Against Verres 71 Essay

It is hardly a coincidence that only now, after establishing his version of what happened at Lampsacus and adducing Verres’ silence in support of its veracity, Cicero brings his witnesses into play: however much he talks up P. Tettius and C. Varro, they rank lower in dignitas and possess less auctoritas than the Roman officials who handled the Lampsacus incident, notably C. Nero and Dolabella – a serious problem in a Roman court. Even more damningly for Cicero, a Roman magistrate and his consilium had condemned Philodamus and his son to death – a fact duly brought to the attention of the court by Hortensius; Cicero is unable to dispute this (and will spend several paragraphs explaining why this verdict constituted an outrageous miscarriage of justice). Here he belittles Hortensius’ earlier intervention as a move of desperation: Verres’ case is so weak that the famous orator took advantage of any opening, however small, to get a word in edgewise but was most of the time consigned to silence. Needless to say, this derogatory comment has nothing to do with the point at issue.

The paragraph consists of two long, complex periods. The first begins with a series of cum-clauses, before a brief main clause (potestis dubitare), and the concluding quin-clause. The second begins with a conditional clause (introduced by nisi), part of which is a relative clause (quod) that leads on to a further relative clause (introduced by quo tempore) and some further subordinate clauses (until quod diceret); only at this point does Cicero reach the main clause (hoc tum dixit) and the concluding indirect statement. The syntax is so contrived and so difficult to follow, especially if compared to his rather straightforward account of what transpired at Lampsacus, that it detracts from the audience’s ability to take in what, precisely, Cicero is saying here: most likely a deliberate effect. For Cicero here finally names his sources of information and also confronts an obvious objection to his version of the events, which Hortensius, a member of Verres’ defence team, had already voiced during the earlier proceeding.