(Publius Clodius Pulcher)

93–52 BC

Clodius was an archetypical populist demagogue thug, who flourished during the age of Pompey and Caesar. It was precisely the irresponsible behavior of Clodius that helped convert Pompey from siding with popular party, to siding with the senators. Clodius was from a patrician family and was starting a career in public life, when he was caught up in a scandal. As a prank, he dressed up as a woman, and sneaked into a women's worship service (the Bona Dea) at Julius Caesar's house. When he was discovered, it caused such a stir that Caesar divorced his wife, and Clodius was brought to trial for sacrilege. He was prosecuted by Cicero, a former friend, who thereby won Clodius's undying enmity.

A few years later, Clodius married the wealthy heiress Fulvia, and using her fortune, managed through devious means to become tribune. Though he was at first supported by the First Triumvirate, he soon began to use his position to pass laws that would enhance his personal popularity. He then used devious means to force Cicero into exile, and make trouble for his other enemies. After Caesar left for Gaul, Clodius became even more powerful. He surrounded himself by bands of armed bullies, and founded secret societies. He actively organized gangs of thugs in order to intimidate the senators, and sought to keep the city on the verge of riot. He was finally brought down in a street brawl by a rival gang of thugs, organized by his enemy Milo. His widow Fulvia, later married Mark Antony, and was a mortal enemy of Cicero.

Key events during the life of Clodius:

67 BC
Served in Third Mithradatic War
65 BC
Returned to Rome; prosecuted Catiline for extortion, but accepted a bribe to assure acquittal.
62 BC
Created scandal by sneaking into a women's worship festival. Prosecuted by Cicero, but acquitted by bribery.
61 BC
Quaestor of Sicily.
  Married Fulvia, a very wealthy heiress to the Gracchi estates.
58 BC
Elected tribune through devious means. Became a very powerful demagogue. Exiled Cicero.
56 BC
Organized gangs of rioters to intimidate the city, and force populist legislation.
52 BC
Killed by a rival gang, led by the tribune Milo.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Exile  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Brawl and Its Consequences  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Cicero  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman

Short Biography
Cicero Orator. Leader of aristocratic party. Put down Catiline conspiracy. Well known writer.
Crassus Very wealthy general. Fought Spartacus. Formed triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar.
Julius Caesar Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Milo Tribune. Leader of a rival gang of thugs. Clodius was killed by Milo's gang.
Fulvia Wealthy and scheming Roman matron. Married to Clodius, then to Mark Antony. Enemy of Cicero.