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Chapter ThreeSigna and Signifiers: A World Created
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Chapter Three
Signa and Signifiers: A World Created

Tanta vis admonitionis inest in locis; ut non sine causa ex iis memoriae ducta sit disciplina.

So great a power of suggestion resides in places that it is no wonder the Art of Memory is based on it.
Cicero, De finibus 5.2

Any reader of Cicero's speeches, even one unfamiliar with the Roman political system, is quick to note that the orator constantly requires his audience—whether senators, jurors, or ordinary citizens—to direct their imaginations beyond the walls of the city of Rome. Not only are the speeches delivered on behalf of provincial governors characterized by frequent references to Roman allies and provinces, but many other Ciceronian orations are similarly filled with allusions to every corner of Italy and the Mediterranean world. The deliberative speeches De imperio Cn. Pompei and De provinciis consularibus are only the most conspicuous of many that could be cited in this regard. The Pro Balbo, for instance, in which the orator defended an individual whose legal right to Roman citizenship was challenged, contains frequent references to the western Mediterranean, from which the Spaniard Balbus had come; similarly, in his defense of the claim to citizenship made by the poet Archias, Cicero had numerous occasions to speak of the eastern Mediterranean. A wide range of allusions to places both outside of and within Italy is found in the De lege agraria 2, and in the Pro Milone Cicero speaks of various locales, most notably the Appian Way and the place where a fatal altercation between Clodius and Milo occurred. Such examples might be multiplied almost endlessly, but it is not my intention to produce a catalogue of passages in which "the world" figured in Ciceronian rhetoric. Since the ways in which Cicero made use of references to places and monuments were scarcely less numerous than the ways he used metaphorical language, for instance, a catalogue of the


form and intent of these passages would surely be as dull as the lists of figures of thought and speech in the ancient rhetorical handbooks that it would inevitably resemble. More important, such a catalogue could be created only by divorcing, to a large extent, the passages within it from consideration of the overall strategies of persuasion in the speeches in which they occurred. Insight into a wide range of stylistic variation would be achieved, therefore, at the expense of our ability to understand the more complex and subtle ways the passages in question contributed to persuasion. Thus this chapter will be restricted to the description of certain statues, monuments, and topography within a single text, the fourth part of the Second Action against Verres. I have chosen this particular work because it is one that offers striking analogies in the realm of places that Cicero described to the kinds of references to places actually visible to the audience considered in the last chapter.

Rhetorical Theory: Enargeia and Memory

As has been noted in chapter 1, Latin rhetorical handbooks have a number of things to say on the subject of references to places and monuments that were not part of the visible milieu.[1] We have seen that these works speak of the importance of considering the subjective and objective qualities of places when crafting a believable narration or a compelling argument. Quintilian's comment that "praise and blame" (5.10.41: commendationem . . . et invidiam ) could be derived from the qualities of a place also suggests that the Roman orator was encouraged to consider various aspects of places in making emotional appeals, although Quintilian goes into little detail in explaining exactly how this technique was to be carried out.[2]

Of practical use to the orator who intended to speak at length about a place or monument neither seen by nor familiar to his audience was


the material in the rhetorical handbooks referring to a particular kind of description in which the speaker was advised to use concrete details in order to create a "visual image" in the minds of his listeners. As mentioned in chapter 1, the technique can be found under a variety of names, and it is often identified with ekphrasis, enargeia, hypotyposis, diatyposis, evidentia, repraesentatio, illustratio, demonstratio, descriptio, and sub oculos subiectio . Further, it is subsumed under a number of theoretical categories, including techniques of the narration and of the peroration, aspects of ornate style, and figures of thought.[3] It seems clear from this proliferation of terms and categories of treatment that Latin rhetoricians and orators well understood the importance of using this kind of description but were unsure how to define it precisely and how to integrate it into the received structure of rhetorical theory. Concerning one point, however, there is no ambiguity. The successful employment of evidentia (to settle on one of the terms) caused the listener to picture what was described with "the eyes of the mind" (Quint. 8.3.62). The subject matter of such descriptions can be found listed in later rhetorical treatises, for the technique became one of the standard exercises (progymnasmata ) of the oratorical schools of the Empire.[4]


Subjects for vivid description included places (topoi ), times/seasons (chronoi ), persons (prosopa ), occasions/celebrations (panegyreis ), events (pragmata ), and, most familiar from poetry, statues and other artistic representations (agalmata, eikones ). As was the case with earlier treatment of the technique, however, no clear theoretical understanding of vivid description is to be found in the progymnasmata of the later Empire, and only its emphasis on "visualization" separated it from other, closely related, rhetorical techniques, such as narration or characterization.[5]

Before dealing in more detail with the way evidentia was to be used in oratory, it is revealing first to consider the technique in light of the dominant ideas concerning perception and imagination in Cicero's day. While theories about these aspects of the mind varied among the major


philosophical schools, a notion shared among them was that the mind was capable of receiving impressions in much the same way that soft wax receives the impression of a sealing stone.[6] But much controversy revolved around the question of exactly what sort of mental impressions arose from various sources. Cicero addresses the topic in the Academica . In this dialogue, he depicts Lucullus speaking on behalf of the philosophy of Antiochus, who had abandoned the Skepticism of Carneades and claimed to have returned to the position of the so-called Old Academy. Lucullus states that it is possible for an individual to arrive at knowledge of what is true by means of the information received through the senses, and he bases this assertion on the idea that we can distinguish "true presentations" to the senses (visa vera ) from "illusionary" or "false images" (visiones inanes ) by means of the "clarity" (perspicuitas ) of the former. These true presentations, which arise from actually existing objects, can be "grasped" by the mind and form the basis both for memory and for accurate judgment.[7] Cicero, defending the Skeptical position of the "New Academy" of Carneades, argues that false sensory data are, in fact, often indistinguishable from true. For instance, the dreamer, while dreaming, is aware of no mark that distinguishes the images he or she "sees" from what is real. Cicero goes on


to maintain that although it is impossible to distinguish absolutely whether sensory data are true or false, we may judge—and therefore act—on the basis of probable truth or falsity. He compares this process to a sea voyage. At the beginning of a voyage, the traveler aims at a certain destination and makes informed judgments on the basis of available evidence but cannot know for certain what the course of the voyage will actually be (2.100). Similarly, the careful application of rational judgment to the data provided by the senses can help us to make decisions concerning probable truth and falsity, although absolute certainty remains beyond our powers of discrimination.[8] Lucullus had not only argued that true and false images could be distinguished; he had also contended that only a true, "graspable" presentation (phantasia kataleptike ) arising from actual objects was available to memory.[9] Cicero takes issue with this statement as well, asserting that both images that have their origin in real objects and those that are merely illusory could be impressed upon the mind and thus made available to memory.

Although Cicero does not explicitly confront the question of what kind of impression images created through evidentia might make on the mind, it is clear from the Academica that, from the point of view of the audience, such images would be classified as "false" (visiones inanes ) rather than "true" (visa vera ), and therefore comparable to the impressions of dreams, hallucination, or the imagination.[10] If we follow Ci-


cero's (rather than Lucullus's) arguments in the dialogue, we may suppose that verbally induced images, like other illusionary images, could potentially be indistinguishable from the actual in the impressions that they leave on the mind and, therefore, in their availability to processes of memory and feeling. This supposition is reinforced by the similarity of vocabulary used in passages dealing with the two kinds of impressions. When Lucullus argues that the "real" object creates an image that can be distinguished from the illusory, the terms he uses to describe the special, distinguishing characteristic of the real are "clarity" and "perspicuity."[11] Even a philosophical Skeptic like Cicero, who argues in the dialogue that this apparent clarity could not serve as an unshakable criterion of the real, does not attempt to deny the affective power on the mind of the clear and perspicuous presentation. When we turn from philosophy to rhetorical theory, we find that it is precisely this quality of "perspicuity" that is the chief characteristic of vivid description: evidentia involves a mode of verbal expression that produces a clear, "visual" impression on the listener through "the eyes of the mind." It seems reasonable to infer, then, that ancient orators who, like Cicero, were familiar with both Greek philosophical and rhetorical theory might have seen in the technique of evidentia a verbal counterpart to the sensory reception of clear and striking images. While no one could claim that a listener might mistake the mental image created by verbal description for the visual experience of an existing object or objects, the use of the concept of clarity or enargeia to describe both visiones hints at the belief that these two avenues to the memory and emotions had a similarly potent effect.


Of the connection of such verbally produced images with the emotions the ancient rhetoricians had little doubt.[12] In a passage introduced by the statement that it was his intention to reveal to his readers the hidden secrets of his art (6.2.25), Quintilian asserts that in order to stir the emotions of others an orator must first be moved himself (6.2.27). He then explains how the orator may learn to generate feelings in himself:

There exist those things that the Greeks call phantasiai and that we term visiones, by means of which the images of absent things are represented in our minds in such a way that we seem to see them with our eyes as if they were actually present.[13] Whoever is extremely responsive to these (6.2.30: has . . . bene conceperit ) will have the greatest power over the emotions. . . . In fact, we may acquire this power easily if we desire it.[14] When our minds


are unoccupied and open to empty wishes and daydreams, the images about which I am speaking appear, so that we seem to be making a journey or sailing or fighting or addressing the people or spending riches we do not actually possess, and it seems to us that we are not thinking these things but acting. Why shall we not make practical use of this defect of our minds? Suppose that I am complaining that a man has been killed; shall I not keep before my eyes everything that well might actually have occurred? . . . Will not the blood, the pallor, the terrible groan, and finally the death rattle of the victim reside in my mind? From this follows enargeia, which Cicero calls illustratio and evidentia, by which things seem not so much to be said as to be shown; and our emotions are aroused no differently than if we were actually present at an event.


Quintilian begins with the assumption that false images (i.e., visiones inanes, which do not come from an object actually available to the senses at the moment they are perceived) often exist in the mind, although he makes no attempt to explain exactly how these images originate. In the ordinary person these simply occur when the mind is at rest (inter otia ). The orator, however, can train himself to produce particular images in order to bring about the emotional response that accompanies them. When he hopes to arouse sympathy in his audience for a murdered man he will first create that emotion in himself by imagining in vivid detail the scene of a pathetic and brutal attack. Quintilian does not say that he will think of what he knows did happen but, rather, will summon up a "believable" scenario for the murder (6.2.31: quae in re praesenti accidisse credibile est ). So far, Quintilian is speaking only of the orator and the process by which he could summon remembered images to his own mind. Then, however, he makes a crucial intellectual leap by connecting this process, which takes place within the mind of the orator, with his use of verbal descriptions in order to stimulate visualizations in the minds of his audience. The reader of the passage is therefore led to see the entire process as a connected sequence: the


speaker first summons images from his memory, where they are stored; if the orator is skillful and imaginative, these stimulate the particular emotional response that he had hoped to create in himself; the orator then, through vivid description, stimulates corresponding visiones in the minds of his audience; and these, in turn, produce a seemingly inevitable emotional reaction in the listeners. The process by which the mind of the orator is moved and that by which his audience is moved is, in essence, the same. A particular image (visio ), summoned to mind, sets in motion a predictable emotional response (pathos ).[15] The difference lies chiefly in the control exercised by the orator, who—through conscious exercise of the imagination—creates the vision and, seemingly, is able to transmit it in words to his listeners, who then passively receive it.

Much of this appears fairly peculiar to the modern reader, and yet those aspects of the theoretical discussion of evidentia that appear most strange to us are perhaps most revealing of differences between Cicero's audience and ourselves. Implicit in these discussions of the images derived from experience of real objects is the idea that such images were able to produce a cohering and lasting physical impact on the mind by means of the eyes, as if the persisting image produced from staring several moments at a dark shape on a white ground were not a fleeting illusion but a lasting impression that could be retained by the mind and reproduced from memory. Even those phantasiai that manifestly originate within the mind, as in daydreams or sleep, were usually conceived of as pictures preserved by memory from previous sensory experience.[16] This made mental images that had no corresponding existence in the real world somewhat difficult to explain, but a number of theories were evolved to deal with the problem; no explicit attempt was made, however, to explain the perceptual mechanics of evidentia, by which the orator, through words, produced images not previously perceived in the


minds of those he addressed.[17] Most striking in the ancients' attempts to wrestle with such problems is their tendency to describe much of what goes on in the human mind as the creation or remembrance of coherent, retrievable pictorial images rather than as a manipulation of abstractions.[18]

It is also to be observed that the accounts of evidentia or enargeia found in ancient sources assume an extraordinary degree of correspondence between words and images. The effect in such descriptions of


words as words, each freighted with emotional resonance for the listener, is scarcely acknowledged by ancient rhetorical theorists. Only in Quintilian (8.3.64) is there any recognition that the words of description, once filtered through the individual consciousness of the listeners, might stimulate different images, thoughts, and emotions in the mind of each individual. The supposition is rather that the words of the description are irrelevant except for their efficacy in creating for the listeners a mental picture of what is described; and, further, that essentially the same mental picture would be present in the mind of each listener. Without embarking on a full-scale review of the implications of evidentia for the ut pictura poesis thesis, we may simply note that these assumptions by ancient rhetoricians about the way vivid description worked in the minds of an audience suggest that ancient, nonliterate society may well have possessed powers of pictorial visualization much greater and more intense than our own.[19]

Of what use was evidentia to the ancient orator? The material in the rhetorical textbooks emphasizing the effectiveness of the technique in rousing the emotions of an audience is useful, considering the crucial role played by emotional appeals in Ciceronian oratory, and yet unsatisfying, when we compare it with the complexity of Cicero's use in the Catilinarians of images the audience actually had before their eyes.[20] As has been demonstrated, when Cicero directed his listeners to consider the cult statue of the Temple of Jupiter Stator in the first Catilinarian or the statue of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitolium in the third speech, in each case he aimed not simply at a straightforward appeal to the emotional impact of what the audience saw but at a complex series of thoughts and feelings dependent both on what he said and on what was before their eyes. This leads us to consider whether rhetorical theory might not suggest a more subtle and far-ranging employment of


the technique, analogous to strategies of persuasion observed in Cicero's exploitation of the visible milieu.

I believe that ancient rhetorical theory does indeed point the way to a broader use of vivid description through what it has to say about the art of memory. In the passage from the De finibus quoted in chapter 1, the experience of seeing a sequence of memorable places, each with vivid and moving associations for Cicero and his friends, had caused Piso to exclaim at "how great a power of association resides in places" (5.2: tanta vis admonitionis inest in locis ) and to recall that upon this fact depended the system of artificial memory (memoriae . . . disciplina ). According to this system, which was believed to have been created by the poet Simonides (the same poet, it should be remembered, who was also reputed to have called poetry "speaking painting"), an orator was taught to recall the various ideas or even words for his speech by associating them with images of things (imagines ) and to remember the order of these ideas by picturing the images in various loci or backgrounds.[21] The imagines were compared to letters, the loci to writing tablets, and the latter were meant to be impressed on the mind in an unvarying sequence and reused on different occasions with a variety of images. The Ad Herennium suggests that the orator choose these backgrounds in locations that will not be confusing because of the coming and going of large numbers of people (3.31). Furthermore, they must be distinct, one from the other, and neither too close together nor too far apart, neither too bright nor too dim (3.31–32). The axially and hierarchically ordered rooms of the Roman atrium house, memorized in a fixed order, made an excellent series of mental loci . The Ad Herennium also notes that these backgrounds did not all have to be memorized through actual experience, since "thought" (3.32: cogitatio ) could provide an endless supply of suitable places.

What are the implications of this system of artificial memory for the use of evidentia? First, training in the ars memoriae not only accustomed the orator to create "visual" pictures in his mind but taught him to associate abstract ideas with these pictures. As Frances Yates has pointed out, "The word 'mnemotechnics' hardly conveys what the artificial memory of Cicero may have been like, as it moved among the


buildings of ancient Rome, seeing the places, seeing the images stored on the places, with a piercing inner vision which immediately brought to his lips the thoughts and words of his speech."[22] And, just as Quintilian had connected the orator's practice of visualizing a scene in order to rouse his own emotions with that same orator's effort to induce his audience also to visualize emotionally charged scenes, so it seems likely that, in this instance as well, a speaker would realize that a technique he had employed as part of the private propaedeutic of speech making could also be used to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of his audience. Thus Cicero may well have understood that the mnemonic technique by which he impressed ideas on his own mind could be employed to impress concepts on the minds of his listeners.[23] The first step in this process would be to create a series of distinct and memorable settings in the minds of his listeners. This he could do in the same way he himself had learned to keep in mind "backgrounds": either by direct visual experience or by the creation in the mind's eye of vivid images of various locations. On the one hand, he could make use of the familiar monuments and buildings visible to the audience in the Forum, leading them to connect with these loci symbolic values supporting his rhetorical goals. We have seen how in the Pro Scauro, for instance, Cicero directed the attention of his audience to the key monuments of the Forum and tied to each a meaning relevant to the status and character of the accused. On the other hand, the orator could induce his audience to imagine a locus through his employment of vivid description. This locus and the images created within it could then be used by the orator not simply to elicit an emotional reaction but at the same time to trigger associations with various larger and more complex ideas. The ars memoriae, therefore, is able to provide us with the theoretical link between the use of evidentia to create emotionally potent images in the minds of listeners and the much more far-reaching use of the same technique to attach symbolic values to those images. At the same time, through its implicit acknowledgment that both imagination and experience are effective ways of impressing loci on the mind, the ars memoriae points to a theoretical connection between the kinds of meanings developed by Cicero


for elements of the visible milieu and those meanings tied to places and things merely described to an audience.

This hypothesis, of course, leaves many questions unresolved. If the orator were to follow the suggestions in the rhetorical handbooks, we assume that he would (a ) attempt to engage his own emotions in treating the subject matter of his speech by means of imaginative reconstructions of events; (b ) stimulate visualizations in his audience through vivid description; (c ) impress ideas and their sequence on his own mind through memorization of a large number of images set within various loci; and also, perhaps, (d ) attempt to impress image-filled memory loci on the minds of his audience, either by the manipulation of actual visual milieux or by vivid descriptions. But would the images that aroused the orator's own emotions (a ) be identical with those he hoped to produce in the minds of his audience through vivid description (b )?[24] Would either of these be identical with the loci and images he kept in mind to remember what he wished to say and when (c )? And what was the relationship between these memory loci (c ) and those he created in the minds of his audience (d )?[25]


I hope that we may begin to explore some of these problems through an analysis of In Verrem II.4, but, whatever the answers to specific questions may be, a general principle ought here to be affirmed: namely, that this technique, like any technique of Ciceronian oratory, was not an end in itself but was a means to an end. Ignoring this principle has led many to classify vivid description in oratory merely as an ornament of style and to analyze its rhetorical use in the same way one would analyze the use of enargeia or ekphrasis in poetry.[26] Whether or not the source of the technique lay in poetry, its aims in rhetorical texts were not the same as in poetry. The stylistic beauty or affective power of a descriptive passage in a deliberative or forensic speech and the emotion it must have engendered in those who heard it were never, in themselves, the raison


d'être of such a passage. Rather, vivid description in Ciceronian oratory was always part of an overall strategy meant to lead an audience to a predictable emotional and intellectual stance vis-à-vis the particular subject at issue before them, whether their role was as jurors, voters, or simply members of the body politic. Before analyzing the description of places and things in the text of In Verrem II.4, therefore, it will be useful to consider the chief factors that informed Cicero's rhetorical strategy in the work.

The Rhetorical Challenge of In Verrem II.4 ("De Signis")

The fourth part of the Second Action against Verres was devoted to a discussion of the statues and monuments stolen by Verres during the latter's tenure as praetor in Sicily. The most obvious rhetorical goal of the speech was to arouse the indignation of the Roman audience at the revelation of Verres' plundering of these works of art. Since many of the works had been removed from temples of the gods, one would assume that no great eloquence would have been required on Cicero's part. The reader of Republican and Augustan literature is often led to envision a society particularly susceptible to the emotional impact connected with such works. One need only think, for instance, of the Roman belief in the numinous power of places and of man-made and natural objects; of the reverence accorded the statues of gods and heroes, especially those of great antiquity, adorning the city's temples and public places; of the significance to the Roman citizen of the many monuments erected to commemorate great leaders and signal events in the city's history; or of the private observances devoted to objects placed in family shrines and sacraria .

It is necessary, however, to draw certain distinctions among objects of this kind. It is surely true that statues and monuments long familiar to a Roman audience, woven over the decades into the very fabric of the city, would have acquired a complex and powerful set of associations. The familiar landmarks of the Comitium and the Forum in particular not only shaped the poetic itinerary of a Plautus or an Ovid but constituted a source of cognitive and emotional orientation for every citizen of Rome. Allusions to these were part of the stock-in-trade of the Roman orator, who would frequently have attempted to connect the arguments, ideas, and themes of his speeches with visual symbols he knew to be rich in patriotic and religious meaning for his audience. In addi-


tion, certain monuments were held in special reverence and were thought to be directly connected with the continuing welfare of the city, such as those struck by lightning or spoken of in oracles.

It is nevertheless clear that special significance could not have attached to every statue and monument, as their very number would have precluded such a possibility. In book 34 of his Naturalis historia Pliny the Elder provides us with an impressive catalogue of statues that stood in the city at various times (34.1–93). The antiquarian reports that during one theatrical show the theater supported three thousand statues (34.36) and that large numbers of statues sometimes were ordered removed from the Forum, apparently due to their abundance there (34.30–31). Thus, while certain Roman monuments acquired a powerful symbolic significance closely identified with the function and meaning of the place where they stood, the importance of others must have been relatively inconsequential. It can be assumed, for instance, that the statues erected to honor still-living generals and politicians would, in many cases, have been held in less awe than those of gods and heroes. Cicero refers in the Verrines to the many statues of Verres erected in Rome, ostensibly "by the people of Sicily as a whole" (II.2.154). The orator expresses little surprise that a politician of no great repute should have been the subject of so many honorary monuments. His only objection to the statues is that the money for these works had been extorted from the Sicilians rather than willingly donated. If such an extensive visual propaganda campaign could have been mounted by a relatively minor figure like Verres, it may be assumed that men of much greater reputation, power, and ambition would have been even more widely represented, and that the commonness of these honorary statues would have dulled their impact.[27]

If many of the statues and monuments commissioned by the Senate or by private individuals and visible daily to Roman citizens lacked enduring symbolic significance, what of those that had been seized from conquered states? The plunder of precious objects of all sorts had ac-


companied Rome's military progress throughout the Italian peninsula and across the Mediterranean. In the Italian phase of this expansion, the practice of evocatio and the building of temples dedicated to the divinities of the conquered suggest that the Romans in many cases perceived the gods and heroes of Italians, Etruscans, and south Italian Greeks as either identical with their own gods or worthy of incorporation into their expanding pantheon. This would lead us to assume that the plundered statues, at least of divinities, would have been treated by the Romans with reverence and a sense of religious awe. However, as Rome's victims became more alien and more numerous, religious scruples governing the treatment of such objects must have eroded. The victories over Syracuse, Carthage, and especially Corinth would have resulted in a flood of statues entering Rome and Italy.[28] By Cicero's day the Roman public had become used to seeing the most precious and sacred works of Greek art exhibited in the games and shows held by the aediles and other magistrates and carried in the triumphs of victorious generals.[29] Statues that formed part of the booty plundered from a conquered city might later be dedicated in Roman temples or public places, or they might be kept privately by the former imperator to grace his own villas or those of his friends. On the one hand, the practice of public exhibition and donation might be taken as evidence of the interest of the Roman public in objects of this sort and of their effectiveness as tools of propaganda, reminding the viewer of a greater or lesser victory of Roman arms and of the piety, courage, and patriotic generosity of the leader who had won it. On the other hand, such statues, displayed in large numbers and out of their original (usually religious) context, would have been stripped of much of their emotional and symbolic impact.

The objection might be raised that Verres was not the military conqueror of the places where he exercised magisterial power and that we must distinguish the Romans' cavalier attitude towards objects plun-


dered from hostile states in time of war from their attitude towards the confiscated goods of allies, client states, and provinces.[30] In fact, in one passage Cicero indicates that the Romans believed that sacred objects were "deconsecrated" by falling victim to Roman arms: speaking of Marcellus's actions after the fall of Syracuse, Cicero states that "through his famous victory he had rendered all things profane" (II.4.122).[31] This was indeed an ingenious method of exculpating Roman actions that could otherwise be viewed as sacrilege, and from a legalistic point of view one could in fact argue that the statues and monuments removed by Verres ought not be compared with those seized in war, since Verres' plunder, unlike war booty, was viewed as sacred and therefore still protected by religious scruples. But as regards the perception of the objects themselves, the treatment of war booty would have had a profound effect on how the Romans responded to all such objects. The Roman public, accustomed to viewing hundreds of statues and works of art exhibited in triumphs and during festivals or donated to the state, would hardly have made fine distinctions among the supposedly "deconsecrated" statues seized from hostile states and those still sacred works bought or borrowed by Romans traveling abroad or illegally extorted from friendly states.[32]


For most of Cicero's audience, admiration for works of art was not based on their religious or symbolic significance but would have derived from the precious materials of which they were composed, from their rarity, from the cleverness of artistic conception embodied in them, or from the beauty of their craftsmanship.[33] If the Roman public responded to displays of artwork enthusiastically, it was an enthusiasm little to be distinguished in many instances from that shown for exhibitions of exotic animals also shipped to Rome for games and festivals. And, as in the case of such animals, jaded sensibilities would have required ever-increasing numbers and rarity in order to guarantee a successful reception. It was only when statues or monuments had long stood within the city that they gradually acquired a new meaning for the Roman viewer, interwoven of associations connected with the origin, subject matter, and appearance of the statue, the circumstances of its arrival in Rome, and the "history" of the statue in its new location.

A passage from the Verrines (II.1.58–59) well illustrates the difference between the response of the Romans, who saw these works abstracted from the surroundings that had given them meaning, and the response of those from whom the statues had been taken. Cicero speaks of the display in the Forum and Comitium of a number of statues plundered by Verres from the Greek communities in the East. While the orator leaves us to imagine the Romans taking in the scene, mentioning only the enthusiasm of the upper classes for possessing such works, he describes in vivid detail the reaction of the ambassadors from Asia and Achaea who happened to be in the city serving on deputations. The orator relates how these men stood in the Forum, tearfully venerating the images of the gods stolen from their temples.[34]


Cicero also would have realized that he could not with impunity display an extravagant admiration for such works of art, since a certain public philistinism was always in vogue in ancient Rome. Just as in other speeches the orator is careful not to show too deep a knowledge of literature or philosophy, in his attack on Verres he continually affects ignorance of Greek art and artists. This seems a bit startling, considering the growing sophistication of the first century B.C. and the fact that Verres was a product of his time whose interest in the collection of Greek art was shared by many of his class, including Cicero himself. The astute Roman politician, however, carefully separated his private pursuits and inclinations from his public persona.[35] Thus Cicero claims in the Verrines to have little aesthetic judgment (II.4.94). He calls himself and his audience idiotae (II.4.4) and rudes (II.2.87) in the field of Greek art and is quick to deny that he places any great value on objects of this sort (II.4.13). In an elaborate little charade, he affects not to know for certain the names of artists such as Praxiteles, Myron, and Polyclitus, who had created the statues stolen from a certain Gaius Heius of Messana (II.4.4–5). It is also interesting to note that in several passages describing the pain caused to the Sicilians by Verres' depredations Cicero feels he must carefully explain to his audience the religious reverence felt by the Greeks for the works of art inherited from their ancestors (II.4.132); and he mentions that even statues of their enemies were held in honor and protected by religious scruples (11.2.158–59). Further, Cicero remarks in the most condescending of tones that the Greeks unfortunately took an excessive delight in statues, paintings, and works of this sort (II.4.124, 132–34), objects that, he claims, he


and his audience viewed as trifles. It was in recognition of this fact, Cicero goes on, that the maiores had adopted the practice of allowing conquered peoples to retain many of the works in which they took such delight—this as a kind of solace for the loss of their independence (II.4.124, 134).

Against this background of arrogance, abuse, indifference, and hypocrisy, the rhetorical problem confronting Cicero in discussing Verres' theft of the statues and other precious objects was not primarily a legal one. There was no difficulty in proving that Verres was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged; this had, after all, been accomplished in the first part of the trial. Rather the problem was to make Verres' guilt matter. Cicero needed to invest these objects, which were not even visible to the audience and had originally been the property of subject states, with a meaning that could make their loss a matter of deep concern to a Roman audience. The orator himself articulates this challenge in a passage of the Divinatio in Caecilium . In questioning Caecilius's ability to take on the prosecution of so complex a case, he asks: "Do you believe that you are able to accomplish the thing that is most critical when dealing with a defendant of this sort, that is, to make the libidinous, criminal, and cruel things he has done seem as painful and unjust to these men who merely hear of them as they seemed to those who experienced them?" (38).

The Rhetorical Solution

The raw material of the fourth speech of the Second Action was the extraordinarily long and potentially tedious inventory of stolen and extorted objects revealed by the witnesses and documents introduced in the First Action. For the speech to be successful Cicero had to transform this catalogue into a logically compelling and emotionally gripping narrative with both a comprehensible overall form and a cohesiveness among its parts. He accomplishes these aims in a variety of ways, one of which is to knit the work together structurally through a geographical progression, in which he surveys the crimes committed by Verres on the island in a variety of cities, beginning with Messana and culminating in an account of events in Syracuse. Further, he links the individual accounts thematically through the development of a number of repeated ideas and images—most prominently, the comparison of the tyrannical Verres with other, noble Romans who had exercised power in Sicily. In order to invest the references to each individual crime with interest for


his audience, Cicero relies on the same method as that exploited in poetic catalogues from Homer to Vergil: the expansion of factual material through incorporation of suggestive detail. In many cases this consists only of a few words or phrases concerning the object stolen or the individual or community from which it was taken; but at certain points within the list Cicero extends the account of an object or objects into a longer discussion with a beginning, middle, and end. Within these discussions, the rhetorical technique he constantly exploits is that of evidentia or vivid description, whereby what is narrated not only enters the minds of the audience but seems to be present "in the eyes and vision of all" (Div. Caec. 27: in oculis conspectuque omnium ).

In the fourth Verrine four of these extended narratives are of special interest, as they illustrate important aspects of the persuasive strategy pursued in the work as a whole. Each of these narratives focuses on a particular object or group of objects. These are the statues appropriated from Gaius Heius of Messana (II.4.3–28); the candelabrum that Verres tricked Antiochus, crown prince of Syria, into surrendering (II.4.60–71); the statue of Diana extorted from Segesta (II.4.72–83); and the statue of Ceres taken from Henna (II.4.105–15). It is the form of these episodes and the meaning assigned by Cicero to the works of art described within them that I wish to discuss.[36]

The Statues of Heius of Messana

Cicero begins this account with a sentence typical of the opening of the narrative section of a speech: "Gaius Heius is a Mamertine, and as all who have experience of Messana willingly admit, he is the most honored man in all respects in that state" (II.4.3: C. Heius est Mamertinus—omnes hoc mihi qui Messanam accesserunt facile concedunt—omnibus rebus illa in civitate ornatissimus ).[37] He then, however, shifts to an unusual tack, focusing on a description of place. He states that


Heius possessed the finest and best-known house in Messana. Before Verres' advent the house had constituted one of the chief beauties of the town, but now that the house had been stripped bare, the town could take pride only in its situation, walls, and harbor. In this way the orator orients his audience to the setting of what has occurred: the town of Messana, which is the first place the traveler encounters in crossing from the Italian mainland into Sicily, will be the beginning of Cicero's verbal journey throughout the island, cataloguing the crimes committed by the defendant.

Once he has oriented his audience to the town as a whole and the importance within it of Heius and his house, he then reveals that there is a room within the house especially visited and admired, the family shrine. This shrine he describes as an "extremely ancient place" (sacrarium . . . perantiquum ), handed down from Heius's ancestors. The audience then learns the source of its renown: within the sacrarium stood four statues of exceptional beauty—a marble Cupid, an impressive bronze Hercules placed opposite the Cupid (both of which stood behind small altars), and two charming bronze statues of maidens carrying baskets on their heads. Cicero also names the sculptors of the works (albeit with a show of difficulty), giving special attention to the Cupid of Praxiteles. A similar sculpture by the same artist, he states, was the property of the town of Thespiae in Boeotia; when Mummius captured this town he took away all the "profane" statues (II.4.4: profana . . . signa ) but left the Cupid untouched because it had been consecrated. Cicero also notes approvingly that the very statue belonging to Heius had earlier been borrowed and subsequently returned by Gaius Claudius Pulcher at the time of his celebrated aedileship.

In this opening section of the account of Verres' crime (II.4.3–7), Cicero has made use of a familiar narrative technique: "There is a town and within the town is a house and within the house is a room . . ." and so on. Not only does this serve to acquaint the audience with the general setting of the events that will be described, but by suspending mention of the statues it invests them with greater mystery and importance. It should be noted as well that when Cicero does go on actually to describe the statues, he is careful to incorporate in the description both the reason for their renown among outsiders and their value to Heius. Even


idiotae —Verres' term for ordinary Romans like Cicero and his audience (II.4.4–5)—were able to take pleasure in viewing such strikingly beautiful works; for Heius, however, they were not only magnificent statues but sacred objects handed down from his ancestors and worshipped as reverently by himself and his family as the town of Thespiae worshipped the consecrated statues Mummius had piously refused to plunder.

In the second part of the narrative (II.4.8–14) Cicero goes on to confront the contention of the defense that Verres had bought rather than extorted the works from Heius. The charge is rebutted both by evidence (in which Cicero cites the law forbidding such purchases and the accounts stating that Verres had supposedly purchased the statues for an absurdly low sum) and by the argument from probability (depending on Cicero's contention that it was not credible that Heius would give up the statues at all, much less for such a price). In this section Cicero, who claims to place little value on the statues himself, impresses upon the audience both their high value on the open market and their special meaning for Heius.

In the third and longest part of the narrative (II.4.15–28) Cicero explains why the town of Messana had decreed an official eulogy of Verres and why that eulogy had been delivered at the trial by none other than Gaius Heius himself.[38] His rebuttal of the eulogy is achieved through a twofold strategy. First, he attacks the city itself. We learn that during Verres' governorship Messana had become the center of his criminal activities and had been rewarded for its assistance by exemption from the burdens it normally owed the Roman state. The official eulogy, according to Cicero, was part of a criminal quid pro quo by which Verres and the town profited while many Sicilians and the interests of the Roman state as a whole suffered. This discussion of the town also allows Cicero to remind his audience of two other grave charges expanded on in other parts of the Second Action: namely, that Verres had been derelict in the continuing war against the pirates and that he had illegally executed innocent people, including a Roman citizen who was crucified at Messana.


Cicero also attempts to discredit the eulogy decreed by Messana through a discussion of the circumstances under which Heius came to deliver it. In the course of this explanation he depicts Heius as a man of high character who, by delivering the eulogy, had carried out the official duties required of him as the chief citizen of Messana, but had refused to falsify the account of his personal dealings with Verres (II.4.16). Throughout, Cicero primarily uses references to Heius's feelings about the statues to reveal Heius's character to his audience. The objects taken by Verres are seen by Heius as "holy things" (II.4.17: sacra ) handed down from his forebears and as "the household gods of his ancestors" (II.4.17: deos penatis . . . patrios ). He humbly acquiesces in the loss of what are merely precious works of art, but—referring to the marble Cupid and the bronze Hercules—he demands that the "images of the gods" (II.4.18: deorum simulacra ) be returned. In this way Cicero establishes Heius's spiritual communion with the Roman senators who sat on the jury and who would have understood implicitly the familial piety that motivated Heius. The orator also draws in clear outlines the ethical opposition between Verres, a man with no shame, no sense of piety, and no fear (II.4.18: pudor/religio/metus ), who has not hesitated to rob from his host's sacrarium the images of the gods, and Heius, whose sense of religio has led him both to fulfill the odious duties required of him in praising Verres (II.4.16: de religione sua ac dignitate ) and to demand the restitution of the paternal gods he piously worships (II.4.18: quia religioni suae . . . in dis patriis repetendis . . . proximus fuit ).

In this narrative, the description of Heius's stolen statues has provided the focus for the passage as a whole. The statues—and that of Cupid in particular—constitute the visual images that will ultimately symbolize the ideas, arguments, and themes of the entire narrative. The audience is first prepared to anticipate eagerly the reference to the statues and then to visualize them through Cicero's description. They are then led by the orator to attach to that visualization a stream of ideas associated with the story of the theft of the statues—ideas concerning Verres' greed, Heius's nobility and piety, and the criminal complicity of the town of Messana.

The Candelabrum of Antiochus of Syria

In this narrative Cicero recounts how Verres tricked the prince of Syria into surrendering to him a variety of precious objects, including a mag-


nificent candelabrum that was to be dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus as soon as his Capitoline temple in Rome, burned in the fire of 83 B.C. , was completed. The story of the uneven battle of wits between the crafty Verres and the naive, if not fatuous, young prince depends for its initial effect on Cicero's statement of the singular importance of the event in the catalogue of Verres' crimes (II.4.60) and on his detailed account of the accoutrements at the dinners given by Verres for the prince and by the prince for Verres. In recounting the latter occasion the orator refers to the quantity of silver plate and the jewel-encrusted gold cups set on the table. He mentions in particular a wine ladle, sculpted out of a single huge gem, with a handle of gold (II.4.62), and he goes on to describe the reaction of Verres, who, like a greedy child, had picked up and fondled each object.

The predictable outcome of the inflaming of Verres' greed for the works is then interrupted as Cicero begins anew, introducing the following section of the narrative with the statement that the story of what then occurred was known throughout the world (II.14.64). The previous description of precious objects now appears as but a prelude to the mention of the real treasure possessed by Antiochus. This is the great lamp stand intended as a gift from the Syrian throne to the restored Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, an object "of marvelous workmanship" and "fashioned from the most precious stones" (II.4.64). Verres, having heard that Antiochus had the candelabrum in his possession, begs the prince to allow him merely to view it. As in the case of the statues of Heius, Cicero emphasizes the mystery, beauty, and importance of the object in his narrative. The lamp stand is not meant to be viewed before its dedication and is therefore sent to Verres carefully shrouded (II.4.65: involutum quam occultissime ). The scene when the object arrives is then vividly played out for the audience: the removal of the wrappings, the shout of astonished delight from Verres, the exquisite beauty and stunning size of the work. Verres, of course, will not allow the candelabrum to be returned to the prince, and the next section of the story recounts the dismay of the young man and his public proclamation of the theft. Again, as in the case of Heius, the rightful owner of the work states that the loss of other precious objects had not greatly disturbed him. His outrage stems from the theft of the candelabrum, which he considers as already consecrated to the god by intent; he then publicly declares before all those assembled in the forum that he "gave, donated, offered, and consecrated the work to Jupiter Optimus Maximus" (II.4.67).


In the concluding sections of the account (11.4.67–71) Cicero guides the response of his audience to the story he has just told. Here the orator leaves nothing to chance in the interpretation of the meaning of the candelabrum and its theft by Verres. He had introduced the narrative with the statement that this one action by Verres would not simply demonstrate his greed but would be an act in which all crimes were contained, since in it the gods were violated, the reputation and authority of the Roman people were impaired, the duties of hospitality betrayed, and friendly kings and the nations under their power alienated from Rome (II.4.60). In the narrative itself Cicero emphasizes the injustice done the young man, but the final passages expand on the harm done the interests of the Roman state by the theft. The orator argues that the crime committed against Antiochus, the representative of a rich and powerful kingdom, will be seen as an outstanding example of the pattern of abuse now typical of Roman magistrates in their treatment of subject and allied states. The incident will not only result in the besmirching of the name of the Roman people but will soon cause independent states to alter their intention of sending generous gifts to adorn the Capitolium (II.4.68). He then calls on Quintus Catulus, the restorer of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus and one of the judges at Verres' trial, to take thought for the temple that will consecrate the memory of his name forever (II.4.69–70). The final passage of the account focuses exclusively on the impiety of Verres' action. Cicero argues that in taking the candelabrum Verres has stolen not from Antiochus but from Jupiter himself. Could anything, Cicero asks, be sacred or holy to a man who would commit such a crime (II.4.71)? The orator then fits the incident into a larger pattern of sacrilege by stating that it was the gods themselves who were claiming restitution at the trial—not only Roman Jupiter, but all those other divinities of Asia and Greece whose sanctuaries Verres had plundered (II.4.71).

The rhetorical exploitation of the symbolism of the lamp stand hardly needs fuller explanation, as its meaning has been explicitly developed and stated by Cicero.[39] The theft of the object by Verres plays an important part both in In Verrem II.4 and in Cicero's overall develop-


ment of the image of the defendant as a tyrant whose behavior is typical of all tyrants. Not only has Cicero used this and other narratives to illustrate that Verres possessed the stereotypical traits of the tyrant—greed, lust, cruelty, and impiety; he has also attempted in this story to suggest that Verres' career fit into a pattern typical of the tyrannical personality. In the stereotypical narrative of this kind the tyrant is a man of large capacities who becomes corrupted through the exercise of power.[40] The turning point in his career is usually an act of great criminality, after which point he is depicted as a bestial figure, hated by all and devoid of redeeming characteristics. At the end of the Antiochus narrative, which occurs in almost the exact center of the speech as a whole, Cicero states that "once [Verres] had conceived this horrible crime, thereafter he considered nothing in all of Sicily to be either holy or sacred; for three years he therefore conducted himself in that province as if he believed that he had declared war not only on men but even on the gods" (II.4.72).[41] It is at this point, then, that Cicero wished his audience to mark the degeneration of Verres into the archetypal tyrant, a man like the cruel despots who had ruled in Sicily before the Romans, a contemptor deorum hominumque .[42]

Diana of Segesta

Immediately after the statement quoted above, Cicero recounts the story of the theft of the statue of Diana from the town of Segesta (II.4.72–83). "Segesta," says Cicero, "is an extremely ancient foundation in Sicily . . . which they say was founded by Aeneas after he fled from Troy


and arrived in these parts" (II.4.72). This beginning thus emphasizes the legendary connection of the town with Rome. The importance of this connection to the theft of the statue becomes clearer as the story unfolds. The orator relates how the statue had been removed from the town when it was plundered by the Carthaginians. Such was the beauty and sanctity of the work, however, that even this enemy people devoutly worshipped it (II.4.72). Many years later, when Carthage fell to Scipio Aemilianus, the great general set about returning many of the works plundered over the centuries by the Carthaginians, including the Diana of Segesta, which was then reerected with an inscription honoring Scipio. When Verres, called now by Cicero "the enemy of all that is holy and sacred" (II.4.75), sees the statue he is driven almost mad with desire to possess it. After recounting the intimidation that finally compels the Segestans to give up the statue, Cicero describes the chaotic scene of Diana's removal. The women and girls of the town rush to accompany the goddess out of their land, anointing her with unguents, covering her with flowers, and burning spices and incense throughout the journey.

In this narrative Cicero leads his audience to see the meaning of the statue not only in religious terms; it is also a monument to Scipio's victory and a symbol of Roman rule. In refusing at first to part with the statue, the Segestans appeal to its summa religio (II.4.75) and to the fact that the statue was "the property of the Roman people," since Scipio had placed it there as a "memorial of the victory of the Roman people" (II.4.75). Again, after Verres had taken the statue, Cicero claims that the anger of the Segestans was roused not only because of the sacrilege committed (II.4.78: religiones . . . violatas ) but also because Verres had destroyed "the glory of the great deeds, the memory of the bravery, and the token of the victory of Publius Africanus, the most gallant of men" (II.4.78).

What follows next is an appeal by Cicero to Publius Scipio Nasica to defend the reputation of his famous ancestor, since, as the orator remarks, "it is a custom handed down from our ancestors for each to defend the memorials of his forebears" (II.4.79). This digression, if such it can be called, is of crucial importance not only to the analysis of the meaning assigned the statue of Diana but to the understanding of Cicero's strategy in the Verrines in general. Throughout the corpus Cicero rarely depends entirely on an appeal based on abstract justice or on the audience's disinterested sympathy for the Sicilians; rather, considerations of justice are interwoven with appeals to self-interest. On many occasions he attempts to demonstrate that corrupt administration such


as that exercised by Verres was detrimental to the aims of the governing class. In the short run, it had blackened the reputation of the upper classes and had endangered the senatorial monopoly on the jury system; in the long run it could result in the loss of imperium itself.[43] Even in the case of the removal of the statue of Diana from Segesta one can see a form of the argument from self-interest, since—as has been noted—Cicero has been careful to present the statue not only as a religious object but as a symbol of Roman power and hegemony.[44]

In the address to Scipio Nasica, however, the statue comes to stand not for Roman power alone but for an ideal in the exercise of that power. Here Cicero first appeals to Nasica—a supporter of Verres—asking him who there will be to guard the "monuments and tokens of Scipio's gallantry" (II.4.80: monumenta atque indicia virtutis ) if not his descendants. The orator goes on to answer his own question, for he declares that Scipio's reputation is not truly the property of one family, or even of the Roman aristocracy, but of all Romans, and especially "new men" like himself, who were united to Scipio not by birth but by sharing with him the virtues that had made Rome great. Among these virtues Cicero mentions justice, diligence, self-control, the protection of the wretched, and the hatred of the wicked (II.4.81: aequitate, industria, temperantia, defensione miserorum, odio improborum ). This "kinship" of virtue (II.4.81: cognatio studiorum et artium ), claims Cicero, is as strong as any relationship of blood or marriage.

The Verrines thus create two opposed images of imperial government. On the one hand, Cicero gives ample evidence of the naked exploitation exemplified by Verres' public career, the ineluctable rights of the conqueror over the conquered, the power that "makes all things profane" (II.4.122), to use the orator's phrase. On the other hand, Cicero sets up an ideal no different from that which Vergil would later articulate in the sixth book of the Aeneid (851–53: tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento/ hae tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem,/ parcere subjectis et debellare superbos ). Using the image—but surely not the reality—of past heroes of the Republic as exempla, Cicero points to the supposed religious scrupulosity of a Mummius, the restraint, generosity, and humanitas of a Marcellus, and the generosity


of a Scipio Aemilianus as a justification for Roman rule.[45] Even this appeal is not purely altruistic, for just as Scipio Nasica Corculum (the great-great-grandfather of Scipio Nasica, to whom Cicero addresses this appeal) had once argued for the preservation of Carthage not out of consideration for Carthage itself but from his desire to preserve the best in the Roman character, so Cicero's argument for just treatment of the provinces and allies is, in part, an effort to halt Roman corruption for Rome's own sake.[46] Nevertheless, Cicero's vision is clearly one in which the interests of both ruler and ruled are served. The statue of Diana that Scipio had returned to Segesta becomes, in Cicero's account, a monument to this ideal of mutual advantage, in which the subject peoples are allowed to become "as prosperous and as splendid as possible" (II.4.134: ut imperio nostro quam ornatissimi florentissimique essent ).

Ceres of Henna

The fourth extended narrative in the speech (II.4.105–15) has often been the subject of stylistic analysis.[47] It is couched in terms so poetic


that Cicero twice apologizes for including material of this sort. "Forgive me," he says at the outset, "if I seem to delve into and trace somewhat too deeply this account of religious significance" (II.4.105: memoriam religionis ). He begins his story not with a theft or extortion perpetrated by Verres but with the statement that the entire island of Sicily was believed to be sacred to the goddess Ceres.[48] Cicero then relates how Proserpina was thought to have been carried off from a wood near Henna by Dis, the god of the underworld, whereupon the distraught Ceres lit her torches from fiery Aetna as she set out in quest of her daughter. Topography and mythology become one in Cicero's description of Henna. The town, rising on a lofty plateau in the very center of Sicily, is believed to be the sacred birthplace and dwelling of the goddess. Like Delphi in Greece, the region is called the umbilicus of the island and is isolated from the surrounding countryside by lakes, woodlands, and precipitous cliffs. It is seen by Cicero as a kind of locus amoenus, watered by "eternal springs" and surrounded by flowers that bloom in all seasons with never-ending fecundity. Here the god of the underworld had suddenly appeared from "a bottomless cave" and had snatched the maiden Proserpina, plunging with her beneath the earth at a spot near Syracuse where a lake had subsequently appeared. The place itself, says Cicero, seemed to confirm the myths about it, as it was marked by the very signs (vestigia ) of the gods.[49] He ends this section of the narrative with several proofs of the universal reverence with which the shrine of Ceres of Henna had always been regarded, citing the fact that the Romans, when long ago instructed by the Sibylline Books to worship "the most ancient Ceres," had sent ambassadors to this place (II.4.108).

In the second part of the narrative Cicero describes how Verres had removed from her shrine at Henna the oldest and most sacred cult image of Ceres—a bronze statue of moderate size and outstanding workmanship, depicting the goddess with the torches that lit her way as she


searched for her daughter (II.4.109). Unable to take away as well two very large statues of Ceres and Triptolemus that stood in front of the shrine, Verres had also carried off an extraordinarily beautiful (II.4.110: pulcherrime factum ) statue of Victory that had stood in the right hand of the goddess. Following his account of this theft, Cicero describes the reaction of the Sicilians to this shocking act. As in previous narratives, the orator denies that consideration of monetary loss was the principal complaint of those whose goods had been plundered. He claims that the Sicilians would have endured in silence all other outrages against them; the theft of the Ceres of Henna, however, was a sacrilege that could not be borne, for the city was deemed by its inhabitants to be the "shrine" of Ceres; the citizens, her priests (II.4.111). Cicero describes the terror felt by the Sicilians at the desecration of their most sacred temple and tells of the emptiness of the countryside, which had been abandoned by the farmers. The whole land, he claims, had become deserted, uncultivated, and neglected after this outrage (II.4.114).

Cicero's treatment of this narrative, as he twice confesses, has departed markedly from "the everyday way of speaking" and "the custom of the law courts" (II.4.109). Why does the orator give this story such prominence, distinguishing it both in style and in content from others? The answer to this question turns, in part, on the connection of this section of the speech with Cicero's attempt throughout the Verrines to characterize the defendant as a tyrant. The orator's manipulation of this stereotype is especially apt here, since the Sicilian tyrants were famous in antiquity for their cruelty—a fact that Cicero pointedly alludes to at the conclusion of the speech (II.5.143–45). One element of this commonplace characterization has already been noted in the story of Antiochus—that is, the notion that a turning point exists in the career of the tyrant after which his character sinks rapidly into ruin—and other elements drawn from the stereotype recur throughout Cicero's indictment of Verres: he is cruel, governed by whims rather than reason, greedy for wealth as well as for power.

There is, moreover, one aspect of the stereotype of the tyrant of ancient drama, rhetoric, and historiography that functions as a kind of emblem for the depravity of his character: his sexual libido, the objects of which are usually women and children, the most vulnerable members of society.[50] The theme of Verres' sexual depravity, therefore, is a crucial


element in the Verrines, and a particularly memorable treatment of this theme occurs in the first part of the Second Action, where Cicero relates the story of the defendant's attempt upon a young virgin in Lampsacus (II.1.63–85). Accounts of actual outrages perpetrated against women are not prominent in the fourth part of the Second Action, however, and Cicero alludes only briefly in his litany of Verres' crimes in Syracuse to "the violation of married women" (II.4.116).

The theme is exploited in In Verrem II.4 not through reference to the actual rape of women but through reference to Verres' assaults upon the images of women and female divinities. In the narrative concerning Heius of Messana, for example, two of the four statues taken by Verres are described by Cicero as "not large but of extraordinary charm, with the appearance and clothing of virgins" (II.4.5: virginali habitu atque vestitu ). These, like the marble Cupid, will end up in "the house of a panderer and amidst the customs of a prostitute" (II.4.7). The robed statue of Diana of Segesta is said to be "quite large and tall, but nevertheless, for all its magnitude, its age and appearance were that of a virgin" (II.4.74: aetas atque habitus virginalis ), and it is noted that no Segestan, whether free or slave, was willing "to lay hands upon it" (II.4.77: attingere ), so that foreigners had to be found to take the statue from the town.[51] And in Syracuse, Verres is accused of plundering the beautiful paintings and exquisite doors from the Temple of Minerva, thereby "transferring the embellishments of the virgin Minerva to the house of a prostitute" (II.4.123: ornamenta Minervae virginis in meretriciam domum ). Cicero could hardly have illustrated and summarized this aspect of the defendant's character more memorably than by de-


scribing Verres' violent seizure of the image of the goddess most sacred to all Sicily—an account introduced by the story of Pluto's violent abduction of Proserpina from the very place where Verres had perpetrated his crime.

Quintilian (4.3.12–13) terms the passage in this speech dealing with the praise of Sicily and the rape of Proserpina a "digression" (egressus/ egressio ). The use of this term is surely accurate if it signifies that the passage in question does nothing to advance the logical argument of the case or to prove objective truth or falsity; it is inaccurate, however, if the term "digression" is used to imply that this passage is not crucial to the strategy of persuasion within the speech. Not only does the narrative dealing with the statue of Ceres fit into the pattern Cicero has created of Verres' assaults upon innocent young girls and women; symbolically it goes farther. In it Cicero had declared that to the Sicilians Verres had become a second Orcus (II.4.111: alter Orcus ) who had stolen away not Proserpina but Ceres herself from their midst. Just as the legend tells how the mourning of the goddess of grain for her absent daughter brought the devastation of crops, so Cicero declares that Verres' theft of the Ceres statue had resulted in general desolation and the abandonment of the rich Sicilian fields. It seems clear that in this elaborate and poetic account the orator not only intended to impress upon the minds of his audience a further instance of Verres' outrages against the innocent; at the same time—and intimately connected with the images created by the narrative—he wished them to read in the story an allegory for Verres' rape of Sicily itself.

Narrative Form and Rhetorical Intent

The extraordinary length of the Second Action of the Verrines made it impossible for Cicero to structure the speech in the ordinary way, that is, by dividing the whole into proem, narration, argument, and peroration.[52] He therefore divided the speech as a whole into five parts that


focused on the periods in Verres' public career and the places where he had held power (II.1: magisterial offices exercised in Gaul, Asia, and Greece prior to his praetorship, his tenure as urban praetor in Rome) and on the general categories of crime perpetrated by the defendant as governor of Sicily (II.2: abuses of judicial power; II.3: crimes committed in the purchase and taxation of grain; II.4: plundering of precious objects throughout Sicily; II.5: dereliction of duty as military commander, cruel and tyrannical behavior exhibited towards Sicilians and Roman citizens in the province). Even the five individual parts of the Second Action each contained such an extensive body of material that no listener (or reader) could have been expected to assimilate it if it had been presented according to the rhetorical rules governing dispositio, for the bewildering amount of data that Cicero would have been obliged to cover in the narration of each would surely have been forgotten or confused by the time he returned to it in the argument and peroration. Thus in the fourth part of the Second Action Cicero organizes his account of Verres' theft of precious objects through reference to a sequence of places within Sicily, as well as to the types of objects stolen, giving shape and form to this catalogue by turning many of the crimes discussed into miniature dramas with a beginning, middle, and end.[53]

In three of the four narratives studied above, Cicero begins by setting the story within a particular topographical or geographical framework, which itself plays a role in manipulating the feelings of the audience about the account that follows. In the case of Segesta, Cicero refers to its legendary founding by Aeneas, stating that the connection between the Segestans and the Romans was not only one of "continual friendship and alliance" but also one of blood relationship (II.4.72: perpetua societate atque amicitia, verum etiam cognatione ). The topographical and geographical introduction to the narrative set in Henna emphasizes the religious centrality and sanctity of the place, a sanctity that, according to Cicero, had long been recognized by Romans as well as Sicilians. In dealing with the theft of the statues belonging to Heius of Messana, Cicero is prevented from beginning the narrative by celebrating the religious or political connections of the town with Rome, since the Messanans had seen fit to decree a eulogy of Verres. Cicero's introduction


serves, however, to inform the audience that Heius's house had long been the chief dwelling within the city and had served as a showplace not only for Messanans and other Sicilians but for Roman visitors as well.

Having oriented his audience to the setting of the action, Cicero goes on in each of the episodes to recount a story in which an object or group of objects is taken by Verres from its rightful owner. In each narrative the object or objects stolen become the "visual" center of the story, for the statues of Heius, the lamp stand of Antiochus, the statue of Diana of Segesta, and that of Ceres of Henna are all described in some detail. By impressing the image of the artwork on the minds of his audience and retailing the events that lead to its loss, Cicero recreates a context for the stolen object or group. While he sometimes speaks of the extreme devotion of the Sicilians to their possessions in condescending, even—to put it more precisely—"patronizing" terms, the vividness and narrative power of the stories must have seduced the audience into seeing the objects through the eyes of those from whom they had been taken.

But this is not all Cicero wished to accomplish within the narratives, for it is through his statements about the feelings and actions of the Sicilians vis-à-vis their stolen possessions that their characters are revealed. For Heius, the statues in his sacrarium are made to seem an expression of his piety towards the ancestors from whom he had inherited them, a sentiment with which a Roman audience could strongly empathize. The young prince of Syria reveals his exceptional piety towards the chief god of the Roman state and his loyalty to that state through his intention to dedicate to Capitoline Jupiter the precious lamp stand described in the narrative, and Cicero's description of his reaction to the loss of the object focuses on these same admirable traits. The community of Segesta is shown by Cicero to view the statue of Diana not simply as the focus of their communal devotion to the goddess. The honor in which they hold the statue and their pain at its loss, Cicero claims, also bespeak the citizens' admiration and respect for Scipio Aemilianus, who had returned the statue to them from Carthage and to whom the pedestal on which the statue stood had been inscribed (II.4.82). Both the statue and its pedestal (subsequently removed by Verres) are signs of the relationship that formerly existed between Segesta and Rome, a relationship characterized by generosity on the part of the conquerors and loyalty on the part of the conquered. For the people of Henna and for all Sicilians the statue of Ceres is a sign that


the island is a unique place, whose pious inhabitants have been blessed by the goddess with the gift of abundant grain. This piety towards Ceres is presented as part of what the Romans owed their divinities, for Cicero claims that the Ceres of the Sicilians had always been an object of Roman worship. Religio [non ] aliena (II.4.114) are the words the orator uses in affirming the universal sanctity of Hennan Ceres. In fact, the phrase aptly describes Cicero's strategy throughout, since in each of the accounts he has led his audience to connect the setting, the symbolism of the object or group stolen, and the feelings of the complainants about the object or objects with unambiguously Roman religious and patriotic sentiments.

Although I have termed these narratives "miniature dramas," they do not, in fact, conclude in the way either a drama or a literary narrative usually ends, for there is nothing in the episodes that corresponds to a denouement. Rather, after the introductory and narrative sections of each, Cicero combines a kind of argument and peroration. Such a strategy is predictable, given the fact that the orator, unlike the dramatist, must avoid the sense of closure and recovered equilibrium provided by the dramatic denouement. He strives, instead, to convince his audience at the end of each narrative of the justice of his position, to rouse them to emotional engagement with this position, and to make them eager to hear another example of the accused's misdeeds.

In three of the four episodes discussed in this chapter Cicero has created for his audience a visual image of an artwork or a group of works by placing it within a topographical or geographical framework and then carefully describing it. The image created through this combination of topographia (description of place) and enargeia or evidentia (vivid description) is then tied by the orator to various associations and ideas, for in each case Cicero has attempted to create a binding link in the minds of the audience between the visually imagined object and the meaning he has assigned to it. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, this technique might well have been related to the system of mnemonic training current in Cicero's time, as well as to Cicero's own understanding of the rhetorical possibilities of evidentia . In a lengthy and complex work like the fourth Verrine, Cicero's strategy of connecting a variety of symbolic meanings with objects that he has carefully described for his audience, placed within a topographical setting, and subordinated to an overall geographical progression might have reflected the process he himself went through in creating for himself a visually imagined structure for the speech. This same structure was then adapted to impress the


material and its meaning on the minds of his audience. The objection might be raised that in examples from the ancient mnemonic system the train of thought linking idea and object had no inherent meaning, while the associations used by Cicero in the fourth Verrine are never a fortuitous graft of idea on image but are sensitively and imaginatively linked in order to create specific rhetorical effects. The answer to this objection is the presumption that Cicero (or his teachers) must have realized that in order to be of use in persuading an audience the techniques of artificial memory had to be altered so as always to involve the association of a locus with an idea that advanced the speaker's case. In the language of the rhetorical textbooks, In Verrem II.4 suggests that certain aspects of memoria (the mnemonic system) and elocutio (vivid description) could be adapted to serve the needs of inventio and dispositio .

The Seen and the Unseen

In chapter 1 I raised the question of whether the way Cicero exploited visible monuments and topography as a source of persuasion was similar to the way he made use of what was merely described to his audience. Our study has shown that, in both cases, Cicero's constant endeavor was to connect things and places with religious and patriotic themes. As regards the invention of arguments, then, there seems to be little difference between the meanings assigned to the visible and those assigned to things described.[54] But what of the comparative effect on an audience of the two techniques of persuasion? Was Livy correct in depicting Manlius's speech at his first trial as making a much stronger impression on his audience than the speech he delivered at his second trial, simply because the first speech was able to draw on what the audience could actually see? The question bears, at least in part, on the relative impact of what is seen and what is heard or read, a topic about which scholars have long debated. On one side stand those who argue the priority of the verbal over the visual, supporting their position by emphasizing the direct access to the imagination secured by words over images. "Words," wrote Joseph Addison, "when well chosen, have so great force in them that a description often gives us more lively ideas


than the sight of things themselves. The reader finds a scene drawn in stronger colours, and painted more to the life in his imagination, by the help of words, than by an actual survey of the scene which they describe."[55] On the other side are those who argue the superiority of visual images over words by emphasizing the undeniable impact of the sensual. As Leonardo da Vinci observed, "What a difference there is between imagining a light while the eye is in darkness and seeing it in actuality!"[56]

The dichotomy posited here between what is seen and what is imagined is, however, a somewhat misleading one. What neither Addison nor Leonardo acknowledges is that seeing itself cannot exist without imagination and that the act of sight, even at its most "mechanical," is an act of interpretation.[57] Further, a study of Cicero's references to the visual environment shows that, in fact, such references frequently depend for their success upon an audience's imaginative reconstruction of an event. Consider, for instance, an extended section of In Verrem II.1 in which Cicero refers to the Temple of Castor and Pollux (129–54). His recital of a plot by Verres to defraud a young heir contains a number of vivid descriptions, including the tour of the temple by Verres, in which he and his henchmen attempt to fabricate the need for repairs, and the account of the letting of a contract for a vast sum in order to accomplish the absurd task of taking down and reerecting the columns, which were supposedly out of plumb. The audience, who—if the Second Action had gone forward—would have been able to see the temple during this narrative, was meant to envision the scenes that had taken place during Verres' praetorship. The temple itself would have served as a kind of prop, a starting point for a leap of the imagination—similar, but not identical, to the kind of imaginative leap required of the audience by the description of an event that had occurred in a place not visible to them.

The difference between the two modes of persuasion is not to be found, therefore, in the presence or absence of an imaginative response on the part of an audience. Perhaps the real difference lies in the fact


that when Cicero alluded to the meaning of the visual ambiance he did not begin with a "clean slate"—by which I mean that the places and things that Cicero's audience saw before them had already set in motion a variety of imaginative, emotional, and rational responses even before he had begun to speak. The orator could draw on these responses, guide them, and add new meanings to those that had existed previously, but his invention was partly circumscribed by the associations available in the setting in which he and his audience found themselves. The purely verbally constructed environment, on the other hand, placed fewer restrictions on the orator's invention. In it he was able to create a world adapted only to his rhetorical goals. He could not, however, fully reproduce through description the sensual impact of the visual on an audience. In the passage cited above, in which Cicero revealed the wrong-doings committed by Verres that were associated with the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the fact that the audience would have been able to gaze on "the scene of the crime" while listening to the account would have added much to its affective power. Thus what the visual milieu lost in rhetorical control it gained in direct sensual impact; and what the vividly described environment lost in immediacy it gained in the opportunity it gave the orator to introduce only those "visual" elements he wished, and in the precise sequence in which he determined that they would be most persuasive.


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