Quid ego dē M. Mārcellō loquar, quī Syrācūsās, urbem ōrnātissimam, cēpit? quid dē L. Scīpiōne, quī bellum in Asiā gessit Antiochumque, rēgem potentissimum, vīcit? quid dē Flāminīnō, quī rēgem Philippum et Macedoniam subēgit? quid dē L. Paulō, quī rēgem Persēn vī ac virtūte superāvit? quid dē L. Mummiō, quī urbem pulcherrimam atque ōrnātissimam, Corinthum, plēnissimam rērum omnium, sustulit, urbēsque Achāiae Boeōtiaeque multās sub imperium populī Rōmānī diciōnemque subiūnxit? Quōrum domūs, cum honōre ac virtūte flōrērent, signīs et tabulīs pictīs erant vacuae; at vērō urbem tōtam templaque deōrum omnēsque Ītaliae partēs illōrum dōnīs ac monumentīs exōrnātās vidēmus.

Cicero here produces a catalogue of rhetorical questions, each focusing on a landmark battle and commander in the context of Rome’s imperial expansion. With one exception, the list is arranged. . .[full essay]

Grammar and Syntax:

  • Quorum domus…: explain the syntax of quorum.
  • Explain the case and function of signis et tabulis pictis.

Style and Theme:

  • Quid ego de … loquar? What is the technical term for this rhetorical device?
  • Explore how Cicero employs ellipsis in his catalogue of rhetorical questions.
  • Identify chiastic patterns within Cicero’s list of historical precedents.
  • Map the history and geography of imperial conquest and expansion built into Cicero’s list of generals and battles.
  • Discuss the argumentative force of the exempla that Cicero adduces: what are they designed to illustrate?
  • Explore the thematic correlation of the two phrases vi ac virtute and honore ac virtute.

ego … loquar: the subject and verb of each of the quid-questions, but elided after the first.

ornatissimam … potentissimum … pulcherrimam atque ornatissimam … plenissimam: this paragraph too amply illustrates Cicero’s fondness for the superlative.

cepit? … vicit? … subegit? … superavit? … sustulit, … subiunxit?: Each of the verbs places the emphasis on the act of military conquest; the subsequent despoiling of the conquered cities and territories is elided, though at the end of the paragraph Cicero, in praising the civic spirit and personal modesty that informs the public display of war spoils in Rome and Italy, makes it clear that these generals took as much as Verres did, if not more. The fact of plunder is not the issue, but rather the terms and motivations for it.

urbisque: the -que links sustulit and subiunxit.

Boeotiaeque: the -que links Achaiae and Boeotiae.

sub imperium populi Romani dicionemque: this is the Roman language of power and military conquest. As in the previous paragraph, Cicero voices no objections to the violent extension of Roman rule; rather, he disapproves of the abuse of diplomatic functions for personal enrichment.

dicionemque: the -que links imperium and dicionem.

Quorum domus: a connecting relative: ‘their houses’

honore ac virtute: the formulation recalls the phrase vi ac virtute in §§ 55 and 57. Cicero celebrates the combination of recognition in Rome and (martial) excellence abroad, outstanding achievement based on military leadership and courage in battle, and commitment to a code of conduct that meant that the ensuing riches and spoils resulted in acts of public munificence (see dona), rather than private display. Honos also means ‘public office’; the attainment of public office was the only way to enter into the collective memory of one’s kin group (familia or gens) and the res publica at large. The core of Rome’s ruling elite, the so-called nobility, consisted of families that produced office-holders, especially consuls, across many generations and their offspring were expected to live up to the standards of achievement set by their ancestors, by entering upon the so-called cursus honorum, i.e. being voted into (ever more important) magistracies in the running of the res publica. Rome’s memorial culture awarded former office holders with a wax mask (imago) upon their death and celebrated their achievements with a public funeral; these aristocratic funerals included a procession (the so-called pompa funebris) from the house of the deceased to the forum, consisting of the corpse and an entourage of actors who had donned the wax-masks and official garb of former family members who had received similar distinctions. In the forum, a son or other close relative of the deceased delivered a funeral oration (laudatio funebris), praising his deeds in the context of those of his ancestors. The wax-masks were stored in little shrines put on display in the atrium, together with stemmata and tituli that indicated genealogical connections, the public career, and the most outstanding military deeds of the person thus honoured.50

signis et tabulis pictis: an ablative of separation depending on vacuae. signa are statues, tabulae pictae are paintings; the two often go together: see below § 60: mercator signorum tabularumque pictarum; Cicero, de Oratore 1.161: tabulis et signis propalam conlocatis; Livy 42.63.11. Apart from a wooden panel used for painting as here, tabula designated more generally any object with a flat surface, which could be of various types of material (wood, stone, metal). Tabulae played an extraordinarily important role in Roman culture: apart from paintings, they could feature permanent inscriptions (the law code of the ‘Twelve Tables’ is the most famous example), or could be used for the temporary display of information (such as the tabula dealbata used by the pontiffs to record significant events throughout the year). Tabula could also mean ‘writing-tablet’ (in its simplest form a board coated with wax), and tabulae (pl.) could designate ‘account books’ (the meaning of the term in § 57 below).51 In the present context, Cicero seems to be referring to paintings plundered from Greek cities; but he may also have had in mind the ‘victory paintings’ that offered a pictorial record of the deeds of the general and his army and were carried through the streets of Rome during the triumph, before finding a place of permanent display.52

urbem totam … omnisque Italiae partes: the attributes totam and omnis are two further examples of Cicero’s penchant for ‘totalizing’ expressions. He presents the places that feature war spoils in a *climactic *tricolon that moves from the city, to the dwelling places of the gods (templa deorum) to all of Italy.

templaque deorum: this destination is particularly pointed, since the adornment of temples by Rome’s successful generals stands in direct contrast to Verres’ practice of despoiling temples. Cicero of course suppresses the fact that generals also plundered sites sacred to the people they conquered.

videmus: the switch to the first person plural present indicative underscores the lasting importance of the achievements and the generosity of the illustrious forebears mentioned and their continuing presence within Rome’s civic community (‘all of us see their munificence’).

50.See in detail Flower, H. (1996), Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture, Oxford.
51.See further Meyer, E. A. (2004), Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World: Tabulae in Roman Belief and Practice, Cambridge.
52.See further Holliday, P. J. (2002), The Origins of Roman Historical Commemoration in the Visual Arts, Cambridge, with the review by Hölkeskamp, K.-J. (2005), ‘Images of Power: Memory, Myth and Monuments in the Roman Republic’, Scripta Classica Israelica 24, 249–71.


Mārcus, -ī, abbreviated M., m., Mārcus, a common Roman forename; our Mark.

Mārcellus, -ī, [Mārcus], m., name of a plebeian family in the Claudian gens. Prominent members are together referred to as Mārcellī, gen. -ōrum (Arch, ix., Mar. iv.). Three are mentioned in this book: (1) M. Claudius Mārcellus, the most illustrious of the family, five times consul. When consul the third time, B.C. 214, he went to Sicily, and after a siege of two years' duration took Syracuse, though it was defended by the engines of Archimedes. He also rendered other important services to the state. Imp. P. xvi. (2) M. Claudius Mārcellus, consul B.C. 51 and subject of the oration Prō Mārcellō; see pp. 159—170 and notes. Cat. I. viii. (3) C. Claudius Mārcellus, brother of the preceding, consul B.C. 49. He was an opponent of Caesar, but did not follow Pompey to Greece, and easily obtained pardon from the dictator, with whom he interceded for the restoration of his brother to civil rights. Mar. iv., xi.

Syracusas Syracuse (pl.); (chief city of Sicily);

ōrnātus, -a, -um, [part. of ōrnō], adj., fitted out, equipped, provided; furnished, decorated, adorned; eminent, illustrious.

Lūcius, -ī, abbreviated L., m., Lucius, a Roman forename.

Scīpiō, -ōnis, [scīpiō, staff], m., Scīpiō, name of a celebrated family of the Cornelian gens; pl., Scīpiōnēs, -um, the Scipios, the Scipio family. Three Scipios are mentioned in this book: (1) P. Cornēlius Scīpiō Āfricānus, also called Māior to distinguish him from (2), born about B.C. 234. After several years of successful generalship in Spain, he was consul B.C. 205. In the following year he conveyed an army to Africa, where he was uniformly successful against the Carthaginians, finally defeating Hannibal near Zama, B.C. 202. He was honored with a triumph, B.C. 201. The year of his death is uncertain. Cat. IV. x., Arch. ix. (2) P. Cornelius Scīpiō Aemiliānus Āfricānus, often called Minor to distinguish him from (1), born about B.C. 185. He was the son of L. Aemilius Paulus, the conqueror of Macedonia (see Paulus), and was adopted by Scipio Africanus Maior. He was elected consul for B.C. 147, and took charge of the war against Carthage then in progress, capturing and destroying the city the following year. In 134 B.C. he was again made consul, and took command of the war in Spain. He captured and razed Numantia in 133 B.C. Returning to Rome, he violently opposed the measures of Ti. Gracchus. He died B.C. 129. Cat. IV. x., Arch, vii., Imp. P. xx. (3) P. Cornēlius Scīpiō Nasīca Serāpiō, consul B.C. 138, and pontifex maximus. He also opposed Ti. Gracchus, and was the leader of the mob which slew Gracchus. Cat. I. i.

Asia, -ae, [Ἀσία], f., Asia, usually referring to Asia Minor.

Antiochus, -ī, [Ἀντίοχος], m., Antiochus, name of several kings of Syria, of whom the most famous was Antiochus III., called the Great. He came to the throne of Syria B.C. 223; was defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae, in Greece, B.C. 191, and again the following year in a battle at the foot of Mt. Sipylus, in Asia Minor. Two years later he was forced to accept humiliating terms of peace, and was murdered B.C. 187.

Flaminino T. Quinctius Flaminius, consul in 198 B.C., who defeated King Philip of Macedon in the battle of Cynoscephalai in 197 B.C.

Philippus, -ī, [Φίλιππος], m., Philip, name of three persons mentioned in this book: (1) Philippus V., Philip V., king of Macedonia B.C. 220—179. He was an active and able ruler, and for a time greatly increased the power of his state. He entered into an alliance with Hannibal, but rendered little assistance against the Romans, who, after the close of the second Punic War, engaged in active hostilities against him. He was conquered in B.C. 196 and obliged to submit to humiliating terms. Imp. P. vi. (2) L. Mārcius Philippus, consul B.C. 91. He was prominent as an orator and as a political leader. Imp. P. xxi. (3) L. Mārcius Philippus, propraetor in Syria B.C. 59, consul B.C. 56. He was the stepfather of C. Octavius. During the civil wars, however, he remained neutral, and lived to see his stepson the emperor Augustus. Ep. xvi., xxxv.

Macedonia, -ae, [Μακεδονία], f., Macedonia, Macedon. Ep. viii.

subigō, ere, subēgī, subāctum, [sub + agō], 3, a., bring under; subdue, conquer, subjugate, reduce.

Paulus, -ī, [paulus], m., L. Aemilius Paulus, named also Macedonicus after his victory over Perseus, born B.C. 230 or 229; consul 182 and 168 B.C. When consul the first time he subdued the Ingauni, a piratic people of Liguria, and was honored with a triumph. In 168 B.C. he took command of the war with Perseus, king of Macedonia, whom he completely defeated at the battle of Pydna. He celebrated a splendid triumph the following year, and died B.C. 160. Cat. IV. x.

Persēs, -ae, [Πέρσης], m., Persēs or Perseus, last king of Macedonia. He came to the throne B.C. 179. He entered into a war with Rome B.C. 171, and was totally defeated by L. Aemilius Paulus at Pydna, B.C. 168. He adorned the triumph of Paulus, B.C. 167, and passed the remainder of his life in captivity. Cat. IV. x., Imp. P. xviii.

Mummio L. Mummius Achaicus, consul in 146 B.C. who also in that year sacked the city of Corinth while in charge of the war against the Achaen Confederacy.

Corinthus, -ī, [Κόρινθος], f., Corinth, a city on the Isthmus of Corinth. The name survives in the village Corinto, which stands near the ancient site.

Achāia, -ae, [Ἀχαία], f., Achāia, a Roman province, comprising all of Greece except Thessaly. See n. to p. 130, 4.

Boeotiae a region of Greece, of which Thebes was the capital.

Rōmānus, -a, -um, [Rōma], adj., of Rome, Roman, Latin. As subst., Rōmānus, -ī, m., Roman.

diciō, -ōnis, nom. sing. and pl. not used, [dīcō], f., dominion, rule, sway, authority, jurisdiction.

subiunxit join with, unite; subdue, subject;

flōreō, -ēre, -uī, —, [flōs], 2, n., bloom, blossom; flourish, prosper; be eminent.

tabula, -ae, f., board, plank; tablet, writing-tablet; writing, record, memorandum, account; picture, painting. tabulae pūblicae, public records.

pictis paint, draw; depict, portray;

Italia, -ae, [ἰταλός], f., Italy.

monumentum, -ī, [moneō], n., lit. means of reminding; memorial, monument; chronicle, record.

exōrnō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ex + ōrnō], 1, a., equip, furnish, supply, provide; deck out, embellish, adorn.

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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/55