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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Julian The Apostate and The Fight For Paganism

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Path to Power

Born in Constantinople, the son of Julius Constance, brother of Constantine the Great, and his second wife Vasilina. The father died shortly after the death of Constantine the Great, in the year 337, during a military riot. Julian was left an orphan at the age of 6 after the death of his father, while his mother lost in the first year of his life. Where he was with his brother Gall during the disaster of 337 remains unknown, but it is certain that he retained a clear memory of her. After the death of Constantine the Great, when his sons divided the administration of the Roman Empire among themselves, during the bloody massacre perpetrated by the soldiers, perhaps by order of Constantius II (son of Constantine the Great) all immediate relatives of the imperial family were killed. Julian escaped from the hands of the murderers due to his childhood (6 years), and his elder brother Gall escaped death due to a serious illness, which already had to bring him to the grave. Thus, in the very early childhood Julian and his elder brother remained orphans under the tutelage of the emperor Constantius.

After the death of his father, Julian was brought up by Eusebius, the Arian bishop of Nicomedia, and then Constantinople. From 339, he studied Greek philosophy and literature under the guidance of the eunuch Mardonius, who aroused in him a love for the Hellenic world. In 344-345 lived in Nicomedia, where he met Libanius (he could not hear the lectures of this pagan orator, but he was secretly given records of speeches), and in 351-352. – in Pergamum and Ephesus, where he encountered several Neo-Platonist philosophers, among them Maxim of Ephesus, who was a supporter of the Iamblich theurgic neo-Platonism and had the greatest influence on Julian, subsequently causing him to break with Christianity. 352—354 Julian again spent in Nicomedia, studying the works of Neo-Platonists. In 355 he went to study in Athens and there he met Gregory the Theologian and Basil of Caesarea.

In 344, Julian and his brother Gallou were told to live in the castle of Macellum near Caesarea Cappadocia. Although living conditions corresponded to the high status of young people, Julian complained about the lack of society, the constant constraints on freedom and the secret supervision. Probably, Julian’s enmity to the Christian faith should be attributed to this period. In this position, the brothers remained about 6 years. Meanwhile, the childless Constantia was very concerned about the idea of ​​a successor, because of the direct descendants of Constancia Chlorus, only two cousins ​​Constantia, Gall and Julian remained alive after the persecution. The emperor in 350, decided to call for power Gall. Summoning him from the castle of Macellum, Constantius gave him the title of Caesar and appointed him viceroy in Antioch. But Gall was unable to cope with the new situation and made many mistakes, arousing suspicions of infidelity against the emperor against himself. Gall was summoned by Constantius to justify, and on the way he was killed in 354. Again, the question of the succession of power was raised. At the insistence of the Empress Eusebius, who acted in this regard contrary to the plans of the court party, Constantius decided to return to Julian the position to which he had birth rights.

In 355, Constantius II proclaimed Julian Caesar, married his sister Helen, and sent them as chief of troops to Gaul, where there was a stubborn and hard struggle with the advancing Germans, who destroyed the country, destroyed cities and exterminated the population. Julian successfully coped with the difficult task of saving Gaul and under the Argentinian (now Strasbourg ) inflicted a severe defeat on the Germans. The main residence of Julian in Gaul became Lutetia (Lutetia Parisiorum; later Paris ). Cases of Julian went well, and the Germans were driven back over the Rhine. “I, being still a Caesar,” wrote Julian, “for the third time passed the Rhine; I demanded 20,000 prisoners from Zareinsky barbarians… I, by the will of the gods, took all the cities, a little less than forty ”. Among the troops Julian enjoyed great love.

In 360, the emperor was preparing for a campaign in Persia, where hostilities did not cease and where the Persians transferred the war already to the Roman regions — Mesopotamia and Armenia. The Asian troops were supposed to be reinforced by European forces, for which Constantius demanded that Julian sent the parcels to the East of some of his best and tried legions. Caesar accepted this demand as a sign of distrust towards himself, because without a army he could not hold on to Gaul; In addition, the Gallic troops took the news of the march to the East with great displeasure. Under these conditions, in Paris, where Caesar was at that time, a military rebellion took place and Julian was proclaimed emperor. News of this reached the emperor in Caesarea Cappadocia. If Constantius did not find it possible to recognize the accomplished fact and enter into an agreement with Julian, then an internecine war was ahead, which only did not burn out because the emperor, busy with preparations for the campaign, in the summer and winter of 360 was in Asia Minor and only in spring 361. could start moving to Europe. After proclaiming August in his letter to Constance, Julian tried to justify himself and offered to enter into an agreement on what had happened. But since Constantius demanded that he be completely and completely removed from the deeds, and meanwhile the army vowed to serve him and support his rights, Julian decided to go against Constance with war. He already mastered the alpine aisles, founded his main apartment in Nis, took Illyric, Pannonia and Italy under his rule, moving very quickly and collecting enormous funds for war, when the unexpected death of Constantia on 3 November 361 liberated Julian from the need to start an internecine war. On December 11, 361, Julian entered Constantinople as the direct and legitimate heir of the Roman emperors. The supporters of Constantius and the people who stood close to him were subjected to cruel persecution and punishment from the side of the new emperor.

Domestic Policy

Supporter of the restoration of pagan traditions based on Neo – Platonism, an opponent of Christianity. Being at this time already a staunch supporter of paganism and being forced to death by Constance to hide his religious views, Julian, becoming a sovereign, first of all decided to start fulfilling his cherished dream, namely the restoration of paganism. In the first weeks after his accession to the throne, Julian issued an edict about this. By the time of Julian, there was not a single pagan temple in Constantinople itself. New temples in the short term could not be erected. Then Julian made a solemn sacrifice, in all probability, in the main basilica, intended for walks and business conversations, and the statue of Fortune decorated with Constantine. According to the testimony of the church historian Sozomen, the following scene occurred: a blind old man led by a child, approaching the emperor, called him an atheist, apostate, a man without faith. To this Julian answered him: “You are blind, and it is not your Galilean God who will return your sight to you.” “I thank God,” said the old man, “because he deprived me of it, so that I could not see your godlessness.” Julian was silent on this audacity and continued the sacrifice.

Having decided to restore paganism, Julian understood that its restoration in past, purely material forms is impossible; it was necessary to transform it somewhat, to improve it in order to create a force that could come to grips with the Christian church. For this, the emperor decided to borrow many aspects of the Christian organization, with which he was well acquainted. He organized the pagan clergy after the hierarchy of the Christian church; the interior of the pagan temples was modeled after the Christian churches; it was ordered to conduct conversations in temples and read about the secrets of Hellenic wisdom; singing was introduced during the pagan service; an impeccable life was required of the priests, charity was encouraged; for non-observance of religious requirements threatened with excommunication and repentance, etc. In a word, in order to somewhat revive and adapt restored paganism to life, Julian turned to the source which he despised with all the forces of his soul.

The announcement of religious tolerance was one of the first acts of Julian’s independent rule. During his visit, representatives of many disgraced currents in Christianity returned from exile, and public debates were held on religious topics. In his 362 Edict on Tolerance, Julian allowed the restoration of pagan temples and the return of their confiscated property, and also returned from exile the exiled Christian bishops. At the same time, the returning representatives of the clergy, belonging to various confessions, completely, from their point of view, irreconcilable among themselves, could not get along in harmony and began fierce disputes, which Julian was apparently counting on. Giving toleration and knowing the psychology of Christians well, he was sure that strife would begin in their church now, and such a disconnected church would no longer pose a serious danger to him. At the same time, Julian promised great benefits to those Christians who would agree to renounce Christianity. There were many examples of renunciation. Saint Jerome called this way of action of Julian “prosecution affectionate, which beckoned rather than compelled to sacrifice.”

Julian The Apostate Painting by Paul McCall

In addition to the restoration of the ancient Roman religion, Julian planned to rebuild the Jerusalem temple for the Jews.

Julian’s school reform dealt the most sensitive blow to Christianity. The first decree concerns the appointment of professors to the main cities of the empire. Candidates must be elected by the cities, but are submitted for approval at the discretion of the emperor, so the latter could not approve any professor he dislikes. In the past, the appointment of professors was administered by the city. Much more important was the second decree, preserved in the letters of Julian. “Everything,” says the decree, “who is going to teach something, should have good behavior and not have directions in the soul that disagree with the state”. Under the state direction it is necessary, of course, to understand the traditional direction of the emperor himself. The decree considers it ridiculous that those explaining Homer, Hesiod, Demosthenes, Herodotus and other ancient writers themselves reject the gods honored by these writers. Thus, Julian forbade Christians to teach rhetoric and grammar, if they do not go to the worship of the gods. Indirectly, Christians were also forbidden to study, since they could not (for religious reasons) attend pagan schools.

In the summer of 362, Julian took a trip to the eastern provinces and arrived in Antioch, where the population was Christian. Antioch’s stay of Julian is important in the sense that it made him convinced of the difficulty, even the impossibility of restoring paganism to him. The capital of Syria has remained completely cold to the sympathies of the emperor who visited it. Julian told the story of his visit in his satirical work “ Misopogon, or the Hater of a Beard ”. The conflict escalated after the fire of the Daphne temple, where Christians were suspected. Angry, Julian ordered, as punishment, to close the main church of Antioch, which, moreover, was plundered and desecrated. Similar facts occurred in other cities. Christians, in turn, broke images of gods. Some members of the church suffered martyr’s demise.

Hike to Persia and Julian’s death

The main foreign policy task of Julian considered the struggle against Sassanian Iran, where Shahur II the Great (Long-armed, or Long Shoulders) ruled at that time ( 309 – 379 ). The campaign in Persia (spring – summer 363 ) was initially very successful: the Roman legions reached the capital of Persia, Ctesiphon, but ended in disaster and the death of Julian.

Ctesiphon was found impregnable even for the 83,000-strong army, although earlier Roman forces had already captured this city three times. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the Roman reinforcements and the Armenian allies, who were to strike at Ctesiphon from the north, did not appear. One Persian, a man old, respected and very judicious, promised Julian to betray the Persian kingdom and volunteered to be a guide inside Persia. Julian burned his fleet stationed on the Tigris, and excess food; but the traitor led the Romans into the Carmanite desert, where there was no water at all and no food. After the escape of conductors, Julian was forced to begin a retreat, pressed by the enemy troops. On June 26, 363, Julian was wounded three times in the battle of Marange : in the arm, chest and liver. The last wound was fatal. According to some reports, the wounds were inflicted by a soldier of his own army, something offended by him. According to other rumors, Julian’s death was actually a suicide: realizing that the position of his army was hopeless, he sought death in battle and rushed to the enemy’s spear. Of all his contemporaries, only his friend, the famous orator Libanius, reports that he was killed by a Christian, but he also admits that this is only an assumption. Pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus (XXV. 3. 2 – 23) writes about the death of Julian as a tragic accident caused by negligence.

One of the bodyguards Julian assured that the emperor was killed by an envious evil spirit. The information on the last words of Julian is also contradictory. A modern source tells him that the emperor, having collected his blood in a handful, threw it in the sun with the words to his god: “Be satisfied!”. About 450 g. Theodoret Kirsky wrote that before his death, Julian exclaimed: “You won, Galilean!”. However, an eyewitness and participant of the events Ammianus Marcellinus (see above) does not report anything of the kind. Most likely, the famous last phrase of Julian is embedded in his mouth by church historians.

Julian after his death was buried in a pagan temple in Tarsus, Cilicia ; Later, his body was transferred to his homeland in Constantinople and laid in the Church of the Holy Apostles near the body of his wife, in a purple sarcophagus, but without a funeral as the body of the apostate.

Wright, WC , The Emperor Julian, Loeb Classical Library
L’empereur Julien . Œuvres complètes trad. Jean Bidez
Julian Caesars St. Petersburg, 1820.
Julian Speech to the Antioch, or Misapogon
Julian Against Christians. / Per. A. B. Ranovich

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