“Why were you so ungrateful to our gods
as to desert them for the Jews?”
—Julian, addressing the Christians
Priscus to Libanius
Athens, June 380
I send you by my pupil Glaucon something less than half of the Emperor Julian’s memoir. It cost me exactly 30 solidi to have this much copied. On receipt of the remaining fifty solidi I shall send you the rest of the book.
We can hardly hope to have another Julian in our lifetime. I have studied the edict since I wrote you last, and though it is somewhat sterner in tone than Constantine’s, I suspect the only immediate victims will be those Christians who follow Arius. But I may be mistaken…
I never go to evening parties. The quarter I referred to in my letter was not the elegant street of Sardes but the quarter of the prostitutes near the agora. I don’t go to parties because I detest talking-women, especially our Athenian ladies who see themselves as heiress to the age of Pericles. Their conversation is hopelessly pretentious and artificial.
Hippia and I get along rather better than we used to. Much of her charm for me has been her lifelong dislike of literature. She talks about servants and food and relatives, and I find her restful. Also, I have in the house a Gothic girl, bought when she was eleven. She is now a beautiful woman, tall and well made, with eyes grey as Athena’s. She never talks. Eventually I shall buy her a husband and free them both as a reward for her serene acceptance of my attentions, which delight her far less than they do me.
But then Plato disliked sexual intercourse between men and women. We tend of course to think of Plato as divine, but I am afraid he was rather like our old friend Iphicles, whose passion for youths has become so outrageous that he now lives day and night in the baths, where the boys call him the queen of philosophy.
Hippia joins me in wishing for your good—or should I say better?—health.
The memoir. It will disturb and sadden you. I shall be curious to see how you use this material.
You will note in the memoir that Julian invariably refers to the Christians as “Galileans” and to their churches as “charnel houses,” this last a dig at their somewhat necrophile passion for the relics of dead men. I think it might be a good idea to alter the text, and reconvert those charnel houses into churches and those Galileans into Christians. Never offend an enemy in a small way.
Here and there in the text, I have made marginal notes. I hope you won’t find them too irrelevant.