Julian the Apostate

Roman Emperor Julian II (there was also an emperor Didius Julianus). Ruled from 361 to 363 A.D. Is mainly notable as being the last Pagan emperor of Rome. All subsequent emperors were Christians. He was one of the two nephews of Constantine I, who was not murdered by his son Constantinus II (the other, Gallus, was later executed for corruption). He was given the rank of Caesar in 355, and became governor of Gaul. He proved an able administrator, and won the hearts of the people by winning decisive victories against the barbarians. Constantinus sought to decrease the growing power of Julian and his armies by removing his troops and sending them to the east to fight the Persians. Julian's troops rebelled, declaring him to be the true emperor. Constantinus was moving his armies to meet those of Julian, but he died en-route, and Julian assumed command of the empire.

Julian was a philosopher emperor who wrote his thoughts down, many of which survive even today. He led the neo-pagan movement which sought to return Rome to the old gods of its past. Though he found many followers in his lifetime, Christianity was firmly entrenched by this time, and Julian simply didn't live long enough to bring about any meaningful change. He was killed in 363 while fighting the Persians, and Jovian was named emperor after him.

See Roman Emperors
The life of Julian was also chronicled in a novel by Gore Vidal. A highly entertaining account, and barring one or two moments of poetic licence, a fairly accurate one. Lorenzo de' Medici and Henrik Ibsen also wrote plays about Julian.

It is perhaps a simplification to state that he was one of the last Hellenic Roman Emperors, as previous Emperors had embraced Christianity, during his brief reign Julian restored the worship of Helenic gods.

Julian was another figure whose famous last words, in this case "Thou hast conquered, Galilean" he probably didn't say. Note and this is not only because this is an english statement, not greek.

Julian, often called Julian the Apostate, Roman emperor from 361 to 363. He was born (full name Flavius Claudius Julianus) in about 331. On the death of his uncle Constantine the Great in 337, who had converted the empire to Christianity, all the older members of his family, the younger branch, were slaughtered, and he was only saved because of his tender age by the intervention of the empress Eusabia. He was forced to become a monk.

In 355 he began to study at Athens, where his loathing of Christianity fused with a love of learning, an appreciation of the classics, and a profound morality. But after a short time he was summoned to Milan to become Caesar, or deputy emperor, and to marry the emperor's sister Helena.

He embarked on numerous campaigns and was a valiant soldier. In 360, his cousin the emperor having recalled him in fear of his growing popularity, his troops proclaimed him Augustus and he marched on Constantinople. The emperor dying the following year, Julian took power.

He was a tolerant and wise ruler. He did not suppress the Christian sects, merely stripping them of their new privileges, but they hated him as if he had. He tried to rekindle the ancient "pagan" religion, and founded a secular library at Constantinople (destroyed by fire 491).

Of his books, one was a satire Misopogon or "Beard-hater" on the city of Antioch, where he had made himself unpopular by fixing the corn price to stave off famine. (They had mocked his unkempt beard, that of a philosopher.) He also wrote letters, orations, and satires on past Caesars.

His final campaign was against the Persians. He advanced far but was betrayed into going too far, and was killed in the course of a forced retreat, near Ctesiphon.

After his death many Christian legends were spread about him, such as that his last words were "You have won, Galilean", and that flames erupted from the earth when he tried to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem to disprove the prophecy of Jesus. These fables were condemned by Voltaire, who said of Julian

In short, everyone who has studied the facts impartially recognizes that Julian had all the qualities of Trajan, except the inclination for which the Greeks and Romans have so long been forgiven; all the virtues of Cato, but not his obstinacy and his bad temper; all that we admire in Julius Caesar, and none of his vices; he was as chaste as Scipio. In a word, he was in all things the equal of Marcus Aurelius, the greatest of men.

Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian) was born in Constantinople in 332 AD. His mother, Basilina, died a few months later. Julian's father, Julius Constantius, was the half-brother of the Emperor Constantine. When Julian was 5, Constantine died, and his sons Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans took power. The co-emperors arranged for the murder of Julius Constantius and other family members as potential rivals. Julian and his half-brother Gallus were among the few survivors.

Julian went to exile in Nicomedia, where Mardonius served as his tutor and surrogate parent. In 342, Julian was sent to an isolated castle called Macellum, under the care of George, bishop of Casesarea. He was taught Christianity in both locations, though he was more excited about Homer and Hellenic philosophy. He continued his studies in Constantinople, Bithynia, and Athens. Julian learned Neoplatonism from the leading philosophers of the day and was initiated into the Mithras mystery religion.

In 355, Constantius made Julian a Caesar and had him marry Constantius's sister Helena. Constantius sent Julian to Gaul to fight the Alamanni and Frank tribes. Despite his initial figurehead status and a lack of military experience, Julian managed to gain control of the Roman army and defeat the German barbarians. He earned the support of the Roman army and, after ruling the area justly, the local population.

Constantius, viewing Julian as a rival, ordered him to transfer half of his army assist the campaign in Persia. Many of the troops, from Gaul, chose not to leave. Instead, they mutinied and proclaimed Julian their emperor. Julian reluctantly accepted the title. Constantius and Julian tried, without success, to negotiate a peaceful settlement. In 361, they led their armies towards one another in a potential civil war. Constantius died before the armies met, and Julian become the sole emperor of Rome.

As Emperor, Julian is best known for his support of paganism and opposition to Christianity. He halted imperial support of churches. Instead, he restored pagan temples and assisted pagan clergy. He forbid Christians from teaching the classics. He wasn't able to stop the long-range growth of Christianity, though later generations called him Julian the Apostate. He died in 363 while fighting the Persians, though it is unclear whether a Persian or a Roman Christian killed him.

Jul"ian [L. Julianus, fr. Julius. Cf. July, Gillian.]

Relating to, or derived from, Julius Caesar.

Julian calendar, the calendar as adjusted by Julius Caesar, in which the year was made to consist of 365 days, each fourth year having 366 days. -- Julian epoch, the epoch of the commencement of the Julian calendar, or 46 b. c. -- Julian period, a chronological period of 7,980 years, combining the solar, lunar, and indiction cycles (28 x 19 x 15 = 7,980), being reckoned from the year 4713 B. C., when the first years of these several cycles would coincide, so that if any year of the period be divided by 28, 19, or 15, the remainder will be the year of the corresponding cycle. The Julian period was proposed by Scaliger, to remove or avoid ambiguities in chronological dates, and was so named because composed of Julian years. -- Julian year, the year of 365 days, 6 hours, adopted in the Julian calendar, and in use until superseded by the Gregorian year, as established in the reformed or Gregorian calendar.


© Webster 1913.

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