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Clodius Pulcher, Publius

(c. 93—52 bc)

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Youngest of six children of Claudius Pulcher, b. c.92 bc. In 68 he incited the troops of his brother‐in‐law Licinius Lucullus to mutiny in Armenia. On his return to Rome he had been apparently friendly with Cicero, 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 he sought transference into a plebeian gens (see plebs): this was at first resisted, but in March 59 Caesar as pontifex maximus presided over the comitia curiata (see curia (1) ) at which the adoption was ratified. There were suggestions of later disagreements with Caesar and Pompey, but in the event he was elected tribune for 58. His measures included free corn for the plebs, restoration of collēgia (see clubs, roman), grant of new provinces to the consuls, 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), and the despatch of Porcius Cato (2) to Cyprus. Clodius then turned against Pompey, threatening his life, and suggesting that Caesar's acts of 59 were invalid because of Calpurnius Bibulus' religious obstruction. These attacks on Pompey were continued in 57, esp. over the question of Cicero's recall, and in the early part of Clodius' aedileship in 56; but after the meeting of Caesar and Pompey at Luca his attitude changed, and by agitation and violence he helped to bring about the joint consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 55. He continued to control large sections of the urban plebs. He stood for the praetorship of 52, but owing to rioting the elections had not been held when he was murdered by Annius Milo. 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 Caesar's aim in granting it. The one consistent motif is his courting of the urban plebs and the promotion of its interests.

Subjects: Classical studies

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