JULIAN

From Agepedia

Jump to: navigation , search

JULIAN. Flavius Claudius Julianus, a Roman emperor, to whom the Christians gave the surname of the Apostate, son of Julius Constans (brother of Constantine the Great) and of Basilias, his second wife, daughter of the prefect Julian, was born at Constantinople, in the year 331. When hardly six years old, he saw his father and several members of his family murdered by the soldiers of the emperor Constans II, his cousin (a son of Constantine the Great). He and his younger brother Gallus narrowly escaped death. The education of the two princes was intrusted to Eusebius of Nicomedia, who gave them Mardonius for their instructer. They were brought up in the Christian religion, which was yet a new one at the court of the emperor. They were obliged also to enter the order of priests, that they might thus be removed from the throne, and they were chosen readers in their church. This education produced a very different effect on the minds of the two brothers, whose charac obtained the praise of the ecclesiastical historians. Julian, being older, had felt more deeply the persecution of his family, and the constraint and fear in which he was obliged to pass his youth. He therefore sought consolation in the study of philosophy and belleslettres. At the age of 24, he went to Athens and to Nicomedia, where he enjoyed the society of several instructers, particularly that of the sophist Libanius. Here he was induced to reject the religion of those who utv. massacred his family, and to embrace paganism. Yet he does not appear to have had sufficient strength of mind to rise above the religious prejudices of that age. At least we find that he believed in astrology, in the science of the haruspices, in the art of calling up intermediate spirits to one's assistance, and learning from them the future, with several other superstitious notions. Constans, who feared an attack of the Germans upon the provinces of the Roman empire, determined at last, at the solicitation of his wife Eusebia, to give to Julian the command of an army against them. He was proclaimed Caesar by Constans, at Milan, in 355, whose sister Helen lie received in marriage. He now proceeded, with a small body of troops, to Gaul, which was laid waste by the Germans. It was hardly to be expected that a youth, who thus far had attended only to the study of philosophy and belleslettres, would be able, especially with so small means, to conquer the formidable enemy against whom he was sent. The emperor Constans himself appears not to have calculated upon the probability of such an event. After Julian had passed the winter in preparations for the ensuing war, he marched against the Germans, took several cities, conquered them in various engagements, and, in a great battle near Strasburg, completely defeated seven of their princes, and entirely delivered Gaul. He pursued the Germans beyond the Rhine, and conquered them in their own country. As a governor also, he displayed extraordinary talents. He gave to Gaul a new constitution. He settled the finances, diminished the taxes, and assessed them more justly, put an end to the abuses which had ciept into the courts of justice, administered justice himself in the most important cases, aud laid the foundation of cities and castles. While he was thus providing for the happiness of a great nation, he was accused, before Constans, of aiming at indepen dence. The jealousy of the suspicious emperor could not fail to be excited by the brilliant career of his young kinsman m Gaul. He was even base enough to stir up, secretly, the Gauls against him, and to recall his best troops, under pretence that he wanted to employ them against the Persians. This order caused a rebellion among the soldiers, who were unwilling to go to Persia. They proclaimed their leader Julian emperor, in March, 360, in spite of his own resistance. Julian gave information of the state of things to Constans, who ordered him to renounce his title of emperor. Much as he was inclined to do this, the Gallic legions equally opposed his inclination. The emperor now sent an army against Julian, who made preparations in his defence. He left Gaul, where he had passed five years, took Sirmium, the capital of Illyria, and besieged Aquileia. Here he heard of the death of the emperor Constans. He now passed rapidly through Thrace, and reached Constantinople, December 11, 361, where he was immediately proclaimed emperor. He began by putting a stop to many abuses, and limiting the splendor of his court. Of the thousand barbers, and attendants at the baths, employed by his predecessors, he retained but a single one. The number of cooks, too, which was likewise very great, he reduced to one. The eunuchs were dismissed, as well as those called cunosi, who, under pretence of informing the emperor of useful things, were dangerous spies, and the bane of all social intercourse. After these retrenchments, he was able to remit to the people the fifth part of all their taxes. Julian sought to restore the heathen worship in all its splendor, and, on that account, opposed Christianity as much as was in his power, without, however, like many of his predecessors, cruelly persecuting the Christians themselves. He took from the Christian churches their riches, which were often very great, and divided them among his soldiers. He sought likewise to induce the Christians, by flattery or by favor, to embiace paganism, and, failing in the attempt, he labored to make their condition disagreeable. Thus, for example, he forbade them to plead before a court of justice, or to receive offices in the state. Indeed, the Christians were no longer allowed to profess their faith openly; for he well knew what powerful arms the Scriptures afforded for combating paganism. To render false the prophecy of Jesus, with regard to the temple at Jerusalem, he permitted the Tews to rebuild it, about 300 years after its destruction ; but it is said that flames of fire arose from beneath, and consumed some of the workmen. In the meanwhile, he wished to end the war with the Persians, His first campaign against them was successful. He took several cities, and advanced as far as Ctesiphon. Want of means of subsistence obliged him to retreat. June 26, 365, he was mortally wounded, and died the following night, in the 34th year of his age.There is hardly, either in ancient or in modern history, a prince whom historians have judged so differently. Perhaps it is because his character was full of contradictions; and some believe that he had so many good and so many bad qualities, that it is easy to blame or to praise him without violating the truth. On the one side, learned, magnanimous, moderate, temperate, circumspect, just, merciful, humane ; on the other, inconsistent, fickle, eccentric, fanatical and superstitious in the highest degree, ambitious, and full of eagerness to be at once a Plato, a Marcus Aurelius and an Alexander, he sought chiefly for the means of distinguishing himself from all others. At the bottom of all these features in his character, there appears to lie a sarcastic, sophistic coldness and dissimulation. Some of his works have come down to us. Several speeches, letters and satires, among which the satire on the Csesars, and that on the people of Antioch, called Misopogon, are distinguished for wit and humor. The first is particularly esteemed. A critical judgment passed upon those who had sat upon the first of the thrones of earth, by a philosopher who had himself occupied the same seat, must indeed possess a peculiar charm. In his Misopogon, Julian severely lashes the Antiochians, but spares no praise when he speaks of himself. The best and most complete edition of his remaining works is that of Ezekiel Spanheim (Leipsic, 1696, folio). They prove that this emperor possessed talent, wit, vivacity, ease in writing., and some fertility ; but he appears to have conformed too much to the taste of his age, in which a mere rhetorical style of declamation took the place of eloquence, antithesis the place of thought, and play on words the place of wit. He wrote also a work against the Christian religion, of which we have yet some extracts that have been translated into French by the marquis D'Argens.