At the time of which I speak, Pompeia was celebrating this festival, and Clodius, who was still beardless and on this account thought to pass unnoticed, assumed the dress and implements of a lute-girl and went to the house, looking like a young woman. He found the door open, and was brought in safely by the maid-servant there, who was in the secret;
but after she had run on ahead to tell Pompeia and some time had elapsed, Clodius had not the patience to wait where he had been left, and so, as he was wandering about in the house (a large one) and trying to avoid the lights, an attendant of Aurelia came upon him and asked him to play with her, as one woman would another, and when he refused, she dragged him forward and asked who he was and whence he came.
Clodius answered that he was waiting for Pompeia's Abra (this was the very name by which the maid was called), and his voice betrayed him. The attendant of Aurelia at once sprang away with a scream to the lights and the throng, crying out that she had caught a man. The women were panic-stricken, and Aurelia put a stop to the mystic rites of the goddess and covered up the emblems. Then she ordered the doors to be closed and went about the house with torches, searching for Clodius.
He was found where he had taken refuge, in the chamber of the girl who had let him into the house; and when they saw who he was, the women drove him out of doors. Then at once, and in the night, they went off and told the matter to their husbands, and when day came a report spread through the city that Clodius had committed sacrilege and owed satisfaction, not only to those whom he had insulted, but also to the city and to the gods.
Accordingly, one of the tribunes of the people indicted Clodius for sacrilege, and the most influential senators leagued themselves together and bore witness against him that, among other shocking abominations, he had committed adultery with his sister, who was the wife of Lucullus. But against the eager efforts of these men the people arrayed themselves in defence of Clodius, and were of great assistance to him with the jurors in the case, who were terror-stricken and afraid of the multitude.
Caesar divorced Pompeia at once, but when he was summoned to testify at the trial, he said he knew nothing about the matters with which Clodius was charged. His statement appeared strange, and the prosecutor therefore asked,
‘Why, then, didst thou divorce thy wife?’
‘Because,’ said Caesar,
‘I thought my wife ought not even to be under suspicion’
Some say that Caesar made this deposition honestly; but according to others it was made to gratify the people, who were determined to rescue Clodius.
At any rate, Clodius was acquitted of the charge, the majority of the jurors giving their verdicts in illegible writing, in order that they might neither risk their lives with the populace by condemning him nor get a bad name among the nobility by acquitting him.1