A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395, and made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby becoming court poet. He wrote a number of panegyrics on the consulship of his patrons, praise poems for the deeds of Stilicho, and invectives directed at Stilicho's rivals in the Eastern court of Arcadius. These efforts resulted with such gifts as the honor of the rank of vir illustris, a statue, and a rich bride selected by Stilicho's wife, Serena.
Despite his Greek origins, Claudian wrote in Latin and is one of the best late users of the language in poetry. Critics consider Claudian a good poet, if not absolutely first-rate. He is elegant, tells a story well, and his polemical passages are occasionally unmatchable in sheer entertaining vitriol; but his writing is tainted by preciousness, a flaw of the literature of his time, and his being extraordinarily cold and unfeeling.
From a historical standpoint, Claudian's poetry is a valuable, however distorted, primary source for his period. Since his poems do not record the achievements of Stilicho after 404, scholars assume he died in that year. The historical or political poems connected with Stilicho have a separate manuscript tradition to the rest of his work, and this is believed to indicate that they were published as a separate collection, perhaps by Stilicho himself after Claudian's death.
His most important non-political work is an unfinished epic, De raptu Proserpinae, whose three extant books are believed to have been written in 395 and 397.