The face of Classical Europe (I)

Were the Greeks blond and blue-eyed?


In 2013 I translated this article from the Spanish blogsite Evropa Soberana in fragmented form. Now that I am reviewing The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour for the 2015 edition, I would like to see it reproduced here in a single entry:


I remember a movie that came out in 2004. Troy was called. Naturally, many fans of Greece went to see it quite interested; some of them because they sincerely admired Hellas and its legacy. But some uncultivated specimens attended the theaters too. Everyone knows that, in our day, Greece is regarded as a mark of snobbery and sophistication even though you do not know who Orion was, or what was the color of Achilles’ hair according to mythology. The movie’s Helen (one with a look of a neighborhood slut) and Achilles (Brad Pitt) were rather cute. Adding the special effects, advertising and usual movie attendance there was no reason not to see this movie that, incidentally, is crap except for a few redeemable moments.

Upon first glance at the big screen, one of the many reactions that could be heard from the mouth of alleged scholarly individuals, was something like the following:

Outrageous: Achilles and Helen, blond and blue-eyed! Oh tragedy! Oh tantrum! Such a huge stupidity! Irreparable affront! It is obvious that Nazism, fascism, Nordicism, Francoism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are booming in Hollywood, because who would have the crazy notion to represent the Greeks as blond, when their phenotype was Mediterranean? Only the Americans could be so uneducated and egocentric and ethnocentric and Eurocentric and fascists and Nazis and blah blah…

These good people were not outraged by the desecration of The Iliad; for the absurd and fallacious script, for representing Achilles like an Australian surfer, or Helen as a cunt or the great kings as truckers of a brothel. No. They didn’t give a hoot about that. What mattered was leaving very clearly that they were sophisticated people, conscious of what was happening and that, besides being progressive democrats and international multi-culturalists without blemish, and able to pronounce “phenotype” without binding the tongue, they were also sufficiently “sincere admirers of Greece” to be indignant and losing their monocles before a blond Achilles.

The same could be said about the ultra-educated reaction to the movie 300. When it was released, we could see an outraged mass (and when we say “outraged” we are saying really outraged) complaining in the most grotesque way, by the presence here and there, of blond Spartans throughout the movie—fascist xenophobia by Hollywood and the like. How easy it is for the big mouths when there are large doses of daring ignorance involved, and when they have no idea what it stands to reason.

What I did not expect was to hear similar statements from the admirers of classical culture: people that one generously assumes they have read the Greco-Roman works or that are minimally informed—at least enough to not put one’s foot in it in a such a loudly manner. For Achilles, considered the greatest warrior of all time, and sole and exclusive holder of the holy anger, is described in The Iliad as blond, along with an overwhelming proportion of heroes, heroines, gods, goddesses—and even slaves considered desirable and worthy for the harem of the Greek warriors to seed the world with good genes.

The same could be said of the Spartans if we consider the physical appearance of their northern Dorian ancestors, who had come “among the snows” according to Herodotus. In fact, the movie 300 was too generous with the number of Spartans of dark hair, and too stingy with the number of blonds.

Whoever declares himself an admirer of classical European culture (Greece and Rome) and, at the same time, asserts that it was founded by swarthy, Mediterraneans-like-me folks is placing himself in the most uncomfortable form of self-consciousness. As I have said, if such individual really admired the classical world and bothered to read the classical works, he would have ascertained to what extent Nordic blood prevailed in the leaders of both Greece and Rome—especially in Greece. In short, those who claim being ultra-fans of Greece, Rome or both only throw garbage on themselves by demonstrating that they had not even read the original writings.

There are many truths about Nordic blood and Hellas but perhaps the most eloquent and overwhelming truth is that Greek literature is full of references to the appearance of the heroes and gods because the Greeks liked to place adjectives on all the characters, and nicknames and epithets representing their presence. So much so that it is really hard to find a swarthy character. In the case, for example, of Pindar, it is a real scandal: there is not a single character that is not “blonde,” “golden,” “white,” “of snowy arms,” and therefore “godlike.”

The blue eyes were described as γλαυκώπισ (glaukopis), which derives from γλαῦκος (glaukos), “brilliant,” “shiny.” The Roman writer Aulus Gellius, in his Attic Nights describes the concept of colors in a conversation between a Greek and a Roman. The Roman tells the Greek that glaucum (from which derives the Castilian glaucous) means gray-blue, and the Greek translates glaukopis into Latin as caesia, “sky,” i.e., sky blue. As Günther observes, the very word “iris,” of Greek origin, that describes the color of the eye, could only have been chosen by a people whom clear and bright eye colors dominated (blue, green or gray), and that a predominately swarthy people would have never compared the eye color with the image of the rainbow.

The Greek word for blond was ξανθός (xanthus), “yellow,” “gold,” “blond.” The xanthus color in the hair, as well as extreme beauty, light skin, high height, athletic build and luminous eyes were considered by the Greeks as proof of divine descent.

The physical appearance of Greek gods and heroes

DemeterDemeter as it was conceived by the Greeks. We must remember that the statues had a deeply sacred and religious character for the Hellenes and that, in addition of being works of art, they were also the height of geometric feeling and engineering, since the balance had to be perfect. The Greeks, who had a great knowledge of the analyses of features, represented in their statues not only beautiful people, but beautiful people with a necessarily beautiful soul.

There is a persistent tendency among the Hellenes to describe their idols as “dazzling,” “radiant,” “shiny,” “bright,” “full of light,” etc., something that very obviously correspond to a barely pigmented, “Nordic” appearance. To be more direct, I’ll omit these ambiguous quotes and focus on the concrete: the specific references to the color of skin, eyes, hair, and more. Where possible I’ve inserted the works, specific chapters and verses so that anyone can refer to the original passage.

• Demeter is described as “the blonde Demeter” in The Iliad (Song V: 500) and in Hymn to Demeter (I: 302), based on the mysteries of Eleusis. It is generally considered a matriarchal and telluric goddess from the East and of the pre-Indo-European peoples of Greece. However, here we should be inclined to think that, at best, she was a Europeanized goddess by the Greeks, integrated into their pantheon. The very name of Demeter comes from Dea Mater (Mother Goddess) and therefore would, in a sense, be the counterpart of Deus Pater—Zeus Pater or Jupiter, Dyaus Piter.

• Persephone, daughter of Demeter, is described as “white-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony: 913). At least it is clear here that Persephone was not a brown skinned goddess, nor that her physique coincided with the “Mediterranean” type. It is more reasonable to assume that her appearance was, at best, predominantly Nordic.

• Athena, the daughter of Zeus, goddess of wisdom, insight, cunning and strategic warfare in The Iliad, is described no more no less than a total of 57 times as “blue eyed” (in some variations, “green eyed”), and in The Odyssey a comparable number of times. Pindar referred to her as xanthus and glaukopis, meaning “blonde, blue-eyed.” Hesiod is content to call her “of green eyes” in his Theogony (15, 573, 587, 890 and 924), as well as Alcaeus and Simonides; while the Roman Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, which tells the perdition of Arachne, calls the goddess “manly and blond maiden.”

• Hera, the heavenly wife of Zeus, is called “white-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony, 315), while Homer called her “of snowy arms” and “white-armed goddess” at least thirteen times in The Iliad (I: 55, 195, 208, 572. 595, III 121, V: 775, 784; VIII: 350, 381, 484; XV: 78, 130).

• Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

• Eros, the god of eroticism, considered “the most terrible of the gods,” is described by an unknown, archaic Greek author as “golden-haired Eros.”


• Apollo as it was conceived by the very Greek sculptors. We are talking about a Nordic-white racial type slightly Armenized. Along with Athena, he was the most worshiped god throughout Greece, and particularly loved in Sparta.

Apollo is described by Alcaeus as “fair-haired Phoebus.” Phoebus is Apollo. On the other hand, Alcman of Sparta, Simonides (paean to Delos, 84), and an anonymous author, call Apollo “of golden hair,” while another epithet of his by Góngora—a Spanish author of the Renaissance but based on classic literary evidence—is “blond archpoet.” The famous Sappho of Lesbos speaks of “golden-haired Phoebus” in her hymn to Artemis.

• The god Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and Europa, is described as blond in The Odyssey, and Strabo calls him “the blond Rhadamanthus” in his Geographica (Book III, 11-13).

• Dionysus is called by Hesiod “golden-haired” (Theogony 947).

• Hecate, goddess of the wilderness and also of the Parthians, is described by an unknown Greek poet as “golden haired Hecate, daughter of Zeus.”


• Artemis (illustration), the sister of Apollo is described by Sappho and Anacreon (Hymn to Artemis) as “blond daughter of Zeus.”

• The goddess Thetis, mother of Achilles, is called by Hesiod “of silver feet” (Theogony 1007), and by Homer “of silvery feet” (Iliad, I: 538, 556, IX : 410; XVI : 574, XVIII : 369, 381, XIV:89). Needless to say that a brown-skinned woman cannot have silvery feet: this is an attribute of extremely pale women.

• The Eunice and Hipponoe mermaids are described as “rosy-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony, ll. 240-264).

• Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, goddess of love, beauty and female eroticism, is always described as a blonde. Its conventional title is almost always “Golden Aphrodite.” Ibycus (in Ode to Polycrates) calls Aphrodite “Cypris of blond hair.” Aphrodite held the title of Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) because the Greeks believed she was born in Cyprus, where she was particularly revered. In Hesiod’s Theogony she is called “golden Aphrodite” (824, 962, 975, 1006 and 1015) and “very golden Aphrodite” (980). In Homer’s Iliad we have “Aura Aphrodite” (IX: 389), and in The Odyssey as “golden haired.”

• The Graces were described by Ibycus as “green eyed” (fragment papery, PMG 288).

Above I listed Wilhelm Sieglin’s conclusions regarding the Hellenic pantheon as a whole. Let us now see the heroes.

• Helen, considered the most beautiful woman ever and an indirect cause of the Trojan War, was described by Stesichorus, Sappho (first book of poems, Alexandrian compilation) and Ibycus as “the blonde Helen” (Ode to Polycrates).

• King Menelaus of Sparta, absolute model of noble warrior, brother of Agamemnon and legitimate husband of Helen is many times “the blond Menelaus” both in The Iliad (a minimum of fourteen times, III: 284, IV: 183, 210, X: 240, XI: 125; XVII: 6, 18, 113, 124, 578, 673, 684, XXIII: 293, 438) and The Odyssey. Peisander described him as xanthokómes, mégas en glaukómmatos, meaning “blond of big blue eyes.” In Greek mythology, Menelaus is one of the few heroes who achieved immortality in the Islands of the Blessed.

• Cassandra, the daughter of Agamemnon and sister of Orestes, is described by Philoxenus of Cythera with “golden curls,” and by Ibycus as “green-eyed Cassandra.”

• Meleager is described as “the blond Meleager” by Homer (Iliad, II: 642), and in his Argonautica

Apollonius of Rhodes also describes him as blond.

• Patroclus, the teacher and friend of Achilles, is described as blond by Dion of Prusa.

• Heracles is described as strongly built and of curly blond hair, among others, by Apollonius of Rhodes in Argonautica.

• Achilles, considered the greatest warrior of the past, present and future, is described as blond by Homer in the Iliad when he is about to attack Agamemnon and, to avoid it, the goddess Athena retains him “and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair” (I:197).

• The Greek hero Ajax (Aias in the Iliad) is described as blond.

• Hector, the Trojan hero,[1] is described as swarthy in the Iliad.

• Odysseus, king of Ithaca, Achaean hero at Troy and protagonist of Homer’s Odyssey, is generally considered as swarthy. However, this can be tempered. Although he is described as white skinned and “dark bearded” in The Odyssey, his hair ishyakinthos, i.e., color of hyacinths. Traditionally this color was translated as “brown” but it was also said that the hyacinths grown in Greece were of a red variety. If true, that would make Odysseus red-haired.

• Odysseus in any case differs from the Greek hero prototype: tall, slender and blond. It was described as lower than Agamemnon but with broader shoulders and chest “like a ram” according to Priam, king of Troy. This could more likely be a physical type of a Red Nordid [2] than a typical white Nordid Greek hero. It should also be mentioned that Homer used so frequently to call “blonds” his heroes that, in two lapses, he described Odysseus’ hair as xanthos in The Odyssey.

• Laertes, the father of Odysseus, was blond according to Homer’s Odyssey.

• Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, and queen of Ithaca, was blonde in Homer’s Odyssey.

• Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope, was blond in Homer’s Odyssey.

• Briseis, the favorite slave in the harem of Achilles—captured in one of his raids, and treated like a queen in golden captivity—was “golden haired.”

• Agamede, daughter of Augeas and wife of Mulius, was “the blonde Agamede” according to Homer (Iliad, XI: 740).

• In his Argonautica Apollonius of Rhodes describes Jason and all the Argonauts as blond. The Argonauts were a männerbund: a confederation of warriors which gathered early Greek heroes, many direct children of the gods who laid the foundations of the legends and fathered the later heroes, often with divine mediation. They took their name from Argos, the ship they were traveling and did their Viking-style landings.

Below I reproduce some passages of Nordic phenotypes in Greek literature. Note that these are only a few examples of what exists in all of Greek literature:

• “Blonder hairs than a torch” (Sappho of Lesbos, talking about her daughter in Book V of her Alexandrian compilation).

• “Galatea of golden hair” (Philoxenus of Cythera, The Cyclops or Galatea).

• “…with a hair of gold and a silver face” (Alcman of Sparta, praising a maiden during a car race).

• “…happy girl of golden curls” (Alcman of Sparta, in honor of a Spartan poetess).


• “…blonde Lacedaemonians… of golden hair” (Bacchylides, talking about the young Spartans).

• Dicaearchus described Theban women as “blonde.”

The German scholar Wilhelm Sieglin (1855-1935) collected all the passages of Greek mythology which referred to the appearance of gods and heroes. From among the gods and goddesses, 60 were blond and 35 swarthy-skinned. Of the latter, 29 were chthonic-telluric divinities; marine deities such as Poseidon, or deities from the underworld. All of these came from the ancient pre-Aryan mythology of Greece. Of the mythological heroes, 140 were blond and 8 swarthy.

In this article, we have seen many instances of mythological characters, which is important because it provides us valuable information about the ideal of divinity and perfection of the ancient Greeks and points out that their values were identified with the North and the “Nordic” racial type. However, Sieglin also took into account the passages describing the appearance of real historical characters. Thus, of 122 prominent people of ancient Greece whose appearance is described in the texts, 109 were light haired (blond or red), and 13 swarthy.


See also:

“The face of Classical Europe (II):
Were the Romans blond and blue-eyed?”



[1] “Trojan”—i.e., a non-Greek.

[2] An explanation of terms like “red Nordid,” “slightly Armenized,” etc., appears in other article of the website Evropa Soberana, also reproduced in this blog.

Were the Greeks blond and blue-eyed?


– XIII –

This piece has been chosen for my collection The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour. It has also been merged within a single entry.

Published in: on October 12, 2013 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Gibbon on Julian – 11


The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXIII: Reign of Julian

Part I

The religion of Julian. Universal toleration. He attempts to restore and reform the pagan worship. To rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. His artful persecution of the Christians. Mutual zeal and injustice.

The character of Apostate has injured the reputation of Julian; and the enthusiasm which clouded his virtues has exaggerated the real and apparent magnitude of his faults. Our partial ignorance may represent him as a philosophic monarch, who studied to protect, with an equal hand, the religious factions of the empire; and to allay the theological fever which had inflamed the minds of the people, from the edicts of Diocletian to the exile of Athanasius.

A more accurate view of the character and conduct of Julian will remove this favorable prepossession for a prince who did not escape the general contagion of the times. We enjoy the singular advantage of comparing the pictures which have been delineated by his fondest admirers and his implacable enemies. The actions of Julian are faithfully related by a judicious and candid historian, the impartial spectator of his life and death. The unanimous evidence of his contemporaries is confirmed by the public and private declarations of the emperor himself; and his various writings express the uniform tenor of his religious sentiments, which policy would have prompted him to dissemble rather than to affect.

A devout and sincere attachment for the gods of Athens and Rome constituted the ruling passion of Julian; the powers of an enlightened understanding were betrayed and corrupted by the influence of superstitious prejudice; and the phantoms which existed only in the mind of the emperor had a real and pernicious effect on the government of the empire. The vehement zeal of the Christians, who despised the worship, and overturned the altars of those fabulous deities, engaged their votary in a state of irreconcilable hostility with a very numerous party of his subjects; and he was sometimes tempted by the desire of victory, or the shame of a repulse, to violate the laws of prudence, and even of justice. The triumph of the party, which he deserted and opposed, has fixed a stain of infamy on the name of Julian; and the unsuccessful apostate has been overwhelmed with a torrent of pious invectives, of which the signal was given by the sonorous trumpet of Gregory Nazianzen.

The interesting nature of the events which were crowded into the short reign of this active emperor, deserve a just and circumstantial narrative. His motives, his counsels, and his actions, as far as they are connected with the history of religion, will be the subject of the present chapter. The cause of his strange and fatal apostasy may be derived from the early period of his life, when he was left an orphan in the hands of the murderers of his family. The names of Christ and of Constantius, the ideas of slavery and of religion, were soon associated in a youthful imagination, which was susceptible of the most lively impressions.

The care of his infancy was intrusted to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who was related to him on the side of his mother; and till Julian reached the twentieth year of his age, he received from his Christian preceptors the education, not of a hero, but of a saint. The emperor, less jealous of a heavenly than of an earthly crown, contented himself with the imperfect character of a catechumen, while he bestowed the advantages of baptism on the nephews of Constantine. They were even admitted to the inferior offices of the ecclesiastical order; and Julian publicly read the Holy Scriptures in the church of Nicomedia. The study of religion, which they assiduously cultivated, appeared to produce the fairest fruits of faith and devotion.

They prayed, they fasted, they distributed alms to the poor, gifts to the clergy, and oblations to the tombs of the martyrs; and the splendid monument of St. Mamas, at Cæsarea, was erected, or at least was undertaken, by the joint labor of Gallus and Julian. They respectfully conversed with the bishops, who were eminent for superior sanctity, and solicited the benediction of the monks and hermits, who had introduced into Cappadocia the voluntary hardships of the ascetic life. As the two princes advanced towards the years of manhood, they discovered, in their religious sentiments, the difference of their characters.

The dull and obstinate understanding of Gallus embraced, with implicit zeal, the doctrines of Christianity; which never influenced his conduct, or moderated his passions. The mild disposition of the younger brother was less repugnant to the precepts of the gospel; and his active curiosity might have been gratified by a theological system, which explains the mysterious essence of the Deity, and opens the boundless prospect of invisible and future worlds. But the independent spirit of Julian refused to yield the passive and unresisting obedience which was required, in the name of religion, by the haughty ministers of the church.

Their speculative opinions were imposed as positive laws, and guarded by the terrors of eternal punishments; but while they prescribed the rigid formulary of the thoughts, the words, and the actions of the young prince; whilst they silenced his objections, and severely checked the freedom of his inquiries, they secretly provoked his impatient genius to disclaim the authority of his ecclesiastical guides.

He was educated in the Lesser Asia, amidst the scandals of the Arian controversy. The fierce contests of the Eastern bishops, the incessant alterations of their creeds, and the profane motives which appeared to actuate their conduct, insensibly strengthened the prejudice of Julian, that they neither understood nor believed the religion for which they so fiercely contended. Instead of listening to the proofs of Christianity with that favorable attention which adds weight to the most respectable evidence, he heard with suspicion, and disputed with obstinacy and acuteness, the doctrines for which he already entertained an invincible aversion.

Whenever the young princes were directed to compose declamations on the subject of the prevailing controversies, Julian always declared himself the advocate of Paganism; under the specious excuse that, in the defence of the weaker cause, his learning and ingenuity might be more advantageously exercised and displayed. As soon as Gallus was invested with the honors of the purple, Julian was permitted to breathe the air of freedom, of literature, and of Paganism. The crowd of sophists, who were attracted by the taste and liberality of their royal pupil, had formed a strict alliance between the learning and the religion of Greece; and the poems of Homer, instead of being admired as the original productions of human genius, were seriously ascribed to the heavenly inspiration of Apollo and the muses.

The deities of Olympus, as they are painted by the immortal bard, imprint themselves on the minds which are the least addicted to superstitious credulity. Our familiar knowledge of their names and characters, their forms and attributes, seems to bestow on those airy beings a real and substantial existence; and the pleasing enchantment produces an imperfect and momentary assent of the imagination to those fables, which are the most repugnant to our reason and experience.

In the age of Julian, every circumstance contributed to prolong and fortify the illusion; the magnificent temples of Greece and Asia; the works of those artists who had expressed, in painting or in sculpture, the divine conceptions of the poet; the pomp of festivals and sacrifices; the successful arts of divination; the popular traditions of oracles and prodigies; and the ancient practice of two thousand years.

The weakness of polytheism was, in some measure, excused by the moderation of its claims; and the devotion of the Pagans was not incompatible with the most licentious scepticism. Instead of an indivisible and regular system, which occupies the whole extent of the believing mind, the mythology of the Greeks was composed of a thousand loose and flexible parts, and the servant of the gods was at liberty to define the degree and measure of his religious faith.

The creed which Julian adopted for his own use was of the largest dimensions; and, by strange contradiction, he disdained the salutary yoke of the gospel, whilst he made a voluntary offering of his reason on the altars of Jupiter and Apollo. One of the orations of Julian is consecrated to the honor of Cybele, the mother of the gods, who required from her effeminate priests the bloody sacrifice, so rashly performed by the madness of the Phrygian boy.

The pious emperor condescends tolerate, without a blush, and without a smile, the voyage of the goddess from the shores of Pergamus to the mouth of the Tyber, and the stupendous miracle, which convinced the senate and people of Rome that the lump of clay, which their ambassadors had transported over the seas, was endowed with life, and sentiment, and divine power. For the truth of this prodigy he appeals to the public monuments of the city; and censures, with some acrimony, the sickly and affected taste of those men, who impertinently derided the sacred traditions of their ancestors.

But the devout philosopher, who sincerely embraced, and warmly encouraged, the superstition of the people, reserved for himself the privilege of a liberal interpretation; and silently withdrew from the foot of the altars into the sanctuary of the temple. The extravagance of the Grecian mythology proclaimed, with a clear and audible voice, that the pious inquirer, instead of being scandalized or satisfied with the literal sense, should diligently explore the occult wisdom, which had been disguised, by the prudence of antiquity, under the mask of folly and of fable. The philosophers of the Platonic school, Plotinus, Porphyry, and the divine Iamblichus, were admired as the most skilful masters of this allegorical science, which labored to soften and harmonize the deformed features of Paganism.

Julian himself, who was directed in the mysterious pursuit by Ædesius, the venerable successor of Iamblichus, aspired to the possession of a treasure, which he esteemed, if we may credit his solemn asseverations, far above the empire of the world. It was indeed a treasure, which derived its value only from opinion; and every artist who flattered himself that he had extracted the precious ore from the surrounding dross, claimed an equal right of stamping the name and figure the most agreeable to his peculiar fancy.

The fable of Antsy and Cybele had been already explained by Porphyry; but his labors served only to animate the pious industry of Julian, who invented and published his own allegory of that ancient and mystic tale. This freedom of interpretation, which might gratify the pride of the Platonists, exposed the vanity of their art. Without a tedious detail, the modern reader could not form a just idea of the strange allusions, the forced etymologies, the solemn trifling, and the impenetrable obscurity of these sages, who professed to reveal the system of the universe.

As the traditions of Pagan mythology were variously related, the sacred interpreters were at liberty to select the most convenient circumstances; and as they translated an arbitrary cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted to their favorite system of religion and philosophy. The lascivious form of a naked Venus was tortured into the discovery of some moral precept, or some physical truth; and the castration of Atys explained the revolution of the sun between the tropics, or the separation of the human soul from vice and error.

The theological system of Julian appears to have contained the sublime and important principles of natural religion. But as the faith, which is not founded on revelation, must remain destitute of any firm assurance, the disciple of Plato imprudently relapsed into the habits of vulgar superstition; and the popular and philosophic notion of the Deity seems to have been confounded in the practice, the writings, and even in the mind of Julian. The pious emperor acknowledged and adored the Eternal Cause of the universe, to whom he ascribed all the perfections of an infinite nature, invisible to the eyes and inaccessible to the understanding, of feeble mortals.

The Supreme God had created, or rather, in the Platonic language, had generated, the gradual succession of dependent spirits, of gods, of dæmons, of heroes, and of men; and every being which derived its existence immediately from the First Cause, received the inherent gift of immortality. That so precious an advantage might be lavished upon unworthy objects, the Creator had intrusted to the skill and power of the inferior gods the office of forming the human body, and of arranging the beautiful harmony of the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms. To the conduct of these divine ministers he delegated the temporal government of this lower world; but their imperfect administration is not exempt from discord or error.

The earth and its inhabitants are divided among them, and the characters of Mars or Minerva, of Mercury or Venus, may be distinctly traced in the laws and manners of their peculiar votaries. As long as our immortal souls are confined in a mortal prison, it is our interest, as well as our duty, to solicit the favor, and to deprecate the wrath, of the powers of heaven; whose pride is gratified by the devotion of mankind; and whose grosser parts may be supposed to derive some nourishment from the fumes of sacrifice. The inferior gods might sometimes condescend to animate the statues, and to inhabit the temples, which were dedicated to their honor.

They might occasionally visit the earth, but the heavens were the proper throne and symbol of their glory. The invariable order of the sun, moon, and stars, was hastily admitted by Julian, as a proof of their eternal duration; and their eternity was a sufficient evidence that they were the workmanship, not of an inferior deity, but of the Omnipotent King. In the system of Platonists, the visible was a type of the invisible world. The celestial bodies, as they were informed by a divine spirit, might be considered as the objects the most worthy of religious worship.

The Sun, whose genial influence pervades and sustains the universe, justly claimed the adoration of mankind, as the bright representative of the Logos, the lively, the rational, and the beneficent image of the intellectual Father. In every age, the absence of genuine inspiration is supplied by the strong illusions of enthusiasm, and the mimic arts of imposture. If, in the time of Julian, these arts had been practised only by the pagan priests, for the support of an expiring cause, some indulgence might perhaps be allowed to the interest and habits of the sacerdotal character.

But it may appear a subject of surprise and scandal, that the philosophers themselves should have contributed to abuse the superstitious credulity of mankind, and that the Grecian mysteries should have been supported by the magic or theurgy of the modern Platonists. They arrogantly pretended to control the order of nature, to explore the secrets of futurity, to command the service of the inferior dæmons, to enjoy the view and conversation of the superior gods, and by disengaging the soul from her material bands, to reunite that immortal particle with the Infinite and Divine Spirit.

The devout and fearless curiosity of Julian tempted the philosophers with the hopes of an easy conquest; which, from the situation of their young proselyte, might be productive of the most important consequences. Julian imbibed the first rudiments of the Platonic doctrines from the mouth of Ædesius, who had fixed at Pergamus his wandering and persecuted school. But as the declining strength of that venerable sage was unequal to the ardor, the diligence, the rapid conception of his pupil, two of his most learned disciples, Chrysanthes and Eusebius, supplied, at his own desire, the place of their aged master.

These philosophers seem to have prepared and distributed their respective parts; and they artfully contrived, by dark hints and affected disputes, to excite the impatient hopes of the aspirant, till they delivered him into the hands of their associate, Maximus, the boldest and most skilful master of the Theurgic science.

By his hands, Julian was secretly initiated at Ephesus, in the twentieth year of his age. His residence at Athens confirmed this unnatural alliance of philosophy and superstition. He obtained the privilege of a solemn initiation into the mysteries of Eleusis, which, amidst the general decay of the Grecian worship, still retained some vestiges of their primæval sanctity; and such was the zeal of Julian, that he afterwards invited the Eleusinian pontiff to the court of Gaul, for the sole purpose of consummating, by mystic rites and sacrifices, the great work of his sanctification.

As these ceremonies were performed in the depth of caverns, and in the silence of the night, and as the inviolable secret of the mysteries was preserved by the discretion of the initiated, I shall not presume to describe the horrid sounds, and fiery apparitions, which were presented to the senses, or the imagination, of the credulous aspirant, till the visions of comfort and knowledge broke upon him in a blaze of celestial light. In the caverns of Ephesus and Eleusis, the mind of Julian was penetrated with sincere, deep, and unalterable enthusiasm; though he might sometimes exhibit the vicissitudes of pious fraud and hypocrisy, which may be observed, or at least suspected, in the characters of the most conscientious fanatics.

From that moment he consecrated his life to the service of the gods; and while the occupations of war, of government, and of study, seemed to claim the whole measure of his time, a stated portion of the hours of the night was invariably reserved for the exercise of private devotion. The temperance which adorned the severe manners of the soldier and the philosopher was connected with some strict and frivolous rules of religious abstinence; and it was in honor of Pan or Mercury, of Hecate or Isis, that Julian, on particular days, denied himself the use of some particular food, which might have been offensive to his tutelary deities.

By these voluntary fasts, he prepared his senses and his understanding for the frequent and familiar visits with which he was honored by the celestial powers. Notwithstanding the modest silence of Julian himself, we may learn from his faithful friend, the orator Libanius, that he lived in a perpetual intercourse with the gods and goddesses; that they descended upon earth to enjoy the conversation of their favorite hero; that they gently interrupted his slumbers by touching his hand or his hair; that they warned him of every impending danger, and conducted him, by their infallible wisdom, in every action of his life; and that he had acquired such an intimate knowledge of his heavenly guests, as readily to distinguish the voice of Jupiter from that of Minerva, and the form of Apollo from the figure of Hercules.

These sleeping or waking visions, the ordinary effects of abstinence and fanaticism, would almost degrade the emperor to the level of an Egyptian monk. But the useless lives of Antony or Pachomius were consumed in these vain occupations. Julian could break from the dream of superstition to arm himself for battle; and after vanquishing in the field the enemies of Rome, he calmly retired into his tent, to dictate the wise and salutary laws of an empire, or to indulge his genius in the elegant pursuits of literature and philosophy.

The important secret of the apostasy of Julian was intrusted to the fidelity of the initiated, with whom he was united by the sacred ties of friendship and religion. The pleasing rumor was cautiously circulated among the adherents of the ancient worship; and his future greatness became the object of the hopes, the prayers, and the predictions of the Pagans, in every province of the empire. From the zeal and virtues of their royal proselyte, they fondly expected the cure of every evil, and the restoration of every blessing; and instead of disapproving of the ardor of their pious wishes, Julian ingenuously confessed, that he was ambitious to attain a situation in which he might be useful to his country and to his religion.

But this religion was viewed with a hostile eye by the successor of Constantine, whose capricious passions alternately saved and threatened the life of Julian. The arts of magic and divination were strictly prohibited under a despotic government, which condescended to fear them; and if the Pagans were reluctantly indulged in the exercise of their superstition, the rank of Julian would have excepted him from the general toleration. The apostate soon became the presumptive heir of the monarchy, and his death could alone have appeased the just apprehensions of the Christians.

But the young prince, who aspired to the glory of a hero rather than of a martyr, consulted his safety by dissembling his religion; and the easy temper of polytheism permitted him to join in the public worship of a sect which he inwardly despised. Libanius has considered the hypocrisy of his friend as a subject, not of censure, but of praise. “As the statues of the gods,” says that orator, “which have been defiled with filth, are again placed in a magnificent temple, so the beauty of truth was seated in the mind of Julian, after it had been purified from the errors and follies of his education.

His sentiments were changed; but as it would have been dangerous to have avowed his sentiments, his conduct still continued the same. Very different from the ass in Æsop, who disguised himself with a lion’s hide, our lion was obliged to conceal himself under the skin of an ass; and, while he embraced the dictates of reason, to obey the laws of prudence and necessity.” The dissimulation of Julian lasted about ten years, from his secret initiation at Ephesus to the beginning of the civil war; when he declared himself at once the implacable enemy of Christ and of Constantius.

This state of constraint might contribute to strengthen his devotion; and as soon as he had satisfied the obligation of assisting, on solemn festivals, at the assemblies of the Christians, Julian returned, with the impatience of a lover, to burn his free and voluntary incense on the domestic chapels of Jupiter and Mercury. But as every act of dissimulation must be painful to an ingenuous spirit, the profession of Christianity increased the aversion of Julian for a religion which oppressed the freedom of his mind, and compelled him to hold a conduct repugnant to the noblest attributes of human nature, sincerity and courage.