Cicero…and looting

Happy birthday Cicero!

So, today, it’s the anniversary of Cicero’s birth (3rd January 106 BC). But, since yesterday I blogged about looting, why not go on with the same topic?

Among all Cicero’s orations, “In Verrem” is probably not the most famous, but definetely each Latin student has had something to do with this speech. While Cicero’s first speeches date back to the 80s (Pro Quinctio and Pro Roscio), it was the case against Verres in 70 BC that made him not only a capable lawyer, but one of the most important figures of the Republican political scene.
In this case, Cicero, who had already been quaestor in Sicily (75 BC), acted as a prosecutor on behalf of the Sicilians, who were accusing Verres for its exploitations while he was on office as Sicily’s governor.
Cicero, after a preliminary speech, wrote two orations, but only the first one was actually pronounced during the trial: it was enough to make Verres choose a volontary exile in Massilia (modern Marseilles), so to avoid a convinction. Anyway, Cicero’s published also a second oration, longer and where he lists all the different malpractices of Verres.

Among these, Cicero accuses Verres of looting, not only in Sicily, but also during its previous office in Pamphylia.
In particular, I want to remember now the case of Aspendos (In Verrem II.1.53):

[53] Aspendum vetus oppidum et nobile in Pamphylia
scitis esse, plenissimum signorum optimorum. Non
dicam illinc hoc signum ablatum esse et illud: hoc dico,
nullum te Aspendi signum, Verres, reliquisse, omnia ex
fanis, ex locis publicis, palam, spectantibus omnibus,
plaustris evecta exportataque esse. Atque etiam illum
Aspendium citharistam, de quo saepe audistis id quod
est Graecis hominibus in proverbio, quem omnia ‘intus
canere’ dicebant, sustulit et in intimis suis aedibus
posuit, ut etiam illum ipsum suo artificio superasse


“You know that Aspendos is an ancient and noble city in Pamphylia, full of precious statues. I’m not going to say that this or that other statue were stolen from there: I say this, Verres, you didn’t leave any statue in Aspendos, you took and brought away on wagons all the ones that were in temples an in public places, while the citizens were looking.
And also that lyre-player of Aspendos, about who you always hear the Greeks say the proverb, when they say that it was all “intus canere”, also this he brought away and collocated in its own rooms, so that it seemed that he had superated the statue in its own arts.”

We don’t know this statue, and, it’s interesting also the fact that Cicero wasn’t condemning the looting itself, but the fact that these stolen stautes weren’t displayed in public at Rome, for the benefit of all the citizens, but Verres kept them into his house.

Nowadays, Aspendos is a great archaeological site, whose most famous monument is the theatre, one of the best conserved Roman theatre.


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