« PreviousContinue »
The more important letters and edicts in this volume are hardly intelligible to a reader unfamiliar with the historical background. The following brief summary of Julian's career is intended to explain the allusions in the text and to supplement the Introduction in Vol. 1. In his more formal works, especially the manifesto To the Athenians written in 361 as an apologia for his rebellion against the Emperor Constantius, and the Misopogon written in 362, a satire on his own austere habits addressed to the citizens of Antioch, Julian himself relates the main incidents of his childhood and youth. For the last ten years of his life, 353–363, the best authority is Ammianus Marcellinus, the Latin historian, an eye-witness.
Flavius Claudius Julianus was born at Constantinople in 331, the only son of Julius Constantius, half-brother of Constantine the Great, and Basilina, a highly educated woman and devout Christian, who died when Julian was a few months old. From his father's earlier marriage there survived a son, Gallus, a daughter, probably named Galla, who married her cousin the Emperor Constantius II, and another son whose name is unknown. Soon after the death of the Emperor Constantine in 337, the Emperor Constantius removed possible rivals by the murder
of certain relatives, among
were Julian's father and half-brother. Gallus and Julian survived. The latter was sent to Nicomedia in charge of a relative, the Bishop Eusebius, and his education was entrusted to the Christian eunuch Mardonius, who had taught Basilina Greek literature.
In Misopogon 353 B, Julian says that Mardonius was “of all men most responsible” for his literary tastes and austere morals.1 Julian also studied at Constantinople with the Christian sophist Hecebolius. During this period he used to visit his grandmother's estate in Bithynia, which is described in Letter 25. In 345, when Julian was fourteen, Constantius, who in the twenty-four years of his reign that followed the murder of Julius Constantius lived in apprehension of the vengeance of his sons, interned Gallus and Julian in the lonely castle of Macellum (Fundus Macelli) in Cappadocia. In his manifesto To the Athenians 271 c, d, Julian speaks of their six years of solitary imprisonment at Macellum, and says that the cruelty and harshness of Gallus, who proved to be a sort of Christian Caligula, were increased by his life there, while his own love of philosophy saved him from being equally brutalised. From Letter 23 we learn that he was able to borrow books from George of Cappadocia, who later became Bishop of Alexandria and was murdered by the Alexandrian mob in 361. Julian at once wrote Letter 23 to demand his library.
1 For the influence of Mardonius see Vol. 2 Oration 8, 241 c; To the Athenians 274 D; Misopogon 352-353. Julian's knowledge of Latin was probably slight, though Ammianus, 16. 5. 7, describes it as “sufficiens."
2 For Hecebolius see Letter 63, and below, p. xlvii.
In 351 Constantius, who had once visited the brothers at Macellum, released them, raised Gallus to the rank of Caesar and gave him his sister Constantia in marriage. Constantius had married as his first wife Galla, the sister of Gallus ; she had lately died.
Gallus was sent to Antioch to govern the provinces of the East. There he and Constantia, whose cruel and suspicious temper matched his own, embarked on a four years' reign of terror which is described by Ammianus.) Constantius meanwhile, at Arles, where he spent the winter of 353, and later at Milan, was just as suspicious and ruthless, but in Gallus Caesar tyrannical conduct seemed to his cousin the prelude to usurpation. He was therefore recalled to Milan in 354. Constantia died of a fever on the journey, and Gallus, escorted by the Emperor's agents as a virtual prisoner, was taken by way of Constantinople to Pola (where in 326 Crispus, the son of Constantine, had been put to death by his father), and was there beheaded, towards the end of 354. Julian later avenged himself on those whom he believed to have been accessory to the death of his brother.
Meanwhile he had devoted four years to study, first at Pergamon with Aedesius and Chrysanthius, the disciples of lamblichus; but on hearing from Aedesius of the marvels wrought by his pupil Maximus of Ephesus the theurgist, he hastened to Ephesus. Julian had been under Christian inHuences from his childhood, but he was an ardent admirer of Greek literature and philosophy and naturally inclined to superstition. With Maximus he studied the teachings of lamblichus the Neoplatonist, and though he did not openly profess paganism until 361, he says in Letter 47, written in 362, that for twelve years he has ceased to be a Christian.
1 Book XIV.
? See the account of his studies at Pergamon and Ephesus in Eunapius, Lives, pp. 429–435, Wright.
The Syrian Neoplatonism of the fourth Christian century which followed the teachings of Iamblichus was a religion rather than a philosophy, and was well suited to his love of the mystical and marvellous; for the rest of his life he was the devoted disciple of Maximus. But his apostasy from Christianity was carefully concealed, and his first panegyric on Constantius, Oration 1, written in 355, is entirely non-committal, refers vaguely to "the deity” and “providence," and might have been composed by a Christian.
In the second panegyric, Oration 2, written in Gaul at a safe distance, he frequently invokes Zeus, and assumes the reality of the gods of Homer in language that goes beyond what was allowed by literary etiquette in rhetorical works of this sort. It could not have been written by a Christian. His brother Gallus, some time between 351 and 354, heard rumours of his devotion to Maximus, and sent his own spiritual adviser Aetius to remonstrate with Julian. Letter 82 (Gallus to Julian), the earliest letter in this volume that can be dated, expresses the relief of Gallus at the reassuring report of Aetius as to Julian's adherence to the Christian faith.
On the death of Gallus in 354 Julian was summoned to the court at Milan, and on the way thither visited Troy and had the interview with Pegasius