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Clodia

Clodia

Clodia, fl. 1st cent. B.C., Roman matron, famous among the ancient Romans for her beauty; sister of Publius Clodius. She was suspected of murdering her husband, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer (see Metellus, family), and she accused her lover, Marcus Caelius Rufus, of trying to murder her. According to tradition one of her many lovers was the poet Catullus; if this is true then it was she whom he immortalized as Lesbia.
Clodia, (born Claudia Pulchra Tercia ca. 95 BC and often referred to in scholarship as Clodia Metelli ("Clodia the wife of Metellus"), was the third daughter of the patrician Appius Claudius Pulcher and Caecilia Metella Balearica.

She is not to be confused with her niece, Clodia Pulchra, who was briefly married to Octavian.

Despite being a woman, Clodia was very well educated in Greek and Philosophy, with a special talent for writing poetry. Her life, immortalized in the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero and also, it is generally believed, in the poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, was characterized by perpetual scandal.

Life

Along with her brother Publius Clodius Pulcher, she changed her patrician name to Clodia, with a plebeian connotation.

Clodia was married as a young girl to Lucullus (divorced ca. 66 BC after friction between him and her brother Publius), then to Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, her first cousin. The marriage was not a happy one. Clodia engaged in several affairs with married men and slaves, becoming at the same time a notorious gambler and drinker. Arguments with Metellus Celer were constant, often in public situations. When Metellus Celer died in strange circumstances in 59 BC, Clodia was suspected of poisoning her husband.

As a widow, Clodia became known as a merry one, taking several lovers, including possibly the poet Catullus (see below). Clodia maintained several other lovers, including Marcus Caelius Rufus, Catullus' friend. This particular affair would cause an immense scandal. After the relationship with Caelius was over in 56 BC, Clodia publicly accused him of attempted poisoning. The accusation led to a murder charge and trial. Caelius' defence lawyer was Cicero, who took a harsh approach against her, recorded in his speech Pro Caelio. Cicero had a personal interest in the case, as her brother Publius Clodius was Cicero's most bitter political enemy. Among other things, Clodia was accused of being a seducer and a drunkard in Rome and in Baiae, as well as committing incest with her brother Publius. Cicero insinuated that he "would [attack Caelius' accusers] still more vigorously, if I had not a quarrel with that woman's [Clodia's] husband - brother, I meant to say; I am always making this mistake. At present I will proceed with moderation... for I have never thought it my duty to engage in quarrels with any woman, especially with one whom all men have always considered everybody's friend rather than any one's enemy. He declared her a disgrace to her family and nicknamed Clodia the Medea of the Palatine. (Cicero's marriage to Terentia suffered from Terentia's persistent suspicions that Cicero was conducting an illicit affair with Clodia.)

After the trial of Caelius, in which Caelius was found not guilty, little or possibly nothing is heard of Clodia, and the date of her death is unknown. There is some difficulty in identifying Roman women due to the lack of female personal names. Either this Clodia or a sister was still alive in 44 BC.

Identification with Lesbia

The poet Catullus wrote several love poems concerning a frequently unfaithful woman he called Lesbia, identified in the mid-second century AD by the writer Apuleius (Apologia 10) as a "Clodia." This practice of replacing actual names with ones of identical metrical value was not uncommon in Latin poetry of that era. In modern times, the resulting identification of Lesbia with Clodia Metelli, based largely on her portrayal by Cicero, is usually treated as accepted fact, despite occasional challenges. A recent article by the Roman historian Suzanne Dixon mounts a strong argument against not only the Lesbia/Clodia identification but also the notion that 'Lesbia' refers to a historical woman at all.

Clodia in popular culture

References

See also

Further reading

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