“The Verrine Orations II” by Cicero

The Verrine Orations II

Enmity of Ideals

But can you, Hortensius, continue to ask me, the man being what he is, what feelings of private enmity, what personal wrong, can have led me to undertake his prosecution? … Why, think you that any enmity between human beings can be more bitter than such as arises from the conflict of their ideals, from the diversity of their aims and purposes?

Can one who reverence modesty and chastity contemplate with indifference that man’s daily adulteries, his school of mistresses and his household of panders?

When one who seeks to maintain the sanctions of religion meets this universal plunderer of sanctuaries, this shameless maker of profit at the expense even of the wheels of the sacred coaches, how can he fail to hate him?

Shall one who believes in equal justice for all not be your bitter enemy, Verres, when he thinks of your judicial pronouncements, shifted to suit your own wanton pleasure? Shall one who deplores our allies’ wrongs and our provinces’ misfortunes feel no resentment towards you for stripping Asia, and making havoc of Pamphylia, and plunging Sicily into tears and mourning?

Shall one who would have the rights and liberties of Roman citizens held sacred everywhere not inevitably be your enemy, and more than your enemy, when he remembers how your dealt with Roman citizens, scourging them, beheading them, setting up crosses to crucify them?

A Hog of Wickedness

What pleasures habitual wrongdoing provides for men without principle or sense of shame, when they have escaped punishment and found themselves given free hand! … You will not find the man licking cautiously and delicately at these wicked gains; without hesitation, he swallowed all that public money at a gulp. The opportunity for habitual misconduct has developed his natural viciousness, until he has become incapable of setting bounds to his own impudence.

Kinship of Ideals

“Let the illustrious aristocracy of which you are a member cease to complain that the Roman nation is, and always has been, glad to entrust active men of humble birth with public office. No man should complain that character counts for more than anything in Rome, when it is character that makes Rome the mistress of the world. Let not the Scipios alone possess the portrait of Scipio Africanus, nor them alone derive lustre from the great hero’s renown: he was such a man, and so served Rome, that not one family but the whole country has the right to protect his fame. In this right I myself have a share, as a citizen of the empire whose proud and glorious fame is due to him; the more so because I do my best to follow him in the path where he leads the way for us all, the path of justice and temperance and strenuous endeavour, as the champion of the distressed and the enemy of the wicked; and the kinship of aims and pursuits that I thus have with him is hardly less close than the kinship of name and blood that is so precious to yourselves.”

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  • Cicero. The Verrine Orations. Trans. L.H.G Greenwood. Vol. II. London: Heinemann, 1966.

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