The Death of Clodius Pulcher

Gregory DiPippo
Today is the anniversary of the death in 52 B.C. of Publius Clodius Pulcher (i.e. the Handsome), one of the most notable politicians and muckrakers of the last years of the Roman Republic. In 62 B.C., when the rites of a goddess known as the Bona Dea, from which all men were excluded, were held in Caesar’s house, Clodius dressed as a woman in an attempt to sneak in and seduce Caesar’s wife, creating an enormous and long-lasting scandal which would come to involve all of the leading political figures of the day. This event led Caesar to divorce his wife, although she was not in any way complicit with Clodius, since, as he said, “Caesar’s wife must be beyond reproach.” Reading the story of Clodius’ career, one is not surprised to learn that it ended violently at the hands of one of his enemies, Titus Annius Milo. The latter was defended from the murder charge by Cicero in the Pro Milone; although Milo was not acquitted, it is considered one of the great rhetorical master’s finest speeches.
Studying Latin with Veterum Sapientia Institute will open for you the pages of history as it was written by those who lived it.
The picture below is of a tapestry by Justus van Egmont, ca. 1680, which shows Clodius being discovered in the midst of the Bona Dea rites. At top is written “Clodius amans Pompiliam in veste muliebri nocturno sacrificio detectus expellitur – Clodius, being in love with Pompilia, is discovered in woman’s clothing during the sacrifice held at night and thrown out.” (ca. 1680; Art Institute of Chicago)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *