Oppidum est in Hellespontō Lampsacum, iūdicēs, in prīmīs Asiae prōvinciae clārum et nōbile; hominēs autem ipsī Lampsacēnī cum summē in omnēs cīvēs Rōmānōs officiōsī, tum praetereā maximē sēdātī et quiētī, prope praeter cēterōs ad summum Graecōrum ōtium potius quam ad ūllam vim aut tumultum adcommodātī. Accidit, cum iste ā Cn. Dolābellā efflāgitāsset ut sē ad rēgem Nīcomēdem rēgemque Sadalam mitteret, cumque iter hoc sibi magis ad quaestum suum quam ad reī pūblicae tempus adcommodātum dēpoposcisset, ut illō itinere venīret Lampsacum cum magnā calamitāte et prope perniciē cīvitātis. Dēdūcitur iste ad Iānitōrem quendam hospitem, comitēsque eius item apud cēterōs hospitēs conlocantur. Ut mōs erat istīus, atque ut eum suae libīdinēs flāgitiōsae facere admonēbant, statim negōtium dat illīs suīs comitibus, nēquissimīs turpissimīsque hominibus, utī videant et investīgent ecqua virgō sit aut mulier digna quam ob rem ipse Lampsacī diūtius commorārētur.

The events at Lampsacus, which was located in the Roman province of Asia, will preoccupy Cicero until the beginning of § 86. This is a fairly self-contained. . . [full essay]

Grammar and Syntax:

  • What – or rather where – is the verb in the sentence homines autem ipsi … adcommodati? What is this device called and what is its effect here?
  • What is the meaning of cum in cum summe in omnis civis Romanos officiosi…?
  • On what noun does the genitive Graecorum depend?

Style and Theme:

  • Analyse the stylistic design of the phrase cum magna calamitate et prope pernicie civitatis.
  • Discuss Cicero’s use of the term homo/ homines in this paragraph.
  • Describe how Verres interacts with his superior-in-charge.
  • What are the main features of the character portrayal of Verres that Cicero develops in this paragraph?

autem: in its basic sense, it expresses a contrast ‘without any pronounced adversative sense’ (OLD s.v. 1) – here it is between the qualities of the town (fame and renown) and the qualities of the inhabitants (peace-loving and dutiful).

clarum et nobile: a surprising, and perhaps slightly ironic, choice of attributes: in Rome, public recognition derived from political and, especially, military success; the so-called nobiles were those who belonged to aristocratic families with a distinguished record of past achievement in politics and warfare, including at least one consulship. Here Cicero uses nobile in the generic, non-technical sense of ‘renowned’ or ‘famous’, as if he wishes to underscore cross-cultural differences between Greece and Rome: if in Rome, renown derives first and foremost from strenuous feats of public endeavour, in the Greek-speaking East, a lifestyle of leisure seems capable of ensuring a famous reputation – though it is important to bear in mind that Cicero, strictly speaking, applies the attributes to the town, not its inhabitants. Alternatively, ‘the description of the city itself as clarum et nobile may be meant to indicate that it is not democratic, and therefore not in thrall to the lower classes’: Steel (2004) 243.

homines … ipsi Lampsaceni: technically speaking, the homines here is superfluous – Cicero could simply have refered to the Lampsaceni, that is, the inhabitants of Lampsacus; but contrasting different types of human beings is one of his favourite ploys: Gildenhard (2011) 50–73. His account of the events at Lampsacus offers a perfect case study in his ‘anthropological rhetoric’ insofar as Cicero uses his version of the events to highlight what type of human being (or rather non-human monster) Verres is. In the paragraph here, he contrasts the gentle human beings who live in Lampsacus with the human beings that make up Verres’ entourage and who are utterly wicked and sinful: see nequissimis turpissimisque hominibus towards the end of the paragraph. It is important to bear in mind that the generic portrayal of the inhabitants that Cicero offers has no historical value.

officiosi … sedati et quieti … accommodati: In each case the verb (sunt) is implied. Cicero assumes the point of view of the ethnographer who informs his Roman audience of the characteristics of the inhabitants of Lampsacus. Three qualities stand out: they are particularly well predisposed towards Roman citizens; they have an extraordinarily calm disposition; and they value a life of leisure even more than the rest of the Greeks. The *ellipsis results in a more concentrated focus on the attributes of the Lampsacenes that Cicero wishes to highlight.

prope: ‘almost’, ‘virtually’; Cicero often slips in qualifications (such as quasi, paene, or, as here, prope, ‘which expresses the idea of falling short by a little’: OLD s.v. 6) to put some perspective on his *hyperboles or take the edge off an excessively outrageous statement.66 In this paragraph, he uses prope twice.

Graecorum: *apo koinou: the genitive is shared between praeter ceteros and otium.

cum … tum: coordinating two co-existing circumstances, with a special emphasis on the second: OLD s.v. cum 14.

summe … maxime … ad summum … otium: Cicero again operates in superlative mode: the two adverbs (summe, maxime) and the one attribute (summum) suggest that the inhabitants of Lampsacus are so peaceful as to be all but comatose.

ad summum Graecorum otium: Romans (and in particular Cicero) stereotypically portrayed Greeks as fond of leisure – in contrast to the Romans, who were busy conquering and governing the world. In Cicero, this ethnic difference manifests itself paradigmatically in the two figures of the Greek philosopher, who lives a life of leisure in idle speculations of a theoretical nature, and the Roman statesman, who is fully preoccupied with the administration of public (and military) affairs at home and abroad. Cicero here extends a highly tendentious view of the life-style choices of cultural elites to entire ethnic groups, in an attitude of appreciative and jovial benevolence: here, for once, the Greeks are ‘the good guys’, the victims of Roman oppression. The stereotypes to which he resorts when the Greeks are ‘the bad guys’ are more insidious.67

potius quam ad ullam vim aut tumultum: violence (vis) and unrest (tumultum), the antithesis of otium, are of course precisely the eventual outcome of Verres’ visit to the city. The formulation thus has a proleptic force: it obliquely alerts the audience to what will happen. But initial characterization of the Lampsacenes suggests that violent unrest in their city is the most unlikely turn of events, indeed a perversion of their nature, and thus it prepares the ground for his argument that the responsibility for what was to come rests entirely with Verres.

Accidit … ut … veniret: after setting the scene, Cicero turns to the plot; the impersonal main verb accidit takes the exposed, front position, whereas the complementary ut-clause is much delayed (accidit ut + subjunctive means ‘it happens or comes about that’, ‘it is the case that’: OLD s.v. 7a.): in-between (from cum iste to adcommodatum depoposcisset) Cicero inserts the requisite background information that explains how Verres happened to visit Lampsacus. This syntax does not translate easily into English.

a Cn. Dolabella efflagitasset: flagito, as well as the intensive efflagito, means ‘to ask imperiously’; Verres in other words behaves rudely towards his superior in charge; later on in the paragraph Cicero portrays Verres as a man ruled by his disgraceful desires (libidines flagitiosae: see below), which sheds retrospective light on the reasons for his outrageous conduct: he is a man ruled by his disgraceful passions.

Cn. Dolabella: Cn. Cornelius Dolabella was praetor in 81 BC, before becoming governor of the province Cilicia (80–79 BC). Verres served him first as legate and, after the death of his quaestor C. Malleolus, as pro-quaestor. Shortly after Dolabella’s return to Rome, he was successfully prosecuted on the charge of extortion by M. Aemilius Scaurus and sentenced to exile in 78 BC.68 A prime witness for the prosecution was none other than Verres, who took this opportunity to blame any mismanagement and misdeed that happened during his time in Asia Minor on his superior-in-command. Cicero makes heavy weather of this act of treachery at various moments in the Verrines, notably at 2.1.44–45, that is, shortly before our present passage and again in § 77 (where he addresses Dolabella directly).

ad regem Nicomedem regemque Sadalam: Nicomedes IV Philopator was king of Bithynia, Sadalas a Thracian king. As Mitchell (1986) 190 points out, ‘embassies to allied or client states could be highly profitable’ – on account of the lavish gifts and hospitality that such kings parcelled out to get on good terms with their Roman visitors. Steel (2004) 241 n. 18, however, cautions us to take Cicero’s insinuations at face value: ‘given the delicate situation of the whole region following the first Mithradatic War, we do not have to follow Cicero in his suggestion that there was no pressing public interest which could justify the embassy.’

cumque: the -que connects the two cum-clauses.

iter hoc: the phrase correlates *chiastically with illo itinere in the subsequent clause.

sibi: the dative of advantage (dativus commodi) is strictly speaking unnecessary, but nicely reinforces ad quaestum suum and more generally the utterly selfish nature of Verres’ motivation.

depoposcisset: ‘to demand peremptorily’ – as with ef-flagitasset, Cicero intensifies the meaning of the verb by opting for a composite form (de-poscere).

magis ad … quam ad … adcommodatum: with slight variation, Cicero uses the same construction of Verres as he just did of the Lampsacenes (ad potius quam ad adcommodati). The different positions of the comparatives magis and potius serve to emphasize the positive in the case of the Lampsacenes and the negative in the case of Verres. Note also the shift in focus from the Lampsacenes themselves (accommodati) to an aspect of Verres’ doings (accommodatum modifies iter).

ad (a) quaestum (b) suum ad (b) rei publicae (a) tempus: the arrangement is *chiastic. With tempus Cicero signals that Verres is wasting his time in office – a short and precious resource – that he ought to spend in seeing to the public interest for his personal gain and pleasure.

cum magna calamitate et prope pernicie civitatis: cum here means ‘with as a consequence, with resulting’: OLD s.v. 12; civitatis modifies both calamitate and pernicie (that is, it is used *apo koinou) and constitutes a shocking end to the question as to who has suffered the calamity: nothing less than the entire citizen community. Again, Cicero proclaims the outcome at the beginning. The phrase is well balanced in terms of syllables and assonance: magna calamitate (2:5), prope pernicie (2:4); but it also sports variation: magna is an attribute, prope an adverbial qualification. The arrangement is *climactic, moving from terrible disaster (calamitas) to complete destruction (pernicies). Cicero here falls out of his reporter’s logic – it almost sounds as if Verres, the subject of the two cum-clauses as well as the purpose-clause – demands to travel by way of Lampsacus in order to visit death and destruction upon its community. This, of course, is not the case. Yet by his anticipation of the consequences of Verres’ visits (whatever his intentions), Cicero manages to imply that calamitas and pernicies are inevitable byproducts of Verres’ approach to provincial administration.

Deducitur iste … comitesque … conlocantur: verbs and subjects form a *chiasmus, whereas ad Ianitorem quendam hospitem and apud ceteros hospites are construed in parallel fashion. Note the switch into the historic present.

Ut mos erat istius, atque ut eum suae libidines flagitiosae facere admonebant: the imperfect tense here indicates iteration: Cicero recounts routine business. Libidines flagitiosae harks back to his earlier discussion of Verres’ lustfulness. Note how Cicero’s choice of grammar helps portray Verres as a plaything of his passions: it is not he who is in control of his own passions, his passions are in control of him; they are in the nominative and are the subject of admonebant, whereas Verres is the accusative object, the person whom they govern (eum). The combination of this figure of thought with a reference to habit (mos), i.e. a customary practice, generates a particularly insidious effect: it suggests that passionate, i.e. unpredictable, irrational, un-Roman, and despicable, actions that fall short of standards of rational and socially acceptable behaviour are the norm, rather than the exception, with Verres. Not unlike the reference to voluptas, libido, and cupiditas in § 57, the clause atque ut admonebant thus constitutes a piece of spiteful ethopoiea not strictly necessary for the advancement of the plot.

iste … comitesque eius: Cicero’s account targets both Verres and his cronies. See the introduction for some comments on the entourage of Roman officials.

nequissimis turpissimisque hominibus: two further abusive superlatives; as elsewhere Cicero characterizes Verres’ entourage from an anthropological perspectives: in the apposition, he specifies what kind of human beings (hominibus) follow him.

ecqua virgo sit aut mulier: the formulation recalls § 62, where Cicero also used a form of equis (ecquo in oppido) and a reference to two types of women (ingenuae and matres familias) to underscore the arbitrary, indiscriminate, and hence comprehensive nature of Verres’ sexual crimes. The stylistic and rhetorical reminiscences reinforce Cicero’s claim that he has quite randomly chosen one specific example to illustrate a countless number of transgressions. If the omission of familias after mulier downgrades the outrage (though broadens the remit of the order), the switch from ingenuae to virgo heightens the premonition that the sex-monster Verres is about to rape an innocent virgin, aided by his vile companions.

digna: highly ironic – as if Verres were particularly choosy concerning his victims.

quam ob rem: also written as one word (quamobrem), it is an interrogative or relative adverbial phrase: ‘for which reason, for the sake of which, why’: OLD s.v. 2.

quam ob rem ipse Lampsaci diutius commoraretur: Cicero insidiously suggests that the quality of the city’s ‘female resources’, rather than any concern for public business, are Verres’ only reason to linger.

65.Steel, C. (2004), ‘Being Economical with the Truth: What Really Happened at Lampsacus?’, in J. Powell and J. Paterson (eds.), Cicero the Advocate, Oxford, 233–51.
66.See Gildenhard (2011) 266–67.
67.The topic of ethnic stereotypes in ancient thought has recently received a new monographic treatment: see Gruen E. (2010), Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, Princeton.
68.For a discussion of the events, see Gruen, E. (1966), ‘The Dolabellae and Sulla’, American Journal of Philology 87, 385–99.


Hellesponto A strait in modern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Propontis (the modern Sea of Marmara).

Lampsacum A Greek town located on the eastern side of the Hellespont.

prior, -us, gen. -ōris, adj. in the comp. degree, sup. prīmus, former, previous, prior, first. Sup. prīmus, -a, -um, first, foremost; chief; first in excellence, noble, eminent, distinguished. As subst., n., pl., in the phrase in prīmīs, among the first, especially, chiefly, principally.

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

Lampsaceni citizens of Lampsacusm a Greek town located on the eastern side of the Hellespont.

summe in the highest degree; intensely; superlatively well, consummately;

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

officiōsus, -a, -um, [officium], adj., courteous, obliging, serviceable.

sedati calm, untroubled;

quiētus, -a, -um, [part. of quiēscō], adj., at rest, undisturbed, quiet, at peace.

Graecorum Greek; the Greeks (pl.);

potius [potis], adv., comp., rather, more.

tumultus, -ūs, [tumeō], m., commotion, disturbance, tumult, uproar; insurrection, mutiny.

accommodātus, -a, -um, [part. of accommodō], adj., adapted, suited, fit, suitable, appropriate.

Gnaeus, -ī, abbreviated Cn., m., Gnaeus, a Roman forename.

Dolābella, -ae, m., in this book P. Cornēlius Dolābella, a profligate man, who nevertheless gained the hand of Cicero's daughter Tullia. They were married B.C. 50, and divorced four years later. Dolabella joined the party of Caesar, after whose death he secured the consulship by unfair means. He obtained Syria as a province, where he conducted himself with so great injustice and brutality that he was declared a public enemy. To escape capture he ordered a soldier to kill him, B.C. 43. Ep. xxii.

efflagitasset request, demand, insist, ask urgently;

Nicomedem Nicomedes IV Philopator, King of Bithynia from 94 B.C. to 74 B.C. who upon his death bequeathed his kingdom to Rome, inadvertently sparking the Third Mithridatic War.

Sadalam King of Thrace from 89 B.C. to 79 B.C.

quaestus, -ūs, [quaerō], m., gain, acquisition; profit, advantage, interest; business, employment, occupation.

rēs pūblica, reī pūblicae, f., see pūblicus.

dēposcō, -poscere, -poposcī, —, [dē + poscō], 3, a., demand, request earnestly, call for; request, claim.

calamitās, -ātis, f., loss, damage, hurt; calamity, misfortune, ruin, disaster, adversity.

perniciēs, -ēī, [per + nex], f., destruction, ruin, overthrow, disaster.

Ianitorem a citizen of Lampsacus who hosted Verres while he stayed there. His name literally means 'doorkeeper' or 'porter'.

collocō -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [com- + locō], 1, a., set right, place, set, put, arrange; set up, erect; locate, station; of money, invest, lay out.

flāgitiōsus, -a, -um, [flāgitium], adj., shameful, base, disgraceful; profligate, dissolute.

admoneō, -ēre, -uī, -itum, [ad + moneō], 2, a., remind, suggest; advise, urge, warn; bid.

nēquam, pos. indecl., comp. nēquior, sup. nēquissimus, adj., worthless, vile, bad.

investīgō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [in + vestīgō], 1, a., track; trace out, search into, investigate, find out.

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.

ob, prep. with acc., to, towards, for, on account of, by reason of. quam ob rem, wherefore, hence. In composition ob is usually assimilated before c, f., g, p, but remains unchanged before other letters. It adds the meaning towards, at, before, against.

commoror, -ārī, -ātus sum, [com- + moror], 1, dep., linger, stay, tarry, remain.

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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/63