Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

(Gregory Nazianzen), Julian the Emperor (1888) Title page, Preface, Illustrations







C. W. KING, M.A.

"Fame, if not double-faced, is double-voiced; 
And with contrary blast proclaims most deeds : 
On both his wings, one black, the other white, 
Bears greatest names in his wild aery flight."







II. LIBANIUS' MONODY ; OR, FUNERAL ORATION UPON JULIAN .............................................. 122

III. UPON THE SOVEREIGN SUN; ADDRESSED TO SALLUST ...................................................... 219

IV. UPON THE MOTHER OF THE GODS ....................................................................................... 254



IN the case of the Emperor Julian, Historic Truth possesses the very rare advantage of having two portraits of the same person, taken from diametrically opposite points of view—and both of them by painters intimately acquainted with their subject during the whole course of his career. Gregory of Nazianzus, a city of Cappadocia, sometime Bishop of Constantinople, had been a fellow-student of Julian's at the University of Athens, and had been treated by him with marked kindness and consideration (for which the worthy Father was subsequently forced to invent a very malicious motive), after his elevation to the purple. Libanius, a teacher of Eloquence, or, in modern phrase, a Professor of Greek Literature, had been summoned and established at Antioch by Julian's ill-fated brother the Caesar Gallus; in which city during the nine months whilst the emperor was making his vast preparations for the Persian War, he lived upon terms of the greatest familiarity with him. They then renewed the friendship formed some seven years before at Nicomedia, where Julian, as yet in a private station, had greatly benefited by the lectures of the Pagan Professor, although debarred |viii from personally attending them by the jealousy of his appointed Tutor, Ecdicius. The satirist and the panegyrist were both of them men of the highest education their times could afford. I leave it to the reader of their respective productions to decide which of the two had reaped the greater advantage from that education. But the careful perusal of their Attack and Defence will throw a clearer light upon the state of feeling that distracted the civilized world, at this, in every sense, the most critical period of its history, than can be gained from the study of all the Church historians that have written, from the gigantic treatise of Philippus Sidetes in a thousand books ("equally useless to the learned and the unlearned"), down to whatever of the kind may be most in vogue at the present day. I may however remark, parenthetically, that some of Gregory's charges against the emperor, require a very prejudiced construction to give them the blackness aimed at—as for example, his refraining from actual persecution from no other motive than that he begrudged the Christians the honour of martyrdom to which they so zealously aspired. The history of this, in every way, remarkable man, has hitherto been considered merely in its connection with Religion: and, so treated, it is become the most threadbare of all themes. I, therefore, take some credit to myself for discovering a totally new way of investigating these records of his life, and that is, for the valuable service they afford to archaeology. A glance at my Index (compiled specially with that view), will show how many curious questions of antiquity derive fresh light from the casual remarks of the two |ix writers. To instance a few----we get descriptions of ancient "University life;" the course of study there pursued; military matters, such as the system of carrying on distant campaigns; and what is unexplained from any other source, the true nature of the Dracones (ventosa draconum pallia, as Prudentius calls them); the transformation of the materials of the ancient temples into the decorations of private houses; the inner life of the later Imperial Court, with its swarms of rapacious officials and domestics, so comparable to that of a Turkish Sultan; the duties and the abuses of the Agentes in rebus; the constitution and the burdens of the Provincial Guriales; the British corn-trade, and the route it followed; and the solution of the problem that has so long vexed every intelligent numismatist----the existence of that incalculable quantity of billon denarii, of various degrees of baseness, but nevertheless all pretending to be the actual mintage of the emperors of the third century.1

The Manes of the saintly Gregory himself ("si quis sensus in illis") will doubtless rejoice at my thus making use of the unintentional service he has rendered to archaeology, for that he, despite his austere Puritanism, was a lover of Antiquity, is abundantly shown by the hundred and eighty-two little poems, full of good feeling and good taste, which he has directed against the bigoted, or rapacious, destroyers of ancient monuments.

To complete my portrait of the imperial philosopher, |x I have added a translation of his only two theosophical treatises still extant; from which the reader will be able to form an unprejudiced view of the religious system adopted by him. These little "Confessions of Faith" are evidently coloured by the careful study of certain Treatises amongst the "Moralia" of Plutarch: but they exhibit the fullest and latest development of notions only briefly sketched out by the earlier writer. Plutarch and Julian, therefore, enable us to contemplate Platonism and Neo-Platonism side by side, and I know not where can be found so lucid and able an exponent of the latter system as the emperor shows himself in these writings. In these our days, when we are gravely assured that "Cosmic Theism is the future religion of the World," many thinking men (but unable to wade through the difficulties of philosophic Greek) will be thankful to know what "Cosmic Theism" meant in the ages when it was the religion of the World (or, at least, of its educated portion), in the form under which its doctrines are here set forth by a man of acute intellect and high education, and who, at a mature age, and dissatisfied with all other systems, had embraced it out of a deep conviction of its truth.


             March 1, 1888.




No. 1. Constantius II. Rev. The emperor standing, crowned by victory, and holding the labarum, emblazoned with the monogram of Christ. The legend Hoc signo victor eris, adopted from the celebrated vision of Constantine, makes it probable that this reverse was chosen as a hopeful augury of success when the pious emperor was making his vast preparations to resist the invasion of the bold usurper Magnentius. The letter in the field indicates that the value of the coin is one-third of the Follis, the largest copper piece, which after the monetary reform of Diocletian, was made the unit of the currency.

No. 2. This fine portrait of Julian must represent him nearly at the close of his twenty months' reign, to calculate from the ample growth of his beard. He did not venture sapientem pascere barbam, and to assume that outward and visible sign of a "philosopher," which then meant an adversary of Christianity, until he was become the undisputed master of the Empire through the sudden death of Constantius. In fact, Ammian mentions that on Julian's departure from Gaul to contest the purple with his cousin, in his march through Vienne, he attended the Church service of the Epiphany, in order to conciliate the favour of the Christians, an important element of the provincial population. In the Mithraic religion (even at that date predominating in the Roman world) the Bull |xii was the emblem of the Earth; and the representation of the Persian piercing the animal with his acinaces signified the penetration of the solar ray into the soil. The Two Stars are in antique art, the regular symbols of the Twin Dioscuri, whose apparition, when invoked by tempest-tossed mariners, quieted the winds and calmed the waves. The type of this coin therefore meant, and certainly was understood by the generality, as signifying the restoration of Tranquillity to the world after all the civil and foreign wars of the three-and-twenty years of Constantius's reign----and this is the proper translation of the legend SECURITAS REIPUBLICAE. At first sight, it appears unaccountable why Julian, with all his zeal for the ancient worship, did not restore the Grecian gods to their old place upon the coins, and should have contented himself with such, inoffensive symbolism. It may be that he was guided by the Pythagorean rule forbidding the profanation of things holy by exposing their representations to the touch of vulgar hands; for which very reason, as Plutarch ("Numa") had found on record, the Romans placed no figures of gods in their temples for the first five centuries after the building of the city. The name of the mint, Heraclea, is given at full length in the exergue, the sole example of the kind known to me, such indications being usually much, abbreviated. It would seem that the mintmaster gloried in the new liberty of using a Pagan device. The coin is a Follis, twelve of which went to the Siliqua, small denarius of the period. Julian has made good his boast of being "a votary of the Sovereign Sun" by an elegant reverse of a gold coin, in which we see the cities of Rome and Constantinople holding up between them a large shield, emblazoned with the established emblem of the Sun----a great eight-rayed star----a type without precedent or imitation. And what is more, the same emblem, within a myrtle crown, is the sole type used for the reverse of the few coins that can with certainty be assigned to his wife, Helena. |xiii 

Nos. 3 and 4. The obverse of one of these pieces is the bust of Julian himself: the other in the character of Serapis. The reverse of the one bears Isis carried upon her cow, and tinkling the sistrum as she goes. They are not current coins, for they lack the mint-mark, the indispensable stamp of the Sacra Moneta (legal currency) in those times but are medals in the modern sense of that word. Ficoroni has published in his "Piombi Antichi," cap. xxxvi., a stone mould for casting square medals (five at a time) of the same nature. They have on one side Isis standing, holding up the sistrum; on the other, the sistrum alone. There can be little doubt that they were meant for tickets to be given to those initiated into the Mysteries of Isis.

No. 3 presents us with the Jackal-headed Anabis, bearing the caduceus, in his character of Guide of Souls in the Lower World, whilst in the right hand he lifts up the sistrum. The legends Vota Publica seem to imply that the restoration of the ancient religion was the "universal wish." There are many varieties of these types, though individually they are extremely rare. Some bear heads of Serapis and Isis conjugated, others the same confronted, where the goddess is supposed to represent the emperor's lost Helena, but on no sure grounds. I am inclined to place these memorials of a dying cause in the class of the posthumous portraits of Julian, mentioned by his pane-.gyrist as introduced into the Temple.

Note.----No. 2 is drawn to the actual size, the others are enlarged.


Page 85. Epicurus: inventor of the Atomic Theory, and denier of the eternity of the universe.

Page 121. Aristippus: on each side are placed full-length figures of Venus and Bacchus, the deities who |xiv inspired his jovial system of philosophy.----Antique paste. (Blacas Cabinet).

Page 218. Bust of Julian's great rival, the master of the other half of the then known world, Sapor II. This is not meant for the portrait of the monarch in the flesh, but as his Ferhouer, the Jewish Angel of the man, the Platonic Idea or Type, pre-existent in the mind of Ormuzd. This is symbolized by the quadruple wings that bear it aloft as a deity, and the Sun and Moon, emblems of Eternity, between which it is placed. The Pehlevi legend reads Piruz Shahpuhri, "Of the victorious Sapor," which supplies an interesting comment upon Ammian's notice, that at the siege of Maogamalcha the Persians chanted the praises of their sovereign with the titles Pyroses and Sasaan, which he translates by "Victor" and " King of Kings." (New York Museum of Art.)

Page 253. Confronted heads of Socrates and Plato, the finest portraits of these two philosophers to be found on gems.----Sard. (Paris.)

Page 280. Signet of a Roman Pontifex: exhibiting as the insignia of his office the victim's skull surrounded with the several sacrificial implements.

Page 288. Plato: the butterfly-wings affixed to his temples allude to his doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul.----Sard. (Berlin.)

[The footnote has been moved to the end]

1. 1 The Numeration in the text of Libanius refers to Reiske's edition, used for this Translation.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts