It had been my intention to describe in detail the trial of Gaius
Verres, but now I come to set it down, I see there is no point. After
Cicero's tactical masterstroke on that first day, Verres and his
advocates resembled nothing so much as the victims of a siege: holed up
in their little fortress, surrounded by their enemies, battered day
after day by a rain of missiles, and their crumbling walls undermined
by tunnels. They had no means of fighting back. Their only hope was
somehow to withstand the onslaught for the nine days remaining, and
then try to regroup during the lull enforced by Pompey's games.
Cicero's objective was equally clear: to obliterate Verres's defenses
so completely that by the time he had finished laying out his case, not
even the most corrupt senatorial jury in Rome would dare to acquit him.
He set about this mission with his usual discipline. The prosecution
team would gather before dawn. While Cicero performed his exercises,
was shaved and dressed, I would read out the testimony of the witnesses
he would be calling that day and run through our schedule of evidence.
He would then dictate to me the rough outline of what he intended to
say. For an hour or two he would familiarize himself with the day's
brief and thoroughly memorize his remarks, while Quintus, Frugi, and I
ensured that all his witnesses and evidence boxes were ready. We would
then parade down the hill to the Forum -- and parades they were, for
the general view around Rome was that Cicero's performance in the
extortion court was the greatest show in town. The crowds were as large
on the second and third days as they had been on the first, and the
witnesses' performances were often heartbreaking, as they collapsed in
tears recounting their ill treatment. I remember in particular Dio of
Halaesa, swindled out of ten thousand sesterces, and two brothers from
Agyrium forced to hand over their entire inheritance of four thousand.
There would have been more, but Lucius Metellus had actually refused to
let a dozen witnesses leave the island to testify, among them the chief
priest of Jupiter, Heraclius of Syracuse -- an outrage against justice
which Cicero neatly turned to his advantage. "Our allies' rights," he
boomed, "do not even include permission to complain of their
sufferings!" Throughout all this, Hortensius, amazing to relate, never
said a word. Cicero would finish his examination of a witness, Glabrio
would offer the King of the Law Courts his chance to cross-examine, and
His Majesty would regally shake his head, or declare grandly, "No
questions for this witness." On the fourth day, Verres pleaded illness
and tried to be excused from attending, but Glabrio was having none of
it, and told him he would be carried down to the Forum on his bed if
It was on the following afternoon that Cicero's cousin Lucius at
last returned to Rome, his mission in Sicily accomplished. Cicero was
overjoyed to find him waiting at the house when we got back from court,
and he embraced him tearfully. Without Lucius's support in dispatching
witnesses and boxes of evidence back to the mainland, Cicero's case
would not have been half as strong. But the seven-month effort had
clearly exhausted Lucius, who had not been a strong man to begin with.
He was now alarmingly thin and had developed a painful, racking cough.
Even so, his commitment to bringing Verres to justice was unwavering --
so much so that he had missed the opening of the trial in order to take
a detour on his journey back to Rome. He had stayed in Puteoli and
tracked down two more witnesses: the Roman knight, Gaius Numitorius,
who had witnessed the crucifixion of Gavius in Messana; and a friend of
his, a merchant named Marcus Annius, who had been in Syracuse when the
Roman banker Herennius had been judicially murdered.
"And where are these gentlemen?" asked Cicero eagerly.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...