Gaius Verres

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Gaius Verres (* around 115 BC ; † 43 BC ) was a Roman politician; he was governor of the province of Sicily . His nomen gentile has not been handed down. His cognomen , Verres, means boar . Almost everything that is known about his life was passed down by Cicero in his " Speeches against Verres " ( Orationes in Verrem ), which he wrote in 70 BC. Used as a prosecutor in a trial against Verres. You are biased accordingly.


Verres was the son of a senator of the same name († 71 BC). Only allegations made by Cicero regarding his passion for gambling, intercourse with prostitutes and self- prostitution , common topoi for defaming political opponents, have come down to us about his youth . 84 BC Verres became quaestor of the consul Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and supported the popular people . A year later, however, he went over to Sulla , who in turn took over the dictatorship a year later . According to Cicero, he withheld the contents of the war chest, which he was supposed to bring to Northern Italy as quaestor for Army Carbos.

Verres as Proquaestor in Cilicia

In 80 BC . Made BC Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella , the governor of Cilicia in Asia Minor , Verres to his lieutenants and a year later Proquästor . During their trip, both are said to have enriched themselves with art treasures and harassed the local population. Later they are said to have personally enriched themselves in Asia Minor. In 78 BC Dolabella was therefore tried before the Repetundengerichtshof . Verres appeared as a witness against his former superior, who was convicted on the basis of Verres' statements. At the same time, Verres was acquitted by his testimony.

As early as 80 BC Verres met the brothers Hieron and Cornelius Tlepolemos , two painters from Pamphylia , whom he took into his service. They worked as his art agents, looking for art objects in Asia Minor, between 73 and 71 BC. BC also in Sicily, and finally helped with the theft of the works of art.

Verres as praetor urbanus

In 74 BC Verres was elected to the office of praetor urbanus . In addition, he and one of his colleagues were responsible for supervising the public buildings of the city of Rome. He did not always seem to have obeyed his edict , but in general Cicero reports little of substance about this period of Verres' life.

Verres as governor in Sicily

The Verres raid in Sicily between 73 and 70 BC Chr.

In the years 73–71 BC Verres was finally Proprätor (governor) of the province of Sicily . His term of office, originally limited to one year, was extended because his successor was still involved in the fight against the rebellious slave Spartacus .

During his governorship he strengthened Rome's access to the island's resources. Since he used sometimes brutal means, he harmed the locals and also turned the clientele of influential Roman politicians against him. Apparently he also illegally appropriated some works of art and withheld public funds. The involvement in temple robbery could not be proven and Verres gave many of the disputed items as gifts and purchases. There were also allegations of embezzlement and extortion.

Proceedings before the Repetundengerichtshof

This made Verres vulnerable in the year 70 BC. In the so-called "Verres Trial" by Marcus Tullius Cicero . Five years earlier, Cicero had earned the respect of the Sicilians for his honest conduct as quaestor. The charges included greedy politics and jurisprudence, corrupt and unjust levies, as well as the extortion of works of art and ultimately even the killing of Roman citizens. Verres hired the well-known Quintus Hortensius Hortalus as his defender . The court was composed entirely of members of the Roman Senate . Verres planned to buy time by delaying the trial, because the following year his friend Marcus Caecilius Metellus would have become chairman of the court. Hortensius used two tactics to delay the process until the chairmanship changed: First, he wanted to bring forward the process against a former governor of Bithynia . When that plan failed, he sought an adjournment until a number of Roman holidays , after which there would be little time to negotiate before the chairman's term ended. This tactic also failed. The trial opened in August, and Cicero tried to thwart Hortensius' delaying tactics by starting with a fiery but short speech so that evidence and witnesses could be brought to the trial earlier than originally planned.

End of the process, exile and death

The overwhelming burden of proof and extensive lists of witnesses prompted Verres to give up the trial prematurely and to go into exile in Massilia (present-day Marseille). Cicero later published his collected evidence, sorted according to subject area and elaborated rhetorically, in a second speech against Verres, which comprises five books (De praetura urbana, De praetura Siciliensi, De frumento, De signis, De suppliciis). Instead of the 40 million sesterces (HS) demanded by Cicero, the compensation amounted to only 3 million HS. In Massilia, Verres lived in his wealth apart from Roman politics. However, this was in 43 BC. One reason Verres was put on the proscription lists , which led to his assassination. The decisive factor is said to have been the dispute with Mark Antony over the release of some precious Corinthian vases.

Literary processing

The trial of Verres, a theme of the novel Empire of Robert Harris .


  • Jens Bartels: Verres C. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 12/2, Metzler, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-476-01487-8 , Sp. 78-81.
  • Jochen Bleicken : Augustus. A biography (= Rororo. 62650). Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-499-62650-0 , fourth chapter: The downfall of the old order , p. 146.
  • Frank Hewitt Cowles: Gaius Verres; An Historical Study (= Cornell Studies in Classical Philology. 20, ZDB -ID 844700-7 ). sn, New York 1917, ( digitized version ).
  • Luca Fezzi: Il corrotto. Un'inchiesta di Marco Tullio Cicerone. Laterza, Rome et al. 2016, ISBN 978-88-581-2219-8 .
  • Ulrike Steck: The witness evidence in the court speeches of Cicero (= European university publications . Series 2 jurisprudence. 4839). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-57254-2 (also: Freiburg (Breisgau), university, dissertation, 2007).

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