previous next

P. Clodius Pulcher

40. P. Clodius Pulcher, was the youngest son of No. 35. The form of the name Clodius was not peculiar to him : it is occasionally found in the case of others of the gens (Orelli, Inscript. 579); and Clodius was himself sometimes called Claudius. (D. C. 35.14.) He first makes his appearance in history in B. C. 70, serving with his brother Appius under his brother-in-law, L. Lucullus, in Asia. Displeased at not being treated by Lucullus with the distinction he had expected, he encouraged the soldiers to mutiny. He then left Lucullus, and betook himself to his other brother-in-law, Q. Marcius Rex, at that time proconsul in Cilicia, and was entrusted by him with the command of the fleet. He fell into the hands of the pirates, who however dismissed him without ransom, through fear of Pompey. He next went to Antiocheia, and joined the Syrians in making war on the Arabians. Here again he excited some of the soldiers to mutiny, and nearly lost his life. He now returned to Rome, and made his first appearance in civil affairs in B. C. 65 by impeaching Catiline for extortion in his government of Africa. Catiline bribed his accuser and judge, and escaped.

In B. C. 64, Clodius accompanied the propraetor L. Murena to Gallia Transalpina, where he resorted to the most nefarious methods of procuring money. His avarice, or the want to which his dissipation had reduced him, led him to have recourse to similar proceedings on his return to Rome. Asconius (in Mil. p. 50, Orell.) says, that Cicero often charged him with having taken part in the conspiracy of Catiline. But, with the exception of some probably exaggerated rhetorical allusions (de Harusp. Resp. 3, pro Mil. 14), no intimation of the kind appears in Cicero; and Plutarch (Cix. 29) says, that on that occasion he took the side of the consul, and was still on good terms with him.

Towards the close of 62, Clodius was guilty of an act of sacrilege, which is especially memorable, as it gave rise to that deadly enmity between himself and Cicero which produced such important consequences to both and to Rome. The mysteries of the Bona Dea were this year celebrated in the house of Caesar. Clodius, who had an intrigue with Pompeia, Caesar's wife, with the assistance of one of the attendants entered the house disguised as a female musician. But while his guide was gone to apprize her mistress, Clodius was detected by his voice. The alarm was immediately given, but he made his escape by the aid of the damsel who had introduced him. He was already a candidate for the quaestorship, and was elected ; but in the beginning of 61, before he set out for his province, he was impeached for this offence. The senate referred the matter to the pontifices, who declared it an act of impiety. Under the direction of the senate a rogation was proposed to the people, to the effect that Clodius should be tried by juices selected by the praetor who was to preside. The assembly, however, was broken up without coming to a decision. The senate was at first disposed to persist in its original plan; but afterwards, on the recommendation of Hortensius, the proposition of the tribune Fufius Calenus was adopted, in accordance with which the judices were to be selected from the three decuries. Cicero, who had hitherto strenuously supported the senate, now relaxed in his exertions. Clodius attempted to prove an alibi, but Cicero's evidence shewed that he was with him in Rome only three hours before he pretended to have been at Inter amna. Bribery and intimidation, however, secured him an acquittal by a majority of 31 to 25. Cicero however, who had been irritated by some sarcastic allusions made by Clodius to his consulship, and by a verdict given in contradiction to his testimony, attacked Clodius and his partisans in the senate with great vehemence.

Soon after his acquittal Clodius went to his province, Sicily, and intimated his design of becoming a candidate for the aedileship. On his return, however, he disclosed a different purpose. Eager to revenge himself on Cicero, that he might be armed with more formidable power he purposed becoming a tribune of the plebs. For this it was necessary that he should be adopted into a plebeian family; and as he was not in the power of his parent, the adoption had to take place by a vote of the people in the comitia curiata. (This ceremony was called Adrogatio : see Dict. of Ant. s. v. Adrogatio.) Repeated attempts were made by the tribune C. Herennius to get this brought about. Cicero, who placed reliance on the friendship and support of Pompey, did not spare Clodius, though he at times shews that he had misgivings as to the result. The triumvirs had not yet taken Clodius' side, and when he impeached L. Calpurnius Piso for extortion, their influence procured the acquittal of the accused. But in defending C. Antonius, Cicero provoked the triumvirs, and especially Caesar, and within three hours after the delivery of his speech Clodius became the adopted son of P. Fonteius (at the end of the year 60). The lex curiata for his adoption was proposed by Caesar, and Pompey presided in the assembly. The whole proceeding was irregular, as the sanction of the pontifices had not been obtained; Fonteius was not twenty years old, and consequently much younger than Clodius, and was married, nor was there the smallest reason to suppose that his marriage would remain childless, and, indeed, he was afterwards the father of several children; the rogation was not made public three nundines before the comitia; and it was passed although Bibulus sent notice to Pompey that he was taking the auspices. A report soon after got abroad that Clodius was to be sent on an embassy to Tigranes, and that by his refusal to go he had provoked the hostility of the triumvirs. Neither turned out to be true. Clodius was now actively endeavoring to secure his election to the tribuneship. Cicero was for a time amused with a report that his only design was to rescind the laws of Caesar. With the assistance of the latter, Clodius succeeded in his object, and entered upon his office in December, B. C. 59.

Clodius did not immediately assail his enemies. On the last day of the year, indeed, he prevented Bibulus, on laying down his office, from addressing the people; but his first measures were a series of laws, calculated to lay senate, knights, and people under obligations to him. The first was a law for the gratuitous distribution of corn once a month to the poorer citizens. The next enacted that no magistrate should observe the heavens on comitial days, and that no veto should be allowed to hinder the passing of a law. This enactment was designed specially to aid him in the attack with which he had threatened Cicero. The third was a law for the restoration of the old guilds which had been abolished, and the creation of new ones, by which means he secured the support of a large number of organized bodies. A fourth law was intended to gratify those of the higher class, and provided that the censors should not expel from the senate, or inflict any mark of disgrace upon any one who had not first been openly accused before them, and convicted of some crime by their joint sentence. The consuls of the year he gained over to his interests by undertaking to secure to them the provinces which they wished. Having thus prepared the way, he opened his attack upon Cicero by proposing a law to the effect, that whoever had taken the life of a citizen uncondemned and without a trial, should be interdicted from earth and water. For an account of the proceedings which ensued, and which ended in Cicero's withdrawing into exile, see CICERO, p. 713.

On the same day on which Cicero left the city Clodius procured the enactment of two laws, one to interdict Cicero from earth and water, because he had illegally put citizens to death, and forged a decree of the senate; the other forbidding any one, on pain of the like penalty, to receive him. The interdict was, however, limited to the distance of 400 miles from Rome. Clodius added the clause, that no proposition should ever be made for reversing the decree till those whom Cicero had put to death should come to life again. The law was confirmed in the comitia tributa, and engraved on brass. On the same day, the consuls Gabinius and Piso had the provinces of Syria and Macedonia assigned to them, with extraordinary powers. Clodius next rid himself of M. Cato, who, by a decree passed on his motion, was sent with the powers of praetor to take possession of the island of Cyprus, with the treasures of its king, Ptolemy, and to restore some Byzantine exiles. [CATO, p. 648b.] In the former nefarious proceeding, Clodius seems to have taken as a pretext the will of Ptolemy Alexander I., the uncle of the Cyprian king, who, as the Romans pretended, had made over to them his kingdom.

Immediately after the banishment of Cicero, Clodius set fire to his house on the Palatine, and destroyed his villas at Tusculum and Formiae. The greater part of the property carried off from them was divided between the two consuls. The ground on which the Palatine house stood, with such of the property as still remained, was put up to auction. Clodius wished to become the purchaser of it, and, not liking to bid himself, got a needy fellow named Scato to bid for him. He wished to erect on the Palatine a palace of surpassing size and magnificence. A short time betore he had purchased the house of Q. Seilus Postumus, after poisoning the owner, who had refused to sell it. This it was his intention to unite with another house which he already had there. He pulled down the portico of Catulus, which adjoined Cicero's grounds, and erected another in its place, with his own name inscribed on it. To alienate Cicero's property irretrievably, he dedicated it to the goddess Libertas, and a small portion of the site of the dwelling, with part of the ground on which the portico of Catulus had stood, was occupied by a chapel to the goddess. For the image of the goddess he made use of the statue of a Tanagraean hetaera, which his brother Appius had brought from Greece. To maintain the armed bands whom he employed, Clodius required large sums of money; but this he did not find much difficulty in procuring : for with the populace he was all-powerful, and his influence made his favour worth purchasing. (For an account of the way in which, through his influence, Brogitarus of Galatia was made priest of Cybele at Pessinus, and Menula of Anagnia screened front punishment, with other arbitrary and irregular proceedings of Clodius, see Cic. pro Dom. 30, 50, de Har. Resp. 13, pro Savl. 26, 30, pro Mil. 27, 32.) He went so far as to offend Pompey by aiding the escape of Tigranes, son of the king of Armenia, whom Pompey had brought a prisoner to Rome. In this instance also his services were purchased. Pompey, however, did not feel himself strong enough to resent the insult. Clodius soon assailed him more openly. The consul Gabinius sided with Pompey. Frequent conflicts took place between the armed bands of the tribune and consul, in one of which Gabinius himself was wounded and his fasces broken. Clodius and the tribune Ninnius went through the farce of dedicating to the gods, the one the property of Gabinius, the other that of Clodius. An attempt was made by Clodius, through one of his slaves, upon the life of Pompey, who now with-drew to his own house, and kept there as long as his enemy was in office. Clodius stationed a body of men under his freedman Damis to watch him, and the praetor Flavius was repulsed in an attempt to drive them off.

The attempts made before the end of this year to procure the recall of Cicero proved abortive. Next year (B. C. 57), Clodius, possessing no longer tribunitial power, was obliged to depend on his armed bands for preventing the people from passing a decree to recall Cicero. On the twenty-fifth of January, when a rotation to that effect was brought forward by the tribune Fabricius, Clodius appeared with an armed body of slaves and gladiators ; Fabricius had also brought armed men to support him, and a bloody fight ensued, in which the party of Fabricius was worsted. Soon afterwards, Clodius with his men fell upon another of his opponents, the tribune Sextius. who nearly lost his life in the fray. He attacked the house of Milo, another of the tribunes, and threatened his life whenever he appeared. Ie set fire to the temple of the Nymphs, for the purpose of destroying the censorial records; interrupted the Apollinarian games, which were being celebrated by the praetor L. Caecilius, and besieged him in his house. Milo made an unsuccessful attempt to bring Clodius to trial for his acts of violence; and finding his endeavours unsuccessful, resolved to repel force by force. Accordingly he collected an armed band of slaves and gladiators, and frequent contests took place in the streets between the opposing parties.

When the senate came to a resolution to propose to the comitia a decree for the restoration of Cicero, Clodius was the only one who opposed it; and when, on the fourth of August, it was brought before the people, Clodius spoke against it, but could do nothing more; for Milo and the other friends of Cicero had brought to the place of meeting a force sufficiently powerful to deter him from attempting any violence, and the decree was passed. Clodius, however, was not stopped in his career of violence. On the occasion of the dearth which ensued immediately after Cicero's recall, the blame of which Clodius endeavored to throw on him, he excited a disturbance; and when, by the advice of Cicero, Pompey was invested with extraordinary powers to superintend the supplies, Clodius charged the former with betraying the senate.

The decree by which Cicero was recalled, provided also for the restitution of his property. Some difficulty, however, remained with respect to the house on the Palatine, the site of which had been consecrated by Clodius to the service of religion. The matter was referred to the college of pontifices, but was not decided till the end of September. when Cicero defended his right before them. The pontifices returned an answer sufficient to satisfy all religious scruples, though Clodius chose to take it as favourable to himself, and the senate decreed the restoration of the site, and the payment of a sum of money to Cicero for rebuilding his house. When the workmen began their operations in November, Clodius attacked and drove them off, pulled down the portico of Catulus, which had been nearly rebuilt, and set fire to the house of Q. Cicero. Shortly afterwards he assaulted Cicero himself in the street, and compelled him to take refuge in a neighboring house. Next day he attacked the house of Milo, situated on the eminence called Germalus, but was driven off by Q. Flaccus. When Marcellinus proposed in the senate that Clodius should be brought to justice, the friends of the latter protracted the discussion, so that no decision was come to.

Clodius was at this time a candidate for the aedileship, that, if successful, he might be screened from a prosecution; and threatened the city with fire and sword if an assembly were not held for the election. Marcellinus proposed that the senate should decree that no election should take place till Clodius had been brought to trial; Milo decared that he would prevent the consul Metellus from holding the comitia. Accordingly, whenever Metellus attempted to hold an assembly, he posted himself with a strong body of armed men on the place of meeting, and stopped the proceedings, by giving notice that he was observing the auspices. In the beginning of the following year, however (B. C. 56), when Milo was no longer in office, Clodius was elected without opposition; for, not-withstanding his outrageous violence, as it was evident that his chief object was not power but revenge, he was supported and connived at by several who found his proceedings calculated to further their views. The optimates rejoiced to see him insult and humble the triumvir, Pompey, and the latter to find that he was sufficiently powerful to make the senate afraid of him. Cicero had many foes and rivals, who openly or secretly encouraged so active an enemy of the object of their envy and dislike; while the disturbances which his proceedings occasioned in the city were exactly adapted to further Caesar's designs. Clodius almost immediately after his election impeached Milo for public violence. Milo appeared on the second of February to answer the accusation, and the day passed without disturbance. The next hearing was fixed for the ninth, and when Pompey stood up to defend him, Clodius' party attempted to put him down by raising a tumult. Milo's party acted in a similar manner when Clodius spoke. A fray ensued, and the judicial proceedings were stopped for that day. The matter was put off by several adjournments to the beginning of May, from which time we hear nothing more of it. In April, Clodius celebrated the Megalesian games, and admitted such a number of slaves, that the free citizens were unable to find room. Shortly after this, the senate consulted the haruspices on some prodigies which had happened near Rome. They replied, that, among other things which had provoked the anger of the gods, was the desecration of sacred places. Clodius interpreted this as referring to the restoration of Cicero's house, and made it a handle for a fresh attack upon him. Cicero replied in the speech De Haruspicum Responsis. By this time Pompey and Clodius had found it convenient to make common cause with each other. A fresh attack which Clodius soon afterwards made on Cicero's house was repulsed by Milo. With the assistance of the latter also, Cicero, after being once foiled in his attempt by Clodius and his brother, succeeded during the absence of Clodius in carrying off from the capitol the tablets on which the laws of the latter were engraved.

Clodius actively supported Pompey and Crassus when they became candidates for the consulship, to which they were elected in the beginning of B. C. 55, and nearly lost his life in doing so. He appears to have been in a great measure led by the hope of being appointed on an embassy to Asia, which would give him the opportunity of recruiting his almost exhausted pecuniary resources, and getting from Brogitarus and some others whom he had assisted, the rewards they had promised him for his services. It appears, however, that he remained in Rome. We hear nothing more of him this year. In B. C. 54 we find him prosecuting the ex-tribune Procilius, who, among other acts of violence, was charged with murder; and soon after we find Clodius and Cicero, with four others, appearing to defend M. Aemilius Scaurus. Yet it appears that Cicero still regarded him with the greatest apprehension. (Cic. Att. 4.15, ad Q. Fr. 2.15, b., 3.1. 4.)

In B. C. 53 Clodius was a candidate for the praetorship, and Milo for the consulship. Each strove to hinder the election of the other. They collected armed bands of slaves and gladiators, and the streets of Rome became the scene of fresh tumults and frays, in one of which Cicero himself was endangered. When the consuls endeavoured to hold the comitia, Clodius fell upon them with his band, and one of them, Cn. Domitius, was wounded. The senate met to deliberate. Clodius spoke, and attacked Cicero and Milo, touching, among other things, upon the amount of debt with which the latter was burdened. Cicero replied in the speech De Aere alieno Milonis. The contest, however, was soon after brought to a sudden and violent end. On the 20th of January, B. C. 52, Milo set out on a journey to Lanuvium. Near Bovillae he met Clodius, who was returning to Rome after visiting some of his property. Both were accompanied by armed followers, but Milo's party was the stronger. The two antagonists had passed each other without disturbance; but two of the gladiators in the rear of Milo's troop picked a quarrel with some of the followers of Clodius, who immediately turned round, and rode up to the scene of dispute, when he was wounded in the shoulder by one of the gladiators. The fray now became general. The party of Clodius were put to flight, and betook themselves with their leader to a house near Bovillae. Milo ordered his men to attack the house. Several of Clodius' men were slain, and Clodius himself dragged out and despatched. The body was left lying on the road, till a senator named Sex. Tedius found it, and conveyed it to Rome. Here it was exposed to the view of the populace, who crowded to see it. Next day it was carried naked to the forum, and again exposed to view before the rostra. The mob, enraged by the spectacle, and by the inflammatory speeches of the tribunes Munatius Plancus and Q. Pompeius Rufus, headed by Sex. Clodius carried the corpse into the Curia Hostilia, made a funeral pile of the benches, tables, and writings, and burnt the body on the spot. Not only the senate-house, but the Porcian basilica, erected by Cato the Censor, and other adjoining buildings, were reduced to ashes. (For an account .of the proceedings which followed, see MILO.)

Clodius was twice married, first to Pinaria, and afterwards to Fulvia. He left a son, Publius, and a daughter. Cicero charges him with having held an incestuous intercourse with his three sisters. [CLAUDIA, Nos. 7-9.] Clodius inherited no property from his father. [See No. 35.] Besides what he obtained by less honest means, he received some money by legacies and by letting one of his houses on the Palatine. He also received a considerable dowry with his wife Fulvia. He was the owner of two houses on the Palatine hill, an estate at Alba, and considerable possessions in Etruria, near lake Prelius. His personal appearance was effeminate, and neither handsome nor commanding. That he was a man of great energy and ability there can be little question; still less that his character was of the most profligate kind. Cicero himself admits that he possessed considerable eloquence.

The chief ancient sources for the life of Clodius are the speeches of Cicero, pro Caelio, pro Sextio, pro Milone, pro Domo sua, de Haruspicum Responsis, in Pisonem, and in Clodium et Curionem, and his letters to Atticus and his brother Quintus; Plutarch's lives of Lucullus, Pompey, Cicero, and Caesar; and Dio Cassius. Of modern writers, Middleton, in his Life of Cicero, has touched upon the leading points of Clodius's history; but the best and fullest account has been given by Drumann, Geschichte Roms, vol. ii. pp. 199-370.

41-45. CLODIAE. [CLAUDIA, Nos. 7-11.]

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
70 BC (1)
65 BC (1)
64 BC (1)
59 BC (1)
57 BC (1)
56 BC (1)
55 BC (1)
54 BC (1)
53 BC (1)
52 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: