the Mediterranean making it a commercial crossroads. The people were for the most part prosperous and contented, but under Verres the island experienced more misery and desolation than during the time of the
First Punic War The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (m ...
(264 to 241 BC) or the recent
Servile Wars The Servile Wars were a series of three slave revolts ("servile" is derived from "''servus''", Latin for "slave") in the late Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginn ...
(135–72 BC). Verres ruined the wheat-growers and the revenue collectors by exorbitant imposts or by the iniquitous canceling of contracts. He robbed temples (notably that on the site of the
Cathedral of Syracuse The Cathedral of Syracuse (''Duomo di Siracusa''), formally the ''Cattedrale metropolitana della Natività di Maria Santissima'', is an ancient Catholic Church, Catholic church in Syracuse, Sicily, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sir ...
) and private houses of their works of art, and disregarded the rights of Roman citizens. Another major charge leveled against Verres during his Sicilian tenure alleged that, during the time of the
Third Servile War The Third Servile War, also called the Gladiator War and the War of Spartacus by Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the mod ...
(73–71 BC) against
Spartacus Spartacus ( el, Σπάρτακος '; la, Spartacus; c. 111–71 BC) was a Thracian The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Eastern and So ...
, he had used the emergency to raise cash. He would, allegedly, pick key slaves of wealthy landowners and charge them with plotting to join Spartacus' revolt or otherwise causing sedition in the province. Having done so, he would sentence the slave to death by
crucifixion Crucifixion is a method of capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the ...

crucifixion
, and then lay a broad hint that a sizable bribe from the slave's owner could expunge the charge and sentence. Other times he would name nonexistent slaves, charging that the landowner held a slave suspected of plotting rebellion and that the owner was actively hiding him. When the owner could not produce the fictitious person, Verres would throw the putative owner into prison until a bribe could be paid for his release. He was also criticized for his public relationship with Tertia, which was regarded scandalous, and
Chelidon Chelidon (fl. 74 BC) was a Roman courtesan, famed for her influence during the praetorship of Gaius Verres Gaius Verres (c. 120–43 BC) was a Roman magistrate The Roman magistrates were elected officials in Ancient Rome In historiograp ...
, who was attributed undue influence upon his office by his detractors.Anise K. Strong:
Prostitutes and Matrons in the Roman World
'
Verres returned to Rome in 70 BC, and in the same year, at the request of the Sicilians,
Marcus Tullius Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient ...

Marcus Tullius Cicero
prosecuted him: Cicero later published the prosecution speeches as the ''Verrine Orations''. Verres entrusted his defence to the most eminent of Roman advocates,
Quintus Hortensius Quintus Hortensius Hortalus (114–50 BC) was a famous Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map ...
, and he had the sympathy and support of several of the leading Roman
patricians The patricians (from la, patriciusPatricius may refer to: People * Patricius (consul 500), prominent East Roman general and consul *Patricius (jurist), 5th-century Roman jurist * Patricius (usurper) (died 352), leader of the Jewish revolt aga ...
.


Trial and exile

The court was composed exclusively of senators, some of whom may have been his friends. However, the presiding judge, the city praetor, Manius Acilius Glabrio, was a thoroughly honest man, and his assessors were at least not accessible to bribery. Verres vainly tried to get the trial postponed until 69 BC when his friend Marcus Caecilius Metellus would be the presiding judge. Hortensius tried two successive tactics to delay the trial. The first was trying to sideline Verres' prosecution by hoping to get a prosecution of a former governor of
Bithynia Bithynia (; Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, ...
to take precedence. When that failed, the defense then looked to procedural delays (and gaming the usual format of a Roman extortion trial) until after a lengthy and upcoming round of public holidays, after which there would be scarce time for the trial to continue before Glabrio's term was up and the new and more malleable judge would be installed. However, in August,
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
opened the case and vowed to short-circuit the plans by taking advantage of an opportunity to change the format of the trial to bring evidence and witnesses up much sooner, and opened his case with a short and blistering speech. The effect of the first brief speech was so overwhelming that Hortensius refused to reply, and recommended his client leave the country. Before the expiration of the 9 days allowed for the prosecution Verres was on his way to exile. There he lived until 43 BC, when he was proscribed by
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
, apparently for refusing to surrender some art treasures that Antony coveted. Verres may have had a more decent character than that with which Cicero, the primary source of information, credits him, but there is no evidence to counter the allegation that he stood preeminent among the worst specimens of Roman provincial governors. Of the seven Verrine orations collectively called ''
In Verrem "In Verrem" ("Against Verres") is a series of speeches made by Cicero in 70 BC, during the Political corruption, corruption and extortion trial of Gaius Verres, the former governor of Sicily. The speeches, which were concurrent with Cicero's elect ...
'', only two were delivered; the remaining five were compiled from the depositions of witnesses and published after Verres' flight. It is not known what ''
gens In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
'' Verres belonged to, though some give him the
nomen Nomen may refer to: *Nomen (Roman name) The (or simply ) was a hereditary name borne by the peoples of ancient Italy and later by the citizens of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. It was originally the name of one's (family or clan) by p ...
''Licinius''.


Popular culture references

* '' Last Seen in Massilia'', a novel in the
Roma Sub Rosa ''Roma Sub Rosa'' is the title of the series of historical mystery novels by Steven Saylor set in ancient Rome and populated by noteworthy denizens thereof. The phrase "Roma Sub Rosa" means, in Latin, "Rome under the rose". If a matter was ''sub r ...
series by
Steven Saylor Steven Saylor (born March 23, 1956) is an American author of historical novels. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and classics. Saylor's best-known work is his ''Roma Sub Rosa'' historical mystery ...
. Verres is a minor character. * ''
Imperium In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a Roman citizenship, citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''auctoritas'' and ''potestas'', different and generally inferior types of power in t ...
'', the first novel of Robert Harris's trilogy about Cicero. The first half of the book features Cicero's prosecution of Verres. * ''Spartacus: Swords and Ashes'' by
Jonathan Clements Jonathan Michael Clements (born 9 July 1971) is a British author and scriptwriter. His non-fiction works include biographies of Confucius, Koxinga and Qin Shi Huangdi (the First Emperor of China), as well as monthly opinion columns for ''Neo (ma ...

Jonathan Clements
. Verres is a major character in the novel, which is set on the eve of his governorship of Sicily and features an undocumented dispute with a young Cicero in Neapolis. * '' Fortune's Favourites'', a novel in the
Masters of Rome ''Masters of Rome'' is a series of historical novels by Australian author Colleen McCullough, set in ancient Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map ...
series by
Colleen McCullough Colleen Margaretta McCullough (; married name Robinson, previously Ion-Robinson; 1 June 193729 January 2015) was an Australian author known for her novels, her most well-known being ''The Thorn Birds'' and ''The Ladies of Missalonghi''. Life M ...
. Verres, while a secondary character, describes his career in detail, from his pillaging of Samnium during the Social War, to his departure to Asia in the retinue of governor Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella – where the author describes his vices and immeasurable greed, foreshadowing his misgovernment of Sicily – and, finally, Cicero's energetic prosecution. * "Song for Cleomenes", a song by
The Mountain Goats The Mountain Goats are an American band formed in Claremont, California Claremont () is a suburban city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, California Los Angeles County, officially the County of Los Angeles, and sometimes abbrevia ...

The Mountain Goats
from their '' Beautiful Rat Sunset'' 10" EP, recounts the story of Verres.


References

Attribution: *


External links

* University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law
The Trial of Gaius Verres
{{DEFAULTSORT:Verres, Gaius 120s BC births 43 BC deaths 1st-century BC Romans Ancient Roman politicians Roman governors of Sicily Romans from unknown gentes