CKM 2018-19 / Aziz Yardımlı




  Julian, the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire (331-363) (361-363)
A persistent enemy of Christianity


  • Roman emperor from AD 361 to 363
  • The last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire
  • Nphew of Constantine the Great
  • Studied at Pergamum, at Ephesus, and later at Athens
  • A notable philosopher and author in Greek
  • His deep love of Hellenic culture ...
  • Accepted the creation of humanity as described in Plato’s Timaeus



Julian, byname Julian the Apostate, Latin Julianus Apostata, original name Flavius Claudius Julianus, (born AD 331/332, Constantinople—died June 26/27, 363, Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia),  Roman emperor from AD 361 to 363, nephew of Constantine the Great, and noted scholar and military leader who was proclaimed emperor by his troops. A persistent enemy of Christianity, he publicly announced his conversion to paganism in 361, thus acquiring the epithet “the Apostate.”

Early Life

Julian was a younger son of Julius Constantius, the half brother of Constantine I (the Great), and his second wife, Basilina. In 337, when Julian was five, his cousin (the third son of Constantine I), also called Constantius, became emperor in the East as  Constantius II and in 350, with the death of his brother Constans I, sole legitimate emperor (though there were two usurpers who were not overthrown until 353). The army, determined to have none but Constantine I’s sons as his successors, murdered the other possible aspirants. Constantius II had had Julian’s father killed in or just after 337, and an elder brother of Julian was killed in 341. Basilina had died soon after the birth of Julian, who was thus early left an orphan. With his surviving half brother,  Gallus, seven years his senior, he was brought up in obscurity, first by  Eusebius, Arian bishop of Nicomedia in Bithynia, and later at the remote estate of Macellum in Cappadocia. By the patronage of Eusebia, wife of Constantius II, Julian, at age 19, was allowed to continue his education, first at Como and later in Greece. In 351 he converted to the pagan Neoplatonism, recently “reformed” by Iamblichus, and was initiated into theurgy by Maximus of Ephesus.

His physical appearance is described thus by his contemporary and comrade-in-arms, Ammianus Marcellinus:

“He was of medium stature, his hair was soft, as if it had been combed, his beard rough and pointed. His eyes were fine and flashing, an indication of the nimbleness of his mind. He had handsome eyebrows, a straight nose, rather a large mouth with a drooping lower lip. His neck was thick and slightly bent, his shoulders broad and big. From top to toe he was well-knit, and so was strong and a good runner.”

His statue in the Louvre generally confirms this description, showing him as a stocky, rather diffident-looking philosopher.

Julian’s freedom as a student had a powerful influence on him and ensured that for the first time in a century the future emperor would be a man of culture. He studied at Pergamum, at Ephesus, and later at Athens. He adopted the cult of the Unconquered Sun. He adopted the cult of the Unconquered Sun.

That his literary talent was considerable is demonstrated in his surviving works, most of which illustrate his deep love of Hellenic culture. Julian had been baptized and raised as a Christian, but, although he outwardly conformed until he was supreme, Christianity in its official guise meant to him the religion of those who had murdered his father, his brother, and many of his relations and, as such, was hardly likely to commend itself to him. He found far more solace in his philosophic speculations. This reaction has sometimes been defended as natural but eccentric. Natural it certainly was, but it is a misinterpretation of the age to imagine that Julian was alone in preferring Hellenism to Christianity. Society, and particularly the educated society in which Julian was at home, was in fact still largely if not predominantly pagan. Even bishops were proud of their Greek culture; no one was proud of the exotic degeneracy and extravagance of the court of Constantius. It is not surprising that Julian’s austerity, chastity, and enthusiasm for the heritage of Greece found a sympathetic response among many of his cousin’s subjects.

Rise To Supremacy

In 351 Constantius II, perturbed by the death of his brother Constans and subsequent disorders in the West, appointed Gallus as his caesar; that is, as his coadjutor and eventual successor. Gallus was a failure and was executed near Pola (now Pula, Croatia) in 354. Constantius, again in need of a caesar of his own house, after much hesitation summoned Julian from Greece, whence the latter arrived “still wearing his student’s gown.” On November 6, 355, at the age of 23, he was duly proclaimed and invested as caesar, an honour which he accepted with justifiable foreboding. The emperor gave Julian his sister Helena as wife. She died after five years of marriage—the fate of their issue, if any, is unknown. Julian was at once dispatched to Gaul, where he proved a resolute and successful commander. He defeated and expelled the Alemanni and the Franks, feats that aroused the jealousy of Constantius, who kept Julian short of funds and under secret surveillance. In 360, while Julian was wintering at Paris, the emperor sent a demand for a number of his best troops, ostensibly for service in the East but in reality to weaken Julian. Julian’s army thereupon hailed him as Augustus. This naturally infuriated Constantius, who refused any accommodation. Julian, realizing that war between himself and Constantius was now inevitable, decided to move first. But, before the clash could come, Constantius died near Tarsus (November 361), having on his deathbed accepted the inevitable by bequeathing the empire to Julian.

Policies As Emperor

Julian, now sole Augustus, greatly simplified the life of the palace and reduced its expenses. He issued proclamations in which he declared his intention to rule as a philosopher, on the model of Marcus Aurelius. All Christian bishops exiled by Constantius were allowed to return to their sees (although the purpose of this may have been to promote dissension among the Christians), and an edict of 361 proclaimed freedom of worship for all religions.

But this initial toleration of Christianity was coupled with a determination to revive  paganism and raise it to the level of an official religion with an established hierarchy. Julian apparently saw himself as the head of a pagan church. He performed  animal sacrifices and was a staunch defender of a sort of pagan orthodoxy, issuing doctrinal instructions to his clergy. Not surprisingly, this incipient fanaticism soon led from apparent toleration to outright suppression and  persecution of Christians. Pagans were openly preferred for high official appointments, and Christians were expelled from the army and prohibited from teaching classical literature and philosophy. The latter action led  Ammianus, who admired Julian’s virtues and was himself an adherent of the traditional religion, to censure the emperor:

That was inhumane, and better committed to oblivion, that he forbade teachers of rhetoric and literature to practice their profession if they were followers of the Christian religion.

Julian wrote an attack on Christianity, “Against the Galileans,” that is known today only by fragmentary citation. “The trickery of the Galileans”—his usual term—has nothing divine in it, he argues; it appeals to rustics only, and it is made up of fables and irrational falsehoods. Here perhaps may be detected the sunset snobbery of the Athens of his day. Though professing to be a Neoplatonist and a sun worshipper, Julian himself was an addict of superstition rather than religion, according to Ammianus.

His project to rebuild the Jewish Temple in  Jerusalem was designed rather to insult the Christians than to please the Jews, who, for long accustomed to the worship of the synagogue, would have found the revival of animal sacrifice acutely embarrassing. The plan was dropped when it was reported (as it was on both an earlier and a later occasion) that “balls of fire” had issued from the old foundations and scared away the workmen. Christian cities were penalized, and churches were burned in Damascus and Beirut. Bishops, including the great Athanasius, were banished. One was horribly tortured.  Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god associated with nature, wine, and ecstasy, was installed in the Christian basilicas of Emesa (modern Ḥimṣ, Syria) and Epiphaneia (modern Ḥamāh, Syria). At  Antioch, where Julian was preparing for a campaign against the  Persians, his closing of the great basilica and the removal of the relics of the martyr Babylas from the sacred grove of Daphne annoyed the Christians. His priggish austerity did not endear him to the pagans, either, and both were equally incensed by his pamphlet entitled  Misopogon(“Beard Hater”), in which he assailed the Antiochenes for the ridicule that they poured on him for his personal conduct, his religion, and his claim to be a philosopher on the strength of his beard.

The invasion of Persian territory was always a lure in antiquity and one to which Julian was not immune. Motivated by a desire for military glory and a decision to reassert Rome’s preeminence in the East, he assembled, despite counsels of prudence from Rome and the Levant, the largest Roman army (65,000 strong and backed by a river fleet) ever to head a campaign against Persia. The Persians, aided by the desert, famine, treachery, and the incompetence of the Romans, once again proved themselves superior. During a disastrous retreat from the walls of Ctesiphon, below modern Baghdad, Julian was wounded by a spear thrown “no one knew whence,” which pierced his liver. He died the next night at age 31, having been emperor for 20 months.

Julian’s religious policy had no lasting effect. It had shown that paganism, as a religion, was doomed. It is perhaps sad, in retrospect, that the odium of proving it should rest on Julian, who with a little less venom and more tact might have been remembered for his many virtues rather than for his two fatal blunders.


Julian (Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus) (L)

Flavius Julianus (L)



  • May 331: Flavius Julianus 
  • 6 November 355: Flavius Julianus Caesar 
  • February 360: Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus 
  • 26 June 363: killed in action

nickname: Apostata ("the apostate")

Successor of: Constantius II


  • father: Julius Constantius
  • mother: Basilina
  • wife: Helena


Main deeds

Statue of a priest of Serapis, long time believed to be a portrait of Julian the ApostateStatue of a priest of Serapis, long time believed to be a portrait of Julian the Apostate

  • Youth spent in Macellum (Cappadocia)
  • 349 To Constantinople; later studies in Nicomedia with Libanius, in PergamonEphesus
  • 355, Spring: Studies in Athens
  • 355, 6 November: Julianus appointed as caesar
  • 356 Consul (with Constantius II consul VIII); Julian liberates Cologne; war against the Alamans
  • 357 Consul II (with Constantius II consul IX); Constantius' state visit to Rome;

  • Battlefield of Strasbourg
    Julian defeats the Alamans near Argentoratum (modern Strasbourg) and campaigns beyond the Rhine
  • 358 Constantius successfully campaigns against the Sarmatians, Quadi, and Limigantes; Barbatio repels an attack of the Juthungi on Raetia; Julian attacks the Franks along the Meuse
  • 359 Julian again across the Rhine; fall of Barbatio; Constantius' second campaign against the Limigantes; the Sasanian king Shapur II captures Amida; Constantius to the east; treason trials
  • 360 Consul III (with Constantius II consul X); Julian proclaimed emperor in Lutetia, attacks the Franks, visits Vienne, accepts the titles Germanicus maximus, Alamannicus maximusFrancicus maximus, and Sarmaticus maximus
  • 361 Constantius in Mesopotamia, prepares war against Julian; dies during his march to the west; Julian sole ruler; enters Constantinople, confesses his pagan beliefs; First Edict of Religious Tolerance; publishes his Hymn to HeliosHymn to the Mother of the godsAgainst the GalileansCaesares

  • A dead Julian, shown in Taq-e Bostan, IranA dead Julian, shown in Taq-e Bostan, Iran362 Julian to Antioch; publishes Misopogon
  • 362, 17 June: Edict on Teaching (against the Christians)
  • 363 Consul IV (with Flavius Sallustius); leaves Alexandria to fight against the Persians; invades Mesopotamia, reaches Ctesiphon,
  • 363, 26 June: defeated and killed

With the death of Julian, the dynasty founded by Constantius I Chloruscame to an end.

Contemporary events

Buildings: Ankara, Column of Julian

Contemporary events:

  • Julian361 Bishops Georgios returns to Alexandria, where he is lynched
  • 362 Athanasius returns to Alexandria, and forced to flee; fire in the temple of Apollo in Daphne (near Antioch); martyrdom of Dorotheus of Tyrepersecution of Christians in Baalbek
  • 363 Attempt to rebuild the Jewish temple of Jerusalem; fire in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine

Succeeded by: 


Julian (W)

Julian (331-363) (361-363) (W)

Julian the Apostate presiding at a conference of sectarian (Edward Armitage, 1875).

Julian (Latin: Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus;[a] Greek: Φλάβιος Κλαύδιος Ἰουλιανὸς Αὔγουστος; 331/332 – 26 June 363), also known as Julian the Apostate, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363, as well as a notable philosopher and author in Greek.

A member of the Constantinian dynasty, Julian was orphaned as a child. He was raised by the Gothic slave Mardonius, who had a profound influence on him, providing Julian with an excellent education. Julian became Caesar over the western provinces by order of Constantius II in 355, and in this role he campaigned successfully against the Alamanni and Franks. Most notable was his crushing victory over the Alamanni at the Battle of Argentoratum (Strasbourg) in 357, leading his 13,000 men against a Germanic army three times larger. In 360, Julian was proclaimed Augustus by his soldiers at Lutetia (Paris), sparking a civil war with Constantius. However, Constantius died before the two could face each other in battle, and named Julian as his successor.

In 363, Julian embarked on an ambitious campaign against the Sassanid Empire. The campaign was initially successful, securing a victory outside Ctesiphon. However, while campaigning into Persian territory, the Persians flooded the area behind him and Julian took a risky decision to withdraw up the valley of the Tigris River. During the Battle of Samarra, Julian was mortally wounded under mysterious circumstances, leaving his army trapped in Persian territory. Following his death, the Roman forces were obliged to cede territory in order to escape, including the fortress city of Nisibis.

Julian was a man of unusually complex character: he was “the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters.” He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and he believed that it was necessary to restore the Empire's ancient Roman values and traditions in order to save it from dissolution. He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy, and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the expense of Christianity. His attempt to build a Third Temple in Jerusalem was probably intended to harm Christianity rather than please Jews. Julian also forbade the Christians from teaching and learning classical texts. His rejection of Christianity, and his promotion of Neoplatonic Hellenism in its place, caused him to be remembered as Julian the Apostate by the church.


Flavius Claudius Julianus was born at Constantinople in May or June 332, the son of Julius Constantius, consul in 335, and half-brother of the emperor Constantine, by his second wife, Basilina, a woman of Greek origin. Both of his parents were Christians. Julian's paternal grandparents were the emperor Constantius Chlorus and his second wife, Flavia Maximiana Theodora. His maternal grandfather was Julius Julianus, Praetorian Prefect of the East under the emperor Licinius from 315 to 324, and consul suffectus in 325. The name of Julian's maternal grandmother is unknown.

In the turmoil after the death of Constantine in 337, in order to establish himself and his brothers, Julian’s zealous Arian cousin Constantius II appears to have led a massacre of most of Julian’s close relatives. Constantius II allegedly ordered the murders of many descendants from the second marriage of Constantius Chlorus and Theodora, leaving only Constantius and his brothers Constantine II and Constans I, and their cousins, Julian and Gallus (Julian's half-brother), as the surviving males related to Emperor Constantine. Constantius II, Constans I, and Constantine II were proclaimed joint emperors, each ruling a portion of Roman territory. Julian and Gallus were excluded from public life, were strictly guarded in their youth, and given a Christian education. They were likely saved by their youth and at the urging of the Empress Eusebia. If Julian's later writings are to be believed, Constantius would later be tormented with guilt at the massacre of 337.

Initially growing up in Bithynia, raised by his maternal grandmother, at the age of seven Julian was under the guardianship of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the semi-Arian Christian Bishop of Nicomedia, and taught by Mardonius, a Gothic eunuch, about whom he later wrote warmly. After Eusebius died in 342, both Julian and Gallus were exiled to the imperial estate of Macellum in Cappadocia. Here Julian met the Christian bishop George of Cappadocia, who lent him books from the classical tradition. At the age of 18, the exile was lifted and he dwelt briefly in Constantinople and Nicomedia. He became a lector, a minor office in the Christian church, and his later writings show a detailed knowledge of the Bible, likely acquired in his early life.

Julian’s conversion from Christianity to paganism happened at around the age of 20. Looking back on his life in 362, Julian wrote that he had spent twenty years in the way of Christianity and twelve in the true way, i.e., the way of Helios. Julian began his study of Neoplatonism in Asia Minor in 351, at first under Aedesius, the philosopher, and then his Aedesius' student Eusebius of Myndus. It was from Eusebius that Julian learned of the teachings of Maximus of Ephesus, whom Eusebius criticized for his more mystical form of Neoplatonic theurgy. Eusebius related his meeting with Maximus, in which the theurgist invited him into the temple of Hecate and, chanting a hymn, caused a statue of the goddess to smile and laugh, and her torches to ignite. Eusebius reportedly told Julian that he "must not marvel at any of these things, even as I marvel not, but rather believe that the thing of the highest importance is that purification of the soul which is attained by reason." In spite of Eusebius' warnings regarding the "impostures of witchcraft and magic that cheat the senses" and "the works of conjurers who are insane men led astray into the exercise of earthly and material powers", Julian was intrigued, and sought out Maximus as his new mentor. According to the historian Eunapius, when Julian left Eusebius, he told his former teacher "farewell, and devote yourself to your books. You have shown me the man I was in search of."

Julian was summoned to Constantius' court in Mediolanum (Milan) in 354 and kept there for a year; in the summer and fall of 355, he was permitted to study in Athens. While there, Julian became acquainted with two men who later became both bishops and saints: Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great. In the same period, Julian was also initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, which he would later try to restore.

Constantine II died in 340 when he attacked his brother Constans. Constans in turn fell in 350 in the war against the usurper Magnentius. This left Constantius II as the sole remaining emperor. In need of support, in 351 he made Julian's half-brother, Gallus, Caesar of the East, while Constantius II himself turned his attention westward to Magnentius, whom he defeated decisively that year. In 354 Gallus, who had imposed a rule of terror over the territories under his command, was executed. Julian was summoned to court, and held for a year, under suspicion of treasonable intrigue, first with his brother and then with Claudius Silvanus; he was cleared, in part because the Empress Eusebia intervened on his behalf, and he was sent to Athens. (Julian expresses his gratitude to the empress Eusebia in his third oration.)

Religious issues


Julian’s personal religion was both pagan and philosophical; he viewed the traditional myths as allegories, in which the ancient gods were aspects of a philosophical divinity. The chief surviving sources are his works To King Helios and To the Mother of the Gods, which were written as panegyrics, not theological treatises.

As the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire, Julian's beliefs are of great interest for historians, but they are not in complete agreement. He learned theurgy from Maximus of Ephesus, a student of Iamblichus; his system bears some resemblance to the Neoplatonism of Plotinus; Polymnia Athanassiadi has brought new attention to his relations with Mithraism, although whether he was initiated into it remains debatable; and certain aspects of his thought (such as his reorganization of paganism under High Priests, and his fundamental monotheism) may show Christian influence. Some of these potential sources have not come down to us, and all of them influenced each other, which adds to the difficulties.

According to one theory (that of G.W. Bowersock in particular), Julian’s paganism was highly eccentric and atypical because it was heavily influenced by an esoteric approach to Platonic philosophy sometimes identified as theurgy and also Neoplatonism. Others (Rowland Smith, in particular) have argued that Julian's philosophical perspective was nothing unusual for a "cultured" pagan of his time, and, at any rate, that Julian's paganism was not limited to philosophy alone, and that he was deeply devoted to the same gods and goddesses as other pagans of his day.

Because of his Neoplatonist background Julian accepted the creation of humanity as described in Plato's Timaeus. Julian writes, "when Zeus was setting all things in order there fell from him drops of sacred blood, and from them, as they say, arose the race of men." Further he writes, "they who had the power to create one man and one woman only, were able to create many men and women at once..." His view contrasts with the Christian belief that humanity is derived from the one pair, Adam and Eve. Elsewhere he argues against the single pair origin, indicating his disbelief, noting for example, "how very different in their bodies are the Germans and Scythians from the Libyans and Ethiopians."

The Christian historian Socrates Scholasticus was of the opinion that Julian believed himself to be Alexander the Great “in another body” via transmigration of souls, "in accordance with the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato".

The diet of Julian is said to have been predominantly vegetable-based.


📹 Julian the Apostate, Part 1 — Man and Emperor (VİDEO)

📹 Julian the Apostate, Part 1 — Man and Emperor (LINK)

In this video, I provide a brief biography of Julian the Apostate, one of Rome's most well-known and most controversial emperors. Soon, I will make a follow-up video covering Julian's philosophical and religious ideas now that the context has been established in this video.


📹 Julian the Apostate, Part 2 — Author and Thinker (VİDEO)

📹 Julian the Apostate, Part 2 — Author and Thinker (LINK)

In this video, which is a long-delayed sequel to a video I did on the life of the emperor Julian, I explore Julian as an author and thinker. I focus on seven of Julian's writings and provide brief descriptions and introductions to all of them.


“Temple of Ceres at Eleusis,” by Joseph Gandy (1818)

Roman copy of Demeter after a Greek original, from the 4the century BC.

“Phryne at the Poseidons celebration (Poseidonia) in Eleusis” (c. 1889) by Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902). Phryne is shown naked, preparing to step into the sea.
(W) (L)

Julian the Apostate abandoned Christianity in favour of a return to the old Roman ways of worship, and is shown being initiated into the Eleusian mysteries.

The Eleusinian Mysteries (Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) were initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece.


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