Epic Panegyric and Political Communication in the Fifth-Century West

Andrew Gillett

in Two Romes

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199739400
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933006 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

Epic Panegyric and Political Communication in the Fifth-Century West

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Epic panegyric was a literary and political innovation of the late fourth and fifth centuries in Rome and the Roman west. This chapter examines extant and attested epic panegyrics, from Claudian in the 390s to Sidonius Apollinaris in the 450s and 460s, viewing the genre as a form of political communication between, on the one hand, the imperial court and the newly dominant generalissimos, such as Stilicho, and, on the other, the newly resurgent Roman senate. Under Stilicho and Claudian, panegyrics became propaganda issued to a senatorial audience by the court (rather than supplication received by it), and were no longer specific to one occasion but part of a regular stream of commentary, presenting the court’s interpretation of current events in an articulated series of works. This way of structuring the relationship between the court and the aristocracy of Rome through the medium of epic panegyric was maintained (or revived) over three generations, through Merobaudes and his contemporaries, down to Sidonius. Apart from the remnants of panegyrics themselves, commemorative inscriptions (here translated) and other literary testimonia (including Sidonius Carm. 9) attest the importance of the poets and their style in the volatile politics of the fifth century.

Keywords: Rome; Claudian; Stilicho; Sidonius; senate; Generalissimos; Merobaudes; political communication; Panegyric; epic; media

Chapter.  12028 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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