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Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll IX

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A BIG CROWD-they are always bigger after a victory-escorted Cicero from the Field of Mars all the way back to his house, where the domestic slaves were assembled to applaud him over the threshold. Even Diodotus the blind Stoic put in a rare appearance. All of us were proud to belong to such an eminent figure; his glory reflected on every member of his household; our worth and self-esteem increased with his. From the atrium, Tullia darted forward with a cry of “Papa!” and wrapped her arms around his legs, and even Terentia stepped up and embraced him, smiling. I still hold that image of the three of them frozen in my mind-the triumphant young orator with his left hand on the head of his daughter and his right clasped about the shoulders of his happy wife. Nature bestows this gift, at least, on those who rarely smile: when they do, their faces are transformed, and I saw at that moment how Terentia, for all her complaints about her husband, nonetheless relished his brilliance and success.

It was Cicero who reluctantly broke the embrace. “I thank you all,” he declared, looking around at his admiring audience. “But this is not the time for celebrations. That time will come only when Verres is defeated. Tomorrow, at long last, I shall open the prosecution in the Forum, and let us pray to the gods that before too many days have passed, fresh and far greater honor will descend upon this household. So what are you waiting for?” He smiled and clapped his hands. “Back to work!”

Cicero retired with Quintus to his study and beckoned to me to follow. He threw himself into his chair with a gasp of relief and kicked off his shoes. For the first time in more than a week the tension in his face seemed to have eased. I assumed he would now want to begin the urgent task of pulling together his speech, but apparently he had other plans for me. I was to go back out into the city with Sositheus and Laurea, and between us we were to visit all the Sicilian witnesses, give them the news of his election, check that they were holding firm, and instruct them all to present themselves in court the following morning.

“All of them?” I repeated in astonishment. “All one hundred?”

“That is right,” he replied. The old decisiveness was back in his voice. “And tell Eros to hire a dozen porters-reliable men-to carry every box of evidence down to court at the same time as I go down tomorrow.”

“All the witnesses…A dozen porters…Every box of evidence…” I was making a list of his orders. “But this is going to take me until midnight,” I said, unable to conceal my bewilderment.

“Poor Tiro. But do not worry-there will be time enough to sleep when we are dead.”

“I am not worried about my sleep, senator,” I said stiffly. “I was wondering when I was going to have time to help you with your speech.”

“I shall not require your help,” he said with a slight smile, and he raised a finger to his lips, to warn me that I must say nothing. But as I had no idea of the significance of his remark, there was hardly any danger of my revealing his plans, and not for the first time I left his presence in a state of some confusion.

Roll IX

AND SO IT CAME ABOUT that on the fifth day of August, in the consulship of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus, one year and nine months after Sthenius had first come to see Cicero, the trial of Gaius Verres began.

Bear in mind the summer heat. Calculate the number of victims with an interest in seeing Verres brought to justice. Remember that Rome was, in any case, swarming with citizens in town for the census, the elections, and the impending games of Pompey. Consider that the hearing pitched the two greatest orators of the day in head-to-head combat (“a duel of real magnitude,” as Cicero later called it). Put all this together, and you may begin to guess something of the atmosphere in the extortion court that morning. Hundreds of spectators, determined to have a decent vantage point, had slept out in the Forum overnight. By dawn, there was nowhere left to stand that offered any shade. By the second hour, there was nowhere left at all. In the porticoes and on the steps of the Temple of Castor, in the Forum itself and in the colonnades surrounding it, on the rooftops and balconies of the houses, on the sides of the hills-anywhere that human beings could squeeze themselves into or hang off or perch on-there you would find the people of Rome.

Frugi and I scurried around like a pair of sheepdogs, herding our witnesses into court, and what an exotic and colorful assembly they made, in their sacred robes and native dress, victims from every stage of Verres’s career, drawn by the promise of vengeance-priests of Juno and Ceres, the mystagogues of the Syracusan Minerva and the sacred virgins of Diana; Greek nobles whose descent was traced to Cecrops or Eurysthenes or to the great Ionian and Minyan houses, and Phoenicians whose ancestors had been priests of Tyrian Melcarth or claimed kindred with the Zidonian Iah; eager crowds of impoverished heirs and their guardians, bankrupt farmers and corn merchants and ship owners, fathers bewailing their children carried off to slavery, children mourning for their parents dead in the governor’s dungeons; deputations from the foot of Mount Taurus, from the shores of the Black Sea, from many cities of the Grecian mainland, from the islands of the Aegean, and of course from every city and market town of Sicily.

I was so busy helping to ensure that all the witnesses were admitted, and that every box of evidence was in its place and securely guarded, that only gradually did I come to realize what a spectacle Cicero had stage-managed. Those evidence boxes, for example, now included public testimony collected by the elders of virtually every town in Sicily. It was only when the jurors started shouldering their way through the masses and taking their places on the benches that I realized-showman that he was-why Cicero had been so insistent on having everything in place at once. The impression on the court was overwhelming. Even the hard faces, like old Catulus and Isauricus, registered astonishment. As for Glabrio, when he came out of the temple preceded by his lictors, he paused for a moment on the top step, and swayed half a pace backward when confronted by that wall of faces.

Cicero, who had been standing apart until the last possible moment, squeezed through the crowd and climbed the steps to his place on the prosecutor’s bench. There was a sudden quietness, a silent quiver of anticipation in the still air. Ignoring the shouts of encouragement from his supporters, he turned and shielded his eyes against the sun and scanned the vast audience, squinting to right and left, as I imagine a general might check the lie of the land and position of the clouds before a battle. Then he sat down, while I stationed myself at his back so that I could pass him any document he needed. The clerks of the court set up Glabrio’s curule chair-the signal that the tribunal was in session-and everything was ready, save for the presence of Verres and Hortensius. Cicero, who was as cool as I had ever seen him, whispered to me, “After all that, perhaps he is not coming.” Needless to say, he was coming-Glabrio sent one of his lictors to fetch him-but Hortensius was giving us a foretaste of his tactics, which would be to waste as much time as possible. Eventually, perhaps an hour late, to ironic applause, the immaculate figure of the consul-elect eased through the press of spectators, followed by his junior counsel-none other than young Scipio Nasica, the love rival of Cato-then Quintus Metellus, and finally came Verres himself, looking redder than usual in the heat. For a man with any shred of conscience, it would surely have been a vision out of hell to see those ranks of his victims and accusers, all ranged against him. But this monster merely bowed at them, as if he were delighted to greet old acquaintances.

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