|De raptu Proserpinae|
Claudius Claudianus, known in English as Claudian (//; c. 370 – c. 404 AD), was a Latin poet associated with the court of the Roman emperor Honorius at Mediolanum (Milan), and particularly with the general Stilicho. His work, written almost entirely in hexameters or elegiac couplets, falls into three main categories: poems for Honorius, poems for Stilicho, and mythological epic.
Claudian was born in Alexandria. He arrived in Rome in 394 and made his mark as a court poet with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, consuls of 395. He wrote a number of panegyrics on the consulship of his patrons, praise poems for the deeds of Stilicho, and invectives directed at Stilicho's rivals in the Eastern court of Arcadius.
Little is known about his personal life, but it seems he was a convinced pagan: Augustine refers to him as the 'adversary of the name of Christ' (Civitas Dei, V, 26), and Paul Orosius describes him as an 'obstinate pagan' (paganus pervicassimus) in his Adversus paganos historiarum libri septem (VII, 55).
He was well rewarded for his political engagement. In fact, he was granted the rank of vir illustris. The Roman Senate honored him with a statue in the Roman Forum in 400. Stilicho's wife, Serena, secured a rich wife for him.
Since none of Claudian's poems record the achievements of Stilicho after 404, scholars assume Claudian died in that year.
Although a native speaker of Greek, Claudian is one of the best Latin poetry stylists of late antiquity. He is not usually ranked among the top tier of Latin poets, but his writing is elegant, he tells a story well, and his polemical passages occasionally attain an unmatchable level of entertaining vitriol. The literature of his time is generally characterized by a quality modern critics find specious, of which Claudian's work is not free, and some find him cold and unfeeling.
Claudian's poetry is a valuable historical source, though distorted by the conventions of panegyric. The historical or political poems connected with Stilicho have a manuscript tradition separate from the rest of his work, an indication that they were likely published as an independent collection, perhaps by Stilicho himself after Claudian's death.
His most important non-political work is an unfinished epic, De raptu Proserpinae ("The Abduction of Proserpina"). The three extant books are believed to have been written in 395 and 397. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, Claudian has not been among the most popular Latin poets of antiquity, but the epic De raptu influenced painting and poetry for centuries.
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