Julian, 37

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

Priscus: I always thought Julian might have been a happier man had he been a bit more like Gallus. No one can say that Gallus did not enjoy himself. His was an exemplary life of complete self-indulgence. I could not be more envious of him.
Libanius: Obviously Priscus has found his ideal.

Within months of the state visit to Pergamon, Gallus fell. For two years the Emperor had been receiving disquieting reports about Gallus. Nebridius had told him bluntly that if Gallus were not removed as Caesar there would be civil war in Syria. In his last letter to Constantius, Thalassios had said much the same thing.

One final incident brought matters to a head. The food shortage had grown worse. The lower classes were rioting. Having failed at price fixing, Gallus determined to leave Antioch as quickly as possible. As pretext, he announced that he was planning to invade Persia (though he did not have sufficient troops to conquer a mud village on the Nile).

The day Gallus left the city, the senate met him in front of the memorial to Julius Caesar. A considerable crowd had also turned out to see him, but they were not interested in saying farewell to their Caesar. They wanted food, and they said so. They made the most terrible racket. I know. I was there. I have never seen such an angry mob. Behind a row of household troops with drawn swords, the Caesar and the senate exchanged formalities while all around us the mob roared, pressing closer and closer to where we stood. Even Gallus was alarmed.

Then Theophilus, the governor of Syria, came forward to make a speech to the Caesar. Now Theophilus was an excellent official but he was not popular. Why? Who knows? The Antiochenes are completely frivolous in public matters. If a cruel tyrant is witty, they will adore him. But if their ruler is a good man, slow of speech, they will despise him. They despised Theophilus. They jeered his speech. Then the mob began to shout: “Food! Food!”

During this, I watched Gallus. At first he looked baffled; then alarmed; then—one could observe his very thought-crafty. He raised his hand for silence. But the shouting continued. So Theophilus motioned to the drummers, who set up an ominous rolling. The crowd fell silent.

Gallus spoke. “My good people, the heart of your Caesar grieves for you. Yet he is puzzled. You say you lack food. But why? There is food in Antioch. There is plenty of grain in the warehouses. Your Caesar put it there for you.”

“Then give it to us!” A voice rang out.

Gallus shook his head. “But it is yours already. Your governor knows this.” He turned to the stunned governor. “Theophilus, I have told you to feed the people. Why have you disobeyed me? Why have you been so cruel? Even if you are in league with the speculators, you must take pity on the people. The poor are hungry, Theophilus. Feed them!”

In all my long life I have never witnessed such a vicious scene. Gallus deliberately incited the people against his own governor. Then he rode off at the head of the legions, leaving us to the now violent mob. Like the rest of the senate, I bolted. Fortunately no one was hurt except Theophilus, who was torn to pieces. That day Gallus lost what small support he had among us.

When Constantius received news of the Theophilus affair, he realized at last that Gallus must be recalled. But it is easier to create a Caesar than to destroy one. Constantius knew that if he were to move against Gallus, there would be civil war. So Constantius proceeded cautiously. His first move was to order Gallus’s army to rendezvous in Serbia, preparatory to a campaign on the Danube. Inactive troops, said Constantius in a diplomatic letter to the Caesar, are prone to mutiny. So Gallus was left with only his personal guard and a single detachment of targeteers. Then Constantius instructed the prefect Domitian (until recently Count of the Sacred Largesse and a financial expert) to proceed to Syria, as though on a routine tour of the provinces. At Antioch, Domitian was to persuade Gallus to obey the Emperor’s order to come to Milan “for consultation”. Unfortunately, Domitian was vain and overbearing and perfectly confident that no one was so clever as he. I don’t know why, but this seems to be a common trait of finance ministers.

Domitian arrived at Antioch to find Gallus again in residence, after a month’s campaign on the Persian border. But instead of going first to the Caesar’s palace as protocol requires, Domitian proceeded to military headquarters, announcing that he was too ill to come to court. For several weeks Domitian remained at headquarters, plotting against Gallus and sending back highly coloured reports to the Emperor concerning the Caesar’s doings. At last Gallus ordered Domitian to present himself at a meeting of the consistory. He did, and in a scene of unrivalled insolence Domitian told Gallus that if he did not immediately obey the Emperor and go to Milan, “I shall personally order your supplies cut off.” He then marched out of the palace and returned to headquarters, where he thought he was safe.

I was not present at that historic meeting of the Caesar’s consistory, but I have been told by those who were there that it was an astonishing confrontation and that for once all sympathy was with the Caesar who had been insulted.

Gallus promptly struck back. He ordered Domitian arrested on a charge of lèse majesté. To give the gloss of legitimacy to this arrest, he sent his legal adviser, the quaestor Montius, to instruct the troops in how to behave.

Montius was an elderly man, with a passion for correct procedure. He told Gallus bluntly that the Caesar had no authority over a prefect engaged on the Emperor’s business. Gallus ignored this advice. Montius then appeared before the troops who had been called to assembly, and he told them that what Gallus intended to do was not only illegal but highly dangerous and that any soldier who obeyed the Caesar would be committing treason. “But should you decide to arrest the Emperor’s prefect then I advise you first to overthrow the Emperor’s statues, so that your revolt will at least be honest.”

The troops were confused, to say the least. But not for long. When Gallus heard what Montius had done, he rushed to the assembly ground and harangued the troops as only he knew how to do.

“I am in danger. You are in danger. We are all in danger because of would-be usurpers, some of whom sit in my own consistory.” And he turned fiercely on the courageous old Montius. “Yes, even the quaestor Montius is involved in this conspiracy. He plots against me, as well as against Constantius. He tells you that I may not arrest an insolent prefect because he is on imperial business. But I have the right to discipline any official in the East. I would be untrue to my oath to Constantius if I did not keep order in Antioch.” And so on.

By the time Gallus had finished, the troops were with him. While he stood by, they murdered Montius. Next they marched on military headquarters. No attempt was made to resist them. They found Domitian in the commandant’s private office on the second floor. They threw the wretched prefect down the stairs (which are very steep: I once badly twisted my ankle going up them). Then they dragged the bodies of Domitian and Montius side by side through the streets of Antioch.

Gallus was now thoroughly frightened. Though his troops were adequate for controlling Antioch, he was in no position to resist Constantius, and it was perfectly plain that the two would soon be in open conflict. Yet Gallus still pretended to be carrying out the Emperor’s orders when he declared martial law and arrested those whom he suspected of plotting against him. This turned out to be half the senate. I withdrew to Daphne during this troubled time.

Gallus set up a military tribunal and arraigned before it all those who had been accused of treason. During the trials Constantia sat behind a curtain listening to the testimony; every now and then she would poke her head into the courtroom to ask a question or to give an opinion. It was a ludicrous display. Hearsay was now accepted as fact, and no one was safe.

In a dyeshop a secret agent noticed a purple robe of the sort only an emperor may wear. It was immediately assumed that the cloak had been ordered by a would-be usurper. The shopowner wisely vanished but they found his files. Although there was no mention of a purple cloak having been ordered, the secret service did come up with a letter from a deacon inquiring when “the work will be ready”. That was enough. “The work” was the purple cloak, according to the secret service, which had no other evidence. The guiltless deacon was arrested, tortured, tried, and put to death. This was typical of the “justice” at Gallus’s court.

Having failed to persuade Gallus to come to Milan, Constantius ordered his sister Constantia to attend him. Confident that she could patch up the differences between her husband and her brother, she set out for Milan. But en route the lady died of fever, and that was the end for Gallus. Though he was by now perfectly willing to declare himself Augustus in the East, he lacked the military power to withstand Constantius. He was in a quandary.

Finally a letter arrived from Constantius that was most amiable in tone. The Emperor reminded Gallus that under Diocletian a Caesar always obeyed his Augustus, citing the famous case of the Caesar Galerius who walked a mile on foot because the Augustus Diocletian was displeased with him. This letter was delivered by Scudilo, a master diplomatist who told Gallus privately that Constantius wished him no harm.

Did Gallus believe this? It seems impossible. But he was by now a desperate man. He was also completely demoralized by his wife’s death. To everyone’s amazement, he agreed to go to Milan. However, he insisted on travelling by way of Constantinople, where as the reigning Caesar he presided over the games in the Hippodrome. But Julian describes this scene.

Published in: on July 22, 2018 at 9:55 am  Comments Off on Julian, 37  

Julian, 32

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

Priscus: I can. And you certainly can! After all, you were living at Antioch while that little beast was Caesar.

Curiously enough, Julian almost never mentioned Gallus to me, or to anyone. I have always had a theory—somewhat borne out by the memoir—that Julian was unnaturally attracted to his brother. He continually refers to his beauty. He also tends to write of him in that hurt tone one uses to describe a lover who has been cold. Julian professes to find mysterious what everyone else found only too obvious: Gallus’s cruelty. Julian was naïve, as I find myself continually observing (if I repeat myself, do forgive me and blame it on our age).

Actually, the member of the family for whom I have the most sympathy is Constantius. He was quite a good ruler, you know. We tend to undervalue him because his intelligence was of the second rank, and his religious mania troubling. But he governed well, considering that he had problems of a sort which might have made any man a monster. He made some of his worst mistakes for the best of reasons, like creating Gallus Caesar.

It is significant that Julian blames Gallus’s wife for the reign of terror in the East. I had always thought that they were equally to blame. But you lived through what must have been a terrible time. You doubtless know who was responsible for what.

Published in: on April 29, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments Off on Julian, 32  

Kriminalgeschichte, 38

Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums
(Criminal History of Christianity)

First assaults on the temples

Paganism still had many followers among the peasants, the many rectors and philosophers; it was also preserved among the cultivated aristocracy, especially the most rancid senatorial families, even among those of the Eastern empire.

In the year 341, a decree attributed to Constans began not with the classic exposition of motives, but with a propagandistic cry: ‘Let the superstition cease! May the delirium of sacrifices be abolished!’ (caesat superstitio sacrificiorum aboleatur insania). Consequently, the sovereign ordered in 346 the closing, with immediate effects, of the temples located in the cities; in 356, the closing of all the temples was ordered.

The question was to prevent the wicked (perditi) from doing their bad things, which triggered a wave of assaults on the temples. The confiscation of property and death by stepping on a temple, or by participating in the ‘aberration’ of sacrifices or worshiping an image, was one of the points of the laws of Constantius: ‘Whoever such things do, be struck down by the avenger sword’.

Libanius, a pagan Hellene rector of Antioch, wrote that Constantius inherited from his father ‘the spark of the inclination to evil deeds, converted by him into a great fire, because he plunders the treasures of the gods, demolishes the temples, annuls the sacred canons’. Libanius comments that Constantius ‘generalized to the rhetoric (logoi) the contempt of pagan worship, and it is not surprising, because both, worship and rhetoric are related and go together’. The contemporary reader will understand that with this he accused the emperor of going against religion and against classical culture at the same time.

The most fanatical Christians already attacked altars and temples. The deacon Cyril of Heliopolis, for example, became famous with his actions. In Arethusa of Syria, the priest Marcus made to demolish an old sanctuary (what later, being bishop and during the reaction of Julian, it was worth a serious beating). In Caesarea of Cappadocia, the Christian community razed a temple of Zeus, patron of the city, and another of Apollo. In Alexandria, the Arian Georgios destroyed a whole series of sacred places of paganism.

Hecatombs under the pious Gallus

(Constantius Gallus in a late copy of 354.) In Palestine, the scene of the process of Scythopolis, occurred the outrages of Gallus, a cousin of Constantius who was saved from the dynastic slaughter of the year 337. We find here another good Christian, assiduous to the church since childhood, great reader of the Bible and supposedly faithful husband of the old Constantina, sister of the emperor and married in second nuptials: a notorious harpy, ‘an unleashed fury’, Amianus wrote, ‘as bloodthirsty as his own husband’.

Gallus sent his brother Julian several letters of reprimand, inviting him to return to Christianity. In 351, the year of his proclamation as Caesar, Gallus scandalized the pagans by carrying the bones of Saint Babylas—incidentally, the first well-documented relocation we know—to the famous Apollo sanctuary in Daphne, which was thus rendered denaturalized.

The Christian Gallus, a great fan of boxing (at that time boxing was very bloody, with frequent breaking of bones), was revealed as a little tyrant in his residence of Antioch, through arbitrariness of all kinds and trials for high treason and witchcraft in which he made fun of all the legal norms and that brought a wake of confiscations, exile, horrible tortures and executions.

The fight against the pagans was tinged with true fanaticism, and he used a network of spies that covered the entire city. The Caesar Gallus, of whom Theodoret says with emphasis that ‘he was orthodox to death until the day of his death’, even induced some lynching by the plebs to get rid of certain uncomfortable fellow citizens. In 352, when the Jews suffered another of their periodic attacks of messianic excitement and rebelled against the prohibition of having slaves who were not Jews, assaulting a Roman garrison to procure weapons and naming someone of name Patrician, the pious Gallus burned entire cities and cut the throats even of the children.

Nor were the high imperial officials saved from this regime of terror; thus it fell the prefect of the East, Thalasius, directly responsible to the emperor. He was succeeded by Domitian, who shortly after his arrival in Antioch was captured by the soldiers, dragged through the streets, hung by his legs and thrown into the river Orontes; the same end suffered his quaestor.

There were several other murders, and towards the beginning of the summer of 354 the population rose ‘for varied and complicated reasons’, as Ammianus writes, but above all because of famine and general misery. Governor Theophilus was killed and dismembered.

Constantius was in need of calling his cousin, despite having promised him full immunity, and asked him to be accompanied by his wife, ‘the lovely Constantina’, since he had not seen her for a long time. Gallus understood that there was something fishy, but he trusted the support of Constantina, the emperor’s sister.

But this supporter died in those days as a result of a fever and the emperor beheaded his man of confidence one autumn morning in 354, in Istria. After the execution he proceeded with the rack, the axe of the executioner or exile against all the friends of Gallus, his officers and officials, and even against some religious people.

Only the death of the sovereign, at forty-four years of age on November 3, 361, avoided Constantius a confrontation with his cousin Julian.

Kriminalgeschichte, 34

Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums
(Criminal History of Christianity)


______ 卐 ______


Chapter 7: The Christian Sons of
Constantine and His Successors

‘Since Constantine, the emperors were much more devoted Christians than they had ever been as pagans’.

— Frank Thiess

‘During the 4th and 5th centuries, the alliance between Christianity and the Imperium Romanum provided the inhabitants of the empire… an entirely new image of the world’.

— Denys Hay


Everything seemed very promising: a new idea of the world, the Imperium as a Christian institution oriented towards peace, the emperors turned into zealous Christians…

Statue of Emperor Constantine II.

Indeed, the sons of Constantine, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans, along with the father, were compared by Eusebius with the Trinity. Almost since they began to walk, they were accompanied by experienced prefects, dressed in purple, in the ranks of the army. They were barely fifteen, twelve, eleven years old, and they took part in campaigns on remote fronts. Good Christians and intrepid soldiers: an ideal combination advocated for centuries by a religion of peace that has never brought peace anywhere.

The first Christian dynasty founded on family extermination

The imperial father did the pioneering work. Scarcely had he died and Constantius II, who considered himself an envoy of God and ‘bishop of bishops’, and once even practiced sexual continence, began in August 337 the extermination of almost all the male members of the imperial house in Constantinople: his uncle Dalmatius, half brother of Constantine who had lived many years surrounded by spies, and the father of Emperor Julian, Julius Constance, very hated by the Empress St. Elena, amen of six cousins and other badly seen courtesan personalities. Among these, the almost omnipotent Ablabius, prefect of the praetorians, whose daughter Olympias was promised as a child to Constantine. (Later, Constantius married her to the king of the Armenians, Arsaces III, and she was killed by the former wife of the sovereign with the complicity of a priest who mixed poison in the wine of mass.)

Christian mercy only respected Julian, who was five years old (he would be assassinated during a campaign against the Persians); his stepbrother Gallus was also saved because he was so sick that he seemed lost anyway (he would die in Istria in 354).

Constantius was a Christian, so were most of his obedient assassins, soldiers of his guard; Julian deduced from all this that ‘there is no beast as dangerous to man as Christians are to their fellow-believers’.

And just as no man in the Church had criticised the murders of relatives perpetrated by Constantine, no one censured those of the devotee Constantius, ‘one of the most notorious Christian princes of the century’ (Aland). Eusebius alludes to the ‘inspiration from above’ to justify the carnage. In Constantius one could contemplate a revived Constantine, the bishop wrote, and he was not mistaken. The praises dedicated to the multiple parricide and bellicose Constantius are almost as dithyrambic as those deserved by the military leader and exterminator of relatives, Constantine.

Paradigm of the cruelty according to Amianus, Constantius did not take long in sending a message to the bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, the preceptor of Julian, asking him never to speak with him about the destinies of his family.

And six years later, Julian and Gallus were imprisoned in Macellum, a sinister fortress hidden between mountains— ‘without authorizing anyone to approach us, without studies worthy of such a name, without conversations, although we were surrounded by a splendid service’, remembers Julian. A secret agent of the emperor suggested Gallus, the first-born, that Constantius was not guilty of the death of his father, and that the extermination of his family had been an uncontrolled act of the soldiery.