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 convert
ed the empire to Christianity
, all the older members of his family, the younger branch, were slaughter
ed, 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.