Thursday, October 02, 2008


One of next year's HSC set texts is Cicero's fifth Verrine oration, one of a series of speeches (which were never actually delivered) prosecuting the corrupt former governor of Sicily, Verres. Here's a bit about Verres, taken from the Oxford Campanion to Classical Literature.
Verres, GAIUS, propraetor in Sicily 73-71 B.C., where he showed himself a cruel and rapacious governor. He was impeached by Cicero on behalf of the Sicilians in 70, threw up his case, and retired into exile. He kept some of his stolen treasures, and these, twenty-seven years later, attracted the cupidity of Antony. Verres was accordingly included in a proscription list and was murdered.
Verres was charged with having embezzled 40, 000, 000 sesterces during his time in office. I'm not sure how much that would be in today's money, but it's obviously a lot. Corruption was quite common, and a political job in the provinces was a good way for unscrupulous politicians to make a lot money. Governors would expect to be prosecuted on their return to Rome, though it was not hard to avoid conviction. Verres himself said (according to Cicero) that an aspiring governor should keep the money he makes in the first year of office for himself. What he makes in the second year will be needed to pay for a good lawyer, and what makes in the third year can be used for bribing the jury.

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