Although he was born into the plebeian Claudii Marcelli family, Clodianus was adopted into the patrician Cornelii Lentuli, possibly as the adoptive son of Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus. A partisan of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, he possibly served under Pompey during Pompey’s special commission in Hispania. Elected Praetor around 75 BC, his connections with Pompey ensured that he was elected consul in 72 BC.
A major event of his consulship was the slave rebellion of Spartacus and the eruption of the Third Servile War. Having won a number of victories against the underestimating Roman forces, the Senate now recognised Spartacus as a serious threat and decided to send both the consuls to confront the slave armies at the head of four legions.
Clodianus moved to block Spartacus’s march northward, while Publicola moved behind him, hoping to catch the rebels between the two armies. However, Spartacus’ army destroyed Clodianus' legions in the Apennine Mountains in the valley named Lentula, and then turned and defeated the oncoming legions of Publicola. Gathering their shattered forces, both consuls gave chase but were once again defeated at a battle near Picenum.
Humiliated by these defeats, shortly afterward, in early autumn, Clodianus and Publicola were withdrawn as commanders, by the Roman senate, and command of the war given to Marcus Licinius Crassus.