(Caius Verres)

120–43 BC

Verres was a Roman magistrate whose corruption was notorious, even in an age when corruption among Roman officials was the norm. He became governor of Sicily through bribery in 73 B.C. after he had already completed a thirteen year career of corruption, extortion, and betrayal in Asia Minor. In three years he reduced the prosperous island to near destitution through ruinous taxation, extortion, utter neglect of infrastructure, and outright theft of private houses and public works of art. The rights of the Roman citizens were completely disregarded, and Verres used his immense gains to bribe other government agents to look the other way.

After three years he was recalled to Rome and put on trial for corruption, but he had so generously bribed hundreds of senators, that he expected to be acquitted. He was prosecuted by Cicero, who urgently persuaded the jurors that the very integrity of the republic was at stake. Verres was so shaken by his ardent prosecution, that he fled from Italy before the trial was over. He lived prosperously in exile until 43 B.C., when he was proscribed by Antony, because of a dispute over some art treasures that Anthony coveted.

Key events during the life of Verres:

86 BC
Quaestor in wealthy province of Asia.
83 BC
Embezzled funds from quaestorship and joined Sulla's party under Cornelius Dolabella.
77 BC
Secured a pardon for his own graft by testifying at corruption trial of Dolabella.
74 BC
Used bribery to secure a praetorship in Rome.
73 BC
Sent as governor to Sicily, the richest Roman province.
  Plundered, extorted, taxed, robbed, and ruined Sicily, in a frenzy of unsurpassed corruption.
70 BC
Brought to trial by Cicero. Fled to Massilia before the trial finished, having failed in his efforts to bribe the judges.
43 BC
Proscribed by Antony, for his refusal to surrender some art treasures which Antony desired.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Roman Magistrate  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Verres in  Lucius. Adventures of a Roman Boy  by  Alfred J. Church

Image Links

At dinner with the Roman governor
 in Lucius. Adventures of a Roman Boy

Short Biography
Cicero Orator. Leader of aristocratic party. Put down Catiline conspiracy. Well known writer.
Q. Hortensius Defended Verres on corruption charge.
Cornelius Dolabella Governor who, with Verres's aid, plundered Cilicia; Verres testified against him.