In 62 BC, Publius Clodius figured that the best way to get close to Pompeia—Mrs. Caesar—was to dress as a female lute player and worm his way into the Good Goddess ceremony. This religious rite was only attended by women and was being hosted by Caesar’s wife.
Clodius was found out when he spoke to a maid in a deep baritone voice and was eventually caught hiding under a bed. Caesar divorced his wife, asserting that “Caesar’s wife must be above reproach.”
Which she was.
Clodius was hauled into court on charges of “sacrilege and sexual immorality.” Cicero got involved in the case because his wife believed he was having an affair with Clodius’s sister. In order to defend himself, Cicero had to testify that he had seen Clodius in Rome on the day of his offense, which destroyed the alibi Clodius had offered—that he was out of town on the day of his cross-dressing.
Clodius was acquitted, thanks to bribes paid to the jurors by Rome’s rich crime lord Crassus. But his reputation, and with it his political future, was ruined. Instead of the many others Clodius could have blamed for the debacle—well, really just himself—he set the whole thing at Cicero’s feet, despite the fact that Cicero’s involvement in the whole sordid mess was insignificant.
I sure hope Clodius doesn’t find his way to any kind of political power any time soon.
Beard, Mary. “SPQR.” Profile Books, 2015.
Duncan, Mike. “The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic.” Public Affairs, 2017.
Everitt, Anthony. “Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician.” Random House, 2011.
Goodman, Rob and Soni, Jimmy. “Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar.” St. Martin’s Press, 2012.
World History Encyclopedia. “Tribune.” Retrieved February 3, 2022 from https://www.worldhistory.org/Tribune/