Julianus – Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus
Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus who was named Julian the Apostate by Christians was a Great Male Thinker who composed essays, satires, speeches, commentaries and letters of great quality. He is definitely Rome’s second ever philosopher-ruler, after the great Marcus Aurelius. His treatise, Against the Galileans is an insightful example of male religious thought where one’s male religious identity is analyzed specifically arguing against the Christian doctrine as well as comparing the Hebrew God with the the universal Hellenic gods.
When the Roman Emperor Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus) came to power, Christianity was less popular than polytheism, but when Emperor Julian was killed in battle, it was the end of th official acceptance of polytheism in the Roman Empire. Although paganism was popular, Julian’s practice was more ascetic than normal pagan practices, which may be why paganism failed when the he reinstated it.
Emperor Julian was born in AD 332 in Constantinople, the son of Julius Constantius, who was a half-brother of Constantine the Great. His mother was Basilina, the daughter of the governor of Egypt, who died shortly after his birth.
His father was killed in AD 337 in the murders of Constantine’s relatives by the three brother-emperors Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans, who sought to have all their potential rivals killed.
After this massacre Julian, his half brother Constantius Gallus, Constantine’s sister Eutropia and her son Nepotianus were the only remaining relatives of Constantine left alive, other than the three emperors themselves.
Constantius II placed Julian in the care of a eunuch named Mardonius, who educated him in the classical tradition of Rome, thereby instilling in him a great interest for literature, philosophy and the pagan gods. Julian was moved from Constantinople to Nicomedia by the emperor in AD 342. Constantius II evidently didn’t like the idea of a youth of Constantine’s blood being too close to the centre of power, even if only as a student. Soon after Julian was moved again, this time to a remote fortress at Macellum in Cappadocia, together with his half-brother Gallus where he was given a Christian education, but his interest in the pagan classics remained strong. For six years Julian stayed in exile until he was allowed to return to Constantinople, although only to be moved back out of the city soon after and being returned to Nicomedia once more in AD 351.
After the execution of his half-brother Constantius Gallus by Constantius II in AD 354, Julian was ordered to Mediolanum (Milan). But permission was soon granted for him to move to Athens to continue his extensive studies. In AD 355 he was already recalled. With trouble in the east with the Persians, Constantius II sought Julian’s help to take care of the problems on the Rhine frontier for him. So Julian in AD 355 was elevated to the rank of Caesar, was married with the emperor’s sister Helena and was ordered to take to the Rhine to repel invasions by the Franks and Alemanni.
Julian, who was inexperienced in military matters at the time, successfully recovered Colonia Aggripina by AD 356, and in AD 357 defeated a vastly superior force of Alemanni near Argentorate (Strasbourg). He then crossed the Rhine and raided German strongholds, and gained yet further victories over the Germans in AD 358 and 359.
Julian, like Trajan, endured the hardships of military life alongside the soldiers and thus became popular amongst the troops. The general population of Gaul appreciated their new Caesar, Julian, for the extensive tax cuts he introduced.
While the emperor was suffering setbacks at the hands of the Persians these victories by his Caesar, Julian, were seen only as embarrassments.
But the military predicament of Constantius II with the Persians required urgent attention. And so he demanded Julian to send some of his finest troops as reinforcements in the war against the Persians. But the soldiers in Gaul refused to obey. Their loyalties lay with Julian and they saw this order as a an act of jealousy on behalf of the emperor. Instead in February AD 360 they hailed Julian emperor.
At first Julian tried to negotiate with Constantius II, but was unsuccessful. In AD 361 Julian set out for the east to meet his foe. Remarkably, he vanished into the German forests with an army of only about 3000 men, only to reappear again on the lower Danube shortly after. This astounding effort was most likely made in order to reach the key Danubian legions as soon as possible to assure their allegiance in that knowledge that all European units would surely follow their example. But the move proved unnecessary as news arrived that Constantius II had died of illness in Cilicia.
On his way to Constantinople Julian then officially declared himself a follower of the pagan gods. With Constantine and his heirs having been Christian, and Julian having, while still under Constantius officially still adhered to the Christian faith, this was an unexpected turn of events.
The Christian church was prohibiting the enjoyment of the financial privileges enjoyed under previous regimes, and Christians were excluded from the teaching profession.
Though Christianity had established itself too firmly in Roman society to be successfully dislodged by Julian’s means. His moderate, philosophical nature did not allow for violent persecution and oppression of the Christians and so his measures failed to make significant impact.
Pagans of the time generally held religion to be a private matter, while Christians were considered to be behaving strangely when they openly tried to convert others to their faith. They claimed that Salvation made possible through Jesus was the only true belief. In the wake of the Nicene Council, Christian leaders condemned all who failed to believe in the prescribed manner.
Julian is clearly Rome’s second ever philosopher-ruler, after the great Marcus Aurelius. But if Marcus Aurelius was weighed down by war and plague then, Julian’s greatest burden was to be that he belonged to a different age. Trained classically, learned in Greek philosophy he would have made a fine successor to Marcus Aurelius. But those days had gone, now this distant intellect seemed out of place, at odds with many of his people, and certainly with the Christian elite of society.
Julian was an able administrator who sought to revive the cities of the eastern part of the empire, which had suffered in recent times and had begun to decline. Measures were introduced to limit the effects of inflation on the empire and attempts were made to reduce bureaucracy.
Julian also wanted to defeat the Persians and annex their territories into the empire. In March AD 363 he left Antioch at the head of sixty thousand men. Successfully invading Persian territory, he had by June driven his forces as far as the capital Ctesiphon. But Julian deemed his force too small to venture on capturing the Persian capital and instead retreated to join with a Roman reserve column.
On 26 June AD 363 Emperor Julian was hit by an arrow in a skirmish with Persian cavalry. His wound did not heal and Emperor Julian died. He was initially buried as he had wished outside Tarsus, but later his body was exhumed and taken to Constantinople.