Julian

, a Roman emperor, commonly, although perfcaps not very justly, styled the Apostate, was the younger son of Constantius, brother of Constantine the Great. He was the first fruit of a second marriage of his father with Basilina, after the birth of Gallus, whom he had by Galla his first consort. He was born Nov. 6, in the year 331, at Constantinople; and, according to the medals of him, named Fiavius Claudius Julianus. During the life of Constantine, he received the first rudiments of his education at the court of Constantinople; but, upon the death of this emperor, all his relations being suspected of criminal actions, Julian’s father was obliged to seek his safety by flight; and his son Julian’s escape was entirely owing to Marc, bishop of Arethusa, without whose care he had inevitably perished in the persecution of his family. As soon as the storm was over, and Constantius, the son of Constantine, quietly seated on the imperial throne, he sent young Julian to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who was related to him by his mother’s side, and who educated him in the Christian faith; but at the same time employed an eunuch called Mardonius, who was a pagan, to teach him grammar, while Eulolius, a Christian of doubtful character, was his master in rhetoric. Julian made a very quick progress in learning; and, being sent afterwards to Athens to complete his education, he became the darling of that nursery of polite literature, and particularly commenced an acquaintance with St. Basil and Gregory of Nazianzen. This last, however, observed something in him which rendered his sincerity in the Christian faith suspected: and it is certain, that, notwithstanding all the care of his preceptor Eusebius, this young prince was entirely perverted by Maximus, an Ephesian philosopher and magician. His cousin Constantius the emperor was advertised of his conduct; and Julian, to prevent the effects, and save his life, professed himself a monk, and took the habit, but, under this character in public, he secretly embraced paganism. Some time before, his brother Gallus and he had taken orders, and executed the office of reader in the church; but the religious sentiments of the two brothers were widely different.

As soon as Julian had attained the age of manhood, according to the Roman law, Constantius, at the solicitation of his consort, the empress Eusebia, raised him to the dignity of Caesar, on his birth-day, Nov. 6, in the year 355; | and at the same time the emperor gave him his sister Helena in marriage, and made him general of the army in Gaul. Julian filled his command with surprizing abilities, and shewed himself every way equal to the trust; which was the more extraordinary, as he had never any instructions in the military art. The principal officers under him, from whom he was to expect assistance, were very backward in performing this service; restrained apparently by the danger of seeming too much attached to him, and thereby incurring the emperor’s displeasure, whose jealousy on this head was no secret. Under all these disadvantages, our young warrior performed wonders: he was not afraid to undertake the enterprize of driving the barbarians out of Gaul; and he completed the design in a very little time, having obtained one of the most signal victories of that age, near Strasbourg. In this battle he engaged no less than seven German kings, one of whom was the famous Chrodomairus; who had always beaten the Romans till this time, but was now Julian’s prisoner. The defeat of the Salii and Chamavi, French people, followed at the heels of this victory; and the Germans, being conquered again, were constrained to beg a peace. Our hero was crowned with these glorious laurels, when Constantius, who was hard pressed by the Persians, sent for a detachment of troops from the army in Gaul to augment his forces. This order was ill relished by the Gauls, who were reluctant to fight out of their own country. Julian took advantage of this ill humour, and got himself declared emperor by the army; but, not being able to prevail with Constantius to acknowledge him in that character, he went with these troops to Illyria, where he continued till the death of Constantius, which happened Nov. 2, 361.

Julian no sooner saw himself master of the world, than he threw off all the disguise of his religion, for it merely was a disguise. There appears very little reason to think that Julian had ever cordially embraced, or ever studied with attention, the principles of Christianity. Had this been the case, he might have seen that those principles led to a conduct very opposite to that which he beheld in the conduct of Constantius, whose cruelty to his relations perhaps first excited his hatred against Christianity. From his youth he had practised dissimulation with consummate artifice, and it was rather hypocrisy than Christianity which he had now to shake off. Accordingly he now expressly | professed himself a pagan, ordered their temples to be set open, and re-established their worship: he also assumed the character and station of the sovereign pontiff, and was invested with the whole pagan ceremonial, resolving to efface the mark of his baptism by the blood of the heathen sacrifices. In short, he resolved to effect the utter ruin of Christianity, and in this attempt united solid judgment witli indefatigable assiduity. Neither address nor dexterity was wanting, nor all that the wit or prudence of man could do. We find, indeed, in this emperor all the great qualities which a projector could conceive, or an adversary would require, to secure success. He was eloquent and liberal, artful, insinuating, and indefatigable; which, joined to a severe temperance, a love of justice, and a courage superior to all trials, first gained him the affections, and soon after the peaceable possession, of the whole empire. He had been, as we have just remarked, compelled to profess the Christian religion to the time when he assumed the purple; but his aversion to his uncle Constantine and his cousin Constantius, on account of the cruelties exercised on his family, had prejudiced him against the Christian religion; and his attachment to some Platonic sophist, who had been employed in his education, gave him as violent a bias towards paganism. He was ambitious; and paganism, in some of its theurgic rites, had flattered and encouraged his views of the diadem. He was vain, which made him aspire to the glory of re-establishing the ancient rites. He was very learned, and fond of Grecian literature, the very soul of which, in his opinion, was the old theology: but, above all, notwithstanding a considerable mixture of enthusiasm, his superstition was excessive, and what nothing but the blood of hecatombs could appease.

With these dispositions he came to the empire, and consequently with a determined purpose of subverting the Christian and restoring the pagan worship. His predecessors had left him the repeated experience of the inefficacy of downright force. The virtue of the past times then rendered this effort fruitless, the numbers of the present would have made it now dangerous: he found it necessary, therefore, to change his ground. His knowledge of human nature furnished him with arms; and his knowledge of the faith he had abandoned, enabled him to direct those arms to most advantage. He began with re-establishing | paganism by law, and granting a full liberty of conscience to* the Christians. On this principle, he restored those to their civil rights who had been banished on account of their religion, and even affected to reconcile to a mutual forbearance the various sects of Christianity. Yet he put on this mask of moderation for no other purpose than to inflame the dissensions in the church. He then fined and banished such of the more popular clergy as had abused their power, either in exciting the people to burn and destroy pagan temples, or to commit violence on an opposite sect: and it cannot be denied, but that in the turbulent and insolent manners of some of them, he found a plausible pretext for this severity. He proceeded to revoke and take away those immunities, honours, and revenues, which his uncle and cousin had granted to the clergy. Neither was his pretence for this altogether unreasonable. He judged the grants to be exorbitant; and, besides, as they were attendant on a national religion, when the establishment came to be transferred from Christianity to paganism, he concluded they must follow the religion of the state. But there was one immunity he took away, which no good policy, even under an establishment, should have granted them and this was an exemption from the civil tribunals. He went still farther he disqualified the Christian laity for bearing offices in the state and even this the security of the established religion may often require. But his most illiberal treatment of the Christians, was his forbidding, the professors of that religion to teach polite letters, and the sciences, in the public schools; and Amm. Marcellinus censures this part of his conduct as a breach in his general character of humanity, (lib. xx. c. 10.) His more immediate design, in this, was to hinder the youth from taking impressions to the disadvantage of paganism; his remoter view, to deprive Christianity of the support of human literature. Not content with this, he endeavoured even to destroy what was already written in defence of Christianity. With this view he wrote to the governor and treasurergeneral of Egypt, to send him the library of George bishop of Alexandria, who, for his cruelty and tyranny, had been ton) in pieces by the people: nay, to such a length did his aversion to the name of Christ carry him, as to decree, by a public edict, that his followers should be no longer called Christians, but Galileans; well knowing the efficacy of a nick-name to render a profession ridiculous. In the | mean time, the animosities between the different sects of Christianity, furnished him with the means of carrying on these projects. Being, for example, well assured that the Arian church oi Edessa was very rich, he took advantage of their oppressing and persecuting the Valentinians to seize every tiling belonging to that church, and divided the plunder among his soldiers; scornfully telling the Edessians, he did this to ease them of their burthens, that they might proceed more lightly, and with less impediment, in their journey to heaven. He went farther still, if we may believe the historian Socrates, and, in order to raise money to defray the extraordinary expence of his Persian expedition, he imposed a tax or tribute on all who would not sacrifice to the pagan idols. The tax, it is true, was proportioned to every man’s circumstances, but was as truly an infringement upon his act of toleration. And though he forbore persecuting to death by law, which would have been a direct contradiction to that act, yet he connived at the fury of the people, and the brutality of the governors of provinces, who, during his short reign, brought many martyrs to the stake. He put such into governments, whose inhumanity and blind zeal for their country superstitions were most distinguished. And when the suffering churches presented their complaints to him, he dismissed them with cruel scoffs, telling them, their religion directed them to suffer without murmuring.

Such were Julian’s efforts to subvert Christianity; and it cannot be denied, that the behaviour of many of the Christians at that time furnished pretence enough for most of the proceedings against them in the view of state-policy. Besides that they branded the state religion, and made a merit of affronting the public worship, it is well known that they were continually guilty of seditions; and did not scruple to assert, that nothing hindered them from engaging in open rebellion, but the improbability of succeeding in it for want of numbers. During these measures, his projects to support and reform paganism went hand in hand with his attempts to destroy Christianity. He wrote, and he preached, in defence of the Gentile superstition, and has himself acquainted us with the ill-success of his ministry at Beroea. Of his controversial writings, his answerer, Cyril, hath given us a large specimen, by which we see he was equally intent to recommend paganism, and to discredit revelation. In his reformation of the Geatile | superstition, he endeavoured to hide the absurdity of its traditions by moral and philosophical allegories. These he found provided for him principally by philosophers of his own sect, the Platonists. For they, not without the assistance of the other sects, had, ever since the appearance of Christianity, been refining the theology of paganism, to oppose it to that of revelation; under pretence, that their new-invented allegories were the ancient spirit of the letter, which the first poetical divines had thus conveyed to posterity. He then attempted to correct the morals of the pagan priesthood, and regulate them on the practice of the first Christians. In his epistle to Arsacius, the chief priest of Galacia, he not only requires of them a personal behaviour void of offence, but that they reform their household on the same principle: he directs, that they who attend at the altar should abstain from the theatre, the tavern, and the exercise of all ignoble professions that in their private character they be meek and humble but that, in the acts and offices of religion, they assume a character conformable to the majesty of the immortal gods, whose ministers they are. And, above all, he recommends to them the virtues of chanty and benevolence. With regard to discipline and religious policy, he established readers in divinity planned an establishment for the ordei* and parts of the divine offices designed a regular and formal service, with days and hours of worship. He had also decreed to found hospitals for the poor, monasteries for the devout, and to prescribe and enjoin initiatory and expiatory sacrifices; with instructions for converts, and a course of penance for offenders; and, in all things, to imitate the church discipline at that time. In this way he endeavoured to destroy Christian principles, and at the same time to establish Christian practice.

But as the indifference and corruptions of Paganism, joined to the inflexibility and perseverance of the Christians, prevented his project from advancing with the speed he desired, he grew chagrined, and even threatened, after his return from the Persian expedition, effectually to ruin the Christian religion. He had before, in pursuance of his general scheme of opposing revelation to itself, by setting one sect against another, written to the body or community of the Jews; assuring them of his protection, his concern for their former ill usage, and his fixed purpose to screen them from future oppression, that they | might be at liberty, and in a disposition to redouble their vows for the prosperity of his reign; and concluded with a promise, that, if he came back victorious from the Persian war, he would rebuild Jerusalem, restore them to their possessions, live with them in the holy city, and join with them in their worship of the great God of the universe. The rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem was thought a sure means of destroying Christianity, since the final destruction of that temple had been foretold both by Christ and his apostles; if therefore the lye could be given to their predictions, their religion would be no more. This scheme, therefore, he set about immediately. The completing of such an edifice would be a work of time, and he pleased himself with the glory of atchieving so bold an enterprize. Accordingly, the attempt was made, and what was the consequence will be seen by the following account of it from Ammianus Marcellinus. “Julian, having been already thrice consul, taking Sallust prsefect of the several Gauls for his colleague, entered a fourth time on this high magistracy. It appeared strange to see a private man associated with Augustus; a thing of which, since the consulate of Dioclesian and Aristobulus, history afforded no example. And although his sensibility of the many and great events, which this year was likely to produce, made him very anxious for the future, yet he pushed on the various and complicated preparations for this expedition with the utmost application: and, having an eye in every quarter, and being desirous to eternize his reign by the greatness of his achievements, he projected to rebuild, at an immense expence, the proud and magnificent temple of Jerusalem, which, after many combats, attended with much bloodshed on both sides, during the siege by Vespasian, was, with great difficulty, taken and destroyed by Titus. He committed the conduct of this affair to Alypius of Antioch, who formerly had been lieutenant in Britain, When, therefore, this Alypius had set himself to the vigorous execution of his charge, in which he had all the assistance that the governor of the province could afford him, horrible bails of fire breaking out near the foundations, with frequent and reiterated attacks, rendered the place from time to time inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen; and the victorious element continuing in this manner, obstinately and resolutely bent, as it were, to drive them to a distance, Alypius thought best to give over the enterprize. In the | mean time, though Julian was still at Antioch when this happened, yet he was so wholly taken up by the Persian expedition, that he had not leisure to attend to it. He set out soon after upon that expedition, in which he succeeded very well at first; and, taking several places from the Persians, he advanced as far as Ctesipho without meeting with an) body to oppose him. However, there passed several engagements in this place, in which it is said the Romans had almost always the advantage; but the distressed condition of their army, for want of necessaries, obliged them to come to a decisive battle. This was begun June 26, in the year 363, and victory appeared to declare itself on their side; when Julian, who was engaged personally irr the fight without |iis helmet, received a mortal wound upon his head, which put a period to his life the following night.” This fact of the interruption given to the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem has been denied by some modern infidels, but nothing of the kind seems better attested; and although it may be supposed that the eruption was not without natural causes,' and that the seeds of it lay in the bowels of the earth, yet, as Dr. Jortin observes, the fire’s breaking out at the very instant when the Jews and Pagans were attempting to rebuild the temple, its being renewed upon their renewed attempt to go on, and ceasing when they gave over, are circumstances which plainly shew a providential interposition.

We have, in the course of his memoir, had occasion to exhibit some qualities to the disadvantage of Julian; yet we must in justice add, that he was sober and vigilant, free from the debaucheries of women; and, to sum up all, remarkably mild, merciful, good-natured, and, in general, most amiable; except in his passions which arose from his aversion to Christianity. He not only encouraged letters by his patronage, but was himself a learned writer. As a philosopher, he strictly adhered to the Alexandrian or Eclectic school. He professes himself a warm admirer of Pythagoras and Plato, and recommends an union of their tenets with those of Aristotle. The later Platonists, of his own period, he loads with encomiums, particularly Jamblichus, whom he calls “The Light of the World,” and “The Physician of the Mind.” Amidst the numerous traces of an enthusiastic and bigoted attachment to Pagan theology and philosophy, and of an inveterate enmity to Christianity, which are to be found in his writings, the | candid reader will discern many marks of genius and erudition. Concerning the manners of Julian, Libanius writes, that no philosopher, in the lowest state of poverty, was ever more temperate, or more ready to practise rigorous abstinence from food, as the means of preparing his mind for conversing with the gods. Like Plotinus, Porphyry, Jambiichus, and others of this fanatical sect, he dealt in visions and extasies, and pretended to a supernatural intercourse with divinities. Suidas relates, probably from some writings of the credulous Eunapius now lost, an oracular prediction concerning his death. Besides his answer to St. Cyril, and “Misopogon,” he wrote some other discourses, epistles, &c. in which are many proofs of genius and erudition, conveyed in an elegant style. And his rescripts in the Theodosian code shew, that he made more good laws, in the short time of his reign, than any emperor either before or after him. His works were published in Greek and Latin by Spanheim in 1696, 2 vols. fol.; and a selection from them in England by Mr. Buncombe, 1784, 2 vols. 8vo, translated principally from La Bleterie, who wrote an excellent Life of Julian. 1

1 Cave. La Bleterie’s Life. Mosheim and Milner. Gibbon’s History —Saxii Onomast.