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Gaius Verres


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Quaestor in 84 bc. As legate of Cornēlius Dolabella in Cilicia, he helped him plunder his province and Asia, but on their return helped to secure his conviction. As urban praetor (74), he is charged by Cicero with having flagrantly sold justice. Assigned Sicily as proconsul (73–71), he exploited and oppressed the province (except for Messana, in league with him) and even Roman citizens living or trading there. Unwisely offending some senators and ill‐treating clients of Pompey, he yet evaded the effect of a senate decree censuring him, passed on the motion of the consuls of 72, and was again prorogued. On his return, he used his great wealth (much of it acquired in Sicily) and his connections, and exploited the hostility of leading nobles (esp. most of the Metelli) to Pompey, to gain strong and eminent support. Hortensius Hortalus, consul designate for 69 with a friendly Metellus, defended him against a prosecution launched in the extortion court (see quaestiones; repetundae) by Cicero (70) and tried to drag the case on into his year of office. Outwitted by Cicero's speed and forensic tactics, and despite the efforts of a Metellus as Verres' successor in Sicily, Hortensius found the case caught up in the popular agitation for jury reform and succumbed to Pompey's influence exerted against Verres. On his advice, Verres fled into exile at Massalia. Cicero nevertheless published the the five speeches of the second actio that he had prepared, to drive home Verres' guilt and demonstrate his own skill and efforts. The evidence seems overwhelming. But after his victory Cicero conciliated Verres' many noble supporters by agreeing to a low assessment of damages.

His Verrines give us our best insight into provincial administration and its abuses in the late republic. Verres died at Massalia, allegedly proscribed for his stolen art treasures by Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony).

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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