Born (probably) 88 or 87 bc at Interamnia (mod. Teramo),
son of an eques or knight, did his tirocinium fori (apprenticeship to public life) under Cicero and Crassus. As one of a band of upper-class youths he was attracted to Catiline, but did not join in his conspiracy. In 59 he successfully prosecuted Gaius Antonius Hybrida for extortion. Known for a dissolute and extravagant lifestyle, he was also active in politics and in 57/6 was somehow involved in the murder of an Alexandrian embassy opposing Ptolemy XII's restoration. For this he was prosecuted in 56 for violence by the son of Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, whom he had unsuccessfully prosecuted; a Publius Clodius, perhaps the famous Clodius, joined as co-accuser. A vigorous orator, he defended himself and was defended by Crassus and (in a surviving speech) by Cicero, who depicted the prosecution as a plot hatched by Clodia, with whom Caelius had had an affair. Caelius was acquitted and, in revenge, supported Milo as tribune 52, and after Milo's conviction joined Cicero in securing the acquittal of Clodius' actual murderer. During Cicero's proconsulate Caelius was aedile (50) and vainly hoped for Cilician panthers or money from Cicero, whom he informed, in a series of letters written in a delightful, informal style, of gossip and political events in Rome (Cic. Fam. 8). Joining Julius Caesar as the probable victor in civil war (see 8. 14. 3) and from contempt for Pompey, he served in Spain (49) and became praetor peregrinus (i.e. praetor with responsibility ‘over foreigners’) 48. Against the opposition of the consul Publius Servilius Isauricus and the urban praetor Gaius Trebonius, he proposed a radical programme of debt relief, was suspended from office, and, joined by Milo, raised an insurrection in which he was killed.
Subjects: Classical Studies.