" the famous scholar Varro "
Varro was a scholar and writer of the late Republic, a contemporary of Cicero and a political supporter of Pompey. His works were praised and used as a source by many Roman writers and historians, including Cicero, Virgil, Pliny the Elder and Quintilian. His Nine Books of Disciplines was used as a model by later encyclopaedists.
" In those days, the court always met before the Temple of Castor and Pollux "
Castor and Pollux
(or Polydeuces) were the Gemini, the twin sons of Zeus (Jupiter) and Leda. Their cult came to Rome from Greece, where they were known as the Dioscuri. The Temple of Castor and Pollux was situated in the Forum Romanum.
" I shall not quote it all: the speech, which lasted at least an hour, is readily available for those who wish to read it. "
This is one of the speeches that have made it down to us, so is also available for modern readers! For those who wish to delve deeper into Cicero’s wit and way with words, the speech can be read here on the Perseus website.
" We left Rome on the Ides of January, on the last day of the Festival of the Nymphs "
This festival was the Carmentalia, held in honour of the nymph Carmenta, who could look into the past and the future. It was celebrated mainly by women. The Ides was a day in the calendar that marked the approximate middle of the month.
" he had been warned by a sibyl that his death would somehow be connected with the sea. "
were Roman priestesses who gave prophecies while under the influence of a god. They could be visited at certain holy places or temples to be asked for a prophecy.
" a cargo ship the size of a trireme "
A trireme was an ancient warship with three banks of oars.
" But it is illegal to execute a Roman citizen without a full trial. "
The Romans prided themselves on their laws and justice, as well as on the privileges and superiority of being a Roman citizen. To execute a Roman citizen without trial would be a truly despicable crime:
“‘But I was born a citizen,’ Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realised that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.”
(The New Testament, Acts 22:28)
" Early the following morning we had to leave for our first official engagement, in the northern coastal town of Tyndaris. "
Cicero's Journey around Sicily - Credit: John Eckert