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  • The Location of the Houses of Cicero and Clodius and the Porticus Catuli on the Palatine Hill in Rome
  • Steven M. Cerutti

The location of cicero’s house on the Palatine hill in Rome is a matter of more than ordinary interest, inasmuch as he locates it for us in relation to a number of other important houses and buildings, and recent archaeological investigations at the southwest corner of the hill can be used to throw fresh light on this question. Cicero’s house almost certainly stood along the higher leg of the Clivus Victoriae, along the northwest side of the hill running from the north corner to the precinct of the Magna Mater. Here it would have overlooked the Forum Romanum, as Cicero says in conspectu prope totius urbis (Dom. 100). 1 On one side it adjoined the Porticus Catuli, which Clodius enlarged by the addition of a part of Cicero’s property, but only a fraction (vix pars aedium mearum decima,Dom. 116), after destroying Cicero’s house during Cicero’s self-imposed exile in 58 B.C. However, since Cicero regarded his as a large and noble house (Dom. 115; cf. Har. Resp. 16, Fam. 6.18.5), that tenth might have been a not inconsiderable parcel. Furthermore, in De Haruspicum Responso (49) Cicero tells us that Clodius announced in public assembly that he wished to build on the Carinae on the Mons Oppius a second porticus quae Palatio responderet. In context he clearly means that Clodius hoped to drive Pompey into exile as he had Cicero, to destroy Pompey’s Domus Rostrata, and to use the land for the construction of a porticus, perhaps in conjunction with the Temple of Tellus that was located nearby, that would match the Porticus Catuli as he had rebuilt it. 2 This has been taken to mean that Cicero’s house on the Palatine faced the Carinae, but that is not necessarily the case, as before the removal of the Velia in the 1930s the view from the Palatine to the Carinae was not uninterrupted, and it is questionable whether any significant [End Page 417] part of the Carinae was in view of the Palatine. 3 But since we cannot bound the Carinae, the question must be left open.

On another side Cicero’s house adjoined the house of Q. Seius Postumus, which Cicero seems to have thought architecturally in a class with his own (Dom. 115). Seius’ house, either on the opposite side or in back, adjoined that of P. Clodius Pulcher, for when Clodius wanted to enlarge his house by annexing that of Seius, and Seius was reluctant to part with his house, Clodius threatened to block his light, presumably by the construction of walls that would cover windows that let into open areas such as gardens in his own house. 4 Cicero’s house, when it was later rebuilt, also adjoined that of his brother Quintus, closely enough that Cicero says he and his brother would be contubernales, once his brother’s house was finished, and the adherents of Clodius set fire to the building in progress in November 57 while they were trying to discourage Cicero from rebuilding (Att. 4.3.2; QFr. 2.4.2, 2.5.3). From this it seems almost certain that Cicero must have ceded a slice of his plot to his brother when the time for rebuilding came. Space on the Palatine had long been expensive and difficult to obtain, and at that time Marcus Cicero was worried about his financial condition and complained that the indemnity awarded him by the Senate was woefully inadequate (Att. 4.2.5). One might also imagine that the brothers’ houses adjoined at the rear, facing on different streets, but given the space available between the two legs of the Clivus Victoriae and the Via Nova, that is less likely. 5

Clodius’ object in acquiring the houses of Seius and Cicero, although in the case of the latter ostensibly to enlarge the Porticus Catuli and to build a temple of Libertas (Dom. 108), was actually, Cicero asserts, to enlarge his own house and to make it one of the most sumptuous residences in the...