Publius Clodius Pulcher

Publius Clodius Pulcher (born around 92 BC, murdered January 18, 52 BC).

The son of Appius Claudius Pulcher born into a wealthy and patrician family chose, like his sister Clodia, to spell his ancient name in the lower-class spelling with an -o-. Clodius succeded in being adopted into the plebeian branch of his family in 59 and was in 58 elected tribune, an office for which patricians were ineligible.

Clodius stood for election for the praetorship in 52. He was murdered in rioting by Milo. His clients used the senate-house as his funeral pyre.

1911EB version

Publius Clodius (c. 93 - 52 BC), surnamed Pulcher, was a notorious Roman politician, chiefly remembered for his long-running feud with Marcus Tullius Cicero.

He took part in the Third Mithradatic War under his brother-in-law, Lucius Licinius Lucullus, but considering himself treated with insufficient respect, he stirred up a revolt; another brother-in-law, Q. Marcius Rex, governor of Cilicia, gave him the command of his fleet, but he was captured by pirates. On his release he repaired to Syria, where he nearly lost his life during a mutiny instigated by himself.

Returning to Rome in 65, he prosecuted Catiline for extortion, but was bribed by him to procure acquittal. There seems no reason to believe that Clodius was implicated in the Catilinarian conspiracy; indeed, according to Plutarch (Cicero, 29), he rendered Cicero every assistance and acted as one of his body-guard. The affair of the mysteries of the Bona Dea, however, caused a breach between Clodius and Cicero in December 62. Clodius, dressed as a woman (men were not admitted to the mysteries), entered the house of Caesar (then pontifex maximus), where the mysteries were being celebrated, in order to carry on an intrigue with Pompeia Sulla, Caesar's wife. He was detected and brought to trial, but escaped condemnation by bribing the jury. Cicero's violent attacks on this occasion inspired Clodius with the desire for revenge.

On his return from Sicily (where he had been quaestor in 61) he renounced his patrician rank, and, having with the connivance of Caesar been adopted by a certain P. Fonteius, was elected tribune of the people (December 10 59). His first act was to bring forward certain laws calculated to secure him the popular favour. Corn, instead of being sold at a low rate, was to be distributed gratuitously once a month; the right of taking the omens on a fixed day and (if they were declared unfavourable) of preventing the assembly of the comitia, possessed by every magistrate by the terms of the Lex Aelia Fufia, was abolished; the old clubs or gilds of workmen were re-established; the censors were forbidden to exclude any citizen from the senate or inflict any punishment upon him unless he had been publicly accused and condemned.

He then contrived to get rid of Cicero and the younger Cato,who was sent to Cyprus as praetor to take possession of the island and the royal treasures. Cicero's property was confiscated by order of Clodius, his house on the Palatine burned down, and its site put up to auction. It was purchased by Clodius himself, who, not wishing to appear in the matter, put up some one to bid for him. After the departure of Caesar for Gaul, Clodius became practically master of Rome with the aid of armed ruffians and a system of secret societies. In 57 one of the tribunes proposed the recall of Cicero, and Clodius resorted to force to prevent the passing of the decree, but was foiled by Titus Annius Milo, who brought up an armed band sufficiently strong to hold him in check. Clodius subsequently attacked the workmen who were rebuilding Cicero's house at the public cost, assaulted Cicero himself in the street, and set fire to the house of Q. Cicero.

In 56, when curule aedile, he impeached Milo for public violence (de vi), when defending his house against the attacks of Clodius, and also charged him with keeping armed bands in his service. Judicial proceedings were hindered by outbreaks of disturbance, and the matter was finally dropped. In 53, when Milo was a candidate for the consulship, and Clodius for the praetorship, the rivals collected armed bands and fights took place in the streets of Rome, and on January 18 52 Clodius was slain near Bovillae.

His sister, Clodia, wife of Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer, was notorious for her numerous love affairs. It is now generally admitted that she was the Lesbia of Catullus (Teuffel-Schwabe, Hist. of Roman Lit., Eng. tr., 214, 3). For her intrigue with Marcus Caelius Rufus, whom she afterwards pursued with unrelenting hatred and accused of attempting to poison her, see Cicero, Pro Caelio, where she is represented as a woman of abandoned character.

Authorities

Cicero, Lettes (ed. Tyrrell and Purser), Pro Caelio, pro Sestio, pro Milone, pro Domo sua, de Haruspicum Responsis, in Pisonem; Plutarch, Lucullus, Pompey, Cicero, Caesar; Dio Cassius xxxvi. 16, 19, xxxvii. 45, 46, 51, xxxviii. 12-14, xxxix. 6, if, xl. 48. See also I Gentile, Clodio e Cicerone (Milan, 1876); ES Beesley, "Cicero and Clodius," in Fortnightly Review, v.; G Lacour-Gayet, De P. Clodio Pulchro (Paris, 1888), and in Revue historique (Sept. 1889); H White, Cicero, Clodius and Milo (New York, 1900); G Boissier, Cicero and his Friends (Eng. trans., 1897).

Reference


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