Claudian's In Eutropium

Claudian's In Eutropium: Or, How, When, and Why to Slander a Eunuch

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 308
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    Claudian's In Eutropium
    Book Description:

    From A.D. 395 to 404, Claudian was the court poet of the Western Roman Empire, ruled by Honorius. In 399 the eunuch Eutropius, the grand chamberlain and power behind the Eastern Roman throne of Honorius's brother Arcadius, became consul. The poemIn Eutropiumis Claudian's brilliantly nasty response. In it he vilifies Eutropius and calls on Honorius's general, Stilicho, to redeem this disgrace to Roman honor. In this literary and historical study, Jacqueline Long argues that the poem was, in both intent and effect, political propaganda: Claudian exploited traditional prejudices against eunuchs to make Eutropius appear ludicrously alien to the ideals of Roman greatness. Long setsIn Eutropiumwithin the context of Greek and Roman political vituperation and satire from the classical to the late antique period. In addition, she demonstrates that the poem is an invaluable, if biased, source of historical information about Eutropius's career. Her analysis draws on modern propaganda theory and on reader response theory, thereby bringing a fresh perspective to the political implications of Claudian's work.A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

    eISBN: 978-0-8078-3780-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Eunuch Consul and the Court Poet
    (pp. 1-14)

    The year A.D. 399 was unique in Roman history. As the sixth-century chronicler Marcellinus records,¹

    XII. Theodori et Eutropii eunuchi.

    Hic Eutropius omnium spadonum primus adque ultimus consul fuit: de quo Claudianus poeta ait:

    omnia cesserunt eunucho consule monstra.

    12th [indiction, the consulate] of Theodorus and Eutropius the eunuch. This Eutropius of all eunuchs was the first and last consul. Concerning him the poet Claudian says:

    All prodigies have given way, when a eunuch is consul.

    At this time the Roman Empire was ruled jointly by Theodosius the Great’s two sons.² The younger, Honorius, reigned in the West, with his...

  6. PART ONE The Literary World of In Eutropium

    • CHAPTER ONE Structure and Genre
      (pp. 17-50)

      A first step toward understanding howIn Eutropiumstruck its initial audiences, and what it reveals about Claudian’s circumstances and aims, is to analyze its literary form. Both the tasks of identifying elements within a work and of recognizing their configuration as a whole presuppose a system of conventions that define elements and overall forms. These conventions are conveniently summarized by the labels of genre.¹ There is nothing about generic categories that is absolute, for they are determined organically by evolving literary traditions. A given work shifts the nucleus of the genre even as it participates in it. Moreover, formalized...

    • CHAPTER TWO Traditions of Roman Satire
      (pp. 51-64)

      In Eutropium1 and 2 generate different momentums, which control the audience’s reception of the poems. The generic labels I have attached to them mark that difference. Yet the two books are not entirely disparate. Both the stepwise demonstration of book 1 and the driving movement of book 2 convey outraged mockery of Eutropius. The mode of attack recalls satire generally; Claudian reinforces the resemblance with various specific allusions. His contemporary audience was doubtless well equipped to appreciate echoes of satire. At least Ammianus Marcellinus, sourly assessing why serious history was neglected by Roman aristocrats at the close of the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Literary Traditions of Political Invective
      (pp. 65-106)

      Classical Greek and Roman politics generated many bitter conflicts, which in turn inspired much eloquent vituperation. Claudian still exploits the topics and techniques of ancient authors, although he does not often allude particularly to individual political works. The first interest of this chapter will be to sketch what kinds of attacks became established, and what relevance they bore for political issues.

      The milieux and forms of political criticism changed from classical to late antiquity. Macedonian dominance first and later Roman suzerainty quieted the political ferment of democratic Athens; emperors stilled the political contention of republican Rome. In the Roman imperial...

    • CHAPTER FOUR How to Slander a Eunuch
      (pp. 107-146)

      Ancient invective, from the freewheeling attacks of democratic Athens and republican Rome to the formalized epideictic theory of late antiquity, always centered on the person of its victim. Authors presupposed that the character of an opponent determined all his acts. Not only his conduct in the practical issue at hand, but also his private life, childhood, and family origins entered the argument. Wild allegations mingled freely with verifiable facts. Authors sought to persuade by emotive portraits as much as by rational means.

      For Claudian, the central fact of Eutropius’s person was that he was that he was a eunuch. Simple...

  7. PART TWO The Historical World of In Eutropium

    • CHAPTER FIVE Date and Reference
      (pp. 149-178)

      The date ofIn Eutropiumposes problems because different parts of the invective describe different historical events.In Eutropium1 cites the devastation of the East in 398 to show how the sight of a eunuch defender inspires the barbarian enemy with confidence (1.238–51). Eutropius’s triumphal return from Armenia that year exemplifies his shamelessness (1.252–54). Yet more shamelessly, the poem continues, in return for his triumph Eutropius demands the honor of the consulate for 399 (1.284–85). Finally it depicts his inauguration in January 399 (1.300–316). The scene fits to conventions of the ceremony images from Claudian’s...

    • CHAPTER SIX Eastern Information at the Western Court
      (pp. 179-192)

      The fact that events happened does not alone establish that Claudian referred to them and manipulated them. First he needed access to information.¹ Even more thanIn Rufinum, In Eutropiumconcerns the East. How well Claudian knew the affairs of the Eastern empire, the dealings of Arcadius’s court, and Eutropius’s personal history limits the degree of detailed accuracy he could attain. In turn, it is within the limits of his knowledge that he selected which items to present and in what light to cast them.

      Claudian also must have written with an eye toward the knowledge and interests of his...

  8. PART THREE The Literary and Historical Worlds Meet

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Claudian’s Audience
      (pp. 195-220)

      Part I of my study considers the artistic entity of Claudian’sIn Eutropium,Part II the circumstances with reference to which Claudian wrote and the quality of the information he could exploit. One more element remains to be explored before I can discuss to what effects the literary invective beast, unleashed into the historical arena, savaged its victim Eutropius: the audience before whom this performance was enacted. Claudian not only wrote about public figures and politically important events, he also made his works known to people who had pragmatic interests in these subjects. The nature of their interests must have...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Stance and Purpose
      (pp. 221-262)

      Books 1 and 2 ofIn Eutropiumare set apart by their different dynamic structures as formal invective and epic. They respond to different circumstances. This chapter explores the apparent aims of the responses. Book 1’s systematic stepwise progress through argument, while exploiting various irrational prejudices, pursues the essentially rational end of persuasion. As Ellul noted, rational and irrational elements operate most effectively in concert. Book 2’s epic momentum is better suited to agitation.

      Both books evoke Roman social myth. A crystallized image of Roman tradition belonged to the cultural self-consciousness of any Roman, but modern scholars have always judged...

  9. CONCLUSION: In Eutropium and the Empire of Rome
    (pp. 263-270)

    Claudian’sIn Eutropiumis fascinating, both as a work of literature and as a political document. The two categories are by no means exclusive: Brunella Moroni has argued that Claudian’s literary reminiscences themselves work propagandistically. They identify Claudian and his poetry as bearers of Roman traditions, and therefore as appropriate authorities for the positions taken in the poems. Claudian’s hero Stilicho too is thereby implied to embody traditional ideals, so that his designs are automatically recommended to conservative Roman patriotism.¹

    One who knew Stilicho’s background from Claudian would scarcely be aware that he was, through his father, of Vandal blood;...

    (pp. 271-284)
    (pp. 285-286)
    (pp. 287-292)