Against Verres 65 Essay

The paragraph recounts the encounter between Verres and Philodamus, when the latter tries to register a protest against the indignity of being forced to quarter a low-ranking Roman over and above his regular hospitality duties, which he so far had met without fail. He emerges as courageous and courteous, full of dignity, and conscious of his rank and standing within his city, yet at the same time well-disposed to a fault towards the Romans. He calmly and rationally presents his case to Verres, yet once he realizes that there is nothing to be done, he graciously accepts defeat and tries to make the best of an unpleasant situation. In contrast, Verres appears as the stereotype of the arrogant Roman: he imperiously disregards Philodamus’ legitimate objection, driven as he is by his consuming passion for sexual gratification by whatever means necessary. At the same time, if one sets aside Cicero’s portrayal of the two characters and only looks at the facts, some oddities emerge: in particular, Philodamus’ dinner plans look over the top – as well as terribly naive. Why did he become so utterly self-effacing as to give Rubrius a free hand in organizing the dinner? Why did he not simply hand over the house, if he was so inclined, but asked for a place for himself? Why did he send away his son? All of these actions turn him retrospectively into an unwitting facilitator of Verres’ criminal ambitions (as construed by Cicero), but it raises the question whether Cicero’s account of the social dynamics behind the dinner arrangements actually captures the truth.

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