Against Verres 70 Essay

Cicero here faces a tricky moment: he needs to justify the claim that Verres, who was, after all, a Roman official, would have deserved to be killed by a provincial mob. This is not a notion easily rendered plausible in front of Roman judges. Cicero adduces a precedent (Hadrianus); and then focuses on the fact that Verres himself never offered an adequate explanation of why the inhabitants of Lampsacus behaved the way they did – the implication being that the reasons he has just provided in his own version of events must be true. Cicero then proceeds to rule out systematically that the tumult had anything to do with any legitimate action that Verres undertook as a Roman official, to reinforce the impression that the uproar was caused entirely by his criminal lust. He concludes this line of reasoning with the counterfactual condition that even if Verres were to justify the events on the grounds that he executed his official business in, perhaps, too harsh a fashion, he would be responsible for what happened on account of his maltreatment of allies. The argument in this paragraph thus also sounds out – and tries to establish – parameters of what is to count as acceptable practice in provincial administration.

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