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Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll III

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They could needle away at one another like this for hours. Sometimes I believe they rather enjoyed it.

“I still fail to see what you can do about it,” said Quintus. He was fresh from military service: four years younger than his brother, and possessed of about half the brains. “If you raise Verres’s conduct in the Senate, they will talk it out. If you try to take him to court, they will make sure he is acquitted. Just keep your nose out of it, is my advice.”

“And what do you say, cousin?”

“I say no man of honor in the Roman Senate can stand by and see this sort of corruption going on unchecked,” replied Lucius. “Now that you know the facts, you have a duty to make them public.”

“Bravo!” said Terentia. “Spoken like a true philosopher, who has never stood for office in his life.”

Pomponia yawned noisily. “Can we talk about something else? Politics is so dull.”

She was a tiresome woman whose only obvious attraction, apart from her prominent bust, was that she was Atticus’s sister. I saw the eyes of the two Cicero brothers meet, and my master give a barely perceptible shake of his head: ignore her, his expression said, it is not worth arguing over. “All right,” he conceded, “enough of politics. But I propose a toast.” He raised his cup and the others did the same. “To our old friend Sthenius. If nothing else, may this day have seen the beginning of the restoration of his fortunes. Sthenius!”

The Sicilian’s eyes were wet with tears of gratitude.


“And Thermae, Cicero,” added Terentia, her small dark eyes, her shrew’s eyes, bright with malice over the rim of her drink. “Do not let us forget Thermae.”

I TOOK MY MEAL ALONE in the kitchen and went exhausted to bed with my lamp and a book of philosophy which I was too tired to read. (I was free to borrow whatever I liked from the household’s small library.) Later I heard the guests all leave and the bolts slam shut on the front door. I heard Cicero and Terentia mount the stairs in silence and go their separate ways, for she had long since taken to sleeping in another part of the house to avoid being woken by him before dawn. I heard Cicero ’s footsteps on the boards above my head, and then I blew out my lamp, and that was the last sound I heard as I surrendered myself to sleep-his footsteps pacing, up and down, up and down.

It was six weeks later that we heard the news from Sicily. Verres had ignored the entreaties of his father. On the first day of December, in Syracuse, exactly as he had threatened, he had judged Sthenius in his absence, found him guilty of espionage, sentenced him to be crucified, and dispatched his officials to Rome to arrest him and return him for execution.

Roll III

THE GOVERNOR OF SICILY’S contemptuous defiance caught Cicero off guard. He had been convinced he had struck a gentlemen’s agreement which would safeguard his client’s life. “But then of course,” he complained bitterly, “none of them is a gentleman.” He stormed around the house in an uncharacteristic rage. He had been tricked! They had played him for a fool! He would march down to the Senate House right there and then and expose their villainous lies! I knew he would calm down before long, for he was only too aware that he lacked the rank simply to demand a hearing in the Senate: he would risk humiliation.

But there was no escaping the fact that he was under a heavy obligation to protect his client, and on the morning after Sthenius had learned his fate, Cicero convened a meeting in his study to determine how best to respond. For the first time that I can remember, all his usual callers were turned away, and six of us crammed into that small space: Cicero, brother Quintus, cousin Lucius, Sthenius, myself (to take notes), and Servius Sulpicius, already widely regarded as the ablest jurist of his generation. Cicero began by inviting Servius to give his legal opinion.

“In theory,” said Servius, “our friend has a right of appeal in Syracuse, but only to the governor, that is to Verres himself; so that avenue is closed to us. To bring a prosecution against Verres himself is not an option: as a serving governor, he has executive immunity; besides, Hortensius is the praetor of the extortion court until January; and besides both of these, the jury will be composed of senators who will never convict one of their own. You could table another motion in the Senate, but you have already tried that, and presumably if you tried again you would merely meet with the same result. Continuing to live openly in Rome is not an option for Sthenius-anyone convicted of a capital crime is automatically subject to banishment from the city, so it is impossible for him to remain here. Indeed, Cicero, you are liable to prosecution yourself if you harbor him under your roof.”

“So what is your advice?”

“Suicide,” said Servius. Sthenius let out a terrible groan. “No, really, I am afraid you should consider it. Before they catch hold of you. You do not want to suffer the scourge, the hot irons, or the torments of the cross.”

“Thank you, Servius,” said Cicero, cutting him off swiftly, before he had an opportunity to describe those torments in further detail. “Tiro, we need to find Sthenius a place where he can hide. He cannot stay here any longer. It is the first place they will look. As for the legal situation, Servius, your analysis strikes me as faultless. Verres is a brute, but a cunning brute, which is why he felt strong enough to press ahead with the conviction. In short, having thought about the matter overnight, it seems to me that there is only one slim possibility.”

“Which is?”

“To go to the tribunes.”

This suggestion produced an immediate stir of unease, for the tribunes were at that time an utterly discredited group. Traditionally they had checked and balanced the power of the Senate by voicing the will of the common people. But ten years earlier, after Sulla had defeated the forces of Marius, the aristocrats had stripped them of their powers. They could no longer summon meetings of the people, or propose legislation, or impeach the likes of Verres for high crimes and misdemeanors. As a final humiliation, any senator who became a tribune was automatically disqualified from standing for senior office-that is, the praetorship or the consulship. In other words, the tribuneship was designed to be a political dead end-a place to confine the ranting and the rancorous, the incompetent and the unpromotable: the effluent of the body politic. No senator of any nobility or ambition would go anywhere near it.

“I know your objections,” said Cicero, waving the room to be silent. “But the tribunes still have one small power left to them, do they not, Servius?”

“That is true,” agreed Servius. “They do have a residual potestas auxilii ferendi.” Our blank looks gave him satisfaction. “It means,” he explained pedantically, “that they have the right to offer their protection to private persons against the unjust decisions of magistrates. But I must warn you, Cicero, that your friends, among whom I have long counted it an honor to number myself, will think much the less of you if you start dabbling in the politics of the mob. Suicide,” he repeated. “Where is the objection? We are all mortal. For all of us, it is only a matter of time. And this way you go with honor.”

“I agree with Servius about the danger we run if we approach the tribunes,” said Quintus. (It was usually “we” when Quintus spoke about his elder brother.) “Whether we like it or not, power in Rome nowadays lies with the Senate and with the nobles. That’s why our strategy has always been to build your reputation carefully, through your advocacy in the courts. We shall do ourselves irreparable damage with the men who really matter if the feeling gets around that you are merely another rabble-rouser. Also-I hesitate to raise this, Marcus-but have you considered Terentia’s reaction if you were to follow this course?”

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