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Claudian

c. A.D. 370 - 405

The Roman poet Claudian wrote during one of the most exciting yet little known periods of Roman history. Theodosius the First was the last emperor to rule both Eastern and Western halves of the empire. His sons Arcadius and Honorius were weak puppets in the hands of strong generals and government ministers. Theodosius fought a desperate battle against the forces of paganism at the River Frigidus in which both Alaric the Visigoth and the master general Flavius Stilicho led imperial troops to victory.. Most of what we know about Stilicho and the barbarian invaders of the time comes from the pen of Claudian. Claudian did not live to see Alaric invade and sack the city of Rome in A. D. 410.

Claudian was born about the year 370. He may rightfully be called the last of the classical Roman poets. He wrote panegyrics, or writings filled with praise, about Flavius Stilicho and the emperor Honorius. Claudian also wrote concerning Rufinus and Eutropius, two Eastern Roman government ministers whom he absolutely detested. While Claudian had nothing but good to say concerning Stilicho and much praise for Honorius, he tried to paint the most negative picture of Rufinus and Eutropius. Even though Claudian was extremely biased, most of our history of the late Fourth and early Fifth Century Roman Empire comes from his writings. Other sources who wrote about the period either left few details or wrote much later.

See the Booklist for bibliographic information on some of the writings of Claudian. The little red Loeb Classical Library editions are available at most large university bookstores.


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