In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Claudian (Claudius Claudianus)

  • Introduction
  • General Treatment
  • Bibliographies
  • Biography
  • Texts, Textual Transmission, and Textual Criticism
  • Translations
  • Historical Background
  • Politics and Propaganda
  • Audience
  • Religious and Philosophical Views
  • Role of Location
  • Language, Style, and Form
  • Claudian’s Intertextual use of works Composed Before Late Antiquity
  • Claudian and Writers of Late Antiquity
  • Reception in art and Literature after Antiquity

Classics Claudian (Claudius Claudianus)
Ruth Parkes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 September 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 September 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0215


The poetry of Claudian dating from the 4th century and the early years of the 5th century CE, has won admirers from its first reception to the 21st century. The corpus of the poet, a native Greek speaker, is bilingual; however, the majority of his extant works are in Latin, produced after his move to the West. Most of these aim to promote the deeds and ambitions of his patron Stilicho, the power behind the throne of the young emperor Honorius. His talent was recognized by the general following his apparent debut at Rome in 395 CE with a panegyric for the consuls-elect Olybrius and Probinus. Claudian was skillful at turning his pen to best serve the political interests of the court and Stilicho against a fast-moving, complex political backdrop. He was adept at exploiting in an innovative fashion his knowledge of rhetorical theory and classical literature. His oeuvre is marked by variety of style, form, length, and content. It ranges from the obviously political poems, such as consular panegyrics lauding Honorius and Stilicho and the epics prompted by contemporary events, to his three-book mythological epic, the De Raptu Proserpinae.

General Treatment

While serving as a valuable resource for the experienced student of Claudian, the in-depth monograph Cameron 1970 also offers much to the reader new to the poet. For a shorter guide to the poet, see the clear summary of Barnes 2005, which sets Claudian’s literary output in context. Hofmann 2003 offers a concise introduction with signposted bibliographical leads. Wheeler 2010 is a succinct summary, while McGill 2012 is a useful introduction to Claudian in the context of contemporary works, which recognizes the need to view late Antique literature on own terms and in its own cultural setting.

  • Barnes, Michael H. 2005. Claudian. In A companion to ancient epic. Edited by John Miles Foley, 539–549. Oxford: Blackwell.

    A section on Claudian’s life and career, which deals with the works chronologically and contextually, is followed by consideration of genre and style, a discussion of the De bello Gildonico, and suggestions for further reading.

  • Cameron, A. 1970 (repr. 2002). Claudian: Poetry and propaganda at the court of Honorius. Oxford: Clarendon.

    First published in 1970, this groundbreaking study continues to have an impact on the study of Claudian. Readable and packed with information about a number of aspects of Claudian’s life, works, and contemporary backdrop.

  • Hofmann, Heinz. 2003. Claudius C. Graeco-Latin poet, c. AD 400. In Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the ancient world, Antiquity. Vol. 3, Cat-Cyp. Edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, 386–390. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

    A brief, straightforward survey that covers aspects such as works, panegyric, transmission, and reception, along with the valuable provision of further bibliographical leads. German version available. Also available online by subscription.

  • McGill, Scott. 2012. Latin poetry. In The Oxford handbook of late Antiquity. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Johnson, 335–360. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Discussion that includes Claudian in a survey of late Antique writers. Highlights the way Claudian’s work exemplifies some features of late Antique literature, such as variety, engagement with classical forms and models, and political content.

  • Wheeler, Stephen. 2010. Claudian. In The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Greece and Rome. Vol. 2. Edited by M. Gagarin and E. Fantham, 221–222. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A brief but clear and informative entry on Claudian’s life and works.

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