Ecce Romani III Fabulae

Chapter 58: Background Information

Culture/History: Roman Provinces, Roman Magistracy, Oratory

Grammar: Relative Clauses of Characteristic, Cum Concessive, Passive Verbs used Impersonally

The Readings

Now it is time for your first look at Cicero, the foremost writer of the late Republic. His writings cover many genres: forensic and political oratory, philosophy, letters. You will get to read samples from all of these through the course of this class. Whereas Eutropius wrote roughly 300 years after the events he describes, Cicero will provide a unique, first-hand perspective on the events of the late Republic.

Chapter 58 provides readings from two sections of Cicero's speech Against Verres. Verres was the governor of the Roman provice of Sicily (the island next to the "toe" of the boot of Italy). In this speech Cicero attacks Verres for his corruption, greed, and cruel treatment of the inhabitants of the island. Keep in mind that Cicero delivered this speech in court in Rome, with Verres himself present. You can imagine Cicero strutting on the courtroom floor, gesticulating dramatically in front of Verres, much the same as a lawyer might speak before the witness stand and jury box in an American courtroom.

You will be challenged by Cicero's prose. Unlike Eutropius, Cicero employs a periodic style, meaning his sentences are usually long and contain several subordinating clauses. Review the video on reading a Latin sentence from earlier in the course if necessary. Remember: A clause that is interrupted by a subordinate clause cannot be completed until the subordinate clause is completed. In this way a Latin sentence can often by diagrammed as a rainbow, with one over-arching clause containing several smaller clauses inside it. Take your time with these sentences. An overview of Roman oratory is provided in your book on p. 67.

Reading Notes

Passage A

  1. (Verres) constituit (1): For unexpressed subjects, see p. 28.
  2. vitiorum (1): Keep an eye out for other Latin words that contribute to the negative tone of Cicero's description of Verres in Reading A.
  3. plurima (1): The appearance of superlative adjectives to exaggerate Verres' actions is also worth noting. In addition to "plurima", there are "maxima" (1), "avarissimi" (5), and "libidinosissimi" (5).
  4. per triennium (2): Verres served as governor of Sicily 73-71 BC.
  5. vexavit ac perdidit (2): Although Verres' case was notorious, it was not uncommon during the late Republic for a provincial governor to enrich himself at the expense of the natives (see lines 4-6), Roman citizens or not (lines 3-4). Caesar's tenure as provincial governor in Gaul, about which you will read in Ch. 60-61, was a classic example of this.
  6. Hoc praetore (3): An ablative absolute (see p. 21-22, #3). The titles of the governors reflected their previous magistracies, i.e., Verres was a praetor because of his previous service.
  7. neque (3-4): Note the anaphora (see Reading Note on p. 71).
  8. nostra senatus consulta (3-4): A "senatus consultum" was a formal and official decree of the Roman Senate whose purpose was to advise the magistrates. It had the de facto force of law. The letters S.C. are often found in inscriptions and on coins, one of which appears on p. 201.
  9. satietati superfuit (5-6): Satietati is dative with the compound verb supersum.
  10. Note the repeated s sounds in lines 5-6, which may suggest that Cicero is hissing scornfully at Verres.
  11. Lines 7-13 contain an excellent example of a Ciceronian period. Note how a semi-colon separates each main clause of this sentence from the next. Ellipsis appears throughout this seven-line sentence. (See the Reading Note on p. 89 for more information on ellipsis.)
  12. novo nefarioque instituto (7): The exact nature of this regulation is not known, but it is clear that the governor was generally free to impose his will through discritionary levies, as well as through confiscation of property (see lines 4-6).
  13. socii (7): Socius was a formal designation of an ally of Rome, usually through treaty. See line 12. Cicero continues to speak of the embarrassment that Verres' corruption had caused Rome (cum magna ignominia, lines 12-13).
  14. cives Romani...cruciati et necati (8-9): It was both customary and written law that a Roman citizen could not be tortured or executed without due process. Cicero goes on to say in lines 9-10 that charges were often trumped up or fabricated by Verres' confederates. By this time, many of Sicily's city-states had received Roman citizenship.
  15. piratis (11): Pirates were the scourge of the Meditteranean until Pompey the Great cleared them from the sea in 67 BC.
  16. fame necati (12): This was especially heinous, since Sicily was one of the breadbaskets of the Roman Empire.
  17. iste (14): Note Cicero's frequent use of this pejorative word (see lines 2, 14, B:5, B:18, and B:19) in reference to Verres throughout his speech.
  18. monumenta (14)...omnia (16): What does Cicero achieve by separating the noun from its modifier in this way? This figure of speech, which appears commonly in Cicero, is known as hyperbaton, for which see p. 133.
  19. nostrorum imperatorum...reddiderunt (15-16): Conquering generals not only customarily paraded the spoils of war through Rome in a triumph, but apparently returned some of the war booty to the conquered peoples. After the first Punic War, the Romans returned to the Greek cities of Sicily artworks that had been taken by the Carthaginians, since some of these cities sided with the Romans during that conflict. This makes Verres' crime all the more heinous since a Roman governor was stealing the things that earlier Roman officials had wanted the cities to have.
  20. Neque...reliquit (17-19): In the next reading, from the actio secunda of his speech which was never delivered but was published, Cicero gives a specific example of the sacrilegious behavior to which Verres' greed led him. Note the orderly manner in which Cicero presents his case, first outlining Verres' political transgressions and then following with his religious offenses.

Passage B

  1. Herculis templum (1): For the existing remains of this temple, see p. 63. The city of Agrigentum (see the map on p. 23), was the Greek colony of Acragas before its capture by Rome in 210 BC. For the Greek temple precinct in the Valley of the Temples at Agrigentum, see Michele Gallow's website, which contains basic information and a view of each of the eight temples in the precinct.
  2. ex aere simulacrum ipsius Herculis (2): Greek and Roman temples were considered houses of the gods and therefore contained a cult statue of a particular deity or mythical hero, made of bronze or marble and sometimes embellished with ivory or gold. The cult statues of Athena Parthenos in Athens and of Zeus Olympios at Olympia were outstanding examples of such scultpure.
  3. quo (2)...pulchrius (3): Why does Cicero make this parenthetical comment?
  4. ut rictum...osculari solent (3-5): It is interesting to note that in Italy today bronze depictions of the infant Jesus on baptistry doors and elsewhere have been worn shiny by the touch of the devout. Note the contrast that Cicero draws in Reading B between the god-fearing nature of the Agrigentines and the rapacious and sacrilegious behavior of Verres.
  5. repente nocte intempesta (5-6): Note how Cicero emphasizes the deviousness of Timarchides and his men (and therefore of Verres) by the juxtoposition of these words, which emphasizes the fact that the attack took place without warning and at night.
  6. fit concursus atque impetus (6): Cicero raises suspense by postponing this subject to the end of its sentence. He also uses the vivid or historic present in these lines in order to draw the reader into the actions. (See the Reading Note on p. 61.)
  7. Postea...concurritur (9-14): Note the various ways in which Ciero describes for the jury the response of the citizens of Agrigentum to the night attack. He illustrates how the entire city was involved (tota urbe, 9-10, Nemo...neque...neque..., 12, and ex urbe tota, 14). He also shows that all citizens, even the old and infirm, took part (12-14). This description of civic unity further contributes to the picture that Cicero is developing in the minds of the jury, of Verres as a godless thug.
  8. alii...alii (16): Note how Cicero describes the back and forth movement of the gangs trying to topple the statue.
  9. Ac repente...milites (17-18): Note the asyndeton (see the Reading Note on p. 26) and the short, staccato structure of the first two main clauses, designed perhaps to suggest the haste with which everything was taking place.
  10. sigilla perparvula (19): Cicero uses diminutives to minimize further the robber's success. (See the Reading Note on p. 121 for more on diminutives.)
  11. Numquam...oportere (20-22): Despite the seriousness of the charges against Verres, Cicero can't help but have some fun at his expense. Do you get the joke? Cicero makes a play on the cognomen Verres, which means boar or male swine. This appellation was used by the comic playwright Plautus as an insult.
  12. concurrunt...oportere (22): This is the second appearance of the use of the vivid or historic present (see lines 6-8).

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