In one case, however, Claudian does make an explicit reference to Christianity: in car. min. 50, an epigram on the pious dux Iacobus, in which, guilty of having criticized him, the poet looks to the saints for support against the barbarians, hoping for a bloodless victory to save him from cutting his verses to pieces. Criticism is divided over the meaning of the poem, in which Claudian displays a good knowledge of the cult of the saints in particular of those venerated at Milan: some scholars consider it vehemently anti-Christian; for others, the object of his scorn is not Christianity as such but the attitude of the overly devout person in general, more concerned with honoring the saints and martyrs than with defending the empire.
In any case, whether he nurtured a closet paganism or a Christian fa§ade, it remains significant that, precisely in the years in which the church was exploiting Theodosius’s victory at the Frigido 6 September 394 to establish a relationship of cause and effect between the emperor’s faith and his victory, Claudian de-Christianizes the victory and attributes Honorius’s military successes and those of Stilicho under him solely to the latter’s value and ability. Prudentius would oppose this reading, proposed by Claudian in the Bellum Geticum for Stilicho’s victory over Alaric at Pollentia 402, in Contra Symmachum II, 708ff., attributing the victory to the faith of Honorius and Stilicho.
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