What does the 'Trial of Verres' reveal about provincial malpractice and corruption in the Roman Courts.

Essay by AMorrisB-, February 2006

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Cicero's opening speech in the 'Trial of Verres' is focused on the failings of Gaius Verres as he rose up in the Roman political system to the level of governor, and his subsequent attempts to corrupt the court system in order to be acquitted and avoid a legitimate trial. Cicero doesn't attempt to portray Verres' situation as unique, and states that these acts of corruption and provincial malpractice are rampant throughout the Roman political system. Cicero systematically goes through Verres' misdoings in each of his positions, from abandoning his governor as a Quaestor, through to plundering households and cities as a provincial legate in Asia, then stealing from temples and public buildings during his Praetorship in Rome, and finally his great atrocities as a Governor of Sicily, leaving the province in a ruinous state. Following his outline of Verres' crimes, he moves on to how he has tried to avoid prosecution through corruption of the judges, and attempts to hinder court proceedings.

In the position of Quaestor, the Trial of Verres reveals how provincial malpractice can occur so far down on the political system, as Cicero relates Verres crimes of firstly stealing public funds, and then secondly of his disloyalty to his governor and betrayal by switching sides and leaving his governor, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo deserted and defenceless. The trial shows how easy it was for a financial administrator to steal and redirect public funds for himself, and that there were no implications for him.

When Verres became a provincial legate, he had more power than when he was a Quaestor, and thus he increasingly abused his power and plundered the cities of the Asian province, leaving it in ruins while accumulating great amounts of money for himself. Verres continued to be disloyal toward his superiors and abandons his...