Claudian Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Born in Alexandria, Claudian belonged to a fourth and fifth century c.e. group of professional poets of Egyptian background. Having, apparently, attained renown for his Greek poetry in Egypt, he went to Rome about 394 c.e., where he wrote a eulogy on the consuls for 395 c.e., Probinus and Olybrius (sons of the prominent Petronius Probus), of such quality that he drew the attention of the imperial court at Milan. Under the patronage of Stilicho, the emperor Honorius’s military commander, Claudian became court poet. His major works include panegyrics on the consulships of Honorius (396, 398, and 404 c.e.), Mallius Theodorus (399 c.e.), and Stilicho (400 c.e.); an epithalamium and some Fescinnine verses celebrating the marriage of Honorius’s daughter, Maria (398 c.e.); and invectives against Rufinus (396-397 c.e.) and Eutropius (399 c.e.), Stilicho’s rivals in the Eastern Empire (all translated to English in 1922). He also wrote two epics, on the wars with Gildo (De bello Gildonico, 398 c.e.; English translation, 1922) and the Goths (De bellow Getico, 402 c.e.; English translation, 1922); and unfinished poems on the rape of Proserpina (De raptu Proserpinae, n.d.) and on the Gigantomachia (Gigantomachia, n.d.). An inscription states that Claudian was rewarded with the title vir clarissimus and a bronze statue set up in the forum of Trajan. As Claudian wrote no more poetry after 402 c.e., he is assumed to have died shortly after this date. Though Saint Augustine called Claudian a most perverse pagan, Claudian’s poetry is devoid of the usual pantheon of Roman gods (save for his literary work on Proserpina), and his paganism seems to have given no offense to the imperial Christian court.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Claudian is regarded as the last great poet in the classical tradition. In nine years, he composed some 10,000 verses in polished, flawless Latin hexameters. His style resembles and rivals that of Silver Age Latin poets, especially Statius and Lucan. His works are important historical sources for his period.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Boyle, A. J., ed. The Imperial Muse: Ramus Essays on Roman Literature of the Empire, Flavian Epicist to Claudian. Berwick, Australia: Aureal 1990.

Cameron, Alan. Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1970.

Gruzelier, Claire. De raptu Proserpinae. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Hall, John B. Prolegomena to Claudian. London: University of London, 1986.

Long, Jacqueline. Claudian’s In Eutropium: Or, How, When, and Why to Slander a Eunuch. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.