At, crēdō, in hīsce sōlīs rēbus indomitās cupiditātēs atque effrēnātās habēbat: cēterae libīdinēs eius ratiōne aliquā aut modō continēbantur. Quam multīs istum ingenuīs, quam multīs mātribus familiās in illā taetrā atque impūrā lēgātiōne vim attulisse exīstimātis? Ecquō in oppidō pedem posuit ubi nōn plūra stuprōrum flāgitiōrumque suōrum quam adventūs suī vestīgia relīquerit? Sed ego omnia quae negārī poterunt praetermittam; etiam haec quae certissima sunt et clārissima relinquam; ūnum aliquod dē nefāriīs istīus factīs ēligam, quō facilius ad Siciliam possim aliquandō, quae mihi hoc oneris negōtīque imposuit, pervenīre.

A transitional paragraph, in the course of which Cicero shifts the focus from Verres’ illicit desire for works of art to his sexual licence. The common theme is his uncontrollable lust. . . [full essay]

Grammar and Syntax:

  • What case and function is quo (in quo facilius…)?
  • Explain the case and function of oneris negotique.

Style and Theme:

  • What is the tone of the opening sentence?
  • What stylistic device does Cicero employ in the phrase plura … vestigia? What is the rhetorical effect?
  • What stylistic device does Cicero employ in reiterating quam multis? What is the rhetorical effect?
  • What are the thematic links between this and the previous paragraphs?
  • Explore Cicero’s portrayal of Verres’ character: what metaphors does he use to describe the workings of Verres’ mind?

At, credo: a parenthetical opening that endows what follows with an ironic force: see OLD s.v. at 12 and s.v. credo 8c.

in hisce solis rebus: -ce is an enclitic, deictic particle, attached to the ablative plural (his) of the demonstrative pronoun hic, haec, hoc. Its use here reinforces the irony that Cicero introduced with At credo, by putting special stress on solis. What Cicero is actually saying is something like ‘You are not foolish enough to believe that the lust for artworks was Verres’ one and only passion, judges, are you?’ The locked word order, in which the two attributes hisce and solis are framed by the preposition in and their referent rebus, reproduces iconically the notion of a confined or limited problem – in contrast to indomitas cupiditates atque effrenatas, where the way in which Cicero adds on the synonymous second attribute atque effrenatas enacts the idea of passions being out of control.

indomitas cupiditates atque effrenatas: etymologically, in-domitus means ‘untamed’ (> dominari) and hence incapable of living within a human household (domus); Latin authors use it predominantly of beasts, though Cicero is fond of applying it metaphorically to human beings as well, either specific individuals, whom he deems to be in the thrall of irrational (that is, beastly) passions and desires, or a certain segment of the population, namely the people/masses, whom social elites throughout history have frequently portrayed as acting on instincts, just as animals: see, for instance, de Republica (‘On the Commonwealth’) 1.9, 1.49, and 1.68. The notion of desires that are out of control implies as a corollary that they have come to dominate the person (and his rational self), who harbours them. The idea that, within an individual, reason has to restrain the passions underwrites much moral philosophy from Plato onwards and also informs other literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, historiography, or oratory) concerned with the representation of human beings and their motivations for action (see note on ratione aliqua aut modo). The upshot of Cicero’s abuse is that Verres’ agency emerges as severely compromised: he is not a dignified senator who controls his desires and hence has the right to govern Rome and the world, but a subhuman creature, in the thrall of passions, who acts out his animal-instincts. Effrenatus (ex + frenum) is the perfect passive participle of effreno. It is synonymous with indomitus (with an even stronger, literal link to the animal sphere) and one of Cicero’s favourite terms of abuse, usually linked to a noun from the domain of the passions: cupiditates (as here), but also libido, audacia, or furor. The ensuing image is of a person ‘gone wild’, behaving utterly out of control, unleashed from any civilizing inhibitions, which is not unlike the effect of charging Verres with insanity (a-mentia: see above § 54).

ceterae libidines: Cicero uses cupiditates and libidines synonymously; both are non-technical words for desires or passions (in contrast to the philosophical, and specifically Stoic, affectus, which Cicero uses in his philosophical writings, but not in his speeches).

ratione aliqua aut modo: modus is the consequence of ratio; it is possible to see the phrase as a *hendiadys, in the sense of ‘rational moderation’.

Quam multis … quam multis … existimatis?: the emotive *anaphora of the interrogative proverb quam and the indiscriminate multis prepares Cicero’s punchline that Verres’ transgressions are countless. The question is clearly rhetorical.

ingenuis … matribus familias: Cicero singles out two categories of victims: freeborn individuals (ingenuus, ingenua; in the dative plural the gender remains unspecified) and wedded mothers who preside over the household (familia). Put differently, Verres’ conduct tears apart the normative fabric of society, turning free people into slaves of his passion and violating those who sustain society by means of reproduction (matribus) and oversight of a key social institution (familias). (Note that familias is an archaic form of the genetive singular.)

stuprorum flagitiorumque: the original meaning of stuprum was ‘disgrace’; in the sexual arena it refers to an illicit act, on the grounds of adultery or violence.64 Here it picks up the claim in the previous sentence that Verres was a serial rapist of married women, i.e., perpetrated adulterous violence on a large scale. Flagitium does not have a technical sexual sense.

taetra atque impura: taeter means ‘morally offensive, abominable, foul’ and carries connotations of monstrosity – it is one of Cicero’s favourite attributes of abuse and lowers the person thus labelled to a subhuman level. impurus means ‘morally foul, esp. in regard to sexual conduct’ (OLD s.v. 2) and can carry connotations of religious pollution. It, too, features frequently in Ciceronian invective, and is an attribute that accompanies Verres throughout the Verrines: see e.g. 2.1.32 and 2.2.192.

… reliquerit?: another rhetorical question.

Ecquo in oppido: ec- is a prefix that gets attached to interrogatives with intensive or indefinite force, hence the interrogative adjective ecqui, -ae/a, -od ‘is there any?’ Cicero uses it to underscore the indiscriminate and random trail of outrage and violence that Verres left behind wherever he went. See also ecqua virgo sit at the end of § 63.

Ecquo in oppido pedem posuit ubi non plura stuprorum: the opening of the sentence contains a variety of sound effects: the rhyme ecquo ~ oppido, the *alliteration in pedem posuit (prepared for by oppido and continued by plura), and the assonance of ‘p’, ‘u’ and ‘r’ in plura ~ stuprorum.

plura … vestigia: a remarkable *hyperbaton (from Greek huperbaino, that is, ‘to step over’); Cicero may even be punning on the technical term of the rhetorical device he is using, given that he here comments on where Verres put his feet or left traces, both literally and metaphorically. Likewise, Cicero enacts the hyperbolic claim that Verres’ acts of transgression outnumber his footprints in the respective length of the two genitive phrases that depend on vestigia: stuprorum flagitiorumque suorum has 12 syllables, adventus sui 5.

adventus sui: genitive of adventus, -us, m., depending on vestigia; its technical meaning is ‘arrival’.

vim attulisse: also below § 67. For oratorical decorum in sexual matters, see Adams, J. N. (1982), The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, Baltimore and London, 222–23.

omnia quae … praetermittam; haec quae … relinquam; unum aliquod … eligam: the last sentence is built as a *tricolon, with the first two items serving as foil for the third (see next note). Cicero marks the contrast syntactically, using an accusative object + attached relative clause for the first two units and an accusative object only for the third. The effect is a heightened sense of drama, as Cicero diminishes the length but increases the rhetorical force. The way he sets up his choice of illustrative example implies that denial of its truth is impossible: as a matter of course he does not touch upon anything in doubt (omnia quae negari poterunt praetermittam), and only chooses one instance from among those transgressions that are well established and notorious.

praetermittam … relinquam: Cicero here employs the rhetorical device of *praeteritio, which works according to the principle of having your cake and eating it at the same time – by mentioning omission, he ensures that what is omitted nevertheless registers with the audience. Often praeteritio is cast in such a way (as here) that its use is advertised as being motivated by consideration for the audience or a sense of duty, and thereby heightens appreciation for the orator’s sense of decorum (‘of what is appropriate’): Cicero could if he wished spend several days detailing the sexual exploits and outrages of Verres – he won’t, limiting himself to one instance only in order to press on with the real business.

de nefariis … factis: nefarius is an adjective derived from nefas, ‘what is not fas’, that is, in violation of divine law. Its basic meanings are ‘immoral’ or ‘wicked’ and it carries connotations of sacrilege. It continues the theme of Verres as a religious criminal who does not shy away from plundering shrines of the gods and manhandling their cult-statues.

oneris negotique: a *hendiadys; the phrase is a partitive genitive depending on hoc.

pervenire: the infinitive complements and completes possim; Cicero again uses *hyperbaton (see above on plura), and again the stylistic device mirrors the theme, that is, the distance that Cicero’s speech needs to cover before arriving at its final destination, Sicily. Despite his commitment to economy of coverage (see above on praetermittam … relinquam, here recalled by means of facilius, which picks up the announcement that Cicero will choose one deed only for further comment), the path is long (see aliquando: ‘finally’) – even though he has decided to take shortcuts through the terrain of Verres’ crimes before his governorship of Sicily.

64. See Adams, J. (1982), The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London, 200–201.


indomitas untamed; untamable, fierce;

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

effrēnātus, -a, -um, [ex + frēnātus, bridled], adj., unbridled, unrestrained, uncontrolled.

ingenuus, -a, -um, [in, cf. gīgnō], adj., native; free-born, of free parents; noble, upright, ingenuous. As subst., ingenuī, -ōrum, m., pl., the free-born, meaning the better classes of Roman citizens.

taeter, -tra, -trum, comp. taetrior, sup. taeterrimus, adj., offensive, loathsome, foul; repulsive, shameful, abominable, base.

impūrus, -a, -um, [in- + pūrus], adj., unclean, filthy; defiled, abandoned, vile. As subst., impūrī, -ōrum, m., pl., the filthy.

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

ecquid [ecquis], inter. adv., in direct questions, at all? giving merely an emphatic turn to the question, and often not translated in words; in indirect questions, if at all, whether.

stuprum, -ī, n., defilement, disgrace, outrage; debauchery, lewdness.

flāgitium, -ī, [cf. flāgitō], n., lit. importunity; shameful act, outrage; burning shame, shame, disgrace.

adventus, -ūs, [adveniō], m., a coming, approach; arrival; presence.

praetermittō, -mittere, -mīsī, -missum, [praeter + mittō], 3, a., let pass; omit, leave undone, neglect; pass over, overlook.

nefārius, -a, -um, [nefās], adj., impious, heinous, abominable, nefarious; wicked, dastardly.

facile, comp. facilius, sup. facillimē, [facilis], adv., easily, without trouble; readily, willingly, promptly.

Sicilia, -ae, [Σικελία], f., Sicily.

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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/62