Quid ego nunc in alterā āctiōne Cn. Dolābellae spīritūs, quid huius lacrimās et concursātiōnēs prōferam, quid C. Nerōnis, virī optimī atque innocentissimī, nōn nūllīs in rēbus animum nimium timidum atque dēmissum? quī in illā rē quid facere potuerit nōn habēbat, nisi forte, id quod omnēs tum dēsīderābant, ut ageret eam rem sine Verre et sine Dolābellā. Quicquid esset sine hīs āctum, omnēs probārent; tum vērō quod prōnūntiātum est nōn per Nerōnem iūdicātum, sed per Dolābellam ēreptum exīstimābātur. Condemnātur enim perpaucīs sententiīs Philodamus et eius fīlius. Adest, īnstat, urget Dolābella ut quam prīmum sēcūrī fēriantur, quō quam minimē multī ex illīs dē istīus nefāriō scelere audīre possent.

Cicero now shifts the blame for the corrupt proceedings squarely onto Dolabella. Nero, in turn, emerges as a spineless coward who helplessly presides over a terrible miscarriage. . . [full essay]

Grammar and Syntax:

  • Explain the subjunctives in the sentence quicquid esset sine his actum, omnes probarent.
  • What are the case and function of securi?

Style and Theme:

  • What do you call the stylistic device Cicero uses in the phrase non nullis in rebus? What is the rhetorical effect?
  • Analyse the stylistic features and the rhetorical effect of Adest, instat, urget Dolabella.
  • Discuss the seemingly awkward formulation quam minime multi – what, exactly, is Cicero trying to convey by it?

Quid … quid … quid?: an *anaphoric *tricolon of rhetorical questions that also functions as *praeteritio – Cicero hints at the possibility of filling volumes on how the three protagonists behaved during the second hearing, without pursuing it. He thus generates a very effective tension between his own compressed account and the tremendous energy and effort expended by the ‘triumvirate of evil’ in charge of the proceedings to secure the desired outcome.

spiritus: the first of three accusative objects, each one referring to the mindset or conduct of one of the three Roman protagonists: Dolabella, Verres, Nero. Cicero links Dolabella and Nero in various ways: they are named, Verres is designated by a demonstrative pronoun (huius); spiritus and animus are virtual synonyms and refer to their respective frame of mind, in contrast to the theatrics of Verres; and Cicero uses one noun each for these two, but two nouns for Verres, so there is a gradual increase in quantity in the course of the *tricolon: one noun, two nouns, one noun + two attributes.

viri optimi atque innocentissimi, non nullis in rebus animum nimium timidum atque demissum: the two superlatives modifying vir, optimus and innocentissimus, are mockingly cancelled out by the two attributes of animus, kept laconically in the positive, though reinforced by an adverbial phrase and an adverb, indicating frequency (non nullis in rebus: Cicero uses a delicious *litotes) and excess (nimium). (The repetition of the connective atque reinforces the negative correlation.) Whatever his personal qualities, they are not worth much under pressure, and C. Nero, despite his high principles, stands revealed as a servile (demissum) coward (timidum) in practice.

quid facere potuerit non habebat: Peterson, W. (1903), ‘Emendations of Cicero’s Verrines’, Classical Review 17, 198–202 (202) pro


āctiō, -ōnis, [agō], f., a driving or doing, action; action at law, lawsuit, prosecution, trial; pl. often public acts, measures.

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.

concursationes running/pushing together; journeying to and fro; skirmish; disorderly meeting;

prōferō, -ferre, -tulī, -lātum, [prō + ferō], irr., a., carry out, bring out, bring forth, produce; put forth, stretch out, extend; make known, reveal, show.

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

Neronis Gaius Claudius Nero, propraetor of Asia (with Dolabella). He formed the tribunal which ultimately condemned Philodamnus and his son to death.

innocēns, -entis, [in- + nocēns], adj., harmless, inoffensive; blameless; innocent, upright.

non nullis some, several, a few; one and another; considerable;

timidus, -a, -um, [timeō], adj., afraid, fearful, timid, cowardly.

demissum low/low-lying; of low altitude; keeping low (people); slanting/hanging/let down; lowly/degraded/abject; downhearted/low/downcast/dejected/discouraged/desponden

Verre C. Verres, the governor of Sicily form 73 B.C. to 71 B.C., who was prosecuted by Cicero in 70 B.C. for corruption. After several failed attempts to delay the trial, Verres chose to abandon his defense and lived in exile in Massilia until 43 B.C.

prōnūntiō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [prō + nūntiō], 1, n. and a., proclaim, announce, publish; decide, pronounce; promise, offer.

condemnō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [com- + damnō], 1, a., sentence, find guilty, convict, condemn.

perpaucis very few (pl.); select;

Philodamus A prominent citizen of Lampsacus who was forced by Verres to billet Rubrius and was ultimately condemned to death after a brawl (instigated by Rubrius) broke out at his house, resulting in Rubrius being injured and causing the townspeople to turn on Verres.

fīlius, -ī, sometimes abbreviated, F., f., m., son.

īnstō, -stāre, -stitī, -stātum, [in + stō], 1, n., stand upon, be near at hand, approach, draw nigh; press upon, pursue, harass; menace, threaten; insist upon, urge.

urget press/squeeze/bear hard/down; tread/traverse continually; push/shove/thrust; spur on, urge; press hard in attack/pursuit, beset, follow hard on heels of; hem in; threaten by proximity; press verbally/argument/point; follow up;

quam primum to the highest degree possible;

secūris, -is, abl., secūrī, [secō], f., axe, battle-axe.

feriantur rest from work/labor; keep/celebrate holiday; be idle; abstain from;

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

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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/75