The son of an undistinguished senator, in 80 BC he became Quaestor in Asia to the consul Gnaeus Carbo, but, when civil war broke out in 83 BC, Verres embezzled the military funds and joined the forces of Lucius Cornelius Dolabella. Under the command of Cornelius Dolabella the governor of Cilicia, the province was plundered by both, for which the governor Dolabella was prosecuted in 77 BC by Caesar as advocate, and was convicted mainly on the evidence of Verres, who thus secured a pardon for himself.
In 74 BC, by a lavish use of bribes, Verres secured the city praetorship, and as a creature of Sulla, abused his authority to further the political ends of his party. He was then sent as governor to Sicily, the richest of the Roman provinces. The people were for the most part prosperous and contented, but under Verres the island experienced more misery and desolation than during the time of the first Punic or the recent servile wars. The corn-growers and the revenue collectors were ruined by exorbitant imposts or by the iniquitous cancelling of contracts; temples and private houses were robbed of their works of art; and the rights of Roman citizens were disregarded.
Verres returned to Rome in 70 BC, and in the same year, at the request of the Sicilians, Cicero prosecuted him. Verres entrusted his defence to the most eminent of Roman advocates, Quintus Hortensius, and he had the sympathy and support of several of the leading Roman nobles. The court was composed exclusively of senators, some of whom might have been his personal friends.
But the presiding judge, the city praetor, Manius Acilius Glabrio, was a thoroughly honest man, and his assessors were at least not accessible to bribery. Verres vainly tried to get the trial postponed till 69 BC when his friend Metellus would be the presiding judge, but in August Cicero opened the case. The effect of the first brief speech was so overwhelming that Hortensius refused to reply, and recommended his client to leave the country.
Before the expiration of the nine days allowed for the prosecution Verres was on his way to Massilia. There he lived in exile till 43 BC, when he was proscribed by Antony, the reason alleged being his refusal to surrender some of his art treasures which Antony coveted.
Did you know...?
Cicero called Caius Verres the drag-net of Sicily, because the name "Verres" has some resemblance to the word everriuclum , which signifies a drag-net.