The Rise of Publius Clodius Wasn’t Pulcher


Velleius Paterculus History of Rome 2.50

“At the same time, Publius Clodius, a man of noble family,  daring and eloquent, who acknowledged no limit to speech or deed other than his own desire and was most eager in the performance of evil plans, also well-known as the defiler of a sister and a defendant against a charge of incestuous violation of the most holy of Roman rites, was pursuing a severe enmity against Marcus Cicero—for how could there be friendship  between such dissimilar men?. This Clodius had been transferred from patrician to plebian class and then as tribune proposed a law that would impose exile [“prohibition on water and fire”] on anyone who killed a Roman citizen without trial. Even though Cicero was not named directly, he was the only one targeted.

What Kind of a Monster Could Hate this Man? Mommsen.

In this way, a man who had rightly earned the thanks from the republic received the punishment of exile as the price of saving the country. Caesar and Pompey did not lack suspicion for the suppression of Cicero. Cicero seemed to have asked for this from them because he did not want to be among the twenty men who divided land in Campania. Within two years, thanks to Pompey’s attention—though late, effective once begun—and thanks to the prayers of Italy, the decrees of the senate, and the virtue and effort of Annius Milo, the tribune of the people, Cicero was returned to his station and his country. No exile after the return of Numidicus was banished so unpopularly or welcomed back so happily. As viciously as Cicero’s home was torn down by Clodius, so spectacularly did the senate rebuild it.”


Per idem tempus P. Clodius, homo nobilis, disertus, audax, quique neque dicendi neque faciendi ullum nisi quem vellet nosset modum, malorum propositorum executor acerrimus, infamis etiam sororis stupro et actus incesti reus ob initum inter religiosissima populi Romani sacra adulterium, cum graves inimicitias cum M. Cicerone exerceret (quid enim inter tam dissimiles amicum esse poterat?) et a patribus ad plebem transisset, legem in tribunatu tulit, qui civem Romanum indemnatum interemisset, ei aqua et igni interdiceretur: cuius verbis etsi non nominabatur Cicero, tamen solus petebatur. 2 Ita vir optime meritus de re publica conservatae patriae pretium calamitatem exilii tulit. Non caruerunt suspicione oppressi Ciceronis Caesar et Pompeius. Hoc sibi contraxisse videbatur Cicero, quod inter viginti viros dividendo agro Campano esse noluisset. 3 Idem intra biennium sera Cn. Pompei cura, verum ut coepit intenta, votisque Italiae ac decretis senatus, virtute atque actione Annii Milonis tribuni plebis dignitati patriaeque restitutus est. Neque post Numidici exilium aut reditum quisquam aut expulsus invidiosius aut receptus est laetius. Cuius domus quam infeste a Clodio disiecta erat, tam speciose a senatu restituta est.

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