" as Verres provided him with an ivory sphinx, the consul-elect should find no difficulty solving riddles. "
A sphinx is a mythical creature of Egyptian origin with the body of a lion and the head of a woman. The sphinx was brought from Egypt into Greek art and mythology, where she became a monster who guarded the entrance to the city of Thebes. She asked a riddle to travellers before she would allow them to pass; if they answered wrongly, they would be killed. Oedipus solved the riddle, after which the Sphinx either threw herself from a cliff or devoured herself. According to later accounts, the riddle of the Sphinx was:
“Which creature goes on four legs in the morning, on two at mid-day, and three in the evening?”
The answer is man – he crawls on four legs as a baby, walks upright as an adult, and uses a cane as an old man.
" The aristocratic general had, by his own account, scored a series of crushing victories, entering the kingdom of Tigranes, defeating the king himself in battle "
entered the kingdom of Tigranes
(king of Pontus, currently at war with Rome) had fled there. Despite the fact that Tigranes and his army had scored many victories in the expansion of his kingdom into an empire, including against the remains of the Seleucid Empire in the east, Lucullus won a crushing victory. The capital city was taken and the king defeated, though Tigranes and Mithridates eluded capture.
" or wished to have their premises put on to the water supply "
The ancient Romans brought water to their cities via aqueducts, great feats of engineering powered only by gravity – the gradient of an aqueduct’s steady descent had to be calculated just right or the water would overflow or stagnate. These aqueducts supplied the public baths and fountains in the city. Private houses and businesses could also pay to be put on to the water supply.
" foxes were released into the Circus Maximus "
The Circus Maximus
was a huge stadium used for games, entertainment and chariot racing, situated between the Aventine and Palatine hills.
" when he would be old enough to stand for a praetorship "
The age requirements of the various magistracies on the cursus honorum (political career ladder) were:
Quaestor – at least 30 years old
Aedile – at least 36 years old
Praetor – at least 39 years old
Consul – 40 years old for a patrician, 42 for a plebeian
" of how the young general had outwitted three Marian armies at Auximum "
This is a reference to one of Pompey’s commands, early in his career, against the rebel supporters of Marius
, the popularist leader and enemy of Sulla
. Sulla crushed the populares
power in Rome when he returned from campaigns in the east in 83 BC and set himself up as dictator of Rome. After a civil war in Italy, the remainder of the Marian forces fled.