Gender issues aren’t new. For example, linking Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s woes to a Julius Caesar quote seems farfetched. Then again, maybe not.

Caesar, queried on why he divorced his second wife, Pompeia, replied, “My wife must be above suspicion.” Caesar was referring to a scandal triggered by Publius Clodius Pulcher, a young man related to several powerful families in the Rome of 62 B.C.

That year, Clodius, in female dress, sneaked into a Bona Dea ceremony, a ritual centuries old and one open only to women. Men present at such an event were subject to blinding. Preparations included removing male animals from the premises and covering statues of males.

At the ceremony, Caesar’s wife spotted Clodius, and urged him to leave before others noticed. The mildness of her rebuke started rumors, which evoked outrage, particularly on the part of Cicero, Rome’s leading lawyer, whose wife had previously hosted the event in his house. The trial lasted two years, and Clodius was acquitted.

Needless to say, vengeance was carried out. Cicero was tracked down and beheaded. The disrespect at the Bona Dea rituals faded in history. What remained was the sidebar: suspicion that Pompeia and Clodius had something between them.

Judge Kavanaugh faces the same bugaboo: suspicion of misbehavior in his youth, enough, possibly, to wipe out years of exemplary labor and behavior in the world of justice.

Robert Denbow


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.