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The Patrician Tribune

Publius Clodius Pulcher

By W. Jeffrey Tatum

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 figs., appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7206-2
    Published: December 2010
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2065-7
    Published: February 2014

Studies in the History of Greece and Rome

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Publius Clodius Pulcher was a prominent political figure during the last years of the Roman Republic. Born into an illustrious patrician family, his early career was sullied by military failures and especially by the scandal that resulted from his allegedly disguising himself as a woman in order to sneak into a forbidden religious ceremony in the hope of seducing Caesar's wife. Clodius survived this disgrace, however, and emerged as a major political force. He renounced his patrician status and was elected tribune of the people. As tribune, he pursued an ambitious legislative agenda, winning the loyalties of the common people of Rome to such a degree that he was soon able to summon forceful, even violent, demonstrations on his own behalf.

The first modern, comprehensive biography of Clodius, The Patrician Tribune traces his career from its earliest stages until its end in 52 B.C., when he was murdered by a political rival. Jeffrey Tatum explores Clodius's political successes, as well as the limitations of his popular strategies, within the broader context of Roman political practices. In the process, Tatum illuminates the relationship between the political contests of Rome's elite and the daily struggles of Rome's urban poor.

About the Author

W. Jeffrey Tatum is professor of classics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
For more information about W. Jeffrey Tatum, visit the Author Page.


"A useful biography of this complicated figure. . . . Tatum provides a careful, exhaustive, highly analytical narrative of Clodius's political career . . . . An important template for the understanding of an extremely confusing era."--American Historical Review

"[Tatum’s] book is lucidly organized and elegantly and economically written. Throughout, Tatum deploys a thorough command of the vast scholarly literature, sound judgment and good sense. This is one of the best biographies of a Late Republican politician."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Well written and impeccably researched."--Choice

"Tatum convey[s] vividly how Clodius’ actions interact with the historical context of the late Republic, but also acknowledg[es] the impact of Clodius and Clodius’ character."--Times Literary Supplement

"By far the fullest and best treatment of Clodius in any language, and the only one in English."--Robin Seager, University of Liverpool

"This book is more than a biography. It explores the broader political scene, sets the context, and investigates the ramifications of Clodius's activities upon critical developments in the last decades of the Roman Republic. Tatum renders a significant service to the profession. He provides the most balanced, judicious, thorough, and reliable treatment that we possess of Clodius, a figure of the highest importance for the politics of the late Roman Republic. The book will be read with profit and consulted with regularity for a long time to come."--Erich S. Gruen, University of California, Berkeley