Hīc ego nōn arbitror illum negātūrum signa sē plūrima, tabulās pictās innumerābilēs habēre; sed, ut opīnor, solet haec quae rapuit et fūrātus est nōn numquam dīcere sē ēmisse, quoniam quidem in Achāiam, Asiam, Pamphȳliam sūmptū pūblicō et lēgātiōnis nōmine mercātor signōrum tabulārumque pictārum missus est. Habeō et ipsīus et patris eius acceptī tabulās omnēs, quās dīligentissimē lēgī atque dīgessī, patris, quoad vīxit, tuās, quoad ais tē cōnfēcisse. Nam in istō, iūdicēs, hoc novum reperiētis. Audīmus aliquem tabulās numquam cōnfēcisse; quae est opīniō hominum dē Antōniō falsa, nam fēcit dīligentissimē; vērum sit hoc genus aliquod, minimē probandum. Audīmus alium nōn ab initiō fēcisse, sed ex tempore aliquō coepisse; est aliqua etiam huiusce reī ratiō. Hoc vērō novum et rīdiculum est, quod hic nōbīs respondit cum ab eō tabulās postulārēmus, usque ad M. Terentium et C. Cassium cōnsulēs cōnfēcisse, posteā dēstitisse.

In this and the following paragraph, Cicero considers the possibility that Verres, rather than having stolen his artworks, bought them – as Verres himself seems to have claimed. In which context, how. . . [full essay]

Grammar and Syntax:

  • Parse the case and function of illum and of se in the opening sentence.

Style and Theme:

  • What stylistic device does Cicero use in the phrase non numquam?
  • Try to describe the tone of the clause quoniam quidem … missus est.
  • Extrapolate the typology of accounting built into this paragraph: which types of doing accounts does Cicero mention and how does he appraise each?
  • Discuss how Cicero brings Verres’ father into play.

Hic: the adverb (with a long i), rather than the demonstrative pronoun hic; the meaning here is either ‘At this point (in my speech)’ or, more likely, a retrospective ‘In the light of what I’ve just said’.

ego: emphatic use of the personal pronoun (‘I, for one’)

arbitror illum negaturum … se … habere: two indirect statements, the first (negaturum, with illum as subject accusative) depending on arbitror, the second (habere, with se as subject accusative) depending on negaturum.

signa se: the placing of se after signa produces an *alliterative association between the statues and Verres.

signa … plurima, tabulas pictas innumerabiles: again a climactic arrangement, where Cicero reinforces the step from ‘a whole lot’ to ‘countless’ by the increasing number of syllables (5:11) and the quantity of the vowels (signa plurima are all short, whereas the last syllables of tabulas and pictas are long and innumerabilis contains three long syllables: - v v - v -). Cf. § 57 above on numerum signorum.

solet … dicere se emisse: a word order that builds up suspense. After the non-descript main verb (solet: Verres used to … do/say what?) Cicero establishes the facts in the intervening relative clause before providing the infinitive that completes solet; the punchline of what Verres is wont to say is saved for last: the indirect statement (depending on dicere) se emisse. In delivery, one can imagine Cicero hesitating just a moment after dicere before delivering the coup de grâce. The absurd lie or euphemism se emisse is designed to trigger hilarity in the audience.

non numquam: double negation (not never); the technical term for this rhetorical device is *litotes.

quoniam quidem: after eliciting laughter by means of se emisse, Cicero elaborates on the joke. The particle quidem after quoniam helps to keep the tone light, placing a notional ‘as if!’ over the clause.

in Achaiam, Asiam, Pamphyliam: *asyndetic *tricolon that covers the geographical area of Verres’ exploits. As in § 55, Cicero gives his audience a grand, geopolitical sweep. But rather than military expansion as in § 55, here he traces a trail of illegal looting.

(a) sumptu (b) publico et (b) legationis (a) nomine: the arrangement is *chiastic. The phrase as a whole underscores the crucial point that Verres travelled to Asia in an official capacity – a reminder that sets up the punchline of the sentence, that is, the contrast between Verres’ actual status and the role he foolishly claimed for himself (see next note).

mercator signorum tabularumque pictarum missus est: here we have the reductio ad absurdum of Verres’ apology that he ‘bought’ his work of art – as if the Roman people had sent him on a special mission as a mercator, a merchant or trader, a profession utterly irreconcilable with the dignity of a Roman magistrate. Cicero here draws out the implications of Verres’ apology that he bought the artworks, making it seem preposterous.

Habeo et ipsius et patris eius accepti tabulas omnes: there is a textual difficulty here. The manuscripts have accepi (I have received) rather than accepti (the genitive of acceptum, i.e. ‘the receipt side of an account’). This generates an undesirable *tautology with habeo (I have). accepti tabulas omnes, the reading found in Pseudo-Asconius and printed here, is a somewhat cumbersome way of saying ‘all the accounting books’. Another way of solving the difficulty is to read accepi and to delete habeo. In his Oxford Classical Text, W. Peterson prints the elegant et istius et patris eius accepi tabulas omnis.62

et ipsius et patris eius … patris … tuas: another *chiastic arrangement: Cicero begins and ends with Verres filius. ipsius (or istius) and eius are contemptuous and distance Verres emotionally from his father (preparing the ground for their diverse morals and habits of accounting), an effect enhanced by Cicero’s sudden shift to tuas and his direct address to Verres in ais.

patris eius … patris, quoad vixit: Verres’ father, who had the same name as his son, was a senator still alive at the end of 72 BC, as Ver. 2.2.95 shows, where Cicero recalls his intervention on behalf of his son when complaints about Verres’ maladministration in Sicily came to the attention of the senate. He must have died shortly before the trial. Whereas Cicero thinks nothing of slandering Verres’ son, whom he proclaims to be as morally depraved as his father (see 2.1.32), he is noticeably more respectful of Verres’ father.

diligentissime: Cicero repeats the adverb, which he here uses of himself in an act of self-promotion designed to impress the judges, with reference to Antonius a few lines later (nam fecit diligentissime). Their exacting standards serve as positive foil for Verres’ careless and unsystematic approach to record-keeping.

legi atque digessi: the basic sense of digerere [dis- + gerere] is ‘to scatter, disperse’ and the OLD lists our passage s.v. 4a ‘to lay or set out, dispose’. But what Cicero most likely means is that he ‘took them apart’, that is, studied them in depth.

confecisse: conficere in the sense ‘to keep accounts or records’: OLD s.v. 3b. Cicero uses the verb six times in the paragraph: of Verres (confecisse), twice of Antonius (first the compositum confecisse, then the simplex fecit), twice of anonymous (first the simplex fecisse, then the compositum confecisse), and finally again of Verres (confecisse). The pattern is *chiastic: a1 a2 b2 b3 a3 a1, with a = compositum, b = simplex, and a1 = Verres, a2/b2 = Antonius, and b3/a3 = anonymous. Keeping accounts (and different ways of doing so) is of course the main theme of the paragraph and Cicero takes care that his use of the key word generates a symmetrical pattern that gives structure and coherence on the formal level. The dot on the i in this artful arrangement is the fact that conficere has to be supplied mentally for a seventh time right at the very end of the paragraph, as infinitive complement to destitisse (i.e. ‘he ceased’, sc. ‘to keep records’). The absent presence is of course thematically fully appropriate: Verres’ records are shockingly incomplete.

Nam in isto, iudices: after his direct address to Verres, Cicero instantly re-establishes distance by turning back to the judges: the phrase in isto resounds with mocking disgust, as Cicero exposes Verres like a disagreeable insect to the inspection of the audience: what they will find is unprecedented, indeed scandalous (hoc novum reperietis). The direct address is a particularly powerful technique to encourage the audience to engage with the point made by the speaker.

(a) hoc novum … (b) Audimus … (b) Audimus … (a) Hoc vero novum et ridiculum est: Cicero first announces something new, but then delays specification of what ‘hoc novum’ actually is by first rehearsing other possible ways of doing accounts. These serve as foils for his climactic return to hoc novum and give added force to the further attribute ridiculum. On the lexical level, the pattern is again *chiastic; but note that Cicero subsumes two different genera of keeping accounts under the first Audimus: by alluding to the mistaken opinion about Antonius’ record keeping he is able to contrast his exacting punctiliousness throughout with keeping no records at all. After sketching out the best and the worst (marked by the two superlatives diligentissime and minime), Cicero adds the middling type under the second Audimus, i.e. those who weren’t quite on the ball from the start, but at some point got their act together and then kept at it. Verres, in contrast, falls outside this spectrum of ‘reasonable’ possibilities: his way of doing accounts, i.e. to have begun, but then to have ceased abruptly and arbitrarily, is unprecedented (novum) and makes no sense at all: it is laughable (ridiculum).

quae est … diligentissime: quae is a connecting relative; for Cicero’s argument, this information, which is presented as if it were in parenthesis, may at first sight look like a marginal gloss, not least since it disrupts an otherwise perfectly symmetrical arrangement. Consider the text without it:

(i) audimus (ii) aliquem (iii) tabulas numquam confecisse; [quae … diligentissime] (iv) verum sit hoc genus aliquod, minime probandum.

(i) audimus (ii) alium (iii) non ab initio fecisse, sed ex tempore aliquo confecisse; (iv) est aliqua etiam huiusce rei ratio.

Put differently, Cicero opens anaphorically with the same verb (i: audimus), before identifying an anonymous representative of the respective approach (ii: aliquem/ alium); he then specifies the vital criterion for his attack on Verres, namely the duration of the record keeping, when it began and ended, if at all (iii: numquam/ non ab initio, sed ex tempore aliquo); and concludes with an appraising comment (iv). The mention of Antonius on the other hand breaks the anonymity and has the odd effect that Cicero gives, and then instantly invalidates, an example of the first approach; we also do not hear anything of when Antonius began keeping his accounts and for how long he continued, though the implication is clearly that he started when he should have and kept it up throughout his public career; still a strategic semper or something similar would not have come amiss. On the other hand, as pointed out above, Cicero gets some rhetorical purchase out of including Antonius, not least the full spectrum of more or less ‘rational’ possibilities, marked by the two superlatives minime and diligentissime.

Antonio: Marcus Antonius (cos. 99), one of the interlocutors in Cicero’s de Oratore (completed in 55). For a recent account of his public career see Fantham, E. (2004), The Roman World of Cicero’s De Oratore, Oxford, 26–48.

verum sit hoc genus aliquod, minime probandum: ‘but may this be [in the sense of: count as] one possible approach, though in no way to be approved.’

usque ad M. Terentium et C. Cassium consules: i.e. 73 BC in our reckoning. Romans of the Republic dated their years according to the consuls in office (‘the annalistic scheme’). The alternative dating ‘ab urbe condita’ was a later invention. (Imagine referring to years past by American Presidents and British Prime Ministers: ‘in the first year of Clinton’s second term in office and Blair’s first’; ‘1997’ is far more convenient.)63 Verres, in other words, maintained that he had kept accounts during the initial phase of his public career (up till the end of his praetorship in 74 BC), but discontinued doing so afterwards: this piece of information is vital for the years during which he governed Sicily as pro-magistrate (73–71 BC), but irrelevant in the present context: for his time as legate in Asia, account books apparently existed.

62.Cf. Peterson, W. (1903), ‘Emendations of Cicero’s Verrines’, The Classical Review 17, 198–202 (201–02).
63.For more on ancient dating systems see Feeney, D. C. (2007), Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History, Berkeley.


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

pictas paint, draw; depict, portray;

innumerābilis, -e, [in- + numerābilis], adj., countless, innumerable.

opīnor, -ārī, -ātus sum, 1, dep., be of the opinion, suppose; conjecture, imagine, think, judge.

furatus steal; plunder;

non numquam sometimes;

emō, emere, ēmī, ēmptum, 3, a., buy, purchase.

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

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

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.

sūmptus, -ūs, [sūmō], m., expenditure, expense, cost, outlay. sūmptum facere, to be at an expense, to make an expenditure.

lēgātiō, -ōnis, [lēgō], f., embassy, legation.

mercātor, -ōris, [mercor, trade], m., trader, merchant, dealer.

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

digessi distribute; arrange;

quoad [quō + ad], adv., as for as, till, until; as long as, while.

opīniō, -ōnis, [opīnor], f., opinion, supposition, conjecture, expectation. praeter opīniōnem, contrary to expectation, opīniōne celerius, sooner than was expected.

Antōnius, -a, name of a Roman gens of which there were several distinguished members. The one most frequently mentioned is M. Antōnius, -ī, Mārcus Antōnius, Mark Antony, whom Cicero attacked in his Philippic orations.

vērum [vērus], adv., truly; but in truth, but notwithstanding, but, however, still. nōn modo — vērum, not only — but. nōn modo — vērum etiam, not only — but also.

rīdiculus, -a, -um, [rīdeō], adj., laughable, amusing; absurd, ridiculous, contemptible.

quod [acc. neut. of quī], conj., that, in that, the fact that; because, since, inasmuch as; in view of the fact that, as regards the fact that, wherein; so far as, to the extent that.

postulō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, 1, a., ask, request; demand, require, claim, desire.

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

Terentium M. Terentius, consul in 73 B.C. with C. Cassius.

Gāius, -ī, abbreviated C., m., Gāïus, a Roman forename.

Cassius, -a, name of a prominent Roman gens. Four Cassiī are mentioned in this book; (1) L. Cassius Longīnus, a competitor of Cicero for the consulship for 63 B.C.; afterwards prominent in the conspiracy of Catiline, in which he asked to be assigned the burning of Rome as his part. He also conducted negotiations with the Allobroges, but escaped arrest. His fate is unknown. Cat. III. iv. et seq. (2) C. Cassius Longīnus, originator of the conspiracy against the life of Caesar; defeated by Antony in the first engagement at Philippi, B.C. 42, and killed by one of his freedmen at his own request. Ep. xxxiii. (3) Q. Cassius Longīnus, tribune of the people B.C. 49. He commenced public life as a quaestor of Pompey in Spain, but in the Civil War he held a command under Caesar in the same country. Ep. xix. (4) C. Cassius Longīnus Vārus, consul B.C. 73, proconsul in Cisalpine Gaul the following year. Imp. P. xxiii.

dēsistō, -sistere, -stitī, -stitum, [dē + sistō], 3, n., leave off, cease, desist from.

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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/60