Aspendum vetus oppidum et nōbile in Pamphȳliā scītis esse, plēnissimum signōrum optimōrum. Nōn dīcam illinc hoc signum ablātum esse et illud. hoc dīcō, nūllum tē Aspendī signum, Verrēs, relīquisse, omnia ex fānīs, ex locīs pūblicīs, palam, spectantibus omnibus, plaustrīs ēvecta exportātaque esse. Atque etiam illum Aspendium citharistam, dē quō saepe audīstis id quod est Graecīs hominibus in prōverbiō, quem omnia ‘intus canere’ dīcēbant, sustulit et in intimīs suīs aedibus posuit, ut etiam illum ipsum suō artificiō superāsse videātur.

Cicero’s main aim in this paragraph is to illustrate the magnitude of Verres’ greed, in particular how it manifests itself in comprehensive looting. The contrast between what Cicero will not say and what he is saying (non dicam – hoc dico). . . .[full essay

Grammar and Syntax:

  • Identify the three superlatives in the paragraph.
  • What case is Aspendi?
  • What case is Verres?
  • Explain the syntax of quem omnia ‘intus canere’ dicebant.

Style and Theme:

  • How does geopolitical space feature in this paragraph? Answer this question with reference to (i) place names and other geographical indicators; and (ii) the phrases ex locis publicis and in intimis suis aedibus.
  • What is the technical term of the stylistic device that links intus and intimis in the phrases intus canere and in intimis suis aedibus?
  • Describe the ‘dramaturgy’ of the paragraph: whom does Cicero address when, and to what effect? How would you describe his interaction with the senators sitting in judgement?

Aspendum vetus oppidum et nobile in Pamphylia scitis esse, plenissimum signorum optimorum. Non dicam illinc hoc signum ablatum esse et illud. hoc dico, nullum te Aspendi signum, Verres, reliquisse: Cicero uses *homoioteleuton as a stylistic device to connect three main themes of the paragraph: (i) the town of Aspendos, (ii) its rich treasure of statues, and (iii) their plunder by Verres. Even after the climactic nullum signum, the ending -um continues Cicero’s habit of underscoring thematic coherence by means of stylistic coherence: in his discussion of the one item of art singled out for special attention, that is the introspective cithara-player, *homoioteleuton recurs (illum Aspendium citharistam; illum ipsum). Some may consider a recurrent um-ending plodding, or even cacophonous in principle, but here it produces an *onomatopoetic effect that enhances Cicero’s feeling of outrage at Verres’ misdeeds.43

Aspendum: located on the Southern coast of Turkey on the right bank of the river Eurymedon (between the modern tourist hotspots Antalya and Alanya), Aspendos was a significant centre of trade in ancient times, especially for salt, oil, grain, and wool; after the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, it became part of the kingdom of Pergamum, which King Attalus III, at his death without heir, bequeathed to Rome in 133 BC. Still, it is unclear whether all members of Cicero’s Roman audience would have been able to locate the town securely on a map.

Aspendi: a locative (‘in Aspendos’).

vetus: Cicero may allude to Greek traditions according to which the city was founded by ‘the Argives’, perhaps in the aftermath of the Trojan war. The evidence is murky.44 In 44 BC, when he wrote the de Divinatione, Cicero was familiar with local lore (Div. 1.88: Amphilochus et Mopsus Argivorum reges fuerunt, sed iidem augures, iique urbis in ora maritima Ciliciae Graecas condiderunt), but this is just the sort of information he could have picked up during his pro-consulship in Cilicia in 51 BC.

nobile: the attribute strikes a note of pathos and, also from an etymological point of view [nosco + bilis], points forward to scitis: the city, Cicero claims, is so renowned that its prestige and location can count as common knowledge.

Pamphylia: a region on the Southern coast of Asia Minor, between Lycia in the West and ‘rough’ Cilicia in the East; at the time of the trial it was part of the Roman province of Cilicia, though until recently it had also served as a stronghold of pirates – suppressed in 77 BC by Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus (see below § 56).

scitis: To what extent that was indeed the case is difficult to ascertain; but the deliberate over-estimation of the degree of insight and knowledge of the audience on the part of an orator is a well-known technique of currying favour by means of flattery, or, in Latin, *captatio benevolentiae. Cicero, at any rate, typically characterized his audience as being more knowledgeable than it most likely was. See also the note on de quo saepe audistis below.

scitis … te…, Verres: the second person plural addressing the judges, the deictic pronoun, and the vocative are all features that produce and sustain the illusion of a life-performance: Cicero wants his audience to re-imagine the courtroom setting and him turning to and directly addressing the main parties involved in the trial: here he makes a gesture to the judges before turning to the defendant. (For deixis and the adjective ‘deictic’, which comes from the Greek deiktikos, meaning ‘able to show, showing directly’ see Morwood (1999) 151: ‘the use of words or expressions to point to some feature of a situation. Pronouns … and words of place … and time tell us such things about a situation as who is involved in it, and where or when it takes place.’ Throughout his corpus of speeches, which reproduce in written form a past or imagined performance, Cicero retains deictic features to recreate the dramatic setting: he wishes to generate the impression for his audience that they are actually there.)

plenissimum: Cicero is very fond of ‘extreme’ expressions, such as superlatives (as here; see also optimorum and intimis) or adjectives that articulate extremes or a sense of totality, such as nullus and omnis (which in this paragraph alone occurs three times): see next note.

hoc signum … et illud … nullum … signum … omnia: The sentence explains what happened to the richness of the city. Cicero contrasts a selective removal of ‘this or that statue’ with Verres’ approach to plunder, which is meticulously comprehensive: ‘none was left, all were taken’. By varying the verbs (reliquisse; evecta exportataque esse), Cicero manages to apply both of the antithetical poles ‘none’ and ‘all’ to Verres’ despoilment of Aspendos, in keeping with his preference for ‘extreme’ expressions (see note on plenissimum above).

Non dicam: ‘an effective form of comparatio, rising from a lesser variety of wrongdoing to a greater’: Mitchell (1986) 185.

hoc dico…: Latin authors frequently add a demonstrative pronoun to verbs of thinking and stating that introduce an accusative + infinitive construction to give special emphasis to the indirect statement: ‘This I say, namely that you…’ The feature gains in force and prominence here by way of contrast to the non-dicam clause, where Cicero does not use it.

nullum te Aspendi signum, Verres, reliquisse, omnia ex fanis, ex locis publicis, palam, spectantibus omnibus, plaustris evecta exportataque esse: Cicero builds up carefully towards this quick-fire sentence, with its notably *asyndetic style. Contrast the ‘leisurely’ and exactly parallel constructions vetus oppidum et nobile and (with added *hyberbaton) hoc signum … et illud with the absence of connectives here: Cicero uses none between reliquisse and evecta exportataque esse, ex fanis and ex locis publicis, or palam, spectantibus omnibus, and plaustris. Other rhetorical features energize Cicero’s ‘rhetorical pouncing’: the switch from the (retarding) future non dicam to the much more immediate present dico; the use of the demonstrative pronoun hoc (see previous note); the switch from a generalizing passive construction in the indirect statement after non dicam (signum ablatum esse) to the active reliquisse with a specific agent (te), reinforced by a direct address (Verres); and the expansion of the idea of ‘carrying away’ from the single ablatum esse to the *alliterative *pleonasm evecta exportataque esse. Note also the crescendo from one accusative object (omnia) to two prepositional phrases in the ablative, the second with an attribute (ex fanis, ex locis publicis), to three phrases indicating modalities of removal: palam (an adverb), spectantibus omnibus (an ablative absolute), plaustris (an instrumental ablative).

Aspendium citharistam … quem omnia ‘intus canere’ dicebant: The cithara was a musical instrument similar to a lyre. Aspendioi kitharistai – that is, cithara-players of Aspendos – were known for their custom of playing the instrument, designed for both hands, with their left hand only, which was placed between the cithara and the player (hence intus), without using the right hand that held the plectron and was placed ‘outside’, facing the audience. Pseudo-Asconius’ commentary on this passage is worth quoting in full since it brings out an otherwise obscure nuance of Cicero’s text:45

cum canunt citharistae, utriusque manus funguntur officio. Dextra plectro utitur, et hoc est foris canere; sinistrae digiti chordas carpunt, et hoc est intus canere. Difficile est autem quod Aspendius citharista faciebat: ut non uteretur cantu utraque manu, sed omnia, id est universam cantionem, intus et sinistra tantum manu complecteretur. Unde omnes quotquot fures erant a Graecis Aspendii citharistae in proverbio dicebantur, quod, ut ille carminis, ita isti furtorum occultatores erant. Valet hoc proverbium et in eos qui multum intestinis suis commodis consulunt praeter honestatem. (When cithara-players perform, they make use of both hands: the right hand uses the plectron and this is called ‘to perform outside’; the fingers of the left hand pluck the strings and this is called ‘to perform inside’. But what the cithara-player of Aspendos is wont to do is difficult: for he does not use both hands in a performance, but does everything, that is, the entire performance, ‘inside’ and with the left hand only. This is the reason why the Greeks proverbially called all thieves ‘Aspendian cithara-players’: he concealed his music-playing, just as these concealed their thefts. This proverb also applies to those who look much after their own personal interests at the expense of moral rectitude.)

In the light of this observation, Cicero seems to be cracking a complex joke here: in addition to the analogy between the ‘hiding away’ performed by the statue and by Verres (the former shielding his playing of music from the audience, the latter concealing his plunder from public viewing), the statue itself is proverbially associated with thievery, which means that Verres imitates and outdoes his looted artwork. This nuance, however, which Cicero does not explicitly emphasize in the text itself, would only have been apparent to those members of Cicero’s audience familiar with the Greek proverb, and it is by no means certain that all (or any) of them were (see also next note, de quo saepe audistis).

de quo saepe audistis: the knowledge of a Roman court audience is difficult to calibrate but the assumption that many of the senators that sat in judgement at Verres’ trial had frequently heard of a piece of proverbial commentary based on a specific type of Greek statuary is probably no more than that – an assumption. By turning it into a fact, Cicero both flatters and bullies the audience: since no one likes to appear ignorant, presumably even those members of the audience (most likely the majority) who had never heard of either the statue or the proverb would have nodded knowingly. The problem is of course less acute when we imagine the context of reception to be not an oral performance during a public trial, but a private reading session at a villa: in that case, any reader unfamiliar with the proverb and interested in ascertaining its wider significance could have found out by quizzing one of his learned Greek slaves.

quem omnia ‘intus canere’ dicebant: the antecedent of quem is citharistam; the relative pronoun quem is the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduced by dicebant; omnia is accusative object of canere. The (fairly frequent) phenomenon of a relative pronoun assuming a twofold syntactic function is best illustrated by rephrasing the relative clause as a main clause: eum omnia ‘intus canere’ dicebant – ‘they used to say that he played all of his music inside’. It is impossible to reproduce this construction literally in English: one can either turn the relative clause into a main clause or add the verb in apposition, i.e. ‘who, as they used to say, played all of his music inside’.

intus canere: as discussed above, the expression refers to a technique of playing only that side of the cithara which is turned away from the audience: Cicero quips that Verres has outdone the activity represented by the statue by hiding it away in the innermost part of his house. This is in direct antithesis to the emphasis on the public despoiling (palam), which everyone witnessed as onlookers (omnibus spectantibus).

intus – intimus: a *paronomasia; Cicero plays with the fact that the two words are etymologically related.

43.Hofman, J. B., Szantyr , A. (1965), Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik, vol. 2, Munich, 707: ‘the frequent use of -um is cacophonous’.
44.See Scheer, T. (1993), Mythische Vorväter: Zur Bedeutung griechischer Heroenmythen im Selbstverständnis kleinasiatischer Städte, Munich, 203–11.
45.Stangl, T. (1964), Ciceronis Orationum Scholiastae, Hildesheim (photographic reprint of 1912 edition).


Aspendum a town in Pamphylia that came under Roman rule in 133 B.C. upon the death of King Attalus III of Pergamum.

Pamphȳlia, -ae, [Παμφῡλία], f., Pamphȳlia, a narrow country on the south coast of Asia Minor, bounded on the east by Cilicia, on the north by Pisidia, and on the west by Lycia.

Verres C. Verres, the governor of Sicily form 73 B.C. to 71 B.C., who was prosecuted by Cicero in 70 B.C. for corruption. After several failed attempts to delay the trial, Verres chose to abandon his defense and lived in exile in Massilia until 43 B.C.

fānum, -ī, [for], n., shrine, sanctuary.

palam, adv., openly, plainly, publicly.

plaustris wagon, cart, wain; constellation of Great Bear/Big Dipper;

euecta carry away, convey out; carry up; exalt; jut out, project;

exportō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ex + portō], 1, a., carry away, send away, export.

Aspendium a town in Pamphylia that came under Roman rule in 133 B.C. upon the death of King Attalus III of Pergamum.

citharistam cithara/lyre player;

Graecus, -a, -um, [Γραϊκός], adj., of the Greeks, Grecian, Greek. As subst., Graecī, -ōrum, m., pl., the Greeks. Graeca, -ōrum, n., pl., Greek writing, Greek.

prouerbio proverb, saying;

intus [in], adv., within, on the inside.

interior, -ius, gen. -ōris, sup. intimus, adj., inner, interior; nearer, deeper; sup., inmost, innermost, deepest; intimate, close.

artificio art/craft/trade; skill/talent/craftsmanship; art work; method/trick; technology

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Suggested Citation

Ingo Gildenhard, Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53–86. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-90692-463-8. DCC edition, 2016. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/cicero-verres/53