HYDE LECTURE: Susanna Elm, Berkeley, "Eutropius the Consul: Power, Ugliness, and Imperial Representation in Late Antiquity"

Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall 

A certain Eutropius was made consul of the Eastern Roman Empire in 399 CE. Our best and most comprehensive source for Eutropius are two epic panegyrics composed by the poet Claudius Claudianus. Claudian, a native Greek speaker from Alexandria, became the foremost voice of the court of emperor Honorius in Milan, representing in particular the views of the military leader and imperial guardian Stilicho.  Claudian’s Eutropius is thus a Western product, which makes assessments of the man and his work, especially from an Eastern perspective, exceedingly difficult. This is significant, because Eutropius was a eunuch. Claudian’s presentation of Eutropius the Eunuch is so powerful and had such lasting impact that it shaped much of the way the Eastern emperor Arcadius and his court are seen, to this day: as the paradigm of the weak emperor and the powerful court-eunuch. But Eutropius was also the consul and hence held the highest office after the emperors. What does that signify and what are the possible ramifications for conceptions of imperial leadership at the turn of the 4th to 5th century CE?