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Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll VIII

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THE JOURNEY BACK from Regium to Rome was easier than our progress south had been, for by now it was early spring, and the mainland soft and welcoming. Not that we had much opportunity to admire the birds and flowers. Cicero worked every mile of the way, swaying and pitching in the back of his covered wagon, as he assembled the outline of his case against Verres. I would fetch documents from the baggage cart as he needed them and walk along at the rear of his carriage taking down his dictation, which was no easy feat. His plan, as I understood it, was to separate the mass of evidence into four sets of charges-corruption as a judge, extortion in collecting taxes and official revenues, the plundering of private and municipal property, and finally, illegal and tyrannical punishments. Witness statements and records were grouped accordingly, and even as he bounced along, he began drafting whole passages of his opening speech. (Just as he had trained his body to carry the weight of his ambition, so he had, by effort of will, cured himself of travel sickness, and over the years he was to do a vast amount of work while journeying up and down Italy.) In this manner, almost without his noticing where he was, we completed the trip in less than a fortnight and came at last to Rome on the Ides of March, a little over two months after we had left the city.

Hortensius, meanwhile, had not been idle, and an elaborate decoy prosecution was now under way. Of course, as Cicero had suspected, it had been designed partly as a trap to lure him into leaving Sicily early. Dasianus had not bothered to travel to Greece to collect any evidence. He had never even left Rome. But that had not stopped him from bringing charges against the former governor of Achaia in the extortion court, and the praetor, Glabrio, with nothing to do until Cicero returned, had found himself with little option but to let him proceed. And so there he was, day after day, this long-forgotten nonentity, droning away before a bored-looking jury of senators, with Hortensius at his side. And when Dasianus’s loquacity flagged, the Dancing Master would rise in his graceful way and pirouette about the court, making his own elaborate points.

Quintus, ever the well-trained staff officer, had prepared a campaign schedule while we had been away and had set it up in Cicero’s study. Cicero went to inspect it the moment he entered the house, and one glance revealed the shape of Hortensius’s plan. Blobs of red dye marked the festivals when the court would not be sitting. Once these were removed, there were only twenty full working days until the Senate went into recess. The recess itself lasted a further twenty days, and was followed immediately by the five-day Festival of Flora. Then there was the Day of Apollo, the Tarentine Games, the Festival of Mars, and so on. Roughly one day in four was a holiday. “To put it simply,” said Quintus, “judging by the way it is going, I think Hortensius will have no trouble occupying the court until almost the consular elections at the end of July. Then you yourself have to face the elections for aedile at the beginning of August. The earliest we are likely to be able to get into court, therefore, is the fifth. But then in the middle of August, Pompey’s games begin-and they are scheduled to last for a full fifteen days. And then of course there are the Roman Games and the Plebeian Games-”

“For pity’s sake,” exclaimed Cicero, peering at the chart, “does nobody in this wretched town do anything except watch men and animals kill one another?” His high spirits, which had sustained him all the way from Syracuse, seemed visibly to leak from him at that moment, like air from a bladder. He had come home ready for a fight, but Hortensius was far too shrewd to meet him head-on in open court. Blocking and attrition-these were to be his tactics, and they were nicely judged. Everyone knew that Cicero’s resources were modest. The longer it took him to get his case to court, the more money it would cost him. Within a day or two, our first few witnesses would start arriving in Rome from Sicily. They would expect to have their travel and accommodation costs defrayed, and to be compensated for their loss of earnings. On top of this, Cicero was having to fund his election campaign for aedile. And assuming he won, he would then have to find the money to maintain himself in the office for a year, repairing public buildings and staging two more sets of official games. He could not afford to skimp these duties: the voters never forgave a cheapskate.

So there was nothing for it but to endure another painful session with Terentia. They dined alone together on the night of his return from Syracuse, and later I was summoned by Cicero and told to bring him the draft passages of his opening speech. Terentia was lying stiffly on her couch when I went in, stabbing irritably at her food; Cicero’s plate, I noticed, was untouched. I was glad to hand him the document case and escape immediately. Already the speech was vast and would have taken at least two days to deliver. Later, I heard him pacing up and down, declaiming parts of it, and I realized she was making him rehearse his case before deciding whether to advance him any more money. She must have liked what she heard, for the following morning Philotimus arranged for us to draw a line of credit for another fifty thousand. But it was humiliating for Cicero, and it is from around this time that I date his increasing preoccupation with money, a subject that had never previously interested him in the least.

I sense that I am dawdling in this narrative, having already reached my eighth roll of Hieratica, and need to speed it up a little, else either I shall die on the job, or you will be worn out reading. So let me dispense with the next four months very quickly. Cicero was obliged to work even harder than before. First of all, in the mornings he had to deal with his clients (and of course there was a great backlog of casework to get through, which had built up while we were in Sicily). Then he had to appear in court or the Senate, whichever was in session. He kept his head down in the latter, anxious in particular to avoid falling into conversation with Pompey the Great, fearful that Pompey might ask him to drop his prosecution of Verres and give up his candidacy for aedile or-worse-offer to help, which would leave Cicero beholden to the mightiest man in Rome, an obligation he was determined to avoid. Only when the courts and the Senate adjourned for public holidays and recesses was he was able to transfer all his energies to the Verres prosecution, sorting out and mastering the evidence, and coaching the witnesses. We were bringing around one hundred Sicilians to Rome, and as for virtually all of them it was their first visit, they needed to have their hands held, and this task fell to me. I became a kind of one-man travel agent, running around the city, trying to stop them falling prey to Verres’s spies, or turning into drunks, or getting into fights-and a homesick Sicilian, let me tell you, is no easy charge. It was a relief when young Frugi returned from Syracuse to lend me a hand (cousin Lucius having remained in Sicily to keep the supply of witnesses and evidence flowing). Finally, in the early evenings, accompanied by Quintus, Cicero resumed his visits to the tribal headquarters to canvass for the aedileship.

Hortensius was also active. He kept the extortion court tied up with his tedious prosecution, using his mouthpiece, Dasianus. Really, there was no end to his tricks. For example, he went out of his way to be friendly to Cicero, greeting him whenever they were standing around in the senaculum, waiting for a Senate quorum, and ostentatiously steering him away for a private word about the general political situation. At first, Cicero was flattered, but then he discovered that Hortensius and his supporters were putting it about that he had agreed to take an enormous bribe to deliberately bungle the prosecution, hence the public embraces. Our witnesses, cooped up in their apartment blocks around the city, heard the rumors and started fluttering in panic, like chickens when a fox is about, and Cicero had to visit each in turn and reassure him. The next time Hortensius approached him with his hand outstretched, he showed him his back. Hortensius smiled, shrugged, and turned away-what did he care? Everything was going his way.

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