Cicero, Pro Caelio

LCL 447: 400-401

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This victory in the courts was a turning-point in Caelius’ career. Estranged from Cicero and dissatisfied with a quiet home life, he moved to a fashionable quarter of Rome by renting a house on the Palatine from P. Clodius, thus becoming a neighbour of Clodia, Clodius’ sister, widowed in 59 by the death of Q. Metellus Celer.

Supplanting, in all probability, Catullus in the affections of Clodia, he began an intimacy with her lasting for about two years. Cicero catalogues the amusementsa at Rome and Baiae of the set in which they moved. When these relations had been broken by a bitter quarrel, Clodia set about to punish her former lover.

Early in 56 Caelius indicted for ambitus, probably in connexion with the praetorian elections of 57, L. Calpurnius Bestia who, on 11 February, was successfully defended by Cicero.b Bestia is probably identical with a tribune of that name, of Catilinarian sympathies, who entered office on 10 December 63 and who was to have given a signal for an insurrection of Catilinarians in Rome.c It has been convincingly shown that this Bestia was none other than the father of L. Sempronius Atratinus, the formal initiator of Caelius’ prosecution.d Bestia having begun after his acquittal a fresh candidature for the praetorship, Caelius at once formulated a second charge against him,e probably not only to clear himself of any suspicion of complicity with Catiline, but



also to recover some loss of reputation. This second indictment, however, never came into court, since Bestia’s son, the young L. Sempronius Atratinus, interposed to save his father by prosecuting Caelius.

II. The Trial of Caelius

The trial was held on 3–4 April 56 b.c., for Cicero, the closing speaker, spoke on 4 April, the first day of the Ludi Megalenses (4 to 10 April).a The accusation was framed under a lex de vi, probably the lex Plautia,b directed particularly against those who disturbed the public peace by armed bands. In 57 Clodius evaded trial for this offence; and less than a month before the delivery of the Pro Caelio Cicero had successfully defended Sestius on a like charge.

Of the five formal charges against Caelius, shortly to be mentioned, all, with the possible exception of that de bonis Pallae, would normally have been assigned, under other laws, to other courts. It would have been proper for charges (2), (4) and (5) to have been dealt with by the quaestio inter veneficos et sicarios. But the apparent irregularity of the process against Caelius may be explained in two ways. First, trials for vis received priority and could be held even during the games (in this case the Ludi Megalenses) when the other criminal courts were not in session. Secondly, the prosecution followed a growing practice at that time to extend to other offences the scope of the lex de vi.c

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-pro_caelio.1958