Darkening Age, 12

In chapter eight of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey wrote:
 
In Palmyra, what remains of the statue of Athena shows that one single, furious sword-blow had been enough to decapitate her. Though often one blow was not felt to be sufficient. In Germany, a statue of the goddess Minerva was smashed into six pieces. Her head has never been found. In France, a relief of Mithras was smashed into more than three hundred pieces.

Christian writers applauded such destruction—and egged their rulers on to greater acts of violence. One gleefully observed that the Christian emperors now ‘spit in the faces of dead idols, trample on the lawless rites of demons, and laugh at the old lies’. An infamous early text instructed emperors to wash away this ‘filth’ and ‘take away, yes, calmly take away… the adornments of the temples. Let the fire of the mint or the blaze of the smelters melt them down.’

This was nothing to be ashamed of. The first Commandment could not have been clearer. ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,’ it said. ‘Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,’ it continued, ‘nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.’ The Greek and Roman temples, no matter how ancient or beautiful, were the homes of false gods and they had to be destroyed. This was not vandalism: it was God’s will. The good Christian had a duty to do nothing less.

The speed with which toleration slipped into intolerance and then downright suppression shocked non-Christian observer. The emperor Julian later acerbically observed that, while Constantine robbed the temples his sons overthrew them. In AD 356, it became illegal—on pain of death—to worship images. The law adopted a tone of hitherto unseen aggression. ‘Pagans’ began to be described as ‘madmen’ whose beliefs must be ‘completely eradicated’…

But Julian’s reign was brief and, just half a century after Constantine, it was already too late to reverse the attrition that had begun. Julian, one Christian would tell his flock, was ‘but a cloud which will speedily be dispersed’. He was right.

By the time Theophilus attacked Serapis the laws were on his side. But many other Christians were so keen to attack the demonic temples that they didn’t wait for legal approval. Decades before the laws of the land permitted them to, zealous Christians began to indulge in acts of violent vandalism against their ‘pagan’ neighbours…

Libanius, the Greek orator from Antioch, was revolted by the destruction that he witnessed. ‘These people,’ he wrote, ‘hasten to attack the temples with sticks and stones and bars of iron, and in some cases, disdaining these, with hands and feet. Then utter desolation follows, with the stripping of roofs, demolition of walls, the tearing down of statues, and the overthrow of altars, and the priests must either keep quiet or die… So they sweep across the countryside like rivers in spate.’

Libanius spoke elegiacally of a huge temple on the frontier with Persia, a magnificent building with a beautiful ceiling, in whose cool shadows had stood numerous statues. Now, he said, ‘it is vanished and gone, to the grief of those who had seen it’—and the grief of those who now never would. This temple had been so striking, he said, that there were even those who argued that it was as great as the temple of Serapis—which, he added with an irony not lost on later historians, ‘I pray may never suffer the same fate.’

Not only were the monks vulgar, stinking, ill-educated and violent they were also, said their critics, phoneys. They pretended to adopt lives of austere self-denial but actually they were no better than drunken thugs, a black-robed tribe ‘who eat more than elephants and, by the quantities of drink they consume, weary those that accompany their drinking with the singing of hymns’…

Then, in 399, a new and more terrible law came. It was announced that ‘if there should be any temples in the country districts, they shall be torn down without disturbance or tumult. For when they are torn down and removed, the material basis for all superstition will be destroyed.’

Christianity’s Criminal History, 101

 

Editors’ note:

To contextualise these translations of Karlheinz Deschner’s encyclopaedic history of the Church in 10-volumes, Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, see the abridged translation of Volume I (here).

 

The Christian Book Burning
and the Annihilation of Classical Culture

Where is the wise person? Where is the educated one? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

—St. Paul, I Corinthians 1:20

Charlatanism is initiated among you by the schoolteacher, and as you have divided the science into parts [sacred & profane], you have moved away from the only true one.

—Tatian

After Jesus Christ, all research is already pointless. If we believe, we no longer demand anything that goes beyond our faith.

—Tertullian

If you want to read historical narratives, there you have the Book of The Kings. If, on the contrary, you want to read the wise men and philosophers, you have the prophets… And if you long for the hymns, you also have the psalms of David.

—Apostolic Constitution (3rd Century)

Religion is, therefore, the central core of the entire educational process and must permeate all educational measures.

Lexicon for Catholic Life (1952)

 
Constantine ordered to burn the fifteen books of the work Against the Christians written by Porphyry, the most astute of the opponents of Christianity in the pre-Constantinian era: ‘The first state prohibition of books decreed in favour of the Church’ (Hamack). And his successors, Theodosius II and Valentinian III, condemned Porphyry’s work again to the bonfire, in 448. This happened after Eusebius of Caesarea had written twenty-five books against this work and the doctor of the Church Cyril nothing less than thirty.

Towards the end of the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Valens, there was a great burning of books, accompanied by many executions. That Christian regent gave free rein to his fury for almost two years, behaving like ‘a wild beast’, torturing, strangulating, burning people alive, and beheading. The innumerable records allowed to find the traces of many books that were destroyed, especially in the field of law and the liberal arts. Entire libraries went to the fire in the East. Sometimes they were eliminated by their owners under the effect of panic.

On the occasion of the assaults on the temples, the Christians destroyed, especially in the East, not only the images of the gods but also the liturgical books and those of the oracles. The Catholic Emperor Jovian (363-364) had the Antioch library destroyed by fire: the same library installed there by his predecessor Julian the Apostate. Following the assault on the Serapis in 391, during which the sinister Patriarch Theophilus himself destroyed, axe in hand, the colossal statue of Serapis carved by the great Athenian artist Bryaxis, the library was consumed by flames.

After the library of the Museum of Alexandria, which already had 700,000 rolls, was consumed by a casual fire during the siege war by Cesar (48-47 BC), the fame of Alexandria as a city possessing the most numerous and precious bibliographic treasures only lasted thanks to the library of the Serapis, since the supposed intention of Antony to give Cleopatra, as compensation for the loss of the library of the museum, the entire library of Pergamum, with 200,000 rolls , does not seem to have come to fruition. The burning of libraries on the occasion of the assault on the temples was indeed something frequent, especially in the East.

It happened once again under the responsibility of Theophilus, following the destruction of an Egyptian sanctuary in Canopus and that of the Marneion of Gaza in 402.

At the beginning of the 5th century, Stilicho burned in the West—with great dismay on the part of the Roman aristocracy faithful to the religion of his elders—the books of the Sibyl, the immortal mother of the world, as Rutilius Claudius Namatianus complained. To him, the Christian sect seemed worse than the poison of Circe.

In the last decades of the 5th century, the libelli found there (‘these were an abomination in the eyes of God’—Rhetor Zacharias)—were burnt in Beirut before the church of St. Mary. The ecclesiastical writer Zacharias, who was then studying law in Beirut, played a leading role in this action supported by the bishop and state authorities. And in the year 562 Emperor Justinian, who had ‘pagan’ philosophers, rectors, jurists and physicians persecuted, ordered the burning of Greco-Roman images and books in the Kynegion of Constantinople, where the criminals were liquidated.

Apparently, already at the borderline of the Middle Ages, Pope Gregory I the Great, a fanatical enemy of everything classical, burned books in Rome. And this celebrity—the only one, together with Leo I, in gathering in his person the double distinction of Pope and Doctor of the Church—seems to have been the one who destroyed the books that are missing in the work of Titus Livy. It is not even implausible that it was he who ordered the demolition of the imperial library on the Palatine. In any case, the English scholastic John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres, asserts that Pope Gregory intentionally destroyed manuscripts of classical authors of Roman libraries.

Everything indicates that many adepts of the Greco-Roman culture converted to Christianity had to prove to have really moved their convictions by burning their books in full view. Also, in some hagiographic narratives, both false and authentic, there is that commonplace of the burning of books as a symbol, so to speak, of a conversion story.

It was not always forced to go to the bonfire. Already in the first half of the 3rd century, Origen, very close in this regard to Pope Gregory, ‘desisted from teaching grammar as being worthless and contrary to sacred science and, calculating coldly and wisely, he sold all his works of the ancients authors with whom he had occupied until then in order not to need help from others for the sustenance of his life’ (Eusebius).

There is hardly anything left of the scientific critique of Christianity on the part of adherents to classical culture. The emperor and the Church took care of it. Even many Christian responses to it disappeared! (probably because there was still too much ‘pagan poison’ on its pages). But it was the classical culture itself on which the time came for its disappearance under the Roman Empire.
 

The annihilation of the Greco-Roman world

The last emperor of classical antiquity, the great Julian, certainly favoured the adherents of the old culture, but simultaneously tolerated the Christians: ‘It is, by the gods, my will that the Galileans not be killed, that they are not beaten unjustly or suffer any other type of injustice. I declare, however, that the worshipers of the gods will have a clear preference in front of them. For the madness of the Galileans was about to overthrow everything, while the veneration of the gods saved us all. That is why we have to honour the gods and the people and communities that venerate them’.

After Julian’s death, to whom the orator Libanius felt united by faith and friendship, Libanius complains deeply, moved by the triumph of Christianity and by its barbarous attacks on the old religion.

Oh! What a great sorrow took hold not only of the land of the Achaeans, but of the entire empire… The honours of which the good ones participated have disappeared; the friendship of the wicked and unbridled enjoys great prestige. Laws, repressive of evil, have already been repealed or are about to be. Those that remain are barely fulfilled in practice.

Full of bitterness, Libanius continues to address his co-religionists:

That faith, which until now was the object of mockery and that fought against you so fierce and untiring, has proved to be the strongest. It has extinguished the sacred fire, the joy of sacrifices, has ordered to savagely neat [its adversaries] and demolish the altars. It has locked the shrines and temples, if not destroyed them or turned them into brothels after declaring them impious. It has abrogated any activity with your faith…

In that final assault on the Greco-Roman world, the Christian emperors were mostly and for a long time less aggressive than the Christian Church. Under Jovian (363-364), the first successor of Julian, Hellenism does not seem to have suffered major damage except the closure and demolition of some temples. Also the successors of Jovian, Valentinian I and Valens, during whose government appears for the first time the term pagani referring the faithful of the old polytheism, maintained an attitude of relative tolerance toward them.

The Catholic Valentinian with plenty of reasons, because his interest was in the army and needed inner peace, tried to avoid religious conflicts. He still covered the high positions of the government almost evenly, even with a slight predominance of the believers in the gods.

Under Valens, nevertheless, the high Christian officials already constituted a majority before the Hellenes. Yet he fought the Catholics, even using the help of the Hellenes for reasons, of course, purely opportunistic.

Although the emperor Gratian, for continuing the rather liberal religious policy of his father Valentinian I, had promised tolerance to almost all the confessions of the empire by an edict promulgated in 378, in practice soon followed an opposite behaviour, for he was strongly influenced by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose.

Under Valentinian II, brother of Gratian, things really turned around and the relationship between high Christian officials and the adherents of the old culture was again balanced and the army chiefs, two polytheists, played a decisive role in the court. Even in Rome two other Hellenes of great prestige, Praetextatus and Symmachus, exerted the charges of praetorian and urban prefect respectively.

Gradually, however, Valentinian, as his brother once did, fell under the disastrous influence of the resident bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Something similar to what would happen later with Theodosius I. Ambrose lived according to his motto: ‘For the “gods of the heathen are but devils” as the Holy Scripture says; therefore, anyone who is a soldier of this true God must not give proof of tolerance and condescension, but of zeal for faith and religion’.

And indeed, the powerful Theodosius ruled during the last years of his term, at least as far as religious policy was concerned, strictly following Ambrose’s wishes. First, the rites of non-Christians were definitively banned at the beginning of 391. Later the temples and sanctuaries of Serapis in Alexandria were closed, which soon would be destroyed. In 393 the Olympic games were prohibited. The infant emperors of the 5th century [1] were puppets in the hands of the Church. That is why the court also committed itself more and more intensely in the struggle against classical culture, a struggle that the Church had already vehemently fuelled in the 4th century and that led gradually to the systematic extermination of the old faith.

The best-known bishops took part in this extermination, which intensified after the Council of Constantinople (381), with Rome and the East, especially Egypt, as the most notorious battlefields of the conflict between the Hellenes and the Christians.
 
___________

[1] Deschner is referring to emperors Arcadius, Theodosius II and Honorius whose reigns will be described in other translations of his books.

A response to Spahn Ranch

The following is not a formal post but rather a comment that I chose to put here rather than on this thread, where it belongs.

______ 卐 ______

 
Obviously, we see the world in a very different way.

The mere fact that Rome changed from Republic to Empire was a voluntary surrender to evil, as Brutus and his followers saw it. Julius Caesar should be one of the most reviled figures in Western history.

Believing the Jews was explicable among the envious non-whites around Rome. But for a white Roman to believe them, and allowing being baptized, was a sin as Julian the Apostate saw it.

Following Constantine and the next Christian emperors was voluntary surrender to evil, as philosophers like Libanius saw it.

Once Christianity was established, having burned the libraries of classical knowledge was voluntary surrender to evil. To have broken the statues that represented the divine beauty of the Aryan race was voluntary surrender to evil (for a list of these atrocities see: here).

To have destroyed the temples, including the most beautiful building of Alexandria and another one, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World leaving only these ruins in the respective two cases, was voluntary surrender to evil.

The fact that whites repudiated the healthy religion of the Hellenes and accepted the idea of eternal torture by fire, even for unbaptized infants, was such a massive and astronomical voluntary surrender to evil, that it is most likely that their little race will perish due to such a sin.

That the so-called secularized whites of today are incapable of healing psychically, and continue to believe the lies of the Jews and Christian ethics, is voluntary surrender to evil.

As Axe of Perun says, with the historical and exegetical tools at our disposal today there is no excuse. Nationalists could repudiate the perfidy of their own parents—their religion—; the ethics that accompany it, as well as its secular offshoot from the late 18th century. Not doing so is voluntary surrender to evil. And there are hundreds of white nationalists who think they’re good but deep down they’re bad. (That’s why the first pages of my Day of Wrath start with the example of Greggy’s ethics.)

If there is something that emerges from my Hojas Susurrantes and ¿Me Ayudarás? it’s to frame the discourse in ethical terms—if we are to save the West from the extermination in progress. But that can only be done with the complete collapse of the USA and through the acute suffering that, for decades, white sinners shall suffer: a dark night for the soul, a window of opportunity to amend one’s own ways.

As Pierce said about the common American, so surrendered to evil, ‘The only way to persuade the population of this country that they need to change their ways is to give them a good, hard boot in the ass—about 600 times. They need to be reprogrammed, and that takes order and discipline, not books or leaflets…’

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 7

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Christianity: bringer of darkness

Section I: The Christian destruction of Europe’s artistic heritage

Theodosius was the first Christian emperor to systematically legislate paganism out of existence. He began by enacting a series of draconian measures, soon after his declaration that Nicene Christianity was the official state religion in 380 AD. Towards the end of his reign, legislation proscribing Hellenistic religion—the so-called Theodosian decrees—became increasingly harsh. This imperial program of cultural genocide descended into an orgy of violence and destruction in the final decades of the 4th century.

The coming storm was foreshadowed by the Christian fanatic Maternus Cynegius, appointed by Theodosius as praetorian prefect in 384. Under imperial orders to suppress pagan sacrifice and divination, he launched his own personal crusade against the Hellenistic religion. With the help of bishops, priests and an army of rampaging monks, Cynegius demolished some of the holiest sites in the Greek east. Many of these buildings housed antiquity’s greatest artistic treasures.

Archeological evidence, gathered from eastern Mediterranean sites, reveals significant temple destruction and desecration. This can be dated to the period of Cynegius’ activity in the east. Contemporary hagiographical sources, like the Vita Porphyrii, bear witness to the spectacular religious violence directed against the pagan shrines and temples of the Levant.

In 386, the pagan orator Libanius, an outspoken critic of Christian iconoclasm, begged Theodosius to preserve the temples and shrines of the empire. He spoke of armies of “black-robed monks,” gluttons and drunkards, who would

hasten to attack the temples with sticks and stones and bars of iron, and in some cases, disdaining these, with hands and feet. Then utter desolation follows, with the stripping of roofs, demolition of walls, the tearing down of statues and the overthrow of altars, and the priests must either keep quiet or die. After demolishing one, they scurry to another, and to a third, and trophy is piled on trophy, in contravention of the law. Such outrages occur even in the cities, but they are most common in the countryside. Many are the foes who perpetrate the separate attacks, but after their countless crimes this scattered rabble congregates and they are in disgrace unless they have committed the foulest outrage…

Christians not only vandalized temples, they also mutilated pagan statuary and defaced inscriptions. Violent destruction of pagan religious artifacts is archeologically well-attested in the Levant and Africa, where Christian iconoclasts were at their most active.

This pattern of destruction was empire-wide and can be seen in places as far away as North-western Gaul and Britain. Far more destructive than the temple destruction carried out by Christian zealots was the imperial anti-pagan legislation ending all subsidies to the once thriving polytheistic cults of the empire. Without subsidies from the imperial treasury, pagans were unable to maintain and repair their religious monuments. This was reinforced by additional legislation ordering the closure of all shrines and temples, threatening pagans with death if they continued to practice haruspicy and animal sacrifice. This condemned the empire’s major structures and artistic monuments to permanent disrepair and eventual ruin.

The widespread Christian vandalism of late antiquity was the largest campaign in world history to destroy an entire civilization’s artistic and architectural heritage. This campaign to erase the great monuments of antiquity from memory was significantly more destructive than the barbarian invasions of the 5th century. The Christians of the late empire were the ISIS or the Taliban of their day, although this may be an understatement as Christians were many times more destructive. Without this added ingredient of ritualized violence, Christianity would never have become the dominant religion of the ancient world.

Apocalypse for whites • XXXIV

by Evropa Soberana

 

The destruction of the Greco-Roman World – 2

(Fourth century – Cont.)

372
Emperor Valentinian orders the governor of Asia Minor to exterminate all the Hellenes (meaning as such the non-Christian Greeks of ancient Hellenic lineage, i.e., the Aryans; and especially the old Macedonian ruling caste) and destroy all documents relating to their wisdom. In addition, the following year he again prohibits all methods of divination.

It is around this time when Christians coined the contemptuous term ‘pagan’ to designate the Gentiles, that is, all who are neither Jews nor Christians. ‘Pagan’ is a word that comes from the Latin pagani, which means villager. In the dirty, corrupt, decadent, cosmopolitan and mongrelised cities of the now decadent Roman empire, the population is essentially Christian but in the countryside, the peasants, who keep their heritage and tradition pure, are ‘pagans’. It is in the countryside, oblivious to multiculturalism, where the ancestral memory is preserved. (Both Christians and communists did their best to end the way of life of the landowner, the farmer and the peasant.)

However, this peasant ‘paganism’, stripped of priestly leadership and temples and finally plunged into persecution and miscegenation, is doomed to eventually become a bundle of popular superstitions mixed with pre-Indo-European roots, although something of the traditional background will always remain, as in the local ‘healers’ and ‘witches’ who for so long subsisted despite the persecutions.

Ending classical culture was not so easy. It was not easy to find all the temples or destroy them. Nor was it easy to identify all the priests of the old religion, or those who practiced their rites in secret. That was a long-term task for a zealous, meticulous and fanatical elite of ‘commissaries’ that would last for many, many generations: centuries and centuries of spiritual terror and intense persecution.
 
375
The temple of the god Asclepius in Epidaurus, Greece is forcibly closed.

378
The Romans are defeated by the Gothic army in the battle of Hadrianopolis. The emperor intervenes and, through a sagacious diplomacy, makes allies (foederati) of the Goths, a Germanic people originally from Sweden: famous for their beauty, and who had a kingdom in what is now Ukraine. Some time later, in 408, after the fall of Stilicho (a general of Vandal origin who served Rome faithfully but who was betrayed by a Christian and an envious political mob), the women and children of these Germans foederati will be massacred by the Romans, propitiating that the men, prisoners of the rage, join en masse the German commander Alaric.

380
Emperor Theodosius I (Theodosius the Great for Christianity) decrees, through the edict of Thessalonica, that Christianity is officially the only tolerable religion in the Roman Empire, although this has been obvious for years. Theodosius calls non-Christians ‘crazy’ as well as ‘disgusting, heretics, stupid and blind’.

Emperor Theodosius I

Bishop Ambrose of Milan starts a campaign to demolish the temples in his area. In Eleusis, ancient Greek sanctuary, Christian priests throw a hungry crowd, ignorant and fanatical against the temple of the goddess Demeter. The priests are almost lynched by the mob. Nestorius, a venerable old man of 95 years, announces the end of the mysteries of Eleusis and foresees the submergence of men in darkness for centuries.

381
Simple visits to the Hellenic temples are forbidden, and the destruction of temples and library fires throughout the eastern half of the empire continues. The sciences, technology, literature, history and religion of the classical world are thus burned. In Constantinople, the temple of the goddess Aphrodite is turned into a brothel, and the temples of the god Helios and the goddess Artemis are converted into stables! Theodosius persecutes and closes the mysteries of Delphi, the most important of Greece, which had so much influence on the history of ancient Greece.

382
The Jewish formula Hellelu-Yahweh or Hallelujah (‘Glory to Yahweh’) is instituted in Christian Masses.

384
The emperor orders the praetor prefect Maternus Cynegius, uncle of the emperor and one of the most powerful men of the empire, to cooperate with the local bishops in the destruction of temples in Macedonia and Asia Minor—something that Cynegius, a Christian fundamentalist, does it happily.

385-388
Maternus Cynegius, encouraged by his fanatical wife, and together with Bishop St Marcellus, organises bands of Christian ‘paramilitary’ murderers who travel throughout the Eastern Empire to preach the ‘good news’; that is, to destroy temples, altars and reliquaries.

They destroy, among many others, the temple of Edessa, the Kabeirion of Imbros, the temple of Zeus in Apamea, the temple of Apollo in Didyma and all the temples of Palmyra. Thousands are arrested and sent to the dungeons of Scythopolis, where they are imprisoned, tortured and killed in subhuman conditions. And in case any lover of antiquities or art comes up with restoring, preserving or conserving the remains of the looted, destroyed or closed temples, in 386 the emperor specifically prohibits the practise!

Bust of Germanicus defaced by Christians,
who also engraved a cross on his forehead.

388
The emperor, in a Soviet-like measure, forbids talks on religious subjects probably because Christianity cannot be sustained and can even suffer serious losses through religious debates. Libanius, the old orator of Constantinople once accused of magician, directs to the emperor a desperate and humble epistle Pro Templis (‘In Favour of the Temples’), trying to preserve the few remaining temples. The emperor did not pay attention to him.

389-390
All non-Christian holidays are banned. The antifa of those times, headed by hermits of the desert, invade the Roman cities of East and North Africa. In Egypt, Asia Minor and Syria, these hordes sweep away temples, statues, altars and libraries: killing anyone who crosses their path. Theodosius I orders the devastation of the sanctuary of Delphi, centre of wisdom respected throughout the Hélade, destroying its temples and works of art.

Bishop Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, initiates persecutions of the adepts of classical culture, inaugurating in Alexandria a period of real battles on the streets. He converts the temple of the god Dionysus into a church, destroys the temple of Zeus, burns the Mithraic and profanes the cult images. The priests are humiliated and mocked publicly before being stoned.

391
A new decree of Theodosius specifically prohibits looking at the shattered statues! The persecutions in the whole empire are renewed. In Alexandria, where the tensions were always very common, the Hellenistic minority, headed by the philosopher Olympius, carries out an anti-Christian revolt.

After bloody street fights with dagger and sword against crowds of Christians who outnumber them greatly, the Hellenists entrench themselves in the Serapeum, a fortified temple dedicated to the god Serapis. After encircling—practically besieging—the building the Christian mob, under the patriarch Theophilus, breaks into the temple and murder all those present; desecrates the cult images, plunders the property, burns down its famous library and finally throws down all the construction.

It is the famous ‘second destruction’ of the Library of Alexandria, jewel of ancient wisdom in absolutely every field, including philosophy, mythology, medicine, Gnosticism, mathematics, astronomy, architecture or geometry: a spiritual catastrophe for the heritage of the West. A church was built on its remains.

392
The emperor forbids all ancient rituals, calling them gentilicia superstitio, superstitions of the Gentiles.

The persecutions return. The mysteries of Samothrace are bloodily closed and all their priests are killed. In Cyprus, the spiritual and physical extermination is led by the bishops St Epiphanius—born in Judea and raised in a Jewish environment, with Jewish blood himself. The emperor gives carte blanche to St. Epiphanius in Cyprus, stating that ‘those who do not obey Father Epiphanius have no right to continue living on that island’. Thus emboldened, the Christian eunuchs exterminate thousands of Hellenists and destroy almost all the temples of Cyprus. The mysteries of the local Aphrodite, based on the art of eroticism and with a long tradition, are eradicated.

In this fateful year there are insurrections against the Church and against the Roman Empire in Petra, Areopoli, Rafah, Gaza, Baalbek and other eastern cities. But the Eastern-Christian invasion is not going to stop at this point in its push towards the heart of Europe.

393
The Olympic Games are banned, as well as the Pythia Games and the Aktia Games. The Christians must have sensed that this Aryan cult for ‘profane’ and ‘mundane’ sports of agility, health, beauty and strength must logically belong to the Greco-Roman culture, and that sport is an area where Christians of the time could never reign. Taking advantage of the conjuncture, the Christians plunder the temple of Olympia.

394
In this year all gymnasiums in Greece are shut down by force. Any place where the slightest dissidence flourishes, or where unchristian mentalities thrive, must be shut down. Christianity is neither a friend of the muscles nor of athletics; or of triumphant sweat: but of the tears of impotence and of terrifying tremors.

That same year, Theodosius removed the statue of Victory from the Roman Senate. The war of the statues thus ended: a cultural conflict that pitted Hellenist and Christian senators in the Senate, removing and restoring the statue numerous times. The year 394 also saw the closing of the temple of Vesta, where the sacred Roman fire burned.

395
Theodosius dies, being succeeded by Flavius Arcadius (reigned between 395-408). This year, two new decrees reinvigorate the persecution. Rufinus, eunuch and prime minister of Arcadius, makes the Goths invade Greece knowing that, like good barbarians, they will destroy, loot and kill. Among the cities plundered by the Goths are Dion, Delphi, Megara, Corinth, Argos, Nemea, Sparta, Messenia and Olympia. The Goths, already Christianized in Arianism, kill many Greeks; set fire to the ancient sanctuary of Eleusis and burn all its priests, including Hilary, priest of Mithras.

The emperor Arcadius. At first glance an eunuch,
a brat, especially when compared to the Roman emperors
and soldiers of yore.

396
Another decree of the emperor proclaims that the previous culture will be considered high treason. Most of the remaining priests are locked in murky dungeons for the rest of their days.

397
The emperor literally orders to demolish all the remaining temples.

398
During the Fourth Ecclesiastical Council of Carthage (North Africa, now Tunisia) the study of Greco-Roman works is forbidden to anyone, even the Christian bishops themselves.

399
The emperor Arcadius, once again, orders the demolition of the remaining temples. At this point, most of them are in the deep rural areas of the empire.

400
Bishop Nicetas destroys the Oracle of Dionysus and forcibly baptizes all non-Christians in the area. By this final year of the fourth century, a definite Christian hierarchy has already been established which includes priests, bishops, archbishops of larger cities and the patriarchs: the archbishops responsible for major cities, namely Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople.

To this image of a priestess of Ceres, the Roman Demeter, goddess of agriculture and grain, patiently carved on ivory around the year 400 and of an unprecedented beauty, the Christians mutilated her face and threw it into a well in Montier-en-Der, a later abbey in the northeast of France.

It is possible that the image was not thrown into the pit because of hatred (the Christians were more prone to directly destroy), but that the owners got rid of her for fear that the religious authorities would find it. Impossible to know the amount of artistic representations, even superior to this one in beauty, that were destroyed, and of which nothing has remained.

Julian, 23

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

 
Julian Augustus

As I sat on the bench in the sun, revelling in warmth and anonymity, a dark man approached me. He gave me a close look. Then he said, “Macellum?”

At first I was annoyed at being recognized. But when I realized that this young man was the physician Oribasius, I was glad that he spoke to me. In no time at all we were talking as if we had known each other all our lives. Together we took the baths. In the circular hot room, as we scraped oil from one another, Oribasius told me that he had left the court.

“To practise privately?”

“No. Family affairs. My father died. And now I have to go home to Pergamon to settle the estate.”

“How did you recognize me? It’s been two years.”

“I always remember faces, especially those of princes.”

I motioned for him to lower his voice. Just opposite us two students were trying to overhear our conversation.

“Also,” whispered Oribasius, “that awful beard of yours is a give-away.”

“It’s not very full yet,” I said, tugging at it sadly.

“And everyone in Nicomedia knows that the most noble Julian is trying to grow a philosopher’s beard.”

“Well, at my age there’s always hope.”

After a plunge in the cold pool, we made our way to the hall of the tepidarium, where several hundred students were gathered, talking loudly, singing, occasionally wrestling, to the irritation of the bath attendants, who would then move swiftly among them, cracking heads with metal keys.

Oribasius promptly convinced me that I should come stay with him in Pergamon. “I’ve a big house and there’s no one in it. You can also meet Aedesius…. ”

Like everyone, I admired Aedesius. He was Pergamon’s most famous philosopher, the teacher of Maximus and Priscus, and a friend of the late Iamblichos.

“You’ll like Pergamon. Thousands of Sophists, arguing all day long. We even have a woman Sophist.”

“A woman?”

“Well, perhaps she’s a woman. There is a rumour she may be a goddess. You must ask her, since she started the rumour. Anyway, she gives lectures on philosophy, practises magic, predicts the future. You’ll like her.”

“But you don’t?”

“But you will.”

At that moment we were joined by the two young men from the hot room. One was tall and well built; his manner grave. The other was short and thin with a tight smile and quick black eyes. As they approached, my heart sank. I had been recognized. The short one introduced himself. “Gregory of Nazianzus, most noble Julian. And this is Basil. We are both from Cappadocia. We saw you the day the divine Augustus came to Macellum. We were in the crowd.”

“Are you studying here?”

“No. We’re on our way to Constantinople, to study with Nicocles. But Basil wanted to stop off here to attend the lectures of the impious Libanius.”

Basil remonstrated mildly. “Libanius is not a Christian, but he is the best teacher of rhetoric in Nicomedia.”

“Basil is not like us, most noble Julian,” said Gregory. “He is much too tolerant.”

I found myself liking Basil and disliking Gregory, I suppose because of that presumptuous “us”. Gregory has always had too much of the courtier in him. But I have since come to like him, and today we are all three friends, despite religious differences. They were agreeable companions, and I still recall with pleasure that day we met when I was a student among students with no guardian to inhibit conversation. When it was finally time to leave the baths, I promised Oribasius that somehow or other I would join him in Pergamon.

Meanwhile, Gregory and Basil agreed to dine with me. They were just the sort Ecebolius would approve of: devout Galileans with no interest in politics. But I knew instinctively that Oribasius would alarm Ecebolius. Oribasius had been at court and he moved in high circles. He was also rich and worldly and precisely the sort of friend a sequestered prince should not have.

I decided to keep Oribasius my secret for the time being. This proved to be wise.

Published in: on December 24, 2017 at 10:00 am  Comments Off on Julian, 23  
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Julian, 21

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

 
I remained the rest of that year at Constantinople. I had a sufficient income, left me by my grandmother who had died that summer. I was allowed to see her just before her death, but she did not recognize me. She spoke disjointedly. She shook with palsy and at times the shaking became so violent that she had to be strapped to her bed. When I left, she kissed me, murmuring, “Sweet, sweet.”

By order of the Grand Chamberlain I was not allowed to associate with boys my own age or, for that matter, with anyone other than my instructors, Ecebolius and Nicocles, and the Armenian eunuch. Ecebolius is a man of much charm. But Nicocles I detested. He was a short, sparse grasshopper of a man. Many regard him as our age’s first grammarian. But I always thought of him as the enemy. He did not like me either. I remember in particular one conversation with him. It is amusing in retrospect. “The most noble Julian is at an impressionable period in his life. He must be careful of those he listens to. The world is now full of false teachers. In religion we have the party of Athanasius, a most divisive group. In philosophy we have all sorts of mountebanks, like Libanius.”

That was the first time I heard the name of the man who was to mean so much to me as thinker and teacher. Not very interested, I asked who Libanius was.

“An Antiochene—and we know what they are like. He studied at Athens. Then he came here to teach. That was about twelve years ago. He was young. He was bad-mannered to his colleagues, to those of us who were, if not wiser, at least more experienced than he.”

Nicocles made a sound like an insect’s wings rustling on a summer day—laughter? “He was also tactless about religion. All the great teachers here are Christian. He was not. Like so many who go to Athens (and I deplore, if I may say so, your desire to study there), Libanius prefers the empty ways of our ancestors. He calls himself a Hellenist, preferring Plato to the gospels, Homer to the old testament. In his four years here he completely disrupted the academic community. He was always making trouble. Such a vain man! Why, he even prepared a paper for the Emperor on the teaching of Greek, suggesting changes in our curriculum! I’m glad to say he left us eight years ago, under a cloud.”

“What sort of cloud?” I was oddly intrigued by this recital. Oddly, because academics everywhere are for ever attacking one another, and I had long since learned that one must never believe what any teacher says of another. “He was involved with a girl, the daughter of a senator. He was to give her private instruction in the classics. Instead, he made her pregnant. Her family complained. So the Emperor, to save the reputation of the girl and her family, a very important family (you would know who they are if I told you, which I must not)… the Augustus exiled Libanius from the capital.”

“Where is Libanius now?”

“At Nicomedia, where as usual he is making himself difficult. He has a passion to be noticed.” The more Nicocles denounced Libanius, the more interested I became in him. I decided I must meet him. But how? Libanius could not come to Constantinople and I could not go to Nicomedia. Fortunately, I had an ally.

I liked the Armenian eunuch Eutherius as much as I disliked Nicocles. Eutherius taught me court ceremonial three times a week. He was a grave man of natural dignity who did not look or sound like a eunuch. His beard was normal. His voice was low. He had been cut at the age of twenty, so he had known what it was to be a man. He once told me in grisly detail how he had almost died during the operation, “from loss of blood, because the older you are, the more dangerous the operation is. But I have been happy. I have had an interesting life. And there is something to be said for not wasting one’s time in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.”

But though this was true of Eutherius, it was not true of all eunuchs, especially those at the palace. Despite their incapacity, eunuchs are capable of sexual activity, as I one day witnessed, in a scene I shall describe in its proper place.

When I told Eutherius that I wanted to go to Nicomedia, he agreed to conduct the intricate negotiations with the Chamberlain’s office. Letters were exchanged daily between my household and the palace. Eutherius was often in the absurd position of writing, first, my letter of request, and then Eusebius’s elaborate letter of rejection. “It is good practice for me,” said Eutherius wearily, as the months dragged on.

Shortly after New Year 349 Eusebius agreed to let me go to Nicomedia on condition that I do not attend the lectures of Libanius. As Nicocles put it, “Just as we protect our young from those who suffer from the fever, so we must protect them from dangerous ideas, not to mention poor rhetoric. As stylist, Libanius has a tendency to facetiousness which you would find most boring. As philosopher, he is dangerously committed to the foolish past.” To make sure that I would not cheat, Ecebolius was ordered to accompany me to Nicomedia.

Ecebolius and I arrived at Nicomedia in February 349. I enjoyed myself hugely that winter. I attended lectures. I listened to skilled Sophists debate. I met students of my own age. This was not always an easy matter, for they were terrified of me, while I hardly knew how to behave with them.

Libanius was much spoken of in the city. But I saw him only once. He was surrounded by students in one of the porticoes near the gymnasium of Trajan. He was a dark, rather handsome man. Ecebolius pointed him out, saying grimly, “Who else would imitate Socrates in everything but wisdom?”

“Is he so bad?”

“He is a troublemaker. Worse than that, he is a bad rhetorician. He never learned to speak properly. He simply chatters.”

“But his writings are superb.”

“How do you know?” Ecebolius looked at me sharply.

“I… from the others here. They talk about him.” To this day Ecebolius does not know that I used to pay to have Libanius’ lectures taken down in shorthand. Though Libanius had been warned not to approach me, he secretly sent me copies of his lectures, for which I paid him well.

“He can only corrupt,” said Ecebolius. “Not only is he a poor model for style, he despises our religion. He is impious.”

Published in: on December 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm  Comments Off on Julian, 21  
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Kriminalgeschichte, 39

 

Emperor Julian

(Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus)
Caesar: 6 November 355 – February 360
Augustus: February 360 – 3 November 361
Sole Augustus: 3 November 361 – 26 June 363

 
The pagan reaction under Julian

Like his brother Gallus, Julian was also spared from the killing of relatives, although as a member of the imperial dynasty he was kept closely guarded: first in a magnificent estate of Nicomedia, which had been owned by his mother (Basilina, deceased shortly after the birth of Julian), and then in the lonely fortress of Macellum, located in the heart of Anatolia, where his older brother was also imprisoned. The distrustful emperor wove a dense network of spies around both princes, to transmit him each and every one of their words.

They lived ‘like prisoners in that Persian castle’ (Julian), practically arrested and surely threatened with death. In Nicomedia, Julian was given a preceptor, Bishop Eusebius, a relative of Basilina, ecclesiastic and man of the world already known at the time, who, following the custom of Oriental prelates, used to dye his nails with cinnabar and his hair with henna. He was instructed to educate the child severely in the Christian religion; to prevent him from contacting the population, and to ‘never talk about the tragic end of his family’, although at seven Julian was very aware of it and this caused frequent crying spells and terrible nightmares.

In Macellum, where he was confined for seven years with scarcely any other company than that of his slaves, he had as his educator the Arian Jorge of Cappadocia, who was in charge of training him for the priesthood. But then Julian was able to leave the place and settled in Constantinople, where he lived the disputes between Arians and Orthodox and knew the real life of that world of violent riots and fiery mutual excommunications. Towards the end of 351, when Julian was twenty years old, Constantius ordered him to continue his studies in Nicomedia. Julian visited Pergamum, Ephesus and Athens, where he had notable teachers who won him for paganism.

Appointed caesar in 355 by Constantius, and proclaimed augustus by the army in Paris in 360, the same sovereign, who had no offspring, at the time of death appointed Julian as successor… when the two opposing armies marched to the encounter of the other. An ephemeral restoration of polytheistic traditions took place, with the establishment of a Hellenistic ‘state religion’, whose organization followed in many respects the pattern of Christian canons.

Julian tried to replace the cross and the nefarious dualism of Christians by a formula composed of certain streams of Hellenistic philosophy and a ‘solar pantheism’. Without neglecting the other gods of the pagan pantheon, he had a temple built for the Sun god—probably identified with Mithra—in the imperial palace; on numerous occasions he proclaimed his veneration for the basileus Helios, the Sun king, which was already a bi-millennial tradition:

Since my childhood, I was inspired by an invincible longing for the rays of the God, who have always captivated my soul, in such a way that I constantly wanted to contemplate it and even at night, when I was in the country, I forgot everything to admire the beauty of starry heaven…

Today we have become accustomed to interpreting Julian’s reaction as a nostalgic movement, a romantic anachronism or the absurd attempt to turn the hands of the clock backwards. But why do we interpret it that way? Was he refuted, or could he be, instead of being drowned in blood? What is certain and undeniable is that Emperor Julian (from 361 to 363), called ‘the Apostate’ by the Christians, was far superior to his Christian predecessors in character, morality and spirituality.

Trained in philosophy and literature, not only was he ‘the first truly cultured emperor for more than a century’ (Brown), but also deserved ‘a prominent place among writers of the time in the Greek language’ (Stein), and he knew to surround himself with the best thinkers of his time. Julian was zealous in the fulfilment of his duty and enemy of all gentleness, since he never had mistresses or ephebes, never got drunk; the emperor went to work since dawn. He tried to rationalise the bureaucracy and place intellectuals in top government and administrative positions.

Julian abolished the splendours of the court, the possession of eunuchs and jesters, and the whole system of flatterers, parasites, spies and whistleblowers who were fired by the thousands. He reduced the service, reduced the taxes by a fifth, acted with severity against the unfaithful collectors and sanitized the state mail. He also abolished the labarum, that is, the banner of the army with the anagram of Christ, and tried to resurrect ancient cults, festivals and the Paideia: classical education. He ordered the return of the old temples or the reconstruction of those that had been destroyed, and even the return of the statues and other sacred ornaments that adorned the gardens of the individuals who had appropriated them.

But he did not ban Christianity; on the contrary, he allowed the return of the exiled clerics, which only served to foment new conspiracies and tumults.

The Donatists of Africa, while praising the emperor as a paragon of justice, disinfected their newly recovered churches by scrubbing them up and down with sea water, sanded the wood of the altars and the plaster of the walls, regained the influence lost under Constans and Constantius II, and prepared to enjoy their revenge. The Catholics were converted by force, their churches expropriated, their books burned, their chalices and monstrances thrown by the windows and the hosts thrown to the dogs; some abused clerics died. Up to 391, the Donatists continued to have high status, at least in Numidia and Mauritania.

It is true that Julian, as a supporter of polytheism, criticized the Old Testament and its monotheistic rigours, as well as the arrogance of the supposed chosen people, but he granted Yahweh a rank equal to that of the other gods and even admitted that the God worshiped by the Jews was ‘the best and most powerful of all’. A Jewish delegation that visited him in Antioch in July 362, obtained the authorization to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem and the promise of new territories, in a kind of anticipation of the current ‘Zionism’, which motivated the jubilation of the diaspora. The reconstruction of the temple was initiated with great eagerness the following spring, while Julian undertook his campaign in Persia, but towards the end of May a fire, judged ‘providential’ by the Christians, as well as the death of Julian, meant the end of the works forever.

Julian was always in favour of tolerance, even towards Christians. If his dispositions regarding the ‘Galileans’, he said on one occasion, were benign and humanitarian, they should reciprocate by not bothering anyone, nor trying to impose assistance on their churches. In a letter to the citizens of Bosra, he wrote:

To convince and to teach men, it is necessary to use reason and not blows, threats or corporal punishment. I will not tire of repeating it: if you are sincere supporters of the true religion, you will refrain from bothering, attacking or offending the community of the Galileans, who are more worthy of pity than hatred, since they are wrong in matters of such power and transcendence.

Now, and although Julian was a supporter of tolerance… he could not avoid the use of violence against the violent, the Christians who were dedicated to desecrating and even destroying the newly rebuilt temples in Syria and Asia Minor, as well as statues. His legislation in the matter of education provoked many hatreds, inasmuch as he forbade Christians to study Greek literature (saying ‘let them stay in their churches interpreting their Matthew and Luke’). He also demanded the return of the columns and capital stolen from the temples by the Christians to adorn their ‘houses of God’.

If the Galileans want to have decoration in their temples, congratulations, but not with the materials belonging to other places of worship.

Libanius tells how the ships and chariots that returned their columns to the sacked gods could be seen everywhere. On October 22, 362, the Christians set fire to the temple of Apollo in Daphne, which had been restored by the sovereign, and destroyed the famous statue. In retaliation, Julian had the Basilica of Antioch and other churches consecrated to various martyrs razed. (Incidentally, Christians said that the temple had been struck by lightning but according to Libanius, there were no storm clouds on the night of the fire.)

In Damascus, Gaza, Ashkelon, Alexandria and other places the Christian basilicas burned, sometimes with the collaboration of the Jews; some believers were tortured or killed, including Bishop Marcus de Arethusa, so he entered the payroll of the martyrs. But, in general lines, ‘more offended had been the rights of the pagans’ (Schuitze), and in any case said pogrom was no more than a reaction to the excesses of the Christians, their abuses and their diatribes against paganism.

Throughout the empire, from Arabia and Syria, through Numidia, and even the Italian Alps, Julian was celebrated as a ‘benefactor of the state’, ‘undoing past wrongs’, ‘restorer of temples and the empire of freedom’, ‘magnanimous inspirer of the edicts of tolerance’. Even one of Julian’s main intellectual detractors, Gregory of Nazianzus, confessed that his ears ached from hearing so much praise from his liberal regime, according to Ernst Stein, ‘one of the healthiest the Roman Empire ever had’.

During the campaign in Persia, initiated by the emperor from Antioch (which was the main base of operations of the Romans against the Persians), on March 5, 363, a favourable occasion was presented. Julian, who was not wearing a breastplate, fell north of Ctesiphon, on the banks of the Tigris. Why was he unarmed? Was he wounded by an enemy spear or, as some claim, from his own ranks? Nobody knew.

Libanius, who was friend of Julian, assures that the author was a man ‘who refused to render cult to the Gods’. And even a Christian historian claims that Julian died at midnight on June 26, 363, when he was thirty-two years old and had governed for twenty months, victim of an assassin in the pay of the Christians…, a hero without blemish, naturally, who ‘perpetrated this audacious action in defence of God and religion’.

The Persians argued that he could not be one of their own, because they were out of range when the emperor was wounded in the midst of his troops. ‘Only one thing is certain’, Benoist-Méchin wrote, ‘and it is that he was not a Persian’, although he does not provide any definitive proof. ‘Be that as it may’, wrote Theodoret, father of the Church, ‘was he man or angel who wielded the sword, the truth is that he acted as the servant of the divine will’.

Kriminalgeschichte, 38

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

 
First assaults on the temples

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

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

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

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

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

Hecatombs under the pious Gallus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gibbon on Julian – 16

Edward-Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXIV
The retreat and death of Julian
Part I


The philosophical fable which Julian composed under the name of the Cæsars, is one of the most agreeable and instructive productions of ancient wit. During the freedom and equality of the days of the Saturnalia, Romulus prepared a feast for the deities of Olympus, who had adopted him as a worthy associate, and for the Roman princes, who had reigned over his martial people, and the vanquished nations of the earth.

The immortals were placed in just order on their thrones of state, and the table of the Cæsars was spread below the Moon in the upper region of the air. The tyrants, who would have disgraced the society of gods and men, were thrown headlong, by the inexorable Nemesis, into the Tartarean abyss. The rest of the Cæsars successively advanced to their seats; and as they passed, the vices, the defects, the blemishes of their respective characters, were maliciously noticed by old Silenus, a laughing moralist, who disguised the wisdom of a philosopher under the mask of a Bacchanal.

As soon as the feast was ended, the voice of Mercury proclaimed the will of Jupiter, that a celestial crown should be the reward of superior merit. Julius Cæsar, Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Antoninus, were selected as the most illustrious candidates; the effeminate Constantine was not excluded from this honorable competition, and the great Alexander was invited to dispute the prize of glory with the Roman heroes. Each of the candidates was allowed to display the merit of his own exploits; but, in the judgment of the gods, the modest silence of Marcus pleaded more powerfully than the elaborate orations of his haughty rivals.

When the judges of this awful contest proceeded to examine the heart, and to scrutinize the springs of action, the superiority of the Imperial Stoic appeared still more decisive and conspicuous. Alexander and Cæsar, Augustus, Trajan, and Constantine, acknowledged, with a blush, that fame, or power, or pleasure had been the important object of their labors: but the gods themselves beheld, with reverence and love, a virtuous mortal, who had practised on the throne the lessons of philosophy; and who, in a state of human imperfection, had aspired to imitate the moral attributes of the Deity.

The value of this agreeable composition (the Cæsars of Julian) is enhanced by the rank of the author. A prince, who delineates, with freedom, the vices and virtues of his predecessors, subscribes, in every line, the censure or approbation of his own conduct. In the cool moments of reflection, Julian preferred the useful and benevolent virtues of Antoninus; but his ambitious spirit was inflamed by the glory of Alexander; and he solicited, with equal ardor, the esteem of the wise, and the applause of the multitude. In the season of life when the powers of the mind and body enjoy the most active vigor, the emperor who was instructed by the experience, and animated by the success, of the German war, resolved to signalize his reign by some more splendid and memorable achievement.

The ambassadors of the East, from the continent of India, and the Isle of Ceylon, had respectfully saluted the Roman purple. The nations of the West esteemed and dreaded the personal virtues of Julian, both in peace and war. He despised the trophies of a Gothic victory, and was satisfied that the rapacious Barbarians of the Danube would be restrained from any future violation of the faith of treaties by the terror of his name, and the additional fortifications with which he strengthened the Thracian and Illyrian frontiers. The successor of Cyrus and Artaxerxes was the only rival whom he deemed worthy of his arms; and he resolved, by the final conquest of Persia, to chastise the naughty nation which had so long resisted and insulted the majesty of Rome.

As soon as the Persian monarch was informed that the throne of Constantius was filed by a prince of a very different character, he condescended to make some artful, or perhaps sincere, overtures towards a negotiation of peace. But the pride of Sapor was astonished by the firmness of Julian; who sternly declared, that he would never consent to hold a peaceful conference among the flames and ruins of the cities of Mesopotamia; and who added, with a smile of contempt, that it was needless to treat by ambassadors, a she himself had determined to visit speedily the court of Persia. The impatience of the emperor urged the diligence of the military preparations.

The generals were named; and Julian, marching from Constantinople through the provinces of Asia Minor, arrived at Antioch about eight months after the death of his predecessor. His ardent desire to march into the heart of Persia, was checked by the indispensable duty of regulating the state of the empire; by his zeal to revive the worship of the gods; and by the advice of his wisest friends; who represented the necessity of allowing the salutary interval of winter quarters, to restore the exhausted strength of the legions of Gaul, and the discipline and spirit of the Eastern troops.

Julian was persuaded to fix, till the ensuing spring, his residence at Antioch, among a people maliciously disposed to deride the haste, and to censure the delays, of their sovereign. If Julian had flattered himself, that his personal connection with the capital of the East would be productive of mutual satisfaction to the prince and people, he made a very false estimate of his own character, and of the manners of Antioch.

The warmth of the climate disposed the natives to the most intemperate enjoyment of tranquillity and opulence; and the lively licentiousness of the Greeks was blended with the hereditary softness of the Syrians. Fashion was the only law, pleasure the only pursuit, and the splendor of dress and furniture was the only distinction of the citizens of Antioch. The arts of luxury were honored; the serious and manly virtues were the subject of ridicule; and the contempt for female modesty and reverent age announced the universal corruption of the capital of the East.

The love of spectacles was the taste, or rather passion, of the Syrians; the most skilful artists were procured from the adjacent cities; a considerable share of the revenue was devoted to the public amusements; and the magnificence of the games of the theatre and circus was considered as the happiness and as the glory of Antioch. The rustic manners of a prince who disdained such glory, and was insensible of such happiness, soon disgusted the delicacy of his subjects; and the effeminate Orientals could neither imitate, nor admire, the severe simplicity which Julian always maintained, and sometimes affected.

The days of festivity, consecrated, by ancient custom, to the honor of the gods, were the only occasions in which Julian relaxed his philosophic severity; and those festivals were the only days in which the Syrians of Antioch could reject the allurements of pleasure. The majority of the people supported the glory of the Christian name, which had been first invented by their ancestors: they contended themselves with disobeying the moral precepts, but they were scrupulously attached to the speculative doctrines of their religion. The church of Antioch was distracted by heresy and schism; but the Arians and the Athanasians, the followers of Meletius and those of Paulinus, were actuated by the same pious hatred of their common adversary.

The strongest prejudice was entertained against the character of an apostate, the enemy and successor of a prince who had engaged the affections of a very numerous sect; and the removal of St. Babylas excited an implacable opposition to the person of Julian. His subjects complained, with superstitious indignation, that famine had pursued the emperor’s steps from Constantinople to Antioch; and the discontent of a hungry people was exasperated by the injudicious attempt to relieve their distress. The inclemency of the season had affected the harvests of Syria; and the price of bread, in the markets of Antioch, had naturally risen in proportion to the scarcity of corn.

But the fair and reasonable proportion was soon violated by the rapacious arts of monopoly. In this unequal contest, in which the produce of the land is claimed by one party as his exclusive property, is used by another as a lucrative object of trade, and is required by a third for the daily and necessary support of life, all the profits of the intermediate agents are accumulated on the head of the defenceless customers. The hardships of their situation were exaggerated and increased by their own impatience and anxiety; and the apprehension of a scarcity gradually produced the appearances of a famine. When the luxurious citizens of Antioch complained of the high price of poultry and fish, Julian publicly declared, that a frugal city ought to be satisfied with a regular supply of wine, oil, and bread; but he acknowledged, that it was the duty of a sovereign to provide for the subsistence of his people.

With this salutary view, the emperor ventured on a very dangerous and doubtful step, of fixing, by legal authority, the value of corn. He enacted, that, in a time of scarcity, it should be sold at a price which had seldom been known in the most plentiful years; and that his own example might strengthen his laws, he sent into the market four hundred and twenty-two thousand modii, or measures, which were drawn by his order from the granaries of Hierapolis, of Chalcis, and even of Egypt.

The consequences might have been foreseen, and were soon felt. The Imperial wheat was purchased by the rich merchants; the proprietors of land, or of corn, withheld from the city the accustomed supply; and the small quantities that appeared in the market were secretly sold at an advanced and illegal price. Julian still continued to applaud his own policy, treated the complaints of the people as a vain and ungrateful murmur, and convinced Antioch that he had inherited the obstinacy, though not the cruelty, of his brother Gallus.

The remonstrances of the municipal senate served only to exasperate his inflexible mind. He was persuaded, perhaps with truth, that the senators of Antioch who possessed lands, or were concerned in trade, had themselves contributed to the calamities of their country; and he imputed the disrespectful boldness which they assumed, to the sense, not of public duty, but of private interest.

The whole body, consisting of two hundred of the most noble and wealthy citizens, were sent, under a guard, from the palace to the prison; and though they were permitted, before the close of evening, to return to their respective houses, the emperor himself could not obtain the forgiveness which he had so easily granted. The same grievances were still the subject of the same complaints, which were industriously circulated by the wit and levity of the Syrian Greeks.

During the licentious days of the Saturnalia, the streets of the city resounded with insolent songs, which derided the laws, the religion, the personal conduct, and even the beard, of the emperor; the spirit of Antioch was manifested by the connivance of the magistrates, and the applause of the multitude. The disciple of Socrates was too deeply affected by these popular insults; but the monarch, endowed with a quick sensibility, and possessed of absolute power, refused his passions the gratification of revenge.

A tyrant might have proscribed, without distinction, the lives and fortunes of the citizens of Antioch; and the unwarlike Syrians must have patiently submitted to the lust, the rapaciousness and the cruelty, of the faithful legions of Gaul. A milder sentence might have deprived the capital of the East of its honors and privileges; and the courtiers, perhaps the subjects, of Julian, would have applauded an act of justice, which asserted the dignity of the supreme magistrate of the republic.

But instead of abusing, or exerting, the authority of the state, to revenge his personal injuries, Julian contented himself with an inoffensive mode of retaliation, which it would be in the power of few princes to employ. He had been insulted by satires and libels; in his turn, he composed, under the title of the Enemy of the Beard, an ironical confession of his own faults, and a severe satire on the licentious and effeminate manners of Antioch.

This Imperial reply was publicly exposed before the gates of the palace; and the Misopogon still remains a singular monument of the resentment, the wit, the humanity, and the indiscretion of Julian. Though he affected to laugh, he could not forgive. His contempt was expressed, and his revenge might be gratified, by the nomination of a governor worthy only of such subjects; and the emperor, forever renouncing the ungrateful city, proclaimed his resolution to pass the ensuing winter at Tarsus in Cilicia. Yet Antioch possessed one citizen, whose genius and virtues might atone, in the opinion of Julian, for the vice and folly of his country.

The sophist Libanius was born in the capital of the East; he publicly professed the arts of rhetoric and declamation at Nice, Nicomedia, Constantinople, Athens, and, during the remainder of his life, at Antioch. His school was assiduously frequented by the Grecian youth; his disciples, who sometimes exceeded the number of eighty, celebrated their incomparable master; and the jealousy of his rivals, who persecuted him from one city to another, confirmed the favorable opinion which Libanius ostentatiously displayed of his superior merit.

The preceptors of Julian had extorted a rash but solemn assurance, that he would never attend the lectures of their adversary: the curiosity of the royal youth was checked and inflamed: he secretly procured the writings of this dangerous sophist, and gradually surpassed, in the perfect imitation of his style, the most laborious of his domestic pupils. When Julian ascended the throne, he declared his impatience to embrace and reward the Syrian sophist, who had preserved, in a degenerate age, the Grecian purity of taste, of manners, and of religion.

The emperor’s prepossession was increased and justified by the discreet pride of his favorite. Instead of pressing, with the foremost of the crowd, into the palace of Constantinople, Libanius calmly expected his arrival at Antioch; withdrew from court on the first symptoms of coldness and indifference; required a formal invitation for each visit; and taught his sovereign an important lesson, that he might command the obedience of a subject, but that he must deserve the attachment of a friend.

The sophists of every age, despising, or affecting to despise, the accidental distinctions of birth and fortune, reserve their esteem for the superior qualities of the mind, with which they themselves are so plentifully endowed. Julian might disdain the acclamations of a venal court, who adored the Imperial purple; but he was deeply flattered by the praise, the admonition, the freedom, and the envy of an independent philosopher, who refused his favors, loved his person, celebrated his fame, and protected his memory.

The voluminous writings of Libanius still exist; for the most part, they are the vain and idle compositions of an orator, who cultivated the science of words; the productions of a recluse student, whose mind, regardless of his contemporaries, was incessantly fixed on the Trojan war and the Athenian commonwealth.

Yet the sophist of Antioch sometimes descended from this imaginary elevation; he entertained a various and elaborate correspondence; he praised the virtues of his own times; he boldly arraigned the abuse of public and private life; and he eloquently pleaded the cause of Antioch against the just resentment of Julian and Theodosius. It is the common calamity of old age, to lose whatever might have rendered it desirable; but Libanius experienced the peculiar misfortune of surviving the religion and the sciences, to which he had consecrated his genius.

The friend of Julian was an indignant spectator of the triumph of Christianity; and his bigotry, which darkened the prospect of the visible world, did not inspire Libanius with any lively hopes of celestial glory and happiness.

Published in: on August 12, 2013 at 10:15 am  Comments Off on Gibbon on Julian – 16  
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