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Against his rival Lesbius; written after the final rupture with Lesbia.

Lesbius: surely P. Clodius Pulcher, the brother of Clodia ‘Quadrantaria,’ if Lesbia is this Clodia (cf. Intr. 28). The allusion in vv. 1, 2 must, therefore, be to that incestuous connection of which Cicero speaks (e.g. Cic. Pis. 28; Cic. Sest. 16; Cic. Har. Resp. 42; Cic. Har. Resp. 59).

pulcher: Cicero plays on this well-known cognomen of P. Clodius in Cic. Att. 1.16.10surgit pulchellus puer;” and similarly in Cic. Att. 2.1.4 and Cic. Att. 2.22.1.

quid ni: etc. i. e. to be sure, since Lesbia's preference is proof sufficient of it. The play is on pulcher as a true descriptive adjective, and as also the cognomen of Lesbia's brother; the intimation being that the very fact that he is her brother gives him added attraction in her eyes as a paramour; cf. the ascription of a similar taste for enormities to Gellius in Catul. 91.5f.

[2] quam te: since he is pulcher (i.e. a beauty), and you are not.

[2] cum tota gente tua: since he is Pulcher (i. e. an eminent Claudian), and you are a nobody.

[3] tamen hic pulcher: i. e. in spite of his being beautiful and of high birth.

[3] vendat: apparently a colloquial expression of superior worth, like our ‘he can buy and sell me.’ The phrase comes from the sale of the goods of an insolvent debtor.

[3] Catullum: for bona Catulli; cf. Juv. 3.33praebere caput domina venale sub hasta” .

[4] si tria: etc. i. e. if peradventure he can find even so few as three acquaintances who will accept the common friendly greeting from his lips. The allusion is doubtless to the defilement of his lips by unnatural lust; cf. Cicero ll. cc.

[4] tria: of an indefinitely small number; cf. Plaut Trin. 963te tribus verbis volo” , and often.

[4] notorum: acquaintances; cf. Caes. B. C. 1.74.5hi suos notos hospitesque quaerebant” ; Hor. S. 1.1.85vicini oderunt, noti, pueri atque puellae” . Others, reading with G, natorum, understand the reference to be to the ius trium liberorum of so much importance later (the implication being that Clodius was impotent). But there is no indication that at this time the lack of three children was a political disadvantage, and Clodius had a son and a daughter (Drumaun Gesch. Roms 2. p. 385 f.), both young at the time of his death.

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  • Commentary references from this page (11):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 1.16.10
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.4
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.22.1
    • Catullus, Poems, 91
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 42
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 59
    • Cicero, Against Piso, 28
    • Cicero, For Sestius, 16
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 4.2
    • Horace, Satires, 1.1.85
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.74
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