Rutilius Claudius Namatianus Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Rutilius Claudius Namatianus (rew-TIHL-ee-uhs KLAWD-ee-uhs nuh-may-shee-AY-uhs) was born into an aristocratic Gallo-Roman family and pursued a political career in Rome, where he was master of offices in 412 c.e. and prefect of Rome in about 414 c.e. Namatianus is best known for his poem De redito suo (c. 417 c.e.; On His Return, 1907), in which he describes his journey home to Gaul in 417 c.e., only seven years after the sack of Rome by the Goths. Namatianus expresses profound loyalty toward Gaul but saves his highest praise for Rome, the mistress of the world. Although Namatianus refers to the destruction visited upon Italy and Gaul by the barbarian invasions, he expresses his belief in Rome’s eternal destiny to rule the known world. Set in the context of more than one thousand years of Roman history, the Gothic sack of Rome appears to Namatianus to be a setback comparable to Hannibal’s invasion of Italy.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

On His Return provides surprising evidence of the optimism of at least some Romans about Rome’s future, which suggests that modern scholars should exercise caution in viewing this period as one of unmitigated gloom. The poem also criticizes the asceticism of Christian monks and thereby provides a rare glimpse into the mind-set of an aristocratic pagan at a time when Christianity had become the dominant religion.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Duff, J. Wight, and Arnold M. Duff. Minor Latin Poets. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Matthews, John. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court a.d 364-425. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1990.