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A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria, Claudian arrived in Rome before AD 395, and made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby becoming court poet. 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. These efforts resulted with such gifts as the honor of the rank of vir illustrius, a statue, and a rich bride selected by Stilicho's wife, Serena.
Modern critics consider Claudian a good poet, if not absolutely first-rate. He is elegant, tells a story well, and his polemical passages are occasionally unmatchable in sheer entertaining vitriol; but his writing is tainted by preciousness, a flaw of the literature of his time: and he is extraordinarily cold and unfeeling.
From a historical standpoint, Claudian's poetry is a valuable, however distorted, primary source for his period. Since his poems do not record the achievements of Stilicho after 404, scholars assume he died in that year.
- Claudian at LacusCurtius (most of his work, in Latin original and English translation)
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