“ A CERTAIN rich man possessed many sheep, and herds of cattle, and great flocks of goats, and countless broodmares fed in his pastures; and he had shepherds, both slaves and freedmen, whom he hired, neatherds and goatherds, and hostlers for his horses. He had also vast estates, many of which he had inherited from his father, but many more he had himself acquired ; for his one ambition was to increase his goods, by lawful or unlawful means. Neither cared he greatly for the gods. Many wives had he, and children, both sons and daughters, among whom, when he came to die, he divided his possessions, without, however, having instructed them in the proper administration of their wealth ; for he had fancied that the mere number of his children would suffice to preserve his possessions, and he had used no effort to make his heirs good men. Hence the beginning of their mutual injuries. For each one, in imitation of his father, desired himself alone to have the whole, and so attacked his brethren, . . . until slaughter prevailed on every side, and the gods permitted the consummation of a frightful tragedy.

“ The patrimony was allotted by the edge of the sword, and all was dire confusion.

“ The children overthrew the altars which their father before them had despised, and despoiled of many gifts even those of their own ancestors.” Jove then appealed to his divine son, Apollo, and to the fatal sisters to assist him. “ And to the sun-god he said, ‘ Seest thou this little boy?’ (It was a forlorn and neglected offshoot of the family, nephew of that rich man who was dead, and cousin to the heirs.) ‘ He is of thy race. Swear to me, by thy sceptre and mine, that thou wilt have him in thy special keeping, and govern all his ways, and heal him of his ills. Thou seest him, sordid, miserable, and obscure, thine own divine spark in him well-nigh extinguished. Take him and train him for thy work.’ And the father of the gods commanded Minerva — the virgin born of no mother — to aid the sun-god in bringing up the child, who thenceforth grew and waxed strong.”

It is thus, under a thin guise of fable, that the Roman Emperor, Flavius Claudius Julianus, commonly known as the Apostate, has told the story of his own escape from the general massacre, by Constantius, of the collateral heirs of Constantine the Great, and of the divine interposition whereby he so devoutly believed that he had been preserved and brought to the throne. The fable occurs in the second of two discourses against the Cynics, composed by Julian during the prolific last year and a half of that crowded life which closed in the Asian desert at thirty-one. The philosophical views of the royal youth were no less luminously conceived and firmly arrested than his reactionary religious beliefs. He was an ardent Stoic, and Marcus Aurelius was his patron saint. He introduces the tale of his early wrongs incidentally, by way of illustrating an argument he has been making in favor of myth as a vehicle of instruction: “ You will force me, too, to become a fabulist.” And he dismisses it with the same negligent grace : “ Is this a fanciful tale or a veracious history ? I know not.”

The accent of the enthusiast, not to say the fanatic, is conspicuous here. We recognize the man of dreams and visions, of supersensual intimations, mystic inner meanings, and trances of silent receptivity. But this is only one aspect of an exceedingly rich and many-sided though eccentric nature. Julian was as keen of wit as he was devotional in spirit, as vigorous in action as he was dreamy in speculation. His brief life, moreover, was so incessantly and intently occupied by one tremendous purpose, he was so pathetically “straitened” till this impossible work of his should be accomplished, that he had little care for his own consistency; and the self-revelation of his writings is complete.

It is proposed on the present occasion to turn resolutely away from the controversies with which Julian’s name is inevitably associated, and to consider, if possible without prepossession, the enigmatical but highly distinguished nature of the man himself, as outlined in his own unstudied works and in those of some of his most famous contemporaries.

The principal facts and dates of his life must first be rapidly recapitulated.

He was born in Constantinople, on the 6th of November, 331. His father was Julius Constantius, brother of Constantine the Great. His mother was Basilina, a member of the noble Roman house of the Anicii, the first, and for a considerable time the only, family of patrician rank which professed Christianity.

On the 22d of May, 337, when Julian was five and a half years old, Constantine died, leaving the kingdom of the world to his three sons; and a few days later, Constantius, who had succeeded to the throne of Constantinople, sanctioned that general massacre of his kindred to which Julian alludes in the fable already quoted, and which he describes in plainer language in the letter of apology which he addressed to the Senate and people of Athens, after his own assumption at Paris, twenty-five years later, of the imperial crown : —

“ It is known to all that on my father’s side I am of the same blood as Constantius. His father and mine were brothers, — children of the same father. These, then, were the dealings of that most humane Emperor with us, his nearest relations. My six cousins, who were equally his own ; my father, who was his uncle; another common uncle on the paternal side; and, finally, my own eldest brother, he put to death without trial. He desired also to have slain my other brother” (Gallus) “and myself, but was content to send us into exile, and in the end he set me free ; while, shortly before he murdered him, he gave my brother the title of Cæsar.”

The life of the baby Julian was saved by the intervention of some Christian ecclesiastic, but such a number of bishops in later times laid claim to this distinction that it is no longer possible to determine his name. The children were separated at first, but both were educated conformably with their rank ; Julian being confided to the care of a certain Scythian eunuch, named Mardonius, by whom he was thoroughly grounded in the principles of the Stoic philosophy.

When Julian was fourteen years of age, and his brother Gallus about twenty, the two were dispatched in company to the magnificent royal castle of Macellum, near Cæsarea, a strongly fortified place, where they were kept for six years under strict surveillance, and carefully instructed in the minutiæ of Christian doctrine. They were even made readers in the church, and the fact that they had to be clean-shaven for this purpose may help to account for the fanatical attachment which Julian manifested in after-years for his own luxuriant beard. The feebler Gallus proved a docile pupil, and, though his life shed little lustre on his faith, the sincerity of his Christian profession was never questioned ; but Julian, while outwardly conforming to the requirements of his position, kept himself clear of the personal vices which defaced his brother’s character, and thought to such extraordinary purpose, on his own behalf, during this period of splendid constraint, that he always afterward dated from the year 350, when he was nineteen, his own definitive rejection of Christianity, and return to a belief in the pagan gods.

In 351, when the death of the two brothers of Constantius had left the latter sole Emperor, Gallus was first invested with the purple, and almost immediately put to death. On this occasion Julian’s life was saved by the intercession of the Empress Eusebia, and he passed the ensuing five or six years as a pupil in the philosophical schools of Athens, Nicomedia, and other Eastern cities. It was at Ephesus, in this interval of studious retirement, that Julian formally, although still secretly, renounced Christianity, and was initiated into certain pagan mysteries, in the course of which the stain of baptism was supposed to have been effaced by washing in the blood of a bullock, newly slain, and the neophyte devoted himself to the especial worship of the sun-god.

In 355, Constantius abruptly summoned Julian to Milan, bestowed on him the rank of Cæsar and the hand of his sister Helena, who died before Julian’s accession to the empire, and appointed him governor of Gaul. There could not have been a more critical position for an untried ruler. The affairs of the Western Empire had fallen into dire confusion, the Franks and Alemanni were in open revolt. But if Constantius had flattered himself, as we can hardly doubt, that the visionary and inexperienced youth would fall an easy prey to the insurgent barbarians, he was doomed to signal disappointment. The world knows how astonishing was the military genius developed, under pressure, by the dreaming scholar, how soon and thoroughly the wild German tribes were reduced to order, how austere was the private life of the young commander, how impassioned the devotion which he soon came to inspire among the soldiery of whose hardships he partook. Only a few years had passed, when Constantius began to see in the loyalty of Julian’s legions a more serious menace to his own ascendency than he had ever yet foreboded.

An imperial edict was dispatched to the headquarters at Lutetia, — Paris, — detailing the best of the veteran troops of Gaul to service in the Persian war. This arbitrary order the army flatly refused to obey. They demanded that Julian should himself assume the imperial crown, and swore that they would follow him as Emperor to the ends of the earth. The Stoic prince made a feint, perhaps a sincere effort, of resisting the will of his troops, but yielded, after a night of inward conflict, to what he recognized as the will of Heaven. He was crowned, in default of any other diadem, with the golden torque of one of his officers ; making open profession at the same time of his long-dissembled pagan belief, and announcing his intention, while permitting perfect liberty of conscience throughout his dominions, to restore the public worship of the divinities of Olympus, and constitute paganism once more the religion of the state. His rapid march across central Europe, at the head of his legions, has ever been reckoned one of the miracles of strategy. He was fully prepared to defend his usurpation at the point of the sword, when the news met him at Sirmium of the death of Constantius from fever contracted at Antioch ; and so, after all, the empire of the world fell peaceably into the hands of the reactionary.

After a short season of vigorous administrative reform in the corrupt court at Constantinople, he started, at the head of his army, to prosecute that Eastern war which had been bequeathed him by Constantius ; and there, a few months later, by the banks of the Tigris, on the 26th of June, 363, while leading his troops to repel a sudden attack of the Persian army on his rear, he received a javelin wound from an unknown hand, and breathed out, a few hours later, in the shelter of his tent, his fiery spirit, his vast and daring purposes, his fateful devotion to a cause already extinct.

Let us now return to the testimony of this extraordinary being concerning himself.

Comparatively little of his early writing has been preserved. There are, however, several important letters, and one, of special though still fanciful interest, whose date can with reasonable probability be assigned to a period earlier by a couple of years than the usurpation at Paris. It is addressed to his physician, Oribasius, a pagan, one of the two men who professed always to have been in his confidence concerning the state of his religious convictions.

The letter begins abruptly : “ ‘ The dream-gates are two,’ says the divine Homer, and they command different degrees of confidence concerning future events. My opinion is that you have had an authentic vision of the future, if such a thing ever was. I, too, have seen what I will now describe. Methought that a certain lofty tree was bending to its fall, but attached to its roots was a tender young shoot, growing well. And I was concerned for the tiny tree, lest it should be uprooted along with the great one. Then, as I drew nearer, I perceived that the large tree was actually prostrate on the ground, but the little one seemed erect, only suspended above the soil; and in great disquiet I exclaimed, ‘ What a mighty tree was this, and now there is danger lest even the small offshoot should perish ! ’ Then a man whom I did not know approached, and said, ‘ Look closer, and be of good cheer. The little tree has a root attached to the ground. It will be saved and increase in strength.’ Such was my dream, but God knows the interpretation of it.”

Julian was also a seer of visions, no less than a dreamer of dreams. There are frequent references to facts of this kind in the priceless pages of that calm and lucid historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, who was a member of Julian’s body-guard during the Persian campaign, and present at his death. Thus, in describing the tumultuous eve of Julian’s coronation at Paris, he says : —

“ During the night before he was proclaimed Augustus, the Emperor related to his immediate attendants how, in the quiet, he had seen a something which resembled the representations of the Genius Publicus, and which addressed him with a certain severity : ‘ For a long time, now, O Julian, I have lingered unseen about the threshold of your dwelling, desiring to increase your honors. Sometimes, as feeling myself repulsed, I have turned away. But now, if, in obedience to the desire of so many, you receive me not, I shall depart, sad and dejected. Remember, therefore, and let it sink into your heart, that if I go I shall thenceforth abide with you no more.’ ”

To this may best be appended here another quotation from Ammianus, from that portion of his history in which he speaks as an eye-witness, and tells us in his own simple and convincing fashion what took place in one of the last nights of the Emperor’s life : —

“ He, after some anxious hours of broken rest, betook himself, as was his wont when sleepless, to writing in his tent, after the fashion of Julius Cæsar, and to meditating, in the night-watches, on the thoughts of some philosopher. Then saw he again, as he told his people, that same vision of the Genius Publicus which had appeared to him in Gaul, when he had attained his imperial rank. But lacking now its former splendor, and with its veil covering the cornucopia as well as the head, it glided sadly through the tent and disappeared. Transfixed for a moment with wonder, he presently surmounted all fear, and committed the future to the will of the gods. Afterward, while it was yet deep night, he arose from his low couch, and offered propitiatory sacrifices to the divinities ; and then it seemed to him that he beheld a blazing torch, which furrowed the air like a falling star, and faded away. Whereupon a deep dread seized him lest it should be the star of Mars which had appeared under so threatening an aspect.”

Later on in the letter to Oribasius which has been already quoted, casual reference is made to another member of the small circle of Julian’s trusted friends. After alluding to the intrigues which perpetually thwarted his administration in Gaul, and to the directly divine assistance whereby he felt that his victories had been won, he says : æ If I myself have to suffer, there will be no small consolation in the consciousness of having acquitted myself well. I pray the gods that I may be permitted to keep with me that upright man, Sallust. But if a successor to myself be presently forthcoming, I shall not, I hope, repine. A brief season, well spent, is better than years of ill-doing. So say the Peripatetics, and I do not find their maxims less manly than those of the Stoics.”

Julian’s main philosophical creed was, however, as has been said, the Stoic one, and his aim was to follow as closely as might be in the footsteps of Marcus Aurelius. It was in emulation of the blameless Emperor that he regularly divided his nights into three parts, giving only one to slumber, the second to affairs of state, the third to the Muses. In his panegyric of his friend and protector, the Empress Eusebia. composed probably in the autumn of 357, or some two years after he had been made governor of Gaul, he expresses his profound and touching gratitude for her gift of a Greek library.

“ Thanks to her,” he says, “ even Gaul and Germany have become to me museums of Greek letters. Always keeping fast hold of these treasures, I can never forget her from whom I received them; and whenever I go on any expedition, I take with me, as part of my military equipment, some one of these books, which then seems to me as if it had been long ago written for this especial purpose. For the carefully preserved memorials of the wisdom and experience of our ancestors offer a clear and vivid picture of the great days of old to those who came too late to behold them.”

Nevertheless, there is a letter dated some two years later, but belonging to the same period of Julian’s rude campaigns against the Alemanni, and addressed to two of his fellow-students at Athens, in which a sigh of envious regret breaks from the unwilling warrior, at the thought of their noble and peaceful avocations : —

“ To Eumenius and Phareanus: If any one has ever attempted to persuade you that there is aught sweeter or better for humanity than to philosophize in peace and security, that man is mistaken, and would fain mislead you. But if the old ardor for knowledge remains with you, and has not gone out like a crackling flame, I hold you to be happy men. Four years and almost three months have passed since we parted, and I would gladly know what progress you have made in that interval of time. For my own part, I have contracted such barbarous habits in these countries that it is a wonder if I can still speak Greek. But for yourselves, do not, I beseech you, neglect any branch of study, neither oratory, nor rhetoric, nor poetry. Let your greatest zeal be for knowledge. The works of Plato and Aristotle contain the sum of it all. Devote yourselves to these. They are base, foundation, building, and roof. All the rest is but ornament. . . . God is my witness, it is because I love you like brothers that I offer these counsels.”

One is reminded of that passionate admonition of Arthur Hugh Clough’s : —

“ Not as the scripture saith, I think is the fact. Ere our death-day,
Faith, I think, does pass, and Love; but Knowledge abideth.
Let us seek knowledge ; the rest must come and go as it happens.
Knowledge is hard to attain, and harder yet to adhere to.
Knowledge is painful often, and yet when we know we are happy.”

Later, after he had assumed the title of Augustus, and was on his way to the East, Julian wrote as follows, apparently in answer to a lost letter from that Themistius whom he afterward made senator and prefect of Constantinople, and whose rule was so conspicuously just and moderate that, though an unswerving pagan, he was continued in office by the succeeding Christian Emperors : —

“ I desire most earnestly to fulfill the hopes which you say you have conceived of me, but I fear I shall never succeed in this, my powers being quite unequal to what you have promised yourself and others on my behalf. It is a long time now since the thought of having to emulate such men as Alexander and Marcus Aurelius and others of the greatest has filled me with alarm and discouragement, lest I should fall far short of the valor of the one and the perfect goodness of the other. It was this which made me decide for the contemplative life. I loved to dwell on the discourses of Athens, and my sole desire was to lighten the way a little for you, my friends, by singing along the road, like a traveler laden with his pack. But your last letter has renewed and increased my apprehensions; and how doubly difficult is the task you propose for me when you say that God seems to have set me where of old he placed Hercules and Bacchus, who, being both philosophers and kings, did purge the earth and the sea of all the scourges and the iniquities which prevailed in their time! . . . This part of your letter has greatly impressed me. I know you to be incapable of flattery or deceit, but I am also conscious that there is no great excellence in me, whether natural or acquired, save this, that I have loved philosophy.”

Then follows a long argument, or rather a species of meditation, on the rival charms and the comparative opportunities for good afforded by a life of research and a life of action. His heart is plainly in the former, but he closes his epistle in these words : —

“ It all comes to this : it was no aversion to labor, or excessive attachment to my own ease and comfort and pleasure, which made me shrink from the engagements of public affairs, but rather, as I said before, the conviction that I had neither the native ability nor the acquired knowledge which they demand. I dreaded also the thought of compromising and bringing into discredit that very philosophy which I so dearly love, and which is not too much esteemed, for the rest, by the men of this time. . . . But now may God award me good fortune, and a wisdom which shall be worthy of the same. More than ever, it seems to me, I have need not only of the divine assistance, but of the support of all you philosophers, for whose sake, and to win whose approval, I have come forward and exposed myself to so many dangers. If it prove true indeed that God intends for man, through me, more of good than I feel myself equal to bestow, you will readily pardon the language which I have used. I claim but one virtue, — that of not thinking of myself more highly than I ought to think, and of ordering my life accordingly. Do not, therefore, I beseech of you, expect of me great and wonderful things, but commit all to God. For so I may be held guiltless, even though I fail; while, if the event should answer my prayers, I shall still be humble and grateful, not assuming any merit or honor which may be due to others, but rightly referring everything to that divinity to whom will still be due my thanks, and yours for me.”

The monotheistic phraseology of this and many of Julian’s writings was partly, perhaps, a Christian survival, but also a common enough habit of speech among the Stoics. Marcus Aurelius too speaks continually, and as it would seem unconsciously, of God, rather than of the gods.

Themistius, the elevation of whose counsels may be judged by the tone of Julian’s reply, was also the author of one of those many panegyrics of the Apostate whose wholesale destruction was rigidly enforced by the Christian authorities after his death. We are especially sorry to have missed the estimate of so conscientious and high minded a man.

One of the lightest and liveliest letters of Julian which we possess — and he could write, upon occasion, with a charming gayety — is addressed to the philosopher Eugenius, who is supposed to have been the father of this same Themistius : —

“We all know how Dædalus made waxen wings for Icarus, attempting thus to overcome nature by art. I admire his ingenuity, but not his wisdom, in being the first within the memory of man to entrust the safety of a child to so feeble and fragile a support. My own choice would be to be changed into a bird, as sings the bard of Teos;1 not that I might pour forth my amatory plaints, nor yet take wing for Olympus, but simply make for your own mountain heights, where, in the words of Sappho, I might ‘ embrace my only joy.’ Since, however, nature keeps me in the prison of this body, and suffers me not to soar aloft, I will come to you upon the wings of words, and be with you, as I may, by my pen. For when Homer talks of winged words, he can only mean words which are able to penetrate all places, darting whithersoever they will, like birds of swiftest pinion.

“ And now, dear friend, please to answer my letter. Your facility in this kind of flying is surely equal to my own, or rather very superior, and you are able to touch the hearts of your friends in all places, and to gladden them as if by your presence.”

Just after receiving the news of the death of Constantius, which cleared so suddenly and unexpectedly his way to universal empire, Julian wrote a characteristic letter to one Hermogenes, exprefect of Egypt, whose partisanship of the usurper had evidently exposed him to some special peril : —

“ Let me say with the poet, ‘ O saved when hope was gone! ’ It seems too wonderful to believe that you should have escaped that hundred-headed hydra. I do not mean my cousin Constantius, — he was what he was, — but those ferocious associates of his, whose hungry eyes were on every man, who rendered so much more cruel one who was by nature less merciful than he appeared to many. He is gone, and may the earth, as they say, lie light above him; while as for those miscreants, I call Jove to witness that I do not desire them to suffer more than is just; only, since so many have accused them, they must stand their trial.”

And again, at the same critical juncture, to his maternal uncle, Julian : —

“At the third hour of the night, having no one to write for me, because all are so occupied, I seize a moment in which to pen this word for you. I am alive, blessed be the gods! and freed from the necessity either of suffering or inflicting the uttermost evil. I call to witness the sun-god, whose aid and protection I have always first invoked; I call to witness also Jupiter, the king, that I have never desired the death of Constantius. Nay, more, it has been my earnest wish that this might not befall. Why. then, am I here ? Because the gods most clearly and unmistakably enjoined it; promising me safety if I should obey, but if I should hesitate — that which may they never inflict! So, then, having been declared a public enemy, my desire was to create a certain alarm, in order that matters might afterward be more quietly and amicably adjusted by converse between him and me. Yet if it had come to the arbitrament of the sword, I would have committed all things to fortune and to the gods; awaiting whatever issue their clemency might have ordained.”

The triumphal entry of Julian into Constantinople took place on the 11th of December, 361, and he immediately set about effecting a general reform in the administration of the government; calling to his assistance the friends on whom he felt he could most surely rely, and, among others, “ that upright Sallust,” to whom we have already seen him allude. For an account of his retrenchments in the expenses of the palace we may go to the philosopher Libanius : —

“ These most important matters dispatched, he turned his eyes toward the imperial household, where he found a mob of useless persons being fed to no purpose, to wit, one thousand cooks and the same number of parbers, many more cup-bearers, a perfect swarm of builders, and of eunuchs more in number than the flies who torment a shepherd upon a summer day. . . . To all these the Emperor gave a year’s wage instead of notice, and turned them out forthwith.”

Per contra, Julian is vaguely charged with having loaded his own creatures with emoluments; but, as a matter of fact, the most considerable private gift of which we possess any record is described in the pleasant letter which follows, to one Evagrius, of whom otherwise we know nothing : —

“ I have a small estate in Bithynia, comprising four fields, inherited from my maternal grandmother,2 of which I propose to make you a present, for your love of me. It is much too trifling a gift to be proud of or to make a man feel himself rich, but it has its own charm, as I shall proceed to show; and I may be allowed, I hope, to jest a little with a man of your amiability and refinement. It is not more than twenty stadia from the sea,3 but neither peddler nor rude and talkative seaman will ever torment you upon that spot. Yet will you not be bereft of the bounty of Nereus, for the freshest of fish will be always ready to your hand; and if you care to mount a little hill hard by the house, you will have a view of the Propontis and its islands, and the city which bears the name of the noblest of kings.4 Meanwhile, you will not find your footsteps entangled in moss and seaweed, and those other unpleasant, not to say unmentionable, things which the sea casts forth upon the sandy beach, but in smilax and thyme, and all manner of sweet-smelling herbs. When you have been poring over your hooks, and would fain rest the eyes which have grown weary with reading, you will find this outlook over the sea and her ships quite agreeable. I was particularly fond of this estate when I was a little fellow, because of its water-springs and its fine bath, over and above the garden and the trees. Afterward, as I grew older, my fancy for the place continued, and it never disappointed me. There is a small monument there of my zeal as an agriculturist. I mean a tiny vineyard, which produces an exceedingly smooth wine with a good bouquet, which loses nothing by age. So, you see, you will find both Bacchus and the Graces there. The grapes, even while hanging on the vine, and still more in the press, yield the odor of roses; while as for the must in the casks, ’t is a ‘ veritable nectar,’ to use the expression of Homer. You will perhaps inquire why, if the vines are so remarkable, I have not devoted more acres to their culture. It may be that I am but an idle husbandman ; but the truth is, I think, that, being a devotee of the nymphs rather than of Bacchus and his cup, I have not cared to produce more wine than would suffice for myself and my friends, — a very select few!

“ Now, therefore, my dear fellow, I make it all over to you; no great gift, certainly, but pleasant as from friend to friend, and ‘ all in the family,’ as the poet Pindar says. I have written in haste and by lamplight, so, if you discover any errors, you must not be severe upon me, as though you were a master and this a theme.”

In contrast with the simplicity of his personal habits, the sums which Julian expended as Pontifex Maximus, by way of restoring in their utmost magnificence the public offices of the old religion, were enormous. It was jestingly said that if he returned victorious from the Persian expedition the breeds of oxen and sheep would become extinct. For all this, a general and marked reduction of taxes was effected during his reign of twenty months; and among those who had suffered most severely under the old régime, and were most signally relieved by the new, were the Jews. For them, on the ground of their rejection of Christ, Julian felt a distinct sympathy; and he was always disposed to favor them in a peculiar manner. There is extant a letter of his addressed to the whole Jewish nation, of which the authenticity has been disputed, but whose tenor is so perfectly in accordance with the action of the Emperor in his well-known attempt to restore the temple at Jerusalem that I incline to believe it genuine : —

“ Your condition of servitude in the time which is past cannot in itself have been so oppressive as the unlawful edict whereby you were compelled to pay immense sums of money into the imperial treasury. Much of all this I have seen with my own eyes; more I have learned from going over the complaints which have been lodged against you. I have therefore forbidden the new tax which was about to be levied. I have put down this detestable iniquity. I have even burned the documents inculpating you which I found stored up in my archives, so that henceforth you will have nothing to fear from that quarter. Nevertheless, I do not think that my distinguished cousin Constantius himself was so much to blame in this matter as those brutal and impious beings who lived at his table. These men I have had seized and executed in prison. No trace remains among us of the manner of their end. But being also desirous of conferring upon you still greater benefits, I have commanded your brother, the most worthy patriarch Julius, to abate that impost which is called the apostolate,5 and to suffer no one henceforth to extort money from you on any such pretext.

“ To the end, therefore, that you may have peace and security in my day, and for the greater glory of my reign, I request you to address prayers to your own sovereign God, the Maker of the world, who has deigned to crown me with his most pure hands. For those who are beset by care and anxious in their minds can never quite collectedly and confidently lift up their prayers to God ; but being delivered from all trouble and wholly glad at heart, you will surely raise the hands of suppliants on my behalf to that Supreme Being with whom it lies to make my reign as prosperous as I could desire: Let this be your first and most earnest care ; and I, on my part, should the Persian war terminate favorably, will straightway restore that holy city of Jerusalem, which now for so many years you have longed to see inhabited; and therein, with you, I will give thanks to the Most High.”

A great many accounts have come down to us of Julian’s abortive attempt to restore the beautiful temple which Titus had destroyed, and these narratives agree in all essential particulars. In a general way, the ecclesiastical writers attribute the project to a desire of being specially offensive to the Galileans, while the pagan historians credit the Emperor with merely wishing to leave a signal monument of his own boundless religious tolerance.

The charge of the work was committed to one Alypius, a native of Antioch, who had once been prefect of Britain, and had also written a geographical treatise, — it is conjectured about the regions of Palestine. We have two very friendly letters from the Emperor to Alypius, both of which contain clear references to the business in hand. The work was prosecuted for a time with much vigor, and the extraordinary manner of its abrupt arrest may best be described in the concise words of Ammianus : —

“ But just when Alypius, ably seconded by the ruler of the province, was pushing on these labors with great zeal, there occurred a sudden and profuse eruption of horrible fire-balls from about the foundations of the building, making the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and so, the elements themselves repeatedly forbidding the undertaking, it was abandoned.”

This prodigy may well have appealed to the superstitions imagination of Julian no less than to that of the Christians, who had felt their faith insulted by the proposed restoration of the great temple. Gibbon and others are probably right in referring the catastrophe to an explosion of fire-damp from the immense subterranean vaults which are known to have underlain the old temple, and which had now been choked up by débris for nearly three hundred years. It is curious that St. Jerome, who was at this time living in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, makes no allusion to the occurrence, in his voluminous works; but Julian himself mentions it quite simply in one of the latest and most interesting of his compositions, — the fragment of a Letter to a Pagan Pontiff: —

“ Can the prophets of the Jews, who inveigh against us, explain how it is that their temple, three times overthrown, has never been restored up to the present day ? I do not say this by way of reproaching them, because I myself but lately desired to raise it up again from its ruins, in honor of the divinity who was worshiped there.”

In the same letter we find injunctions of the most earnest description concerning all forms of practical benevolence : —

“ Where is the man who was ever impoverished by his gifts to others ? I am myself but a poor financier, yet have I received high interest from the immortal gods on all that I have given to the poor, and have never on any occasion had reason to repent of liberality. I do not speak of my present position. It would be unjust to compare the charity of a private person with the largesse of an Emperor. But when I too was but an insignificant individual, I remember that I used to give alms; . . . and when I recovered that maternal heritage which had been torn from me by violence, though by no means a rich man, I shared it with the needy. . . . Nay, more I will say, though this is not the common opinion: that I hold it a just and pious act to feed and clothe even our enemies; for we give to the man, and not to his manners. Nor will the course of justice be interrupted, if we minister to the wants of those who are in prison. . . . We talk of the gods of the nations ; we invoke Jove as the guardian of the household, and yet we treat as aliens those of our own flesh and blood. For every man, whether he will or no, is indeed the relative of every other. When Jove created the world, he let fall some drops of his own sacred blood, whence sprang the human race. Hence we are all of one blood.”

In another epistle, addressed to Arsacius, the sovereign pontiff of Galatia, he takes a somewhat different tone, endeavoring to shame the pagan into an emulation of Christian virtues : —

“ But why do we rest in what is done, and not rather consider the means whereby that impious belief ” (the Galilean) “ has so increased, namely, charity toward strangers, care for the burial of the dead, and that sanctity of life which they affect? We, too, ought to devote ourselves to every one of these things. . . . A shame indeed for us that there should not be a beggar among the Jews ; that the Galileans should feed and cherish not their own people only, but ours! ”

From the outset of his reign, however, he strenuously enforced that perfect liberty of conscience for which the written laws indeed provided, but which had gradually become a dead letter under the Constantinian Emperors. On the 1st of August, 362, we find him writing to the men of Bostra:6

“ I had imagined that the Galileans ” (that is to say, the orthodox Christians, in distinction from the Arians, whose cause Constantius had espoused) “ would feel more grateful to me than to my predecessor on the throne; for during his reign many of their number were exiled, persecuted, and imprisoned, while of so-called heretics whole shoals were strangled, ... so that entire towns were laid waste and ruined. During my reign the contrary has occurred. Permission to return has been accorded the banished, and those whose goods had been confiscated have been able to recover them by a provision in one of my laws. But they have reached such a state of fury and madness that, being prevented from tyrannically retaliating on others what they erewhile suffered, and carrying out their purposes against those of us who piously cherish the divinities,7 inflamed with anger, they leave no stone unturned, but encourage the people in sedition : in which they show themselves regardless alike of the gods and my own edicts, although these are full of humanity. Most assuredly, I will not suffer that any one of them should be dragged unwilling to the altar. On the contrary, as I have formally made known to them, if any one desire to join in our lustrations and libations, he must first purify himself, and secure the good will of the gods. . . . Once more I repeat my injunction to those who incline to the true religion, that they inflict no injury on the Galileans, attack them in no way, vex them with no insults; for those demand pity rather than hate who are mistaken in matters of the highest importance. The greatest of all blessings is a reverent piety and religion, and, on the other hand, impiety is the greatest of evils. In this way are those punished by their own act who transfer their affections from the immortal gods to dead men and their relies. We grieve for those who are in any trouble, but when they are freed and delivered by the gods we greatly rejoice.”

A curious light is also shed on the religious dissensions of this time by a passage from the ecclesiastical history of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrene, who flourished within a century after Julian’s death : —

“ There was a man of Berœa, illustrious for holding the first rank among the curiales of that city, and still more illustrious for his” (Christian) “zeal. He, when he saw that his son had fallen into the current impiety ” (that is, relapsed to paganism), “turned him out of his house and publicly disowned him. The son betook himself to the Emperor Julian, who chanced to be encamped near the city, and set forth his own belief and the treatment which he had received from his father. The Emperor told him to control himself and be easy in his mind, for that he would undertake to reconcile him to his parent. So when Julian had come to Berœa, he invited the principal dignitaries to a feast. The father of the youth was among them, and with his son was commanded to share the imperial couch. Then, in the midst of the feast, the Emperor turned toward the father, and said, ‘ It does not seem to me right to do violence to those who think differently from ourselves, or to force upon them an opinion from which they recoil. Do not you, therefore, attempt to coerce your son into an unwilling acceptance of your dogmas. I do not compel you to accept mine, although I might easily do so.’ Then the father, goaded by his faith in things divine, exclaimed, ‘ Do you speak, O Emperor, of that miscreant, abhorred of God, who has preferred a lie to the truth ? ’ But the Emperor answered, with an air of great mildness, ‘ Cease your violence, man! ’ and, turning to the youth, ‘ I,’ he said, ‘will have a care of you, since I cannot persuade your father.’

“ This occurrence,” observes the bishop, “ I have set down, not without reflection, but by way of showing the praiseworthy boldness of the man ” (that is, the father) “ who, with many others, defied the power of this Emperor.”

The chief and almost the only occasion on which Julian was false to his own principle of universal tolerance was when he issued an edict forbidding Christians to instruct in grammar and rhetoric ; that is to say, in subjects whose traditional treatment required a perpetual appeal to pagan mythology and philosophies. For this piece of glaring inconsistency the impartial Ammianus is very severe on the master whom he loved so well, but to whose faults he was never blind : —

“ The laws which he enacted were for the most part merciful, neither compelling nor restraining his subjects in an arbitrary manner. There were, however, a few exceptions, and prominent among them that oppressive edict, which forbade Christian masters of grammar and rhetoric to teach, unless they should first abjure. It was an intolerable abuse of power.”

This is one of the few passages in which we seem to catch a glimpse of the private prepossessions of Ammianus. But if he were indeed a Christian, as appears upon the whole most probable, his eloquent testimony to the great qualities of Julian acquires additional weight. Theodoret, when he chronicles the same edict, merely mentions Julian’s own apology for it: “We are, indeed, as the proverb says, ‘ hoist with our own petard,’ if in our own books they find weapons wherewith to wage war against us.”

From the letters of Julian may also be gleaned many an indication concerning the state of religious parties in the great cities of Alexandria and Antioch. The pagans were a minority in both places, but there was bitter contention between the sects of the Christian Church. In cultured Alexandria, where, in the next century, Hypatia taught and died, Christians and Arians were about equal in numbers, and elected rival bishops. Constantius, being rather more of an Arian than anything else, had supported the claims of the famous — not to say infamous — George of Cappadocia, so that when Julian came to the throne, he found this man in possession of the see ; while the orthodox bishop, Athanasius, who gave the creed his name, having lately been inhibited by his spiritual head, Pope Liberius, was wandering in the desert from hermitage to monastery, or lying painfully perdu in Alexandria itself.

Meanwhile, pagans, and Christians who were not of the Arian sect, had alike become exasperated by the tyranny of George; until, finally, apropos of a church which he had undertaken to build on the site of a temple of Mithra, an émeute occurred, in the course of which the infuriated mob seized upon the bishop, and literally tore him to pieces. It was a way they had ; but the humane spirit of Julian, who cherished a scholar’s romantic affection for Alexandria and her literary treasures, was outraged by this act of brutality, and he sent a very sharp letter of reproof to the Alexandrians for having dared thus to take the law into their own hands : —

“ If you revere not your founder, Alexander, nor the great god Serapis, you might at least attend to the dictates of reason, patriotism, and common humanity. . . . What! shall the people rend a man in pieces, like so many dogs, and feel no shame ? Will you defile with blood the hands you lift up to the gods ? Say not that George deserved his fate. He may have done so, and even a sharper one, and that for the wrongs which he had inflicted on you, but not at your hands! There are such things as laws, which all are bound to reverence and obey.”

Julian thought it no harm, however, to keep an eye on the splendid library of the murdered bishop, which was very rich in historical works of all kinds, and especially in those which referred to the Galilean doctrine, and he sent immediate orders for the books to be kept together and forwarded to himself at Antioch.

Athanasius, who took advantage of his rival’s tragic end to resume his own episcopal functions, was hardly one to conciliate the pagan Emperor, who once more belied his own principles, to a certain extent, by his peremptory manner of expelling the orthodox ecclesiastic from his see. To Ecdicius, the prefect of Egypt, he writes in 362 : —

“ Whatever else was neglected, you ought to have written me concerning that arch-enemy of the gods, Athanasius, since you must long since have received our august decree concerning him. I swear by the great Serapis that if Athanasius, the foe of the gods, be not expelled from Alexandria, and also from Egypt, before the 1st of December, I will fine your own legion a hundredweight of gold. You know how slow I am to condemn, and how much slower yet to pardon after I have condemned.”

(Added by the Emperor’s own hand.) “ The contempt of the gods is grievous to me. The best news I can get from you will be that Athanasius has been driven beyond the boundaries of Egypt, — a man who has dared, in my reign, to compel Greek ladies of illustrious lineage to be baptized ! ”

What took place at Antioch, where Julian passed the last winter of his life, was even more striking and picturesque. Ammianus tells us that Julian had become possessed of a fancy for opening the Castalian fount, which the Emperor Hadrian had caused to be walled up, lest the “ musical chant of its waters should prophesy empire to some other man, as it had done to himself. He therefore ordered the removal of all the bodies interred near by, and he took the same measures for purification as the Athenians had done in the case of the island of Delos.”

The Castalian fount was within those precincts of the Daphnean Apollo of which Sozomen has left us a fascinating description : —

“ Daphne, that noble suburb of Antioch, is beautiful by a great grove of cypresses, interspersed with other species of trees which are planted among them. Under the trees, as the seasons change, blossom all manner of sweetsmelling flowers, and so thick are the boughs and the leafage that they seem to afford a ceiling, rather than a screen, and no ray of sunshine can penetrate to the ground. Also, the place is made lovely and pleasant by the beauty and abundance of its water-springs, and its genial climate and balmy breezes. It was here, as the Greek fable tells us, that Daphne, daughter of the river Lado, flying out of Arcady from her lover Apollo, was changed into the tree which bears her name.”

The same historian also tells us that while Gallus, the short-lived brother of Julian, resided at Antioch, he had attempted to silence the world-famed oracle of Apollo (not that of the Castalian fount, which was merely in the neighborhood) by building opposite the temple a Christian church, and burying within it the remains of the martyred Babylas, a former bishop of Antioch. “ And from that time, they say, the god ceased to give his accustomed responses. . . . But Julian, having resolved to inquire of that oracle concerning certain business which he had in hand, entered the temple, and adored the god with sacrifices and gifts the most magnificent. After that he prayed fervently that a response might be vouchsafed him concerning his intention. But the god, not confessing openly that oracles could not be given on account of the martyr Babylas, whose sarcophagus was hard by, replied that the place was full of dead men’s bones, and this it was which impeded the responses. Then, the Emperor, conjecturing that, though Daphne had become a common cemetery, the martyr was, after all, the chief obstacle, commanded his sarcophagus to be removed. So the Christians assembled, and bore the shrine to a spot some forty stadia nearer the city, where it still remains, the place being called by the martyr’s name. On which occasion, it is said that men and women, youths and maidens, old men and little boys, all assisted in carrying the shrine, exhorting one another and singing psalms the whole way. They professed to lighten their labors by so singing, but in reality they were all aflame with holy zeal against the Emperor, who thought otherwise than they did concerning God. Those who intoned the psalms went forward, ahead of the rest, and the whole multitude made the responses in unison, dwelling especially upon the verse, ‘ Let all those be confounded who worship graven Images.’ . . . Not long after, the temple of the Daphnean Apollo unexpectedly took fire, and the whole of the roof, as well as the great image, was destroyed, so that only the naked walls, and the porch of the temple, and the hinder part remained standing. Now, the Christians believed that God had sent this conflagration in answer to the martyr’s prayers, but the Gentiles maintained that it was the work of the Christians themselves.”

This point was never determined, notwithstanding the fact that both a priest of the temple and one of the leading Christians were examined by torture. The abstemiousness of Julian’s private life had rendered him exceeding unpopular among the luxurious inhabitants of Antioch. He was already deeply offended by the calumnies concerning himself which circulated in the city; and now, irritated beyond control by the ruin of the Daphnean temple, he gave vent to his accumulated wrath in the diatribe entitled the Misopogon,1 where, under the ironical pretense of lamenting his unfortunate inferiority to the Antiochenes in breeding, culture, and personal beauty, he deals not a few telling thrusts at the gross effeminacy of their manners, their bad taste, bad logic, and general ingratitude to himself. Toward the close of this epistle, he quits his adroit fence, and comes directly and haughtily to the point: —

“ The listener is undoubtedly the accomplice of the speaker, and he who hears a calumny with pleasure is on a par with him who utters it, although he incurs less risk. Bad jests about my miserable beard have been current throughout the whole city, but they have been directed against one who never had and never will have good manners, in your sense of the term; for he will assuredly never afford you the spectacle of such a life as you live, and as your principles require. I have therefore permitted you freely to spit out your venom against me, both in your private intercourse and by publishing satirical anapests, only reserving to myself the right of exercising a yet greater freedom. You run no risk, by such conduct, of being either strangled, scourged, imprisoned, or chastised in any way. Only, since I and my friends, by the temperance and moderation of our lives, by declining to exhibit any splendid shows, have rendered ourselves contemptible and obnoxious among you, I am resolved to depart. . . . In so doing, I call the gods to witness, and especially Jove, the patron of the forum and keeper of the city, that you are ingrates.” “ This locality is consecrated to Olympian Jove and the Pythian Apollo; but as for Daphne, you yourself have written concerning it as no other man now living could have written, and scarce any of the ancients. God forbid that I should dwell on a theme which has called forth so brilliant an oration as yours ! Batnæ, then, — for such is its barbarous name, — is a Greek town. The odor of incense pervades it in every part, and you see on all sides the apparatus of sacrifice. But, pleasing as this spectacle naturally was to me, I found something excessive about it, and alien to the true spirit of divine worship ; for this ought, I think, to be conducted quietly, in a spot remote from noise and tumult, whither those who bring gifts and conduct victims should come for this purpose only, and no other. I hope before long to effect a reform in this respect. Meanwhile, Batnæ stands in a wooded glen, surrounded by groves of young cypresses, without a single old or decaying tree among them, but all clothed in the same fresh greenery.

One is reminded by these words, and by the general spirit of the Misopogon, of that French aristocrat, who turned round in the tumbril, and delivered to the mob that was screeching, “A la guillotime ! ’ that most superb of repartees, “ On y va, canaille I ”

Nevertheless, there are suspicious indications in the language of this final broadside against the men of Antioch, as well as in the edict against Christian teachers and the employment of torture upon the supposed incendiaries of Apollo’s temple, that the later years of Julian, had he lived, might have belied the fair and philosophic promise of his early reign. If so, his death was indeed timely, and the gods to whom he had devoted himself did not withhold that which the Greek proverb tells us is the crowning pledge of their love.

Libanius, the sophist, who was living at Antioch, and exercising the functions of quaestor, did his best to allay the ill feeling between Julian and his own fellow-townsmen. He also wrote an elaborate description of the ruined temple, mentioned by the Emperor in a letterdated March, 363, or some two months later than the issue of the Misopogon, which he dispatched to Libanius from Hierapolis, the point at which the illfated Persian expedition had then arrived.

“ Next, Batnæ received me as her guest. I have seen no place in your part of the world fit to be compared to this, except Daphne, — Daphne, which, while the temple and the statue were intact, I would not have hesitated to set before Ossa, Pelion, Olympus, and all the vales of Thessaly.

“ The royal residence is not in the least sumptuous. It is merely a house built of wood and clay, with no variety of ornament, and the garden is very modest. It contains a tiny plantation of cypresses, as well as a row of trees set at regular intervals along the wall, and within the inclosure are beds planted out with vegetables and all sorts of fruit trees. Do you ask me what I did there ? I offered sacrifice at dusk and at early dawn, as is my custom every day.”

The picture of Julian at his pagan prayers in the homely garden close at Batnæ is almost the last impression of the man which we derive from his own correspondence, for no letter of his has been preserved later than this to Libanius. Hierapolis, whither he went from Batnæ, was the appointed rendezvous of his troops, and the events which followed their assemblage there are minutely recorded by Ammianus. For three months they advanced unopposed across the endless plains, until at last, one day, in the early summer dawn, something was discerned upon the far horizon “ like smoke, or a mass of whirling sand,” which proved to be the skirmishers thrown forward before the great body of the Persian host.

From the fateful moment when this mysterious cloud arose, the quiet narrative of Ammianus becomes dramatic and deeply moving. We are carried swiftly along through the terrible onset, the three days’ fighting, the repulse of the Romans, to the hour when the silent spectre arises beside the sleepless Emperor, as if to prepare him, not ungently, for the end.

The address of Julian to the heartstricken groups that gathered about his death-bed seems long as Ammianus gives it; but Ammianus was there, and the remark of Gibbon, who will have his sneer, that the young Stoic had probably composed it long before, and rehearsed it for the final scene, appears especially out of place. The very lingering phraseology, the repetitions, the loose connection of ideas in the earlier sentences, and the diffidence about naming a successor are exactly what might be expected of a sinking man, on the dreamy borders of delirium. But his mind cleared as he went on.

“ Having said so much with all serenity, he proceeded to dispose of his private fortune, dividing it among his friends. He then inquired for Anatolius, the master of the offices; and when the prefect Sallust replied that he was happy, the Emperor understood that he was among the slain, and he who so despised his own death lamented for that of his friend. Then, when he perceived that those about him were weeping, he chid them with all his old spirit, saying that it was weak in them to mourn for a prince who was joining the company of the stars in heaven. Afterward, when they had controlled themselves and were still, he entered into a closely reasoned discussion with Maximus and Priscus, two philosophers, concerning the transcendent nature of the soul; and this he continued, until his wound opened and his veins swelled so as to affect his breathing, when he asked for some cold water, which he drank, and immediately afterward expired, without a struggle, at the moment when the night is darkest.”

The tragic tidings ran through the incredulous army; then, rapidly, as ill news will, it spread through all the mighty empire, and Antioch and Alexandria, at least, hailed the announcement with joy.

“ The city of Antioch,” observes Theodoret, “ when the catastrophe became known, made merry and feasted. Not in the churches only, with discourses concerning the martyrs, but in the very theatres, they preached the triumph of the cross, and scoffed at the prophecies of him who was gone. Tradition has preserved the very words of the Antioehenes, and how they cried out with one accord, ‘ Where now are thy oracles, O king ? God liveth, and his Christ.’ ”

In Alexandria, Sozomen tells us, the death of Julian was made known, at the moment of its occurrence, to one Didymus, who was watching in the cathedral, by a vision of white horses, which came rushing through the air, ridden by men who cried out, “ Announce to Didymus that on this day and in this hour Julian is dead ! ”

“ And within my own memory,” Sozomen adds, “ the Alexandrians were wont to celebrate by a great festival this anniversary, which they call the ‘ birthday of the earthquake.’ Multitudes of lights were lit all over the city, and prayers and actions of grace went up to God, and the celebration was altogether pious and magnificent. For while that man reigned there was great scarcity, and all manner of fruits failed, and the very salubrity of the atmosphere seemed to be impaired. Deprived of their proper nutriment, men were forced to eat the food of brute beasts, and the consequence was a great pestilence, of which many died.

“ These things happened in the time of Julian.”

H. W. P. and L. D.

  1. The lyric of Anacreon here referred to has not survived.
  2. The wife of the prefect Anicius Julianus.
  3. That is, about two and a half miles.
  4. Constantinople.
  5. This tax was exacted from all the synagogues, both of the East and West, for the ostensible purpose of maintaining the rabbis at Jerusalem. The men who collected it were called apostoli. It was subject to great abuses.
  6. There were several places of that name. This one appears from Ammianus to have been a city in Arabia.
  7. An edict of the then Bishop of Bostra contains these significant words: “ Though the Christians were equal in number to the pagans, my exhortations prevented the slightest excess.”
  8. That is to say, “Beard-Hater.” The smooth-faced Christians were especially scandalized by the amount of hair that Julian wore, and the roughs of the street, with their habitual delicacy of sarcasm, used to call after him, as he passed, “ Little fellow with the goat’s beard,” or, “Shave, and make ropes of your hair.”