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1 great monarch were executed by the enthusiasm of a whole people.
The joint efforts of power and enthusiasm were, however, on this occasion unsuccessful. I am aware that
. the reason of this is differently accounted for. Some resolve it wholly into the early death of Julian, and the additional circumstance of his successor being actuated by different religious principles. I shall, however, transcribe the account which is given of this extraordinary affair, not by a Christian, but by a heathen writer, who
a lived during the transaction, and wrote his book within twenty years of it-leaving the reader to make his own reflections on the subject.
Ammianus Marcellinus, detailing the history of his own times, says, “Whilst Alypius, assisted by the governor of the province, urged with vigour and diligence the execution of the work, horrible balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, with frequent and reiterated attacks, rendered the place, from time to time, inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen; and the victorious element continuing in this manner, obstinately and resolutely bent as it were, to drive them to a distance, the undertaking was abandoned.”* This "unexceptionable testimony," as Gibbon candidly admits it to be, is also supported by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, in a letter to the emperor Theodosius-by the eloquent Chrysostom, who at the time was bishop of Antioch-and by Gregory Nazianzen, who published his account of this preternatural event before the expiration of the same year.
There are few of the Roman emperors, whose characters have been exhibited in more discordant lights, than that of Julian. His predilection for paganism, or his prejudice against Christianity, or both, have given such
Ammianus Marcellinus, b. xxi. at the beginning.
a partial bias to the pen of Mr. Gibbon when recording the events of his reign, that he uniformly represents him as a virtuous and amiable monarch. But there certainly were traits in his character of a very different nature. Dr. Lardner, whose impartiality has never been called in question, tells us that Julian “ had a certain levity of mind; was a great talker; very fond of fame; superstitious rather than properly religious; so addicted to sacrificing, that it was said the race of bulls would be destroyed if he returned victorious from Persia : and such was the multitude of his victims, that his soldiers, who partook of them, were frequently much disordered by excess in eating and drinking. He received the rising sun with blood, and attended him with blood at his setting By frequent devotions he engaged the gods to be his auxiliaries in war; worshipping Mercury, Ceres, Mars, Calliope, Apollo, and Jupiter. Libanius, complaining of the deities who had deserted him, says,“ Which of them shall we blame? not one, but all, for non were neglected by him, neither gods nor goddesses. And is this the return," says he," for all his victims, for all his vows, for
” all the incense, and all the blood offered up to them, by day and by night? Wherever there was a temple, continues the same writer, whether in the city, or on the hill, or on the tops of the mountains, no place was so rough or so difficult of access but he ran to it, as if the way had been smooth and pleasant."
“But though Julian was so devout and religious in his way, he could be much displeased when he was disappointed, and even angry with his gods, like other heathens. In the Persian war, having obtained some successes and expecting more, he prepared a grand sacrifice for Mars; but the omen not being favourable, he was greatly incensed; and called Jupiter to witness, that he would never more offer a sacrifice to Mars. This excess
of superstition, it seems to me, is a proof of the want of judgment-a defect which appeared upon divers occasions and in many actions not altogether becoming the dignity of an emperor."
The conduct of Julian towards the Christians does not seem to have been characterized by all that impartiality which his admirers claim for him. Sozomen, the historian, says, he ordered the strictest inquiry to be made after the estates that belonged to Christians, with a view to confiscate the whole of them, not hesitating to employ torture to come at the truth. He subjected the Christian clergy to the lowest services in the armyand threatened that unless the Christians rebuilt the pagan temples, he would not suffer the GALILEANS to wear their heads; and our historian observes that, if it had been in his power, and he had not been prevented by death, he would probably have been as good as his word.+
Though Julian forbore to persecute unto death, he could not, on several occasions, refrain from using insults, which sufficiently shewed what he felt, and what he wished to do. When he was sacrificing in a temple at Constantinople, and Maris, the bishop of Chalcedon, a man respectable for his learning and for the part he had acted in public life, and now venerable for his age, happening to pass by, he abused him as an impious person, and an enemy of the gods. He had even the meanness to reproach him for his blindness, saying, “ Will not your Galilean God cure you?” “ The old man replied, I thank my God that I am deprived of sight, that I may not see your fall from piety.” On this occasion, Julian had so much command of himself, as to pass on without making any reply.
* Lardner's Testimonies, vol. iv. p. 25. + Sozomen's History, book v. ch. iv.
But notwithstanding his affectation of magnanimity, Julian was not always so much master of himself, as be appeared to be on this occasion. While at Antioch, just before he set out on his expediton against Persia, two of the officers who usually attended upon his person, inadvertently complained, that by his orders, every thing in the city was polluted with the rites of heathenism, insomuch that the very fountains that supplied the city, and every thing sold in the market, bread, butchers' meat, herbs, fruits, &c. had been sprinkled with lustral water, by which they were, as it were, consecrated to the beathen gods: such had been his insidious policy, in order to draw the people insensibly into idolatry.
These complaints coming to the ears of Julian, he ordered them to be brought before him; and interrogating them, as was his custom, with great familiarity, they frankly told him, that they had made those complaints; and that having been educated in the Christian religion, under his predecessors, Constantine and Constantius, they could not help being disgusted at seeing every thing contaminated with the rites of heathenism; but that this was the only thing in his reign of which they complained. At this he was so provoked, that he ordered them to be put to death with torture; pretending that it was not on account of their religion, but for their petulance in insulting their emperor.
About the same time, a deaconness, of the name of Pythia, who led the female singers, happening, as the emperor was passing by the doors of a place of worship, to be singing a psalm, and having, perhaps imprudently pitched upon one of those in which the heathen gods and their worshippers are spoken of with contempt, he was so provoked that he sent for her; and, though she was very old, one of his guards struck her, by his command and in his presence, on both the cheeks, with such violence, that the blood gushed out.*
After a short reign of twenty months, Julian, who perished by the lance of a common soldier, while prosecuting the Persian war upon the banks of the Euphrates, was succeeded in the year 363 by Jovian, one of the officers of his army. He had been educated in the principles of Christianity, and as soon as he ascended the throne, transmitted a circular letter to all the governors of the provinces, securing the legal establishment of the Christian religion. The edicts of Julian were abolished, and ecclesiastical immunities restored and enlarged. The Catholic clergy were unanimous in the loud and sincere applause which they bestowed on Jovian, but they were yet ignorant what creed or what synod he would choose for the standard of orthodoxy. The leaders of the different factions were properly aware, how much depended upon the first impressions made on the mind of an untutored soldier, and they hastened to the imperial court. The public roads were crowded with Athanasian, Arian, Semi-arian, and Eunomian bishops, who struggled to outstrip each other in the race: the apartments of the palace resounded with their clamours, and the ears of the prince were assaulted, and perhaps astonished by the singular mixture of metaphysical argument and personal invective. He wisely recommended to them charity and concord, but referred the disputants to the decision of a future council.
The conduct of Jovian seems to have given the death blow to the prevalence of paganism in the empire. “Under his reign,” says the historian of the Roman empire, “ Christianity obtained an easy and lasting victory; and as soon as the smile of royal patronage was withdrawn,
• Theod. Hist. b. iii. ch. xv.