LECTURE 10: CHARACTER AND CICERONIAN CRIME
The Five Things
o We’re reading one of Cicero’s courtroom speeches, most commonly known in Latin as the
Pro Caelio, translated in your book as In Defense of Marcus Caelius.
o Marcus Tullius Cicero, or just Cicero, was a Roman politician who lived from 106 – 43 BCE.
He was an optimate and a novus homo (first member of his family to hold consulship)
o Cicero delivered the speech in 56 BCE. This was less than a decade after the Catilinarian
o It’s also worth noting that in 52 BCE, the year in which Clodius was killed, both Caelius and
Sallust were tribunes.
o Cicero lived in Rome, and this speech was for a court in the city.
o Cicero wrote in Latin
• The Five Things
o Author: Cicero
o Title: In Defense of Marcus Caelius (or Pro Caelio)
o Date: 56 BCE
o Location: Rome
o Language: Latin
• In 56 BCE, Lucius Sempronius Atratinus, son of Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, and (maybe) Publius
Clodius Pulcher prosecuted Marcus Caelius Rufus on the charge of vis (political violence). He
defended himself, with the support of Marcus Licinius Crassus and Marcus Tullius Cicero.
o Unlike in Classical Athens where you had to defend yourself, you can have additional
advocates that speak on your behalf in Roman courts and this was often the case
• Caelius was born in the early 80s BCE and as a young man was somehow involved with Catiline,
though it’s easy to believe Cicero when he says that Caelius did not join the conspiracy.
• He went on to start a successful political career, and in 59 Gaius Antonius Hybrida successfully
prosecuted him for repetundae.
• In the middle of the first century, Rome was increasingly involved in Egyptian politics, and the king in
Alexandria was Ptolemy XII (the father of Cleopatra VII). In 58 BCE, largely because of his friendly
relations with Rome, the Alexandrians deposed and expelled him.
• The restoration of Ptolemy XII was a big issue in Roman politics at the time, and he eventually was
restored in 55 BCE. In 57 or possibly 56, the Alexandrians sent an embassy under Dio to oppose the
restoration, but Dio was killed.
• It’s not clear exactly how Caelius was involved, but his ex-girlfriend Clodia was somehow caught up
in it. At the trial, Cicero argued that it was all a plot cooked up by Clodia and Caelius was acquitted.
He went on to have a successful career, supported Caesar in the civil war.
• In 48 BCE, Caelius was the praetor peregrinus. He proposed a radical program of debt relief, was
expelled from office, raised an insurrection, and was killed fighting.
o Similar to Catiline
(Cicero) Members of the jury, if somebody were here who knew nothing about our laws, our courts, and our
customs, he would certainly wonder what crime could be so vicious that on a holiday when public games
are taking place, when all civic business is at a halt, this one court should be in session. He would have no
doubt that the defendant is charged with so massive a crime that to leave it unattended would result in the
collapse of the state. • What Cicero is referring to here is that the case is taking place on the first day of the ludi
megalenses, a festival in which theatrical performances take place
• The law against vis says that even if all businesses are halted for festivals, trial for vis is so important
that it should be held
• One of Cicero’s key strategies in this speech is to point out that this is a very important law and
whatever Caelius is done is not so important that it should be covered by this law
• Argues it subtly by presenting the case as a substitute for a comedic dramatic performance
• Cicero is going to represent Caelius as a traditional hero and Clodia as a villain of a Roman comedy
• Because this case is being held on a day when Roman drama is taking place, it seems appropriate
• This strategy is not to address the direct facts of the case, but rather to try the case on the character
of Caelius and the character of Clodia
• In some ways, this is an approach to crime that deals not so much with the criminal act itself but with
the criminal person – we’ve seen this strategy before, in Lysias I
• Criminality is an aspect of character rather than attached to a particular action
• Cicero, in presenting Caelius as a good guy, has to deal with the fact that Caelius was associated
with Catiline who was not all that good
Who was ever, at one time, more amiable to men of distinction, or who was more tightly bound to men of
low vices? What citizen was ever a more staunch conservative at times, who was a more unspeakable
enemy to this state? Who enjoyed nastier pleasures, who endured toil better? Who was greedier for
plunder, who was more generous with gifts? He had, members of the jury, remarkable characteristics: he
embraced many men in friendship, he was respectful and polite, he shared what he had with everyone, in
time of need he assisted his friends with cash, influence, physical labor, criminal behavior if necessary, and
daring; he could alter his character and direct it for the occasion, twisting and bending it in all directions. He
behaved austerely with serious people, pleasantly with relaxed ones; he was solemn with old men, affable
with young; daring with criminals, loose with the lecherous.
• This passage is about Catiline
• Notion of contradiction is present, just as it was in Catiline’s War
• Because Catiline was both a good guy and a bad guy, as he was a contradictory character, Cicero
can argue that Caelius was friends with the good side of Catiline
• To do this, Cicero must argue that there are good aspects of Catiline
But to you, Balbus, I'll answer with your approval, if I may, if it’s right for me to defend someone who never
turned down a party, who has been in pleasure gardens, who has used unguents, who has been to Baiae.
I've seen and heard many people in this nation myself who not only tasted a small sample of this life and
touched it, as they say, with the tips of their fingers, but even surrendered their entire adolescence to
pleasure; they came out of it sooner or later and returned, as they say, to a good harvest and became
serious men of consequence.
• Shows us the slight contradiction to what it means to be a good Roman citizen
• On the one hand, people who run the state are wealthy aristocrats, and especially as young men,
they go to parties, but at the same time, there is an image of conservative moral Roman and this is
the image they hold of themselves
• The way Cicero reconciles both of these images is by defining them both in time – young vs. old
• In order to represent Caelius as an insider, as someone who is like the jury, Cicero relates Caelius to
• Thus he cannot be a criminal because he is just like the juror
There are two charged. One involves gold, the other poison; in both of them one and the same person is
concerned. The gold was borrowed from Clodia, the poison was sought to give to Clodia – or so they say.
All the rest are not charges but slanders; they belong to a violent quarrel rather than a public court.
"Adulterer, degenerate, graft-giver." That's brawling, not prosecution. There's no foundation for these
charges, no basis. They're fighting words thrown out hit or miss by an angry prosecutor with no evidence.
• Here, Cicero addresses the charges but says that they are not important in this case • Instead, the prosecution is attacking Caelius’ character, but because of this Cicero can defend the
character of Caelius
• On the other side, he will also focus on the character of Clodia, who is the sister of Cicero’s enemy,
Publius Clodius Pulcher
• She is a wealthy and politically powerful woman, important figure in the popular culture of Rome
But if, once that woman is removed, there's no charge and no backing remaining for their attack on Caelius,
what else am I supposed to do as an advocate, except to fight off the attackers? And I would do it more
vigorously, if l didn't have previous enmities with that woman’s husband- I mean her brother; I keep making
• Cicero says that because the prosecution doesn’t really have a case, he will defend the character of
Caelius and attack the character of Clodia
• Claims that she has a sexual relationship with her brother (by implication)
If there's anyone who thinks hookers should be forbidden to young men, he's really severe-there's no
denying it- but he's completely at odds not only with the lax standards of the present generation but even
with the customary allowances made by our ancestors. When was this not common, when was it criticized,
when was it forbidden? When, in short, was it true that what is now permitted wasn't permitted? Here I'm
only defining the issue, and I'm not naming any particular woman. That much, I will leave unsaid.
• Not proper for a young man to have sex with a