Claudian, Bellum Geticum: a literary and historical commentary (Preface and ll. 1 - 123)
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date04/12/2022
This thesis contains a literary and historical commentary on the preface and on the first 123 verses of the poem Bellum Geticum, composed by the Latin poet Claudian to celebrate Stilicho’s defeat of Alaric’s Gothic army at Pollentia in 402 AD. This commentary fills a gap in current scholarship on Claudian, thus aiming to promote a fuller understanding of the poem and to offer a fresh perspective which will act as basis for potential future research. Bellum Geticum belongs to a group of compositions by Claudian which blend different literary genres, making use of epic metre, language and imagery, but with the eulogistic content peculiar to laudatory literature. In modern scholarship they are often described as ‘epic panegyrics’. Their intent is to endorse the public influence and personal power of the general Stilicho, regent to the young western emperor Honorius. As the tendentious historical narrative is expressed through mythological allegory and the extensive use of imagery drawn from the epic tradition, the analysis of the poem pays particular consideration to the way meaning is constructed in the text. In this context, the commentary addresses the difficulties raised by Bellum Geticum by adopting an interdisciplinary approach and looking simultaneously at his historical, literary and philological aspects. It has also aimed at revealing yet undocumented connections between Bellum Geticum and other texts. The commentary is preceded by an introduction, which sets the poem within the literary and historical context of the turn of the fifth century. In particular, the first section of the introduction analyses the development of the literary genre of epic panegyrics, whereas the second provides a detailed discussion of the political dynamics of the Roman Empire, the role of the generalissimo Stilicho, the Gothic invasion of Italy led by Alaric and the battle of Pollentia. The commentary itself focuses on discrete segments of text which have an internal coherence and are suited to be examined as a unit. The first of these segments is a preface in elegiac couplets placed before the main text; the subsequent sections have been identified on the basis of their function within the poem – as in the case of the mythological proem – or on the basis of content. Each part of the text is accompanied by a new English translation which helps to demonstrate the interpretation of the text as developed in the commentary.