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Who's Who in the Classical World
Guy Edward Farquhar ChilverGuy Edward Farquhar Chilver, Andrew William LintottAndrew William Lintott

Clodius (Publius Clodius Pulcher), 

youngest of six children of Ap. Claudius Pulcher. He was born c.92 bc (since quaestor in 61). In 68 he incited the troops of his brother-in-law Lucullus to mutiny in Armenia. When prosecuting Catiline in 65 he was, according to Cicero, in co-operation with the defence. On his return to Rome he had been apparently friendly with Cicero (Plut. Cic. 29), but in May 61 Cicero gave damaging evidence against him when he was on trial for trespassing on the Bona Dea festival disguised as a woman the previous December. However Clodius was narrowly acquitted by a jury said to have been heavily bribed. Next year, on returning from his quaestorian province of Sicily, he sought transference into a plebeian gens (family): this was at first resisted, but in March 59 Julius Caesar as pontifex maximus (the leading member of the most senior college of priests) presided over the comitia curiata (a special kind of assembly) at which the adoption was ratified. There were suggestions of subsequent disagreements with Caesar and Pompey and of his departure from Rome, but in the event he was elected tribune for 58. His measures included free corn for the plebs, restoration of collegia (private clubs), repeal or modification of certain legislation (the Leges Aelia et Fufia), grant of new provinces to the consuls Aulus Gabinius and Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a bill exiling those who had condemned Roman citizens to death without popular sanction, a bill confirming the exile of Cicero (who departed in late March), the dispatch of Cato the Younger to Cyprus, and grant of title of king and control of Pessinus to Brogitarus ruler of the Galatian Trocmi. Clodius then turned against Pompey, allowing the escape of the Armenian prince Tigranes, threatening Pompey's life, and (Cic. Dom. 40; Har. resp. 48) suggesting that Caesar's acts of 59 were invalid because of Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus' religious obstruction. These attacks on Pompey were continued in 57, especially over the question of Cicero's recall, and in the early part of Clodius' aedileship in 56; but after the conference of Luca (see JULIUS CAESAR) his attitude changed and by agitation and violence he helped to bring about the joint consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 55. He still continued to control large sections of the urban plebs (plebs urbana). He stood for the praetorship of 52 but owing to rioting the elections had not been held when he was murdered by Milo on 18 January of that year. His clients among the plebs burned the senate-house as his pyre.

Clodius, who like two of his sisters used the ‘popular’ spelling of his name, probably saw the tribunate as a vital step in his political career: revenge on Cicero need not have been his main aim in seeking transfer to the plebs, nor (despite Cic. Dom. 41; Sest. 16) Caesar's aim in granting it. Moreover, the view that Caesar was at any time his patron seems misconceived. In 58–56 he may have been allied with Crassus; but he was surely both opportunist and independent, for before as well as after Luca he was friendly with various optimates (Cic. Fam. 1. 9. 10, 19), and in 53 he was supporting the candidates of Pompey for the consulship (Asconius, 26, 42). The one consistent motif is his courting of the urban plebs and the promotion of its interests. The daughter of his marriage to Fulvia was briefly married to Octavian (later Augustus) in 42.

Guy Edward Farquhar Chilver; Andrew William Lintott