Francesco Bertolini, The body of Publius Clodius Pulcher found on the Appian Way
In 58 BCE Publius Clodius, using his powers of the people’s tribune, ordered the stalls to be closed and trade within Rome to be stopped. It was the first step towards the introduction in Rome of the iustitium – ie the state of emergency.
Its introduction meant that Rome was in mortal danger. Clodius decided to take this step to convince the citizens that the republic is in crisis and that only he is able to stop it. In this way, he wanted to gain support for his political plans.
Two years later, Cicero used the incident against Clodius. In his speech De Haruspicum Responsis in which he defended himself against the accusation of sacrilege that was to lead to earthquakes in Rome, Cicero recalled the closure of stores by Clodius and presented them as part of a larger plot to gain power by Clodius. According to the orator, it was this conspiracy that angered the gods and brought earthquakes to Rome.