Tū quae ex fānīs religiōsissimīs per scelus et latrōcinium abstulistī, ea nōs vidēre nisi in tuīs amīcōrumque tuōrum tēctīs nōn possumus: P. Servīlius quae signa atque ōrnāmenta ex urbe hostium vī et virtūte captā bellī lēge atque imperātōriō iūre sustulit, ea populō Rōmānō adportāvit, per triumphum vēxit, in tabulā pūblicā ad aerārium perscrībenda cūrāvit. Cognōscite ex litterīs pūblicīs hominis amplissimī dīligentiam. Recitā. Ratiōnēs Relātae P. Servīlī. Nōn sōlum numerum signōrum, sed etiam ūnīus cuiusque magnitūdinem, figūram, statum litterīs dēfīnīrī vidēs. Certē maior est virtūtis victōriaeque iūcunditās quam ista voluptās quae percipitur ex libīdine et cupiditāte. Multō dīligentius habēre dīcō Servīlium praedam populī Rōmānī quam tē tua fūrta notāta atque perscrīpta.

The paragraph continues the contrast between Verres and Servilius, with a particular emphasis on their respective practices of accounting.

Grammar and Syntax:

  • Explain the case and the function of multo in the phrase multo diligentius.

Style and Theme:

  • Compare Cicero’s coverage of Verres and Servilius. What are the main points of contrast?
  • Describe the dramatic effect of Cicero’s address to the court clerk (recita!) and his use of public records.
  • Compile a lexicon of good practice in accounting: what words and expressions does Cicero use to praise the approach of P. Servilius?
  • What stylistic devices does Cicero use to underscore the meticulous accounting of P. Servilius?

Tu quae … perscribenda curavit: The sentence contains a comparison between Verres and Servilius that combines precise parallels on the level of syntax with diametrical opposition on the level of theme. The correlations can be tabulated as follows:

(i)Subject Tu P. Servilius
(ii)Relative Clause recounting the removal of treasures quae … abstulisti quae signa atque ornamenta … sustulit
(iii)Within the Relative Clause: specification of the place from which treasures were taken ex fanis religiosissimis ex urbe hostium vi et virtute capta
(iv)Within the Relative Clause: the manner and the terms on which the removal took place per scelus et latrocinium belli lege atque imperatorio iure
(v)What happened with the treasures in Rome ea nos videre nisi in tuis amicorumque tuorum tectis non possumus ea populo Romano adportavit, per triumphum vexit, in tabula publica ad aerarium perscribenda curavit.

Thus (i) Verres (ii) perpetrated (iii) blasphemous (iv) thievery (v) for private gain; in contrast, (i) Servilius (ii) performed (iii) a heroic conquest (iv) according to military law (v) for the public benefit.

Tu quae ~ ea nos: the *antithesis, arranged in a *chiasmus, with Tu in the exposed, initial position, generates a contrast between Verres and his ilk and the expansive ‘we’ that Cicero adopts, including both him and the Roman populace at large. (Note that from the point of view of Latin grammar, neither the Tu nor the nos, are strictly speaking, necessary.) That Verres’ shenanigans are entirely for private benefit is reinforced by the *polyptoton Tu, tuis, tuorum – which is picked up at the end of the paragraph by te tua furta.

per scelus et latrocinium: the criminal tribunal dealing with illegal conduct on the part of magistrates or jurymen (quaestio de repetundis) policed, among other things, the distinction between ‘criminal’ and ‘acceptable’ exploitation of the provinces. But the court setting also provided an ideal context for rival politicians to pursue personal or political agendas by means of criminalizing their opponents. Cicero was arguably more radical than most in demonizing his adversaries as hardened criminals and he often split the political field in Rome – which featured many shades of grey – into black and white, the wicked (improbi) and the good (boni). When Cicero accuses Verres (and other aristocratic adversaries, such as Catiline) of banditry (latrocinium), he uses the term metaphorically; the effect is a rhetorical disenfranchisement – the individual so labelled ceases to be a Roman citizen or, indeed, member of Rome’s ruling elite, living within the legal order of the commonwealth and abiding by its laws; instead he becomes a criminal figure at the margins of society, an ‘outlaw’, who threatens to undo order and stability.57

in tuis amicorumque tuorum tectis: mimetic word order: the syntax reproduces the theme of something locked inside a house, with in tuis and tectis framing and embracing the reference to Verres and his friends. The -que links tuis and amicorum tuorum, which are both dependent on tectis.

nos videre nisi … non possumus: Cicero delays the final, powerful negative (non) for great effect, with nisi functioning as a retarding element, specifying the exception; the alliteration nos ~ non (with nisi providing variation) and the *homoioteleuton tuis … tectis endow the sentence with coherence on the sound-level. While Verres’ plunder simply disappears from public view, the opposite is the case with Servilius’ war spoils (see below).

vi et virtute: as the vi ac virtute in § 57, this is an abbreviated repetition of vi, copiis, consilio, virtute in § 56 and anticipating the formulation virtutis victoriaeque iucunditas later on in the paragraph.

triumphus: the Roman ritual of victory, which has received much scholarly discussion in recent years.58 Many aspects of modern reconstructions of this ancient ritual are controversial, but the point that matters for our purposes is reasonably straightforward: protocols that governed the distribution of spoils existed, even if they were constantly in dispute, evolved over time, and were not codified in law. Cicero simplifies to gain rhetorical purchase on his adversary: he wants a stark and easily intelligible opposition between public spirited commanders who gained their spoils through effort and excellence, on behalf and for the benefit of the Roman people and a criminal who, under the cover of a minor Roman magistracy, operates for private gain and acquires his plunder by means of thievery for the exclusive enjoyment of himself and his friends. From a different point of view, one could argue that P. Servilius and the culture of military triumphs and Verres and the exploitation of the provinces are two aspects of the same phenomenon.

belli lege atque imperatorio iure: the rules of war and the privileges that come with military command – this has nothing to do with the Geneva convention, but rather the fact that the spoils belong to the victor.

ea … adportavit … vexit … curavit: whereas the part of the sentence dealing with Verres contains a surprising break in subject between the relative clause (tu) and the main clause (nos … non possumus), the same is not the case in the half devoted to Servilius: he remains the subject throughout, not least in the highly ordered, *asyndetic *tricolon adportavit, vexit, curavit, which details the action of ‘bringing spoils to the city’, ‘displaying them publicly during a triumph’, and ‘entering them into the civic records afterwards’.

populo Romanoin tabula publicaex litteris publicispraedam populi Romani: Cicero stresses the public presentation and the public record for the people (populus) of Rome. The correlation of publicus and populus lies at the very heart of the political culture of the Roman Republic, which was grounded in the principle that members of the ruling elite performed outstanding deeds for the benefit of the people (or the res publica), who in turn rewarded them with public recognition in the form of further magistracies (honores), social standing (dignitas) and fame (gloria). This ideology underwrites Cicero’s famous definition of ‘res publica’, i.e. commonwealth, from which derives the English term ‘republic’, at de Republica 1.39, which links res publica and populus by suggesting a (fake) etymological relation: est igitur … res publica res populi, populus autem non omnis hominum coetus quoquo modo congregatus, sed coetus multitudinis iuris consensu et utilitatis communione sociatus. (‘A commonwealth, therefore, is the property of the people. But a people is not every kind of human congregation, brought together in whatever manner, but the congregation of a large number united by consensual commitment to law and community of interest.’). Verres goes against the very principles that hold the Roman commonwealth together, i.e. public accountability and ownership, recognition of law, and shared utility. (The organic interlocking of Cicero’s vision of Rome’s political culture and his political philosophy, which operates with categories derived from Greek political thought, is a dimension of his oeuvre that remains underappreciated.)

aerarium: here refers to Rome’s public treasury, which was located in the temple of Saturn.

perscribenda (also end of paragraph, perscripta): perscribere is a technical term of Roman accounting, and means ‘to enter a detailed record of official transactions in an account-book’.

curavit: picks up the ironic curasti in § 56.

Recita: such orders to the clerk and gestures to documentary material reinforce the illusion that the speech is the record of an actual performance. Se also §§ 79, 83, and 84.

RATIONES RELATAE P. SERVILI: the phrase serves as a place-holder, indicating the moment when Cicero would have stopped speaking and a court clerk would have read out the accounts registered by P. Servilius. See OLD s.v. refero 5 for rationes referre = ‘to render an account of one’s actions’.

vides: after an address to the judges (cognoscite) and an order to the court clerk (recita), Cicero turns straight to Verres, forcing him to confront the evidence of how his aristocratic peer handled his accounts.

Certe … cupiditate: this reads almost like a marginal gloss that has intruded into the text; it certainly interrupts the train of thought, separating the report of Servilius’ conduct from the punchline, i.e. the damning comparison between him and Verres. In contrast, this sentence is about moral philosophy and consists of the assertion that the wellbeing that attends good deeds and outstanding achievements surpasses the pleasure derived from fulfilling illicit passions and desires. Not everyone would agree with the assertion. Yet the Latin is unexceptionally Ciceronian and the sentence reinforces one of Cicero’s major lines of attack in the Verrines, i.e. the portrayal of Verres as a (ultimately subhuman) creature who lives on passionate and wicked lusts and instincts; it also sets up servos cupiditatum in the following paragraph.

virtutis victoriaeque: the logical step after vi et virtute, with virtus functioning as connecting pivot between military violence (vis) and victory (victoria).

(a) numerum (b) signorum … (b) unius cuiusque (a) magnitudinem, figuram, statum: the *chiastic structure of decidedly unequal length helps to produce wording of mimetic force: after a straightforward reference to the overall number of statues (numerum signorum), Cicero honours (and stylistically re-enacts) Servilius’ punctilious itemization of each piece included in the tally with an elaborate *asyndetic *tricolon, of descending numbers of syllables (5, 3, 2).

(a) praedam (b) populi Romani ~ (b) tua (a) furta: a *chiastic arrangement designed to bring out the *antithesis between legitimate spoils of war and Verres’ criminal thievery; it revolves around the contrast between praeda and furta. The two nouns recall the opening contrast between spoils of war after the sack of a city and illicit plunder (latrocinium).

notata atque perscripta: the participles go both with praedam and furta, but grammatically correspond to the nearest noun, i.e. furta. Cicero tolerates the apparent paradox in his claim that stolen items ought to be correctly entered in public accounts.

57.T. Habinek defines bandits thus: ‘bandits are criminals who operate in the spaces that are claimed by the political authorities but are not well integrated into the social, economic, and cultural life of mainstream society.’ (The Politics of Latin Literature: Writing, Identity, and Empire in Ancient Rome, Princeton, 1998, Chapter 3: ‘Cicero and the Bandits’, 69 –87, here 69, with reference to Shaw, B. (1984), ‘Bandits in the Roman Empire’, Past and Present 105, 3 –52.) For monographic treatment of latrones, see Grünewald, T. (1999), Räuber, Rebellen, Rivalen, Rächer, Stuttgart [translated by J. Drinkwater as Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and Reality, London and New York, 2004]; he notes that, in the (late) Roman jurists, latrocinium refers to ‘heavy gang criminality in the dimension of irregular warfare’, but can also be used for ‘crime’ more generally (25).
58.See e.g. Beard, M. (2007), The Roman Triumph, Cambridge/ MA, or Östenberg, I. (2009), Spoils, Captives and Representations in the Roman Triumphal Procession, Oxford.


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

religiōsus, -a, -um, [religiō], adj., conscientious, scrupulous, devout, pious; sacred, consecrated, holy, venerable.

lātrōcinium, -ī, [lātrōcinor], n., highway-robbery, brigandage, robbery; band of robbers.

Pūblius, -ī, abbreviated P., m., Pūblius, a Roman forename.

Servīlius, -a, name of a Roman gens, at first patrician, afterwards including plebeian families also. The following Servīliī are mentioned in this book: (1) M. Servīlius, tribune of the people B.C. 43. Ant. IV. vi. (2) C. Servīlius Ahāla, cf. Maelius, and n. to p. 62. 1. 4. (3) C. Servīlius Glaucia, see Glaucia. (4) P. Servīlius Vatia, see Vatia.

ōrnāmentum, -ī, [ōrnō], n., outfit, equipment, apparatus; mark of honor, decoration; distinction, ornament.

imperātōrius, -a, -um, [imperātor], adj., of a commander, of a general.

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

adportauit carry/convey/bring (to); import; present (play); bring (news); make one's way;

triumphus, -ī, m., triumphal procession, triumph, the ceremonial entrance of a commander into Rome in celebration of an important victory; celebration of victory.

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

aerārium, -ī, [aerārius], n., treasury; the public treasure, finances. The Roman treasury was a part of the temple of Saturn in the Forum, in which public funds were kept.

perscrībō, -ere, perscrīpsī, perscrīptum, [per + scrībō], 3, a., write in full, write out; describe fully in writing, recount, detail; of public documents, put on record, record.

dīligentia, -ae, [dīligēns], f., carefulness, attentiveness, watchfulness, diligence, care; faithfulness.

recitō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [re- + citō], 1, a., read aloud, declaim, rehearse.

unius cuiusque each one;

figuram shape, form, figure, image; beauty; style; figure of speech;

status, -ūs, [stō], m., standing, posture; position, attitude; state, situation, condition, constitution.

dēfīniō, -īre, -īvī, -ītum, [dē + finiō], 4, a., bound, limit; fix, determine, establish.

iūcunditās, -ātis, [iūcundus], f., pleasantness; delight, enjoyment.

percipiō, -cipere, -cēpī, -ceptum, [per + capiō], 3, a., take wholly, seize; perceive, observe; learn, know, understand.

cupiditās, -ātis, [cupidus], f., desire, eagerness, passion; greed, covetousness, cupidity, lust.

dīligenter, comp. dīligentius, sup. dīligentissimē, [dīligēns], adv., with painstaking, carefully, diligently, attentively; faithfully.

fūrtum, -ī, n., theft, robbery; thing stolen; artifice, craft.

notō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [nota], 1, a., mark, stamp; note, observe; single out, designate; censure, reprimand.

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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/57