Titus Annius Milo Papianus was a Roman political agitator, the son of Gaius Papius Celsus, but adopted by his maternal grandfather, Titus Annius Luscus.
In 52 BC he was prosecuted for the murder of Publius Clodius Pulcher, and was unsuccessfully defended by his friend Marcus Tullius Cicero in the speech Pro Milone.
He was a supporter of Pompey, and organized bands of armed slaves and gladiators to support the cause by public violence in opposition to Clodius, who gave similar support to the populares.
Milo was tribune of the plebs in 57 BC. He took a prominent part in bringing about the recall of Cicero from exile, in spite of the opposition of Clodius.
On 23 January 57 BC, Clodius tried to use a force of gladiators to block a move to recall Cicero from exile, but Milo arrested Clodius’ gladiators. He was subsequently attacked by Clodius’ gangs and attempted to prosecute Clodius for violence. He was unsuccessful at doing so, and recruited gangs of his own. Later that year he tried to prosecute Clodius again, but Clodius escaped this by being elected aedile in 56, thus being immune from prosecution.
Milo became praetor in 54 BC, and in that year married Cornelia Fausta, daughter of the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla and ex-wife of Gaius Memmius.
In 53 BC, Milo was candidate for the consulship (against Quintus Caecilius Metellus Scipio and Publius Plautius Hypsaeus, nominees of Pompey) and Clodius was standing for the praetorship. There was a breakdown of order at Rome and the rival factions rioted in the streets. The elections were void because of the excessive use of the tribunes’ veto. Consequently 52 began with an interregnum. Crassus’ death in 53 and the absence of Caesar in Gaul left Pompey as the only effective power in the state.
It was in these circumstances that the entourages of Milo and Clodius met on the Appian Way at Bovillae (January 18, 52 BC). Clodius was killed by Milo’s slaves during or after the resulting pitched battle. Milo was on the way to Lanuvium in order to appoint a priest. Meanwhile Clodius was supposed to be returning to Rome, after he had heard that Cyrus the architect had died, though Cicero, defending Milo, claimed that Clodius had, in fact, arranged an ambush.
The body of Clodius was burnt in the Curia Hostilia by his followers. The Senate called on Pompey to become ‘sole consul’. He set about restoring order partly by force but also by the legal means now at his disposal. He passed a new Lex Pompeia de ambitu and another de vi, that is, concerning electoral bribery and violence. Milo, who had returned to Rome, ventured abroad, and proceeded with his canvass, was soon charged under the latter of these laws. The case was, by Pompey’s order to proceed extra ordinem, that is to say, that it would skip the queue.
It is generally agreed that Pompey intended the conviction of Milo. Apart from the fact that he may well have been guilty, Clodius’ faction was nearly out of control and could hardly be appeased with less. The trial’s jury was vetted by Pompey and the presiding magistrate, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 54 BC) was a loyal adherent.
The defence team consisted of the great Marcus Tullius Cicero, Marcus Caelius Rufus and Marcus Marcellus. Cicero must have been motivated partly by gratitude for Milo’s support in 57 BC in assisting his return from exile. Under Pompey’s new procedural rules, the trial should have lasted five days, with the summing up for the defence and the verdict on the fifth. In the event, the trial collapsed on day one due to Clodian intimidation of Marcellus who was forced to ask for protection. From day two, Pompey’s soldiers ringed the court, and proceedings were clearly very disorderly. Called on to give a speech (three hours were allocated) Cicero broke down. It is not clear how much of a speech he was able to give but the extant Pro Milone is an expanded form of the defence as Cicero would have liked to have given it.
Milo fled. He was condemned by 38 votes to 13 and went into exile at Massilia (today Marseille), and his property was sold by auction. In his absence, he was subsequently convicted on three different charges: of using bribery in his campaign for consulship under the lex Pompeia de ambitu, of malpractice under the law on illegal association (lex Licinia de sodaliciis) and of Clodius’ murder under the ordinary violence law (lex Plautia de vi).
Cassius Dio states that when Cicero had finished writing up his speech, he sent a copy to Milo in exile. Milo wrote back that it was lucky for him that the same speech had not been made in court, because otherwise he would “not now be enjoying the delicious red mullet of Massilia”. He joined Marcus Caelius Rufus in 48 in his rising against Caesar, but he died at Compsa, near Thurii in Lucania, killed by a stone thrown from the city walls.
Asconius, Pro Milone, 53C