JVLIAN excerpts – II

“Why were you so ungrateful to our gods
as to desert them for the Jews?”

—Julian, addressing the Christians

Julian

Priscus to Libanius
Athens, March 380

Yes, the edict is well known here. I am not in the least convinced that there is a Divine Oneness at the center of the universe, nor am I susceptible to magic, unlike Julian, who was hopelessly gullible.

As to your publishing project, I am not at all certain that a sympathetic biography of Julian would have the slightest effect at this time. Theodosius is a military politician, impressed by bishops. He might of course sanction a biography of his predecessor simply because Julian is much admired to this day, though not for his philosophy. Julian is admired because he was young and handsome and the most successful general of our century.

But if Theodosius did permit a biography, it would have to avoid the religious issue. The bishops would see to that. And for ferocity there is nothing on earth equal to a Christian bishop hunting “heresy,” as they call any opinion contrary to their own.

Though I am, as you so comfortably suggest, old and near the end of my life, I enjoy amazingly good health. But I have no intention of writing a single sentence about Julian, fond as I was of him and alarmed as I am at the strange course our world has taken since the adventurer Constantine sold us to the bishops.

Julian’s memoir was written during the last four months of his life. It was begun in March 363, at Hierapolis. Nearly every night during our invasion of Persia he would dictate recollections of his early life.

The resulting memoir is something of a hybrid; even so, Julian was often an engaging writer, and if he was not better it is because it is hard to be emperor, philosopher and general all at once.

I have never quite known what to do with his work. When Julian died, I took all his personal papers, suspecting that his Christian successors would destroy them. I had no right to these papers, of course, but I don’t regret my theft. I told no one about the memoir until I was back safe in Antioch, where I must have mentioned it to you the day you read your famous eulogy.

I am now having a fair copy made of the manuscript. You are misinformed if you think that copying is cheaper here than an Antioch. Quite the contrary. The estimated cost will run to eighty gold solidi, which I suggest you send by return post. On receipt of the full amount, I will send you the book to use as you see fit. Only do not mention to anyone that I had any connection with the matter.

Hippia joins me in wishing you good health.

Published in: on December 1, 2014 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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