Defending Julian from opinions based on an uncritical evaluation of sources

May 2011
2,852
Rural Australia
Well you plainly do have an anti-Christian agenda, you hardly post here about anything else; that doesn't mean of course that what you post is necessarily mistaken!
My agenda is that of an investigator of the Christian Revolution of the 4th century which was in the rule of the Emperor Julian temporarily suspended.

My agenda is not with the Christians of the 21st century but the historical evidence of the Christians of the 4th century.

I am seriously questioning the historical integrity of the mass of Christian produced literary sources of that epoch.

If this is viewed as an anti-Christian agenda then please be aware that it is qualified.

But I wasn't basing my notion that Julian was a crank on any fabricated accounts by Christian authors.
Julian produced a great range of literary output the fragments of which are now conveniently preserved in the three Loeb volumes.

Do you regard all these works as the product of a crank or just one or more of them, for example "Misopogon". Julian in modern scholarly articles is quite often viewed as a philosopher, and a highly educated one at that. How do you reconcile such views with the claim that Julian's own writings show him to be a crank?

Julian, Volume I — Julian | Harvard University Press


Julian (Flavius Claudius Iulianus) “the Apostate,” Roman Emperor, lived 331 or 332 to 363 CE. Born and educated in Constantinople as a Christian, after a precarious childhood he devoted himself to literature and philosophy and became a pagan, studying in various Greek cities. In 355 his cousin Emperor Constantius called him from Athens to the court at Milan, entitled him “Caesar,” and made him governor of Gaul. Julian restored Gaul to prosperity and good government after the ravages of the Alamanni (he overthrew them at the battle of Strassburg in 357) and other Germans. Between 357 and 361 Julian’s own soldiers, refusing to serve in the East at Constantius’s orders, nearly involved Julian in war with Constantius—who however died in 361 so that Julian became sole Emperor of the Roman world. He began many reforms and proclaimed universal toleration in religion but pressed for the restoration of the older pagan worships. In 362–363 he prepared at Constantinople and then at Antioch for his expedition against Persia ruled by Shapur II. He died of a wound received in desperate battle.

Julian’s surviving works (lost are his Commentaries on his western campaigns), all in Greek, are given in the Loeb Classical Library in three volumes. The eight Orations (1–5 in Volume I, 6–8 in Volume II) include two in praise of Constantius, one praising Constantius’s wife Eusebia, and two theosophical hymns (in prose) or declamations, of interest for studies in neo-Platonism, Mithraism, and the cult of the Magna Mater in the Roman world. The satirical Caesars and Misopogon (Beard-Hater), are also in Volume II. The Letters (more than eighty, in Volume III) include edicts or rescripts, mostly about Christians; encyclical or pastoral letters to priests; and private letters. Lastly in Volume III are the fragments of the work Against the Galilaeans (the Christians), written mainly to show that evidence for the idea of Christianity is lacking in the Old Testament.

 
Rhetoric is not history.

I cannot decide if this rhetoric is best viewed as Neo-Christian (as I mentioned above) or simply Anti-Pagan, or something else again entirely. Does anyone else have an opinion?
It seems to me that part of his agenda was simply to provoke you, thus why he called you out in his second post about Julian in the Greatest Ruler of Antiquity thread. But don't expect a reply from him, as I see from the historical Jesus thread that he's been permanently banned for similar behaviour.
 
I avoided the debate about Julian's competence thus far, since I didn't want to deal with El Cid's bad behaviour, but whether or not he was a good or bad emperor, I do agree that he was a bit of a crank, in the sense that he seems to me to have been eccentric and reactionary.

Misopogon is a bizarre work, and I recall that his approach to pagan religion was a bit unusual, combining neo-platonism with traditional public religion. His enthusiasm for sacrificing crap-tonnes of animals seems to have become increasingly out-dated, as it was not met with enthusiasm by the Antiochenes. His refusal to abide by the norms of late Roman emperors in how he presented himself, preferring to be first among equals rather than the bejewelled and imposing dominus, may be admirable from a Republican or Augustan mindset, but it was also outdated and, I seem to recall, made a few senators uncomfortable.

While he did have a philosophical perspective that directed him against Christianity, he also seems to have been pretty reactionary towards the legacies of Constantine and his sons, perhaps unsurprisingly, since Constantine's sons had killed everyone in his family. Something like that would have left him understandably shaken and vengeful. On the bright side, his attitude did leave us with his hilarious presentation of Constantine and Jesus in The Caesars.
 
May 2011
2,852
Rural Australia
I avoided the debate about Julian's competence thus far, since I didn't want to deal with El Cid's bad behaviour, but whether or not he was a good or bad emperor, I do agree that he was a bit of a crank, in the sense that he seems to me to have been eccentric and reactionary.
What could anyone possibly expect of the last pagan emperor? When he was elevated to the purple, the process of the Christianisation of the Roman empire had been in progress for a period of 35 years. How could we not expect him to be reactionary. Eccentric he may have been but uneducated he was not.

Misopogon is a bizarre work, ...
I have been reading various interpertations of this work. Julian satires himself to satirise certain people of Antioch in writing. Rather bizzare on the surface but one commentator pointed out that other rulers would have simply executed their opponents, and that the work represents one demonstrating toleration. I have not finished looking up what the academics have written about this work, so I will keep an open mind.


.... and I recall that his approach to pagan religion was a bit unusual, combining neo-platonism with traditional public religion. His enthusiasm for sacrificing crap-tonnes of animals seems to have become increasingly out-dated,
Apparently as a result his nickname was "Bullburner". It may be he was reacting to the Christian revolution by a return to the Augustan principles of Roman religion which included animal sacrifice. Are you aware of any sources that describe whether the sacrifice was distributed to the people, or what was done with the burnt bulls? BBQ?


as it was not met with enthusiasm by the Antiochenes.
At the moment it appears many academics acknowledge that Antioch was a predominantly Christian city. The process of Christianisation appears to have started in the cities and then spread out into the provinces and country. No academic work I have seen so far mentions that Constantine had convened a "Meeting" at Antioch after his military supremacy over the eastern empire, but before the Council of Nicaea. In this he delivered his Oration. However there is evidence to suggest that he gave orders that certain philosophers and magistrates in the city should be tortured on account of their religious beliefs. In other words, the Christianisation of Antioch involved force and coersion, and may have been accomplished at this war council. In any event, Antioch was a Christian stronghold. They were not enthused by Julian's proscriptions against their hegemon.

His refusal to abide by the norms of late Roman emperors in how he presented himself, preferring to be first among equals rather than the bejewelled and imposing dominus, may be admirable from a Republican or Augustan mindset, but it was also outdated and, I seem to recall, made a few senators uncomfortable.
Perhaps that too was a reaction to the "Oriental Court" of Constantine?

While he did have a philosophical perspective that directed him against Christianity, he also seems to have been pretty reactionary towards the legacies of Constantine and his sons, perhaps unsurprisingly, since Constantine's sons had killed everyone in his family. Something like that would have left him understandably shaken and vengeful. On the bright side, his attitude did leave us with his hilarious presentation of Constantine and Jesus in The Caesars.
I agree.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,669
Blachernai
Have you read Errington's Roman Imperial Policy, Jack? It sets Julian in the context of other emperors around him and the demands placed upon the man at the centre of the state rather than the religious issues that dominate way too much of the academic and non-academic discourse.
 
What could anyone possibly expect of the last pagan emperor? When he was elevated to the purple, the process of the Christianisation of the Roman empire had been in progress for a period of 35 years. How could we not expect him to be reactionary. Eccentric he may have been but uneducated he was not.
Oh he was certainly well educated. One suspects that the reason he was such a confident (if overbold) military leader in his wars against the Germans was in part because he had read a lot of history. But there's nothing wrong with being eccentric. I think that Diocletian was one of history's most eccentric leaders, but it probably comes as no surprise that I consider him to have been a great, if in some respects flawed, emperor.

I have been reading various interpertations of this work. Julian satires himself to satirise certain people of Antioch in writing. Rather bizzare on the surface but one commentator pointed out that other rulers would have simply executed their opponents, and that the work represents one demonstrating toleration. I have not finished looking up what the academics have written about this work, so I will keep an open mind.
Certainly, writing Misopogon was better than beheading a bunch of Antiochenes, but I do think it's an odd thing for an emperor to do. But again, odd does not equal bad. It just adds to my image of Julian as an eccentric guy.

Apparently as a result his nickname was "Bullburner". It may be he was reacting to the Christian revolution by a return to the Augustan principles of Roman religion which included animal sacrifice. Are you aware of any sources that describe whether the sacrifice was distributed to the people, or what was done with the burnt bulls? BBQ?

At the moment it appears many academics acknowledge that Antioch was a predominantly Christian city. The process of Christianisation appears to have started in the cities and then spread out into the provinces and country. No academic work I have seen so far mentions that Constantine had convened a "Meeting" at Antioch after his military supremacy over the eastern empire, but before the Council of Nicaea. In this he delivered his Oration. However there is evidence to suggest that he gave orders that certain philosophers and magistrates in the city should be tortured on account of their religious beliefs. In other words, the Christianisation of Antioch involved force and coersion, and may have been accomplished at this war council. In any event, Antioch was a Christian stronghold. They were not enthused by Julian's proscriptions against their hegemon.
People were fed the meat, yes. I agree that he was trying to revive a custom, although mass-sacrifice was not Augustan but rather just traditional Roman. I can't remember the source, but the idea that the move was unpopular with Antiochenes (including pagan Antiochenes) and was perhaps out-dated even by pagan standards came up in a talk that I attended last year by a PhD student studying the Constantinian dynasty.

"However there is evidence to suggest that he gave orders that certain philosophers and magistrates in the city should be tortured on account of their religious beliefs." - Do you remember what the evidence is? Undoubtedly certain people of influence were killed after the defeat of Licinius, but such actions were usually political purges of the sort that naturally followed victories in civil war.

Perhaps that too was a reaction to the "Oriental Court" of Constantine?
This could well be the case, but I don't think it's the only factor at play. Constantine did have a reputation for gaudiness, and Julian satirizes his attire and supposed love of wealth in The Caesars. Eusebius treats Constantine's get-up as a positive when he describes his captivating entrance at the Council of Nicaea. Similarly, Constantius II presented himself in a bejewelled and distant manner, as Ammianus famously describes when narrating his adventus into Rome.

But also, this approach to imperial self-representation predates Constantine and his sons. The Historia Augusta claims that Gallienus dressed in gold and jewels, which Julian likewise satirizes inThe Caesars. Gallienus is also the first emperor to be depicted on coins with a diadem (although Severus Alexander had earlier appeared with a diadem in a statue). In contrast, the Epitome de Caesaribus claims that Aurelian used gold and jewels to a degree almost unknown to Roman custom and was the first to wear a diadem. Malalas claims that Aurelian wore a diadem decorated with a star. Aurelius Victor and Eutropius, who use the same now-lost source, attribute the first use of bejewelled clothing to Diocletian, and both authors as well as Ammianus claim that Diocletian introduced the custom of adoratio, whereby subjects would prostrate themselves before the emperor in adoration. Clearly there is some confusion about which emperor introduced which custom, but it is clear that, in the third century, emperorship had already evolved in ways that went against Julian's own predilections.

With that in mind, while he probably was in part reacting to Constantine, on a broader level it may also be that he was looking back with nostalgia to a distant time that he saw as being ideal. After all, Marcus Aurelius was his idol, and Marcus predates these changes.
 
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May 2011
2,852
Rural Australia
Have you read Errington's Roman Imperial Policy, Jack? It sets Julian in the context of other emperors around him and the demands placed upon the man at the centre of the state rather than the religious issues that dominate way too much of the academic and non-academic discourse.
No I haven't. Thanks for the heads up on this Kirialax. I will dig it out of the library system.
 
May 2011
2,852
Rural Australia
"However there is evidence to suggest that he gave orders that certain philosophers and magistrates in the city should be tortured on account of their religious beliefs."

- Do you remember what the evidence is? Undoubtedly certain people of influence were killed after the defeat of Licinius, but such actions were usually political purges of the sort that naturally followed victories in civil war.
Two references from Robin Lane Fox: "Pagans and Christians, in the Mediterranean World from the second century AD to the conversion of Constantine",

Chapter: Persecution of the Old Religions

1) p.666:
"The postscript to his Oration at Antioch was to be rather more robust: torture of pagans "in authority in the city" so that they admitted religious fraud.​
[Note I do not have any citation for this at the moment .... Can this postscript to Constantine's Oration at Antioch be located?]​
2) p.679:
"In the early fourth century, two aging Christian authors​
had shown possible ways of "defusing" the words of the pagan gods.​
Eusebius had dismissed them as demonic and used them to refute their authors,​
whereas Lactantius had quoted them with Christian improvements​
and claimed them as proofs of the Christian faith ... In the first​
flush of the "new empire", it must have been on the christians' initiative​
that torture was applied to Apollo's prophet at Didyma and to others at Antioch,​
"people taken from the magistrates of the city".​
They were not humble, ignorant people, Eusebius asserted proudly:​
they were people of "wonderful and noble philosophy",​
at Antioch civic notables, at Didyma a "prophet and philosopher",​
last of the long line of cultured voices who had kept philosophy​
running in oracles, the voices of Polites, Theophilus, Macer and​
the rest. [FN:48] - Eus. P. Ev. 4.135C-136A.​
Philosophic oracles had begun when Apollo's wisdom​
advanced with the culture of the prophets.​
They ended when christians tortured the prophets.​
who had recently helped to torture them too.​
The second reference is from Eusebius P. Ev. 4.135C-136A.​
But, you ask, what sort of persons were these? Think not that they were any of the outcast and obscure. Some came to them from, this wonderful and noble philosophy, from the tribe who wear the long cloak and otherwise look so supercilious; and some were taken from the magistrates of the city of Antioch, who indeed in the time of our persecution prided themselves especially on their outrages against us. We know also the philosopher and prophet who suffered at Miletus the like punishments to those which we have mentioned.​

 
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Two references from Robin Lane Fox: "Pagans and Christians, in the Mediterranean World from the second century AD to the conversion of Constantine",

Chapter: Persecution of the Old Religions

1) p.666:
"The postscript to his Oration at Antioch was to be rather more robust: torture of pagans "in authority in the city" so that they admitted religious fraud.​
[Note I do not have any citation for this at the moment .... Can this postscript to Constantine's Oration at Antioch be located?]​
2) p.679:
"In the early fourth century, two aging Christian authors​
had shown possible ways of "defusing" the words of the pagan gods.​
Eusebius had dismissed them as demonic and used them to refute their authors,​
whereas Lactantius had quoted them with Christian improvements​
and claimed them as proofs of the Christian faith ... In the first​
flush of the "new empire", it must have been on the christians' initiative​
that torture was applied to Apollo's prophet at Didyma and to others at Antioch,​
"people taken from the magistrates of the city".​
They were not humble, ignorant people, Eusebius asserted proudly:​
they were people of "wonderful and noble philosophy",​
at Antioch civic notables, at Didyma a "prophet and philosopher",​
last of the long line of cultured voices who had kept philosophy​
running in oracles, the voices of Polites, Theophilus, Macer and​
the rest. [FN:48] - Eus. P. Ev. 4.135C-136A.​
Philosophic oracles had begun when Apollo's wisdom​
advanced with the culture of the prophets.​
They ended when christians tortured the prophets.​
who had recently helped to torture them too.​
The second reference is from Eusebius P. Ev. 4.135C-136A.​
But, you ask, what sort of persons were these? Think not that they were any of the outcast and obscure. Some came to them from, this wonderful and noble philosophy, from the tribe who wear the long cloak and otherwise look so supercilious; and some were taken from the magistrates of the city of Antioch, who indeed in the time of our persecution prided themselves especially on their outrages against us. We know also the philosopher and prophet who suffered at Miletus the like punishments to those which we have mentioned.​

This is interesting. Timothy Barnes, in his book Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire, provides a good commentary on these issues (p. 129):

"The building and beautification of Constantinople was funded by a massive program of confiscations (Bonamente 1992). Constantine suppressed cults and their shrines which Christians considered immoral and oracles which had encouraged Diocletian to embark upon a policy of persecution. Eusebius records the suppression of the shrine of Aphrodite at Heliopolis, where sacred prostitution was practiced, the destruction of the grove and precinct of Aphrodite at Aphaca, high in the mountains of Phoenicia, and the razing of the temple of Asclepius at Aegeae, famous for its association with Apollonius Tyana, with whom both the philosopher Porphyry and the polemicist Hierocles had compared Jesus to the disadvantage of the latter (Eusebius, Panegyric of Constantine 8.5–7, p. 216.26–p. 217.16; VC 3.58, 55–56, cf. Lactantius, Div.Inst. 5.2.2, 15–17; [Eusebius], Contra Hieroclem 1.1–2, 2.2). Constantine probably also took action against two of the three most famous oracles of Apollo for their encouragement of persecution (Barnes 2002: 201–204).
In the winter of 302/3 Diocletian sent a haruspex to consult the oracle of Apollo at Miletus and the god gave a reply hostile to the Christians, which may in part survive (Lactantius, Mort. Pers. 11.7; Inschriften von Didyma 306, cf. Rehm 1939). It has sometimes been assumed that Constantine openly tolerated the continued functioning of the oracle after 324 (Athanassiadi 1991: 271–274). But the philosopher who was also the prophet of Apollo had already been put to death in 313 (Eusebius, HE 9.11.3; Praeparatio Evangelica 4.2.11), and Constantine complained in a letter intended for publication throughout the East that Apollo had encouraged the persecution of Christians and that Diocletian had listened to him (VC 2.50–51). Moreover, archaeological and literary evidence indicates that the Christians appropriated the space and built martyrs’ shrines in the sacred enclosure (Sozomenus, HE 5.20.7, cf. Athanassiadi 1991: 274). Diocletian had also consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi (Cameron & Hall 1999: 245). According to Constantine, ‘the oracles of the Pythian’ and ‘false oracles from the tripods’ had encouraged persecution when Apollo, speaking from a cave or dark recess, had declared that he was being prevented from uttering true prophecies by ‘the just on earth’ (VC 2.50–51). The sacred tripods of Apollo at Delphi, the statue of the god and the serpent column commemorating the Greek victory at Plataea in 479 BC were confiscated and taken to Constantinople to grace the new hippodrome (Eusebius, VC 3.54.2; Socrates, HE 1.16.3; Zosimus 2.31.1; Bassett 2004: 224–227 no. 141; 230–231)."

There is an obvious religious dimension to what's being discussed here, but on some level the actions that you refer to are probably political. As Barnes points out, the oracles of Apollo who were targeted were major players in the Tetrarchic persecution. Constantine's antipathy presumably was to no small degree of a religious nature, but if Barnes is correct in suggesting that the oracle at Didyma was executed in 313, then we're not talking about an action taken by Constantine, but Licinius, who was not a Christian. Indeed, Eusebius makes clear that Licinius had certain supporters of his rival Maximinus executed when he conquered the East in 313, and that some of these people had been deeply involved in Maximinus' persecution of the Christians. The fact that Licinius, a pagan, had executed prominent persecutors suggests that there was a political element to what was going on. This was a post-civil war purge, albeit one in which the persecution had become politicized. For whatever reason, the defeat of Maximinus and his supporters entailed the torture and/or execution of certain avid persecutors, and this politicization of persecution is supported by the fact that, just before the civil war, Licinius attached his name to Constantine's Edict of Milan, which advocated for religious liberty. It's clear from Eusebius that the Antiochene priests who were tortured were also involved in the persecution.
 
May 2011
2,852
Rural Australia
Thanks for all the above on Barnes. However as mentioned elsewhere I tend to regard the so-called persecution of early christians less as history and more as fictitious propaganda deployed as part of the "Christian revolution" in the rule of Constantine. This includes the so-called persecution by Diocletian. The evidence has been collected and discussed here:
Imperial Persecution of Christians: Historical Evidence?

Perhaps it is safer to say that I regard the persecution of early christians as "not proven".


p.7

One is almost embarrassed to have to say
that any statement a historian makes must
be supported by evidence which, according
to ordinary criteria of human judgement,
is adequate to prove the reality of the
statement itself. This has three
consequences:


1) Historians must be prepared to admit
in any given case that they are unable
to reach safe conclusions because the
evidence is insufficient; like judges,
historians must be ready to say 'not proven'.

2) The methods used to ascertain the value
of the evidence must continually be scrutinised
and perfected, because they are essential to
historical research.

3) The historians themselves must be judged
according to their ability to establish facts.


The form of exposition they choosen for their presentation
of the facts is a secondary consideration. I have of course
nothing to object in principle to the present multiplication
in methods of rhetorical analysis of historical texts.

You may have as much rhetorical analysis as you consider
necessary, provided it leads to the establishment of the
truth - or to the admission that truth is regretfully
out of reach in a given case.

But it must be clear once for all that Judges and Acts,
Heroditus and Tacitus are historical texts to be examined
with the purpose of recovering the truth of the past.

Hence the interesting conclusion that the notion of forgery
has a different meaning in historiography than it has in
other branches of literature or of art. A creative writer
or artist perpetuates a forgery every time he intends
to mislead his public about the date and authorship
of his own work.

But only a historian can be guilty of forging evidence
or of knowingly used forged evidence in order to
support his own historical discourse. One is never
simple-minded enough about the condemnation of
forgeries. Pious frauds are frauds, for which one
must show no piety - and no pity.

On Pagans, Jews and Christians: Arnaldo Momigliano, 1987
 

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