Celestial signs, seers, and sibyls: Claudian's Eutropius and the fourth-century poetics of hate speech

Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides, Michael Charles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The paper examines Claudian’s portrayal of Eutropius, the eunuch consul of emperor Arcadius, as a dira, a monstrous omen that anticipates the final division of the Roman empire. According to traditional Roman superstitions, intersex births were portents of civil unrest. Equally, the presence of intersex people or eunuchs in imperial courts, especially when accompanied by rumours about emperors enjoying sexual affairs with such individuals, were condemned as a symptom of failed leadership and a sign of looming disaster. Furthermore, Eutropius’ effeminacy and old age allows Claudian to imagine him as a pseudo-prophet, a motif common in the Sibylline books but also the Revelation and the New Testament. Thus, Claudian seamlessly combines pagan and Christian apocalyptic imagery in line with Constantine’s ‘Christianisation’ of the pagan Sibyl.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHermathena
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

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