Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll VI

“From you,” said Cicero, eventually retrieving his hand, “of course.”

“My other brother, Caepio-my full brother, that is-is betrothed to the daughter of Hortensius. He told me that Hortensius was speaking of you the other day-that he suspects you plan to prosecute Verres, and has some scheme in mind to frustrate you. I know no more than that.”

“And in the unlikely event that I was planning such a prosecution,” said Cicero, with a smile, “what would be your advice?”

“That is simple,” replied Servilia, with the utmost seriousness. “Drop it.”

Roll VI

FAR FROM DETERRING HIM, his conversation with Servilia and his visit to Scipio convinced Cicero that he would have to move even more quickly than he had planned. On the first day of January, in the six hundred and eighty-fourth year since the foundation of Rome, Pompey and Crassus took office as consuls. I escorted Cicero to the inaugural ceremonies on Capitol Hill, and then stood with the crowd at the back of the portico. The rebuilt Temple of Jupiter was at that time nearing completion under the guiding hand of Catulus, and the new marble pillars from Mount Olympus and the roof of gilded bronze gleamed in the cold sunshine. According to tradition, saffron was burnt on the sacrificial fires, and those yellow flames, the smell of spice, the shiny clarity of the winter air, the golden altars, the shuffling, creamy white bullocks awaiting sacrifice, the white and purple robes of the watching senators-all of it made an unforgettable impression on me. I did not recognize him, but Verres was also there, Cicero told me afterwards, standing with Hortensius: he was aware of the two of them looking at him and laughing at some shared joke.

For several further days nothing could be done. The Senate met and heard a stumbling speech from Pompey, who had never before set foot in the chamber, and who was able to follow what was happening only by constant reference to a bluffer’s guide to procedure, which had been written out for him by the famous scholar Varro, who had served under him in Spain. Catulus, as usual, was given the first voice, and he made a notably statesmanlike speech, conceding that, although he opposed it personally, the demand for the restoration of the tribunes’ rights could not be resisted, and that the aristocrats had only themselves to blame for their unpopularity. (“You should have seen the looks on the faces of Hortensius and Verres when he said that,” Cicero told me later.) Afterwards, following the ancient custom, the new consuls went out to the Alban Mount to preside over the celebrations of the Latin Festival, which lasted four days. These were followed by another two days of religious observance, during which the courts were closed. So it was not until the second week of the new year that Cicero was finally able to begin his assault.

On the morning that Cicero planned to make his announcement, the three Sicilians-Sthenius, Heraclius, and Epicrates-came openly to the house for the first time in half a year, and together with Quintus and Lucius they escorted Cicero down the hill into the Forum. He also had a few tribal officials in his train, mainly from the Cornelia and the Esquilina, where his support was particularly strong. Some onlookers called out to Cicero as he passed, asking where he was going with his three strange-looking friends, and Cicero responded cheerfully that they should come along and see-they would not be disappointed. He always liked a crowd, and in this way he ensured he had one as he approached the tribunal of the extortion court.

In those days, this court always met before the Temple of Castor and Pollux, at the very opposite end of the Forum to the Senate House. Its new praetor was Acilius Glabrio, of whom little was known, except that he was surprisingly close to Pompey. I say surprisingly because, as a young man, he had been required by the dictator Sulla to divorce his wife, even though she was then pregnant with his child, and yield her in marriage to Pompey. Subsequently this unfortunate woman, whose name was Aemilia, died in childbirth in Pompey’s house, whereupon Pompey returned the infant-a son-to his natural father; the boy was now twelve, and the joy of Glabrio’s life. This bizarre episode was said not to have made the two men enemies but friends, and Cicero gave much thought as to whether this was likely to be helpful to his cause or not. In the end he could not decide.

Glabrio’s chair had just been set up for him, the signal that the court was ready to open for business, and it must have been cold, for I have a very clear memory of Glabrio wearing mittens and sitting beside a charcoal brazier. He was stationed on that platform which runs along the front of the temple, halfway up the stairs. His lictors, their bundled rods over their shoulders, were standing in line, stamping their feet, on the steps beneath him. It was a busy spot, for as well as housing the extortion court, the Temple of Castor was the venue of the Bureau of Standards, where tradesmen went to check their weights and measures. Glabrio looked surprised to see Cicero with his train of supporters advancing toward him, and many other curious passersby turned to watch. The praetor waved to his lictors to let the senator approach the bench. As I opened the document case and handed Cicero the postulatus, I saw anxiety in his eyes, but also relief that the waiting was finally over. He mounted the steps and turned to address the spectators.

“Citizens,” he said, “today I come to offer my life in service to the Roman people. I wish to announce my intention to seek the office of aedile of Rome. I do this not out of any desire for personal glory, but because the state of our republic demands that honest men stand up for justice. You all know me. You know what I believe in. You know that I have long been keeping an eye on certain aristocratic gentlemen in the Senate!” There was a murmur of approval. “Well, I have in my hand an application to prosecute-a postulatus, as we lawyers call it. And I am here to serve notice of my intention to bring to justice Gaius Verres for the high crimes and misdemeanors committed during his term as governor of Sicily.” He waved it above his head, finally extracting a few muted cheers. “If he is convicted he will not only have to pay back what he has stolen: he will lose all civil rights as a citizen. Exile or death will be his only choices. He will fight like a cornered animal. It will be a long, hard battle, make no mistake, and on its outcome, I hereby wager everything-the office I seek, my hopes for the future, the reputation which I have risen early and toiled in the heat to gain-but I do so in the firm conviction that right will prevail!”

And with that he marched up the remaining few steps to Glabrio, who was looking mightily bemused, and gave him his application to prosecute. The praetor glanced at it quickly, then passed it to one of his clerks. He shook Cicero’s hand-and that was it. I am afraid the whole business had fallen embarrassingly flat, the trouble being that Rome was constantly witnessing individuals declaring their intention to run for some office or another-at least fifty were elected annually-and nobody saw Cicero’s announcement in quite the same historic terms as he did. As for the prosecution, it had been more than a year since he had stirred up the original excitement about Verres, and people, as he frequently remarked, have short memories: they had forgotten all about the wicked governor of Sicily. I could see that Cicero was suffering a dreadful sense of anticlimax, which even Lucius, who was usually good at making him laugh, could not shake him out of.

We reached the house and Quintus and Lucius tried to amuse him by picturing the responses of Verres and Hortensius when they learned that a charge had been laid: the slave running back from the Forum with the news, Verres turning white, a crisis meeting summoned. But Cicero would have none of it. I guessed he was thinking of the warning Servilia had given him, and the way Hortensius and Verres had laughed at him on inauguration day. “They knew this was coming,” he said. “They have a plan. The question is: what? Do they know our evidence is too weak? Is Glabrio in their pocket? What?”

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