Against Verres 60 Essay

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, and with what frequency Verres insisted on the legal acquisition of his treasures remains unclear. Cicero argues that it has happened often (see solet, non numquam), but the information on which he relies is mere hearsay (and marked as such by Cicero by means of the hedge ut opinor: Verres never seems to have made this claim in Cicero’s presence) without any legal value. Still, Cicero gets a lot of rhetorical mileage out of subjecting the notion to scrutiny. He first ridicules the idea of a Roman official travelling east to buy up art and then dismisses the claim as a bare-faced lie: not one of the artworks once on display in Verres’ house had ever been entered into either his own account books or those of his father. The topic of account books offers Cicero the opportunity to introduce an aside which is not strictly pertinent to the early stages of Verres’ career under consideration here, but of great importance for Verres’ conduct in Sicily: apparently, Verres, in the run-up to the trial, declared that he had ceased to keep accounts after his year as praetor (74 BC), meaning that no account book existed for this time in Sicily (73–71 BC). Cicero is alluding to this claim here and by means of comparison with other possibilities exposes this approach towards accounting as ludicrous. But the looting of Greece and Asia falls into the period during which Verres kept accounts.

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