Julian, 46

Editor’s note: I am relocating the below post, already published last Sunday, to this Sunday to make a point.

Gregory of Nazianzus was a ‘saint’ that has been mentioned several times in this site, especially in Karlheinz Deschner’s historical series. But scholarly writing lacks the vitality of a literary recreation of an epoch. That is why historical novels are important as a literary genre.

The next step would be to recreate the epoch in movies and TV series (something that we would have today hadn’t the American and the British betrayed their own race in the Second World War). Gregory’s father ‘was part Jew and part Greek’ wrote Vidal, and he added about this Gregory:

He tapped the painting. A flake of paint zigzagged to the ground. “One day the whole thing will disappear and then who will know what Marathon was like, when this picture’s gone?”

Had the Third Reich been allowed to thrive, you can imagine the power that film scenes describing the Semitic takeover of our civilisation in the 4th century would have been causing in a Jew-wise, Aryan audience.

In his novel Julian, Vidal wrote:

As I stood there looking up at the tarry shields, a youth approached me. He was bearded; his clothes were dirty; he wore a student’s cloak and he looked a typical New Cynic of the sort I deplore. I have recently written at considerable length about these vagabonds. In the last few years the philosophy of Crates and Zeno has been taken over by idlers who, though they have no interest in philosophy, deliberately imitate the Cynics in such externals as not cutting their hair or beards, carrying sticks and wallets, and begging. But where the original Cynics despised wealth, sought virtue, questioned all things in order to find what was true, these imitators mock all things, including the true, using the mask of philosophy to disguise licence and irresponsibility. Nowadays, any young man who does not choose to study or to work grows a beard, insults the gods, and calls himself Cynic. No wonder philosophy has earned the contempt of so many in this unhappy age.

Without ceremony, the New Cynic pointed at the wall. “That is Aeschylus,” he said. I looked politely at the painting of a bearded soldier, no different from the others except for the famous name written above his head. The playwright is shown engaged in combat with a Persian. But though he is fighting for his life, his sombre face is turned towards us, as though to say: I know that I am immortal!

“The painter was self-conscious,” I said neutrally, fully expecting to be asked for money and ready not to give it.

The Cynic grinned at me. Apparently he chose to regard neutrality as friendship. He tapped the painting. A flake of paint zigzagged to the ground. “One day the whole thing will disappear and then who will know what Marathon was like, when this picture’s gone?” As he spoke, something stirred in my memory. I recognized the voice. Yet the face was completely strange to me. Confident now that we were friends, he turned from the painting to me. Had I just arrived in Athens? Yes. Was I a student? Yes. Was I a Cynic? No. Well, there was no cause to be so emphatic (smiling). He himself dressed as a Cynic only because he was poor. By the time this startling news had been revealed to me, we had climbed the steps to the temple of Hephaestos. Here the view of the agora is wide and elegant. In the clear noon light one could see beyond the city to the dark small windows of those houses which cluster at the foot of Hymettos.

“Beautiful,” said my companion, making even that simple word sound ambiguous. “Though beauty…”

“Is absolute,” I said firmly. Then to forestall Cynic chatter, I turned abruptly into the desolate garden of the temple. The place was overrun with weeds, while the temple itself was shabby and sad. But at least the Galileans have not turned it into a charnel house. Far better that a temple fall in ruins than be so desecrated. Better of course that it be restored.

My companion asked if I was hungry. I said no, which he took as yes (he tended not to listen to answers). He suggested we visit a tavern in the quarter just back of the temple. It was, he assured me, a place much frequented by students of the “better” sort. He was sure that I would enjoy it. Amused by his effrontery (and still intrigued by that voice which haunted me), I accompanied him through the narrow hot streets of the near by quarter of the smiths, whose shops glowed blue as they hammered out metal in a blaring racket: metal struck metal in a swarm of sparks, like comets’ tails.

The tavern was a low building with a sagging roof from which too many tiles had been removed by time and weather. I bent low to enter the main door. I was also forced to stoop inside, for the ceiling was too low for me and the beams were haphazard, even dangerous in the dim light. My companion had no difficulty standing straight. I winced at the heavy odour of rancid oil burning in pots on the stove.

Two trestle tables with benches filled the room. A dozen youths sat together close to the back door, which opened on to a dismal courtyard containing a dead olive tree which looked as though it had been sketched in silver on the whitewashed wall behind it.

My companion knew most of the other students. All were New Cynics, bearded, loud, disdainful, unread. They greeted us with cheerful obscenities. I felt uncomfortable but was determined to go through with my adventure. After all, this was what I had dreamed of. To be just one among many, even among New Cynics. The moment was unique, or so I thought. When asked who I was, they were told “Not a Cynic.” They laughed good-humouredly. But then when they heard I was new to Athens, each made an effort to get me to attend lectures with his teacher. My companion rescued me. “He is already taken. He studies with Prohaeresius.” I was surprised, for I had said nothing to my guide about Prohaeresius, and yet Prohaeresius was indeed the teacher of my choice. How did he know?

“I know all about you,” he said mysteriously. “I read minds, tell fortunes.” He was interrupted by one of the youths, who suggested that I shave my beard since otherwise I might be mistaken for a New Cynic and give them a bad name by my good behaviour. This was considered witty in that room. Others debated whether or not I should be carried off to the baths to be scrubbed, the traditional hazing for new students, and one which I had every intention of avoiding. If necessary, I would invoke lèse majesté!

But my guardian shoved the students away and sat me down at the opposite table close to the courtyard door, for which I was grateful. I am not particularly sensitive to odours, but on a blazing hot day the odour of unwashed students combined with thick smoke from old burning oil was almost too much for me. The tavern-keeper, making sure I had money (apparently my companion was deep in his debt), brought us cheese, bitter olives, old bread, sour wine. To my surprise, I was hungry. I ate quickly, without tasting. Suddenly I paused, aware that I was being stared at. I looked across the table at my companion. Yes?

“You have forgotten me, haven’t you, Julian?”

Then I identified the familiar voice. I recognized Gregory of Nazianzus. We had been together at Pergamon. I burst out laughing and shook his hand. “How did such a dedicated Christian become a New Cynic?”

“Poverty, plain poverty.” Gregory indicated the torn and dirty cloak, the unkempt beard. “And protection.” He lowered his voice, indicating the students at the other table. “Christians are outnumbered in Athens. It’s a detestable city. There is no faith, only argument and atheism.”

“Then why are you here?”

He sighed. “The best teachers are here, the best instructors in rhetoric. Also, it is good to know the enemy, to be able to fight him with his own weapons.”

I nodded and pretended agreement. I was not very brave in those days. But even though I could never be candid with Gregory, he was an amusing companion. He was as devoted to the Galilian nonsense as I was to the truth. I attributed this to his unfortunate childhood. His family are Cappadocian. They live in a small town some fifty miles south-west of Caesarea, the provincial capital. His mother was a most strong-willed woman named… I cannot recall her name but I did meet her once a few years ago, and a most formidable creature she was. Passionate and proud and perfectly intolerant of everything not Galilean.

Gregory’s father was part Jew and part Greek. As a result of his wife’s relentless admonitions, he succumbed finally to the Galilean religion. According to Gregory, when his father was splashed with water by the bishop of Nazianzus, a great nimbus shone all round the convert. The bishop was so moved that he declared, “Here is my successor!” A most generous-minded man, that bishop! Most of us prefer not to name our successor. In due course, Gregory’s father became bishop of Nazianzus. So his predecessor had the gift of prophecy, if nothing else.

All in a rush Gregory was telling me of himself. “… a terrible trip, by sea. Just before we got to Aegina, the storm struck us. I was sure the ship would sink. I was terrified. I’d never been (I still am not) baptized. So if I died like that at sea… Well, you must know yourself what I went through.” He looked at me sharply. “Are you baptized?”

I said that I had been baptized as a child. I looked as reverent as possible when I said this.

“I prayed and prayed. Finally I fell asleep, exhausted. We all did. I dreamed that something loathsome, some sort of Fury, had come to take me to hell. Meanwhile, one of the cabin boys, a boy from Nazianzus, was dreaming that he saw—now this is really a miracle—Mother walking upon the water.”

“His mother or your mother or the mother of Jesus?” I am afraid that I asked this out of mischief. I couldn’t help myself.

But Gregory took the question straight. “My mother,” he said. “The boy knew her, and there she was walking across that raging sea. Then she took the ship by its prow and drew it after her to a safe harbour. Which is exactly what happened. That very night the storm stopped. A Phoenician ship found us and towed us into the harbour of Rhodes.” He sat back in triumph. “What do you think of that?”

“Your mother is a remarkable woman,” I said accurately. Gregory agreed and talked at enthusiastic length about that stern virago. Then he told me of his adventures in Athens, of his poverty (this was a hint which I took: I gave him a good deal of money during the course of my stay), of our friend Basil who was also in Athens and was, I suspect, the reason for Gregory’s attendance at the University. Wherever Basil went, Gregory followed. At Athens they were nicknamed “the Twins”.

“I am expecting Basil now. We’re both due at Prohaeresius’s house this afternoon. We’ll take you. You know we live together here. We study together. We argue almost as a team against the local Sophists. And we usually win.”

This was true. Both he and Basil were—are—eloquent. I deplore of course the uses to which their eloquence is put. Today they are most active as Galilean apologists, and I often wonder what they think of their old companion who governs the state. Nothing good, I fear. When I became emperor I asked them both to visit me at Constantinople. Gregory agreed to come, but never did. Basil refused. Of the two, I prefer Basil. He is plain, like me. He is misguided in his beliefs but honest. I suspect Gregory of self-seeking.

Julian, 45

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

Just inside the wall of the city, I left my driver. Then like one who has gone to sleep over a book of history, I stepped into the past. I stood now on that ancient highway—known simply as The Road—which leads from gate to agora to acropolis beyond. I was now in history. In the present I was part of the past and, simultaneously, part of what is to come. Time opened his arms to me and in his serene embrace I saw the matter whole: a circle without beginning or end.

To the left of the gate was a fountain in which I washed the dust from my face and beard. Then I proceeded along The Road to the agora. I am told that Rome is infinitely more impressive than Athens. I don’t know. I have never visited Rome. But I do know that Athens looks the way a city ought to look but seldom does. It is even better planned than Pergamon, at least at its centre. Porticoes gleam in the bright sun. The intense blue sky sets off the red tile roofs and makes the faded paint of columns seem to glow.

The Athenian agora is a large rectangular area enclosed by long porticoes of great antiquity. The one on the right is dedicated to Zeus; the one on the left is of more recent date, the gift of a young king of Pergamon who studied here. In the centre of the agora is the tall building of the University, first built by Agrippa in the time of Augustus. The original building—used as a music hall—collapsed mysteriously in the last century. I find the architecture pretentious, even in its present somewhat de-Romanized version. But pretentious or not, this building was my centre in Athens. For here the most distinguished philosophers lecture. Here I listened three times weekly to the great Prohaeresius, of whom more later.

Behind the University are two porticoes parallel to one another, the last being at the foot of the acropolis. To one’s right, on a hill above the agora, is a small temple to Hephaestos surrounded by gardens gone to seed. Below this hill are the administrative buildings of Athens, the Archives, the Round House where the fifty governors of Athens meet—this last is a peculiar-looking structure with a steep roof which the Athenians, who give everything and everyone a nickname, call “the umbrella”. There used to be many silver statues in the Round House but the Goths stole them in the last century.

Few people were abroad as the sun rose to noon. A faint breeze stirred the dust on the old pitted paving. Several important-looking men, togas draped ineptly about plump bodies, hurried towards the Bouletrion. They had the self-absorbed air of politicians everywhere. Yet these men were the political heirs of Pericles and Demosthenes. I tried to remember that as I watched them hurry about their business.

Then I stepped into the cool shade of the Painted Portico. For an instant my eyes were dazzled, the result of sudden dimness. Not for some time was I able to make out the famous painting of the Battle of Marathon which covers the entire long wall of the portico. But as my eyes grew used to the shade, I saw that the painting was indeed the marvel the world says it is. One can follow the battle’s course by walking the length of the portico. Above the painting hang the round shields of the Persians, captured that day. The shields have been covered with pitch to preserve them.

Looking at those relics of a battle fought eight hundred years before, I was much moved. Those young men and their slaves—yes, for the first time in history slaves fought beside their masters—together saved the world. More important, they fought of their own free will, unlike our soldiers, who are either conscripts or mercenaries. Even in times of peril, our people will not fight to protect their country. Money, not honour, is now the source of Roman power. When the money goes, the state will go. That is why Hellenism must be restored, to instil again in man that sense of his own worth which made civilization possible, and won the day at Marathon.

Published in: on October 28, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on Julian, 45  

Julian, 44

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

The driver indicated a large ruin to the right. “Hadrian,” he said. “Hadrian Augustus.” Like all travellers, I am used to hearing guides refer to my famous predecessor. Even after two centuries he is the only emperor every man has heard of—because of his constant travelling, his continuous building and, sad to say, his ridiculous passion for the boy Antinous. I suppose that it is natural enough to like boys but it is not natural or seemly to love anyone with the excessive and undignified passion that Hadrian showed for Antinous.

Fortunately, the boy was murdered before Hadrian could make him his heir. But in his grief Hadrian made himself and the Genius of Rome look absurd. He set up thousands of statues and dedicated innumerable temples to the dead boy. He even declared the pretty catamite a god! It was a shocking display and permanently shadows Hadrian’s fame. For the first time in history, a Roman emperor was mocked and thought ridiculous.

From every corner of the earth derisive laughter sounded. Yet except for this one lapse, I find Hadrian a sympathetic figure. He was much gifted, particularly in music. He was an adept at mysteries. He used to spend many hours at night studying the stars, searching for omens and portents, as do I. He also wore a beard. I like him best for that. That sounds petty, doesn’t it? I surprise myself as I say it. But then liking and disliking, approval and disapproval depend on many trivial things.

I dislike Hadrian’s passion for Antinous because I cannot bear for a philosopher-emperor to be mocked by his subjects. But I like his beard. We are all so simple at heart that we become unfathomable to one another.

Published in: on October 21, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on Julian, 44  

Julian, 43

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

Athens. It has been eight years since I rode up to the city gate in a market cart, an anonymous student who gaped at the sights like any German come to town. My first glimpse of the acropolis was startling and splendid. It hovers over the city as though held in the hand of Zeus, who seems to say: “Look, children, at how your gods live!” Sunlight flashes off the metal shield of the colossal statue of Athena, guarding her city. Off to the left I recognized the steep pyramidal mountain of Lykabettos, a great pyramid of rock hurled to earth by Athena herself; to this day wolves dwell at its foot.

The driver turned abruptly into a new road. I nearly fell out of the cart. “Academy Road,” he announced in the perfunctory loud voice of one used to talking to foreigners. I was impressed. The road from Athens to the Academy’s grove is lined with ancient trees. It begins at the city’s Dipylon Gate—which was straight ahead of us—and crosses through suburbs to the green-leafed academy of Aristotle.

The Dipylon Gate was as busy in the early morning as any other great city’s gate might have been at noon. It is a double gate, as its name indicates, with two tall towers on the outside. Guards lolled in front, paying no attention to the carts and pedestrians who came and went.

As we passed through the outer gate, our cart was suddenly surrounded by whores. Twenty or thirty women and girls of all ages rushed out of the shadows of the wall. They fought with one another to get close to the cart. They tugged at my cloak. They called me “Billy Goat”, “Pan”, “Satyr”, and other less endearing terms. With the skill of an acrobat one pretty child of fourteen vaulted the railing of my cart and firmly grasped my beard in her fist. The soldiers laughed at my discomfort.

With some effort I pried my beard free from her fingers, but not before her other hand had reached between my legs, to the delight of those watching. But the driver was expert at handling these girls. With a delicate flick of his whip, he snapped at her hand. It was withdrawn with a cry. She leapt to the ground.

The other women jeered us. Their curses were vivid and splendid, Homeric! Then as we passed through the second gate they turned back, for a troop of cavalry had appeared at the outer gate. Like bees swarming in a garden, they surrounded the soldiers.

I arranged my tunic. The sharp tug of the girl’s hand had had its effect upon me, and against my will I thought of love-making and wondered where the best girls in Athens might be found. I was not then, as I am now, celibate. Yet even in those days I believed that it was virtuous to mortify the flesh, for it is a fact that continence increases intellectual clarity.

But I was also twenty-three years old and the flesh made demands on me in a way that the mind could not control. Youth is the body’s time. Not a day passed in those years that I did not experience lust. Not a week passed that I did not assuage that lust. But I do not agree with those Dionysians who maintain that the sexual act draws men closer to the One God. If anything, it takes a man away from God, for in the act he is blind and thoughtless, no more than an animal engaged in the ceremony of creation.

Yet to each stage of one’s life certain things are suitable and for a few weeks, eight years ago, I was young, and knew many girls. Even now on this hot Asiatic night, I recall with unease that brilliant time, and think of love-making. I notice that my secretary is blushing. Yet he is Greek!

Published in: on October 14, 2018 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Julian, 43  

Julian, 42

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



I arrived at Piraeus, the port of Athens, shortly after sunrise 5 August 355. I remember every one of the forty-seven days I spent in Athens. They were the happiest of my life, so far.

It was a windy dawn. In the east, light tore at the dark. Stars faded. The sea was rough. It was like the morning of the world. The ship creaked and shuddered as it struck against the pilings of the quay. I had half expected to see a detachment of troops waiting on the shore, ready to arrest me on some new charge. But there were no troops in sight, only foreign merchant ships and the usual bustle of a busy port. Slaves unloaded cargoes. Officials of the port moved solemnly from ship to ship. Men with carts and donkeys shouted to those just arrived, promising to get them to Athens faster than that youth who ran from Marathon to the city in four hours (and fell dead, one would like to retort, but irony is lost on drivers, even Greek drivers who know their Homer).

Barefoot students in shabby clothes moved in packs from ship to ship, trying to sign up newcomers for lectures. Each student was a proselytizer for his own teacher. There was a good deal of rancour as each of these youths went about trying to convince would-be students (known as “foxes”) that there was but one teacher in Athens worth listening to: his own. Fights often broke out between the factions. Even as I watched, two students actually manhandled a stranger; each grabbed an arm, and while one insisted that he attend the lectures of a certain Sophist, the other shouted that the Sophist was a fool and that only the wisdom of his teacher, a Cynic, was worth a student’s time. Between them, they nearly tore the poor man in half. Nor would they let him go until he finally made it clear to them in broken Greek that he was an Egyptian cotton dealer and not at all interested in philosophy. Luckily, they did not get as far as my ship; so I was spared their attentions.

Usually when a member of the imperial family travels by sea, the dragon of our house flies at the mast. But since I was technically under “house arrest”, I was in no way identified to the people, which was just as well. I wanted to be free in Athens, to wander unnoticed wherever I chose. But unfortunately a dozen soldiers had been assigned to me as permanent bodyguard (they were, in effect, my jailers) and their commanding officer was responsible for my safety. I felt some obligation to him, though not much.

I made a bold decision. While the servants were busy with the luggage and the men who guarded me were all gathered on the forward deck of the ship in sleepy conference with the officials of the port, I scribbled a note to my head jailer, telling him that I would meet him at the end of the day at the prefect’s house. I left the note on one of our travelling chests. Then, student’s cloak securely wrapped about me, I swung over the side of the ship and dropped unobserved on to the wharf.

It took a moment to become accustomed to the steadiness of earth. I am not a bad sailor but the monotony of a long voyage and the continual slap and fall of a ship at sea tire me. I am of earth, not water; air, not fire. I engaged a cart and driver after considerable haggling (I was able to bring the driver’s cost down to half what he asked: good but not marvellous). Then I climbed into the little cart. Half standing, half sitting on the cart rail, I was borne over the rutted road to Athens.

The sun rose in a cloudless sky. Attic clarity is not just metaphor; it is fact. The sky’s blue was painful. One felt one could see straight to the farthest edge of the world if the mountain Hymettus, low and violet in the early light, had not blocked the view. The heat with each instant became more intense, but it was the dry heat of the desert, made pleasant by a soft wind from the sea.

My first reaction was delight at anonymity. No one stared at me. No one knew who I was. I looked a typical student with my beard and plain cloak. There were dozens like me. Some were in carts, most were on foot; all of them moving towards the same goal: Athens and the knowledge of the true.

On every side of me carts rattled and creaked, their drivers cursing and their contents, human or animal, complaining. The Athenian Greek is a lively fellow, though one looks in vain from face to face for a glimpse of Pericles or Alcibiades. As a race, they are much changed. They are no longer noble. They have been too often enslaved, and their blood mixed with that of barbarians. Yet I do not find them as sly and effeminate as certain Latin writers affect to. I think that the Old Roman tendency to look down on the Greeks is no more than a natural resentment of Greece’s continuing superiority in those things which are important: philosophy and art.

All that is good in Rome today was Greek. I find Cicero disingenuous when on one page he acknowledges his debt to Plato and then on the next speaks with contempt of the Greek character. He seems unaware of his own contradictions… doubtless because they were a commonplace in his society. Of course the Romans pretend they are children of Troy, but that nonsense was never taken too seriously. From time to time I have had a word or two to say about Roman character, not much of it flattering (my little work on the Caesars, though written much too quickly, has some point, I think). But then one must recall that even as I dictate these lines as Roman Emperor, I am really Greek. And I have been to Athens, the eye of Greece.

Published in: on September 30, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments (4)  

Julian, 41

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

Two days later, I was visited by the Grand Chamberlain himself. I found it hard to believe that this enchanting creature with his caressing voice and dimpled smile was daily advising the Consistory to execute me. He quite filled the small apartment where I had been confined.

“Oh, you have grown, most noble Julian! In every way.” Delicately Eusebius touched my face. “And your beard is now most philosophic. How Marcus Aurelius would have envied you!” For an instant one fat finger rested, light as a butterfly, on the tip of my beard. Then we stood face to face, beaming at one another; I with nerves, he with policy.

“I don’t need to tell you how pleased I am to see you at court. We all are. This is where you belong, close to your own kind.” My heart sank: was that to be my fate? a life at court where the eunuchs could keep an eye on me? A swift death was almost preferable. “Now I suggest that when you see the divine Augustus, you will beg him to allow you to stay always at his side. He needs you.”

I seized on the one fact. “The Emperor will see me?”

Eusebius nodded delightedly, as though he had been entirely responsible for my amazing good fortune. “Of course. Didn’t you know? He made the decision at this morning’s Consistory. We were all so pleased. Because we want you here. I have always said that there should be a place for you at the side of the Augustus. A high place.”

“You flatter me,” I murmured.

“I say only the truth. You are, after all, an ornament to the house of Constantine, and what better place has such a pure jewel to shine than in the diadem of the court?”

I swallowed this gravely and replied with equal insincerity, “I shall never forget what you have done for me and for my brother.”

Tears came to Eusebius’s eyes. His voice trembled. “It is my wish to serve you. That is all I ask for.” He leaned forward—with some effort—and kissed my hand. The rhetoric of hate is often most effective when couched in the idiom of love. On a note of mutual admiration, we parted.

I was next instructed by one of the eunuchs in the court’s etiquette, which was nearly as complicated as what one goes through during the Mithraic mysteries. There are a dozen set responses to an emperor’s set questions or commands. There are bows and genuflections; steps to left and steps to right; alternative gestures should I be asked to approach the throne or merely to remain where I was.

The eunuch loved his work. “Our ceremonies are among this world’s marvels! More inspiring, in some ways, than the mass.” I agreed to that. The eunuch spread a diagram for me on a table. “This is the great hall where you will be received.” He pointed. “Here sits the divine Constantius. And here you will enter.” Every move either of us was to make was planned in advance like a dance. When I had finally learned my lesson, the eunuch folded his map with an exalted expression on his face. “We have considerably improved and refined court ceremonial since the divine Diocletian. I am sure that he never dreamed his heirs would be capable of such exquisite style as well as such profound symbolism, for we are now able to beautifully reflect the nature of the universe in a single ceremony lasting scarcely three hours!”

The cutting down of court ceremonies and the removal of the eunuchs was one of the first acts of my reign. It was certainly the most satisfactory.

Shortly after sundown, the Master of the Offices and his many ushers escorted me to the throne room. The Master of the Offices gave me last-minute instructions on how to behave in the sacred presence. But I did not listen. I was too busy preparing the speech I intended to make to Constantius. It was a masterpiece of eloquence. After all, I had been preparing it for ten years. Face to face, I intended to make Constantius my friend.

The Master of the Offices ushered me into a huge basilica which was once Diocletian’s throne room. The Corinthian columns which line it are twice the usual height and the floor is of porphyry and green marble. The effect is most splendid, especially by artificial light. In the apse at the far end of the basilica stands the throne of Diocletian, an elaborate chair of ivory decorated with gold plaques. Needless to say, I remember everything about that room in which my fate was decided. Torches flared between the columns while on either side of the throne bronze lamps illuminated its occupant. Not counting my childhood encounter with Constantine, this was the first time I beheld an emperor in full state. I was not prepared for the theatricality of the scene.

Constantius sat very straight and still, his forearms resting on his knees in imitation of the Egyptian kings. He wore a heavy gold diadem set with huge square jewels. On one side of him stood Eusebius, on the other the praetorian prefect, while around the room the officials of the court were ranged.

I was officially presented to the Emperor. I paid him homage. Only once did I falter in the course of the ritual; when I did, the Master of the Offices was quick to whisper the correct formula in my ear.

If Constantius was curious about me, he did not betray it. His bronze face was empty of all expression as he spoke. “We receive our most noble cousin with pleasure.” But there was no pleasure in that high-pitched voice. I felt myself suddenly blushing. “We give him leave to go to Athens to continue his studies.” I glanced at Eusebius. Though his own grim advice had not prevailed, he gave me a small delighted nod as if to say, “We’ve won!”

“Also…” But then Constantius stopped talking. There is no other way to describe what happened. He simply stopped. There were no more words for me. I stared at him, wondering if I had gone mad. Even the Master of the Offices was taken aback. Everyone had expected a full speech from Constantius as well as a response from me. But the audience was over. Constantius put out his hand for me to kiss. I did so. Then with the aid of the Master of the Offices, I walked backward to the entrance, bowing at regular intervals. Just as I was about to leave the presence, two squeaking bats swooped suddenly out of the shadowy ceiling, and darted straight towards Constantius. He did not move, even though one almost touched his face. As always, his self-control was marvellous. I have never known a man quite so deep or so cold.

I returned to my apartment to find a message from the Grand Chamberlain’s office. I was to proceed at once to the port of Aquileia. My belongings had already been packed. My servants were ready. A military escort was standing by.

Within the hour, I was outside the walls of Milan. As I rode through the warm night, I prayed to Helios that I never see court or Emperor again.

Published in: on September 23, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Julian, 40

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

Julian Augustus

At the beginning of February we arrived at Como, a town on a lake about thirty miles north of Milan. Here I remained a prisoner for six months. I was allowed to see no one except the servants who had come with me. Letters from Oribasius and Maximus were not delivered. I might as well have been dead. I consoled myself with reading the complete works of Pliny the Younger, who had lived at Como. I remember with what loathing I read his famous description of “darling Como”. I hated the place, including the blue-green lake.

During this time I had no idea what was happening in the outside world, which was probably just as well for I was the subject of fierce debate in the Sacred Consistory. According to Eusebius: “He is another Gallus. He must be put to death.” A majority of the Consistory agreed with the Chamberlain. Surprisingly enough, the opposition was led by the Empress Eusebia. Though she was not a member of the Consistory, she was able to make her views known. “Julian has committed no crime. His loyalty has never been seriously questioned. He is the last surviving male member of the imperial house. Until such time as we provide the Emperor with a son, Julian is heir to the principate. But should Julian be executed and should the Emperor then—heaven forbid—die without issue, the house of Constantine is at an end and there will be chaos in the empire.”

Eusebia finally prevailed. But it took her six months of argument, during which time Constantius said not a word. He merely listened and brooded and waited.

At the beginning of June a court chamberlain arrived at Como. “The most noble Julian is to wait upon the divine Empress Eusebia.” I was startled: the Empress, not the Emperor? I tried to question the chamberlain but he would say no more than that I was to be given a private audience; no, he could not tell me if the Emperor would receive me; no, he was not even certain that the Emperor was at Milan; he revelled in being uninformative.

We entered Milan through a door in one of the watchtowers. In complete secrecy, I was hurried through narrow back streets to a side entrance of the palace. Once inside the palace I was met by chamberlains who took me straight to the apartment of the Empress.

Eusebia was handsomer than her portraits. The eyes and mouth, which appeared so severe when rendered in marble, in life were not severe at all, merely sad. A flame-coloured robe set off her pale face and black hair. She was not much older than I.

“We are pleased to receive our cousin, the most noble Julian,” she murmured formally. She motioned to one of her ladies-in-waiting, who came forward with a folding stool and placed it beside the Empress’s silver chair.

“We hope our cousin enjoyed his stay at Lake Como.”

“The lake is very beautiful, Augusta.” At a gesture from her, I sat on the stool.

“Yes. The Emperor and I enjoy the lake.”

For what seemed an eternity, we discussed that wretched lake. All the while she was studying me carefully. And I must say I was studying her. Eusebia was Constantius’s second wife. His first wife had been Galla, the half-sister of Gallus. Galla had the same mother as Gallus, who had the same father as I, but I never knew her, and I don’t think Gallus ever met his sister more than once or twice. When Galla died, Constantius promptly married Eusebia. It was said that he had always been in love with her. She came from an excellent consular family. She was a popular figure at court, and on more than one occasion she had saved innocent men from Constantius’s eunuchs.

“We have been told that you are planning to become a priest.”

“I was at a monastery, when I was… told to come to Milan.” I started to stammer as I often do when I am nervous. The letter “m” gives me particular trouble.

“But do you seriously want to be a priest?”

“I don’t know. I prefer philosophy, I think. I would like to live at Athens.”

“You have no interest in politics?” She smiled as she said this, knowing what my answer must necessarily be.

“No! None, Augusta.”

“Yet you have certain responsibilities to the state. You are imperial.”

“The Augustus needs no help from me.”

“That is not quite true.” She clapped her hands and the two ladies-in-waiting withdrew, closing cedar doors softly behind them.

“Nothing is secret in a palace,” she said. “One is never alone.”

“Aren’t we alone now?”

Eusebia clapped her hands again. Two eunuchs appeared from behind pillars at the opposite end of the room. She waved them away.

“They can hear but they cannot speak. A precaution. But then there are others listening whom one knows nothing about.”

“The secret agents?”

She nodded. “Everything we say to one another in this room they can hear.”

“But where…?”

She smiled at my bewilderment. “Who knows where? But one knows they are always present.”

“They even spy on you?”

“Especially on the Empress.” She was serene. “It has always been like this in palaces. So remember to speak… carefully.”

“Or not at all!”

She laughed. I found myself relaxing somewhat. I almost trusted her. She became serious. “The Emperor has given me permission to talk to you. He was reluctant. I don’t need to tell you that since the Gallus affair he has felt himself entirely surrounded by traitors. He trusts no one.”

“But I…”

“He trusts you least of all.” This was blunt. But I was grateful for her candour. “Against his own good judgment, he raised your brother up. Within months, Gallus and Constantia were plotting to usurp the throne.”

“Are you so certain?”

“We have proof.”

“I am told that secret agents often invent ‘proof’.”

She shrugged. “In this case it was not necessary. Constantia was indiscreet. I never trusted her. But that is over with. You are now the potential threat.”

“Easily solved,” I said with more bitterness than I intended. “Execute me.”

“There are those who advise this.” She was as much to the point as I. “But I am not one. As you know, as the whole world knows, Constantius cannot have a child.” Her face set bleakly. “I have been assured by my confessor that this is heaven’s judgment upon my husband for having caused the deaths of so many members of his own family. Not that he wasn’t justified,” she added loyally. “But justified or not, there is a curse on those who kill their own kind, That curse is on Constantius. He has no heir and I am certain that he will never have one, if he puts you to death.”

There it was at last. My sense of relief was enormous, and perfectly visible in my face.

“Yes. You are safe. For the time being. But there still remains the problem of what to do with you. We had hoped you would take holy orders.”

“If it is required, I shall.” Yes, I said that. I am giving as honest an account as I can of my life. At that moment, I would have worshipped the ears of a mule to save my life.

But Eusebia was not insistent. “Your love of learning also seems genuine.” She smiled. “Oh, we know whom you see, what books you read. There is very little that has escaped the attention of the Chamberlain’s office.”

“Then they know that it is my wish to be a philosopher.”

“Yes. And I believe that the Emperor will grant you your wish.”

“I shall be eternally grateful, and loyal. He has nothing to fear from me, ever…” I babbled on enthusiastically.

Eusebia watched me, amused. Then when I ran out of breath, she said: “Gallus made him much the same speech.”

On that dampening note she rose, ending the interview. “I shall try to arrange an interview for you with the Emperor. It won’t be easy. He is shy.” At the time I found this hard to believe, but of course Eusebia was right. Constantius feared all human encounters. One of the reasons he was so fond of eunuchs was that, by and large, they are not quite human.

Published in: on September 16, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on Julian, 40  

Julian, 39

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

On 1 January 355 a warrant was issued for my arrest. But by then I had joined a religious order at Nicomedia. I am sure that at first none of the monks knew who I was, for I had come to them with head shaved and I looked like any other novice, Oribasius also protected me. When the imperial messenger arrived at Pergamon to arrest me, Oribasius said that I had gone to Constantinople.

I was a monk for six weeks. I found the life surprisingly pleasant. I enjoyed the austerity and the mild physical labour. The monks themselves were not very inspiring. I suppose some must have had the religious sense but the majority were simply vagrants who had tired of the road and its discomforts. They treated the monastery as though it were some sort of hostel rather than a place to serve the One God. Yet they were easy to get along with, and had it not been for the Galilean rituals I could have been quite happy.

I don’t suppose I shall ever know how I was discovered. Perhaps one of the monks recognized me or perhaps the secret agents in checking the rolls of the various monasteries for new arrivals had grown suspicious. No matter how it was done, it was done swiftly and efficiently. I was in the kitchen of the monastery, helping the baker to fire his oven, when a detachment of household troops came clattering in. Their commander saluted me. “The most noble Julian is to accompany us to Milan, by order of the Augustus.”

I made no protest. The monks stared in silence as I was taken from them and marched through the cold streets of Nicomedia to the imperial palace. Here I was received by the city prefect. He was nervous. Under similar circumstances five years earlier, Gallus had been ordered to Milan and he had been made Caesar of the East. The same fate might befall me. It was hard for an official to know how to behave.

“Naturally, we regret these security precautions.” The prefect indicated the guards. “But you will understand that the Grand Chamberlain’s office was, as always, most specific. No details were omitted.”

I was polite and non-committal. I was also somewhat cheered to learn that my military escort was to be commanded by Victor, the same officer I had met at Macellum.

Victor was apologetic. “I don’t enjoy this duty. I hope you realize that.”

“Neither do I.”

Victor frowned. “I particularly dislike taking a priest from a monastery.”

“I am not exactly a priest.”

“Even so, you were prepared to take orders. No one has the right to keep a man from God, not even the Emperor.” Victor is a devout Galilean; at that time he was convinced that I was also one. I said nothing to disabuse him.

The next day we set out for Constantinople. Though I was treated like a prince, not a prisoner, I took it as a bad omen that we were to follow the same overland route to Italy that Gallus had taken a few months before.

As we were leaving Nicomedia, I noticed a head on a pike. I hardly glanced at it, since there is almost always the head of some felon or other on display at the main gate of every town.

“I am sorry,” said Victor suddenly. “But we were ordered to use this gate.”

“Sorry for what?”

“To lead you past your brother’s head.”

“Gallus?” I turned clear round in my saddle and looked again at the head. The face had been so mutilated that the features were unrecognizable, but there was no mistaking the blond hair, matted though it was with dirt and blood.

“The Emperor has had it displayed in every city in the East.” I shut my eyes, on the verge of nausea.

“Your brother had many good qualities,” said Victor. “It was a pity.” Ever since, I have respected Victor. In those days when secret agents were everywhere and no man was safe, it took courage to say something good of a man executed for treason. Victor was equally outspoken in my defence. It was his view that the two charges made against me by the Grand Chamberlain’s office were not serious (that I had left Macellum without permission; that I had met Gallus in Constantinople when he was already accused of treason). Of the first charge I was innocent. The Grand Chamberlain himself had written Bishop George, giving me permission to go wherever I chose in the East. I had wisely kept a copy of this letter. As for the second charge, I had been summoned to Constantinople by the then reigning Caesar of the East. How could I refuse my lawful lord? “You have nothing to fear,” said Victor. But I was not optimistic.

Since I was travelling as a prince, I was greeted at each city by the local dignitaries. Concerned as I was about my own fate, I was still able to take some pleasure in seeing new things. I was particularly pleased when Victor allowed me to visit Ilios, a modern city near the ruins of ancient Troy.

At Ilios I was taken round by the local bishop. At first my heart sank: a Galilean bishop was the last sort of person who would be interested in showing me the temples of the true gods. But to my surprise, Bishop Pegasius was an ardent Hellenist. In fact, he was the one who was surprised when I asked him if we might visit the temples of Hector and Achilles.

“But of course. Nothing would give me greater pleasure. But I am surprised that you are interested in old monuments.”

“I am a child of Homer.”

“So is every educated man. But we are also Christians. Your piety is well known to us even here.” I could not be sure if he was being ironic or not. My friendship with Maximus was general knowledge and a good many Galileans were suspicious of me. On the other hand, my arrest in a monastery had given rise to a whole new legend: the priest-prince. In this role, I explained to the bishop that it was merely as a student of Homer that I wanted to see the famous temples our ancestors had built to those gods (false gods!) and heroes who had fought in this haunted place.

Pegasius took me first to the small temple which contains the famous bronze statue of Hector, said to be done from life. In the unroofed courtyard which surrounds the temple there also stands a colossal statue of Achilles, facing Hector in effigy as in life. To my astonishment, the altars in the courtyard were smouldering with sacrifice, while the statue of Hector shone from a recent anointing.

I turned to the Bishop. “What do these fires mean? Do the people still worship Hector?”

Pegasius was bland. “Of course they do. After all, it would be unnatural not to worship our brave men in the same way that we worship the martyrs who also lived here.”

“I’m not sure it is the same thing,” I said primly.

“Well, at least we have managed to preserve many beautiful works of art.” Then Pegasius proceeded to show me the temples of Athena and Achilles, both in perfect repair. I noted too, that whenever he passed the image of an old god, he did not hiss and make the sign of the cross the way most Galileans do, fearing contamination.

Pegasius proved to be a marvellous guide to Troy. I was particularly moved when he showed me the sarcophagus of Achilles. “There he lies, the fierce Achilles.” He tapped the ancient marble. “A hero and a giant—actually, a giant. Some years ago we opened the tomb and found the bones of a man seven feet tall, and where his heel had been there was the head of an arrow.”

It was awesome to be so close to the legendary past. Pegasius could see that I was impressed. Despite all efforts to the contrary, I am transparent as water. “Those were great days,” he said softly.

“They will come again,” I blurted out.

“I pray that you are right,” said the bishop of Ilios. Today this same Pegasius is my high priest of Cappadocia. He was never a Galilean though he pretended to be one, thinking that by rising to a position of importance among that depraved sect he would be able to preserve the temples of our ancestors. Now he revels in his freedom.

Priscus: And now he revels in life at the Persian court, where, according to gossip, he is a convert to Persian sun worship. Julian took up with the oddest people.

Published in: on August 26, 2018 at 9:11 am  Comments Off on Julian, 39  

Julian, 38

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

Julian Augustus

In the late autumn of 354 I learned of the sudden death of Constantia. I wrote Gallus a letter of condolence which was not answered. He was already having his difficulties at Antioch, where Constantius had earlier sent him a messenger who rudely ordered him to return to Milan. Gallus, quite rightly, refused to go. He knew what his fate would be. Instead he sent Constantia to the Emperor, hoping that she might make peace between them. But when she died of a fever in Bithynia, he knew that he must either obey Constantius or begin a civil war. Tricked by the eunuchs who assured him that he would be safe in Milan, Gallus set out for the West. On the way he sent me a message, ordering me to meet him at Constantinople. I obeyed.


It is fascinating to observe how a man with Julian’s objectivity and passion for truth can so blandly protect his brother’s memory. Not one word about the murders of Montius and Domitian, nor any mention of the treason trials. I suspect Julian is more interested in constructing his case against Constantius than he is in telling what actually happened… a human failing.

Julian Augustus

I met Gallus at the back of the imperial box in the Hippodrome. The box is actually a two-storey pavilion connected by a long corridor to the Sacred Palace. On the first floor there are rooms for musicians and minor functionaries; the second floor contains a suite of rooms used by the imperial family.

The horse races were going on when I arrived. Through the curtains which covered the door to the box, I could hear the crowd cheering its favourite drivers. Suddenly Gallus flung aside the curtain.

“Stay there,” he said. He let the curtain fall. He was pale. His hands shook. His voice was low, his manner furtive. “Now listen to me. I know what people are saying: that I shall never return from Milan alive. But don’t believe them. I am still Caesar.” He gestured at the curtain. “You should have heard the way the crowd cheered me just now. They are with me. Also, I have an army waiting in Serbia, Theban troops who are loyal. Everything has been carefully planned. When they join me, I shall be ready to deal with Constantius.” But his face revealed the uncertainty his words tried to dispel.

“You will go into rebellion?”

“I hope not. I hope for a truce. But who can tell? Now I wanted to see you to tell you that if anything should happen to me, go into a monastery. Take holy orders if you have to. That’s the only way you will be safe. Then…” He looked suddenly quite lost. “Avenge me.”

“But I am sure that the Emperor…” I started to gabble, but I was interrupted by a stout red-faced man who saluted me cheerfully. “Most noble Julian, I am Count Lucillianus, attached to the Caesar as his…”

“Jailer!” Gallus grinned like a wolf.

“The Caesar enjoys making fun of me.” He turned to Gallus. “The crowd is waiting for you to give the victor’s crown to Thorax. He just won the chariot race.”

Gallus turned abruptly and drew aside the curtain. For an instant he stood silhouetted against dazzling blue sky. The mob behind him sounded like a storm at sea.

“Isn’t the most noble Julian joining us” asked Lucillianus, aware that I had instinctively stepped back from the harsh light and sudden sound.

“No!” said Gallus. “He is to be a priest.” Then he let the curtain fall behind him; and that was that.

* * *

The rest of the story is well known. Gallus and his “jailers” took the overland route through Illyria. All troops were moved from the garrisons along the route, and Gallus could call on no one to support him. At Hadrianopolis, the Theban legions were indeed waiting, but Gallus was nor allowed to see them. He was now a prisoner in all but name. Then in Austria, he was arrested by the infamous Count Barbatio, who had been until recently the commander of his own guard.

Gallus was imprisoned at Histria; here his trial was held. The Grand Chamberlain Eusebius presided. Gallus was indicted for all the crimes which had taken place in Syria during the four years of his reign. Most of the charges against him were absurd and the trial itself was a farce, but Constantius enjoyed the show of legality almost as much as he disliked the idea of justice. Gallus’s only defence was to blame his wife for everything. This was unworthy of him; but then there was nothing that he could say or do which would save him. Also, by accusing Constantius’s sister of a thousand crimes (she was guilty of many more), Gallus was able to strike one last blow at his implacable enemy. Furious at the form the defence took, Constantius ordered Gallus executed.

My brother’s head was cut off early in the evening of 9 December 354. His arms were bound behind him as though he were a common criminal. He made no last statement. Or if he did, it has been suppressed. He was twenty-eight when he died. They say that in his last days he suffered terribly from bad dreams. Of the men of the imperial family, only Constantius and I were left.

Published in: on August 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm  Comments Off on Julian, 38  

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