Claudian, Roman Author

Claudian, born around 370 in Alexandria and died around 404 in Rome, stands as the final significant poet within the classical tradition. Transitioning to Italy and shifting from Greek to Latin, he demonstrated his linguistic prowess with a poem commemorating the consulship of Probinus and Olybrius in 395. His career faced jeopardy due to an epigram criticizing his superior, the Greek Hadrianus, titled Deprecatio ad Hadrianum, which endangered his civil position. However, his diligent commendations of Stilicho, the Western emperor Flavius Honorius’s minister, alongside his criticisms of Stilicho’s adversaries at Flavius Arcadius’s court, secured him the office of tribunus et notarius, the distinction of vir clarissimus, and the honor of a statue.

The compilations praising Stilicho, released posthumously yet before Stilicho’s fall in 408, are included in the Claudianus major collection. This collection, spanning two books, features epistles, epigrams, idylls, and panegyrics on the consulships of Honorius, Mallius Theodorus, and Stilicho, with a third book dedicated to Stilicho’s triumphal entry into Rome. It also contains invectives against Arcadius’s ministers, works to Serena, Stilicho’s wife, and various other compositions, including the notable De sene Veronensi and Gigantomachia. The Claudianus minor collection houses the mythological epic Raptus Proserpinae, central to Claudian’s medieval reputation, showcasing his fascination with the Eleusinian mysteries.

Esteemed nearly as highly as Statius and Lucan in the Middle Ages, Claudian’s style, marked by overly ornate rhetoric for his chosen subjects, has drawn criticism from modern scholars. Despite this, his inventive prowess and potent satire demand attention. His flawless diction and prosody, although occasionally monotonous due to their perfection, and his craftsmanship, often seen as mechanical, nonetheless underline his historical significance and literary skill.

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