Julian, 71

In May the plan to strike directly at Strasburg was submitted by Sallust and me to Florentius and his general, Marcellus. It was promptly dismissed. We argued. We begged. We promised victory. But they would not listen.

“We are not yet ready to commit the army to a major battle. This is not the time.” As Marcellus was provincial commander-in-chief, I was forced to obey.

“At what time,” I asked, looking about the council chamber (we were in the prefect’s palace), “will we be able to obey the Emperor and drive the Germans out of Gaul?”

Florentius was suave. His manner to me, although still condescending, was more cautious than before. Obviously, I was not to fall without careful effort on his part.

“May I propose to the Caesar a compromise?” Florentius played with a delicate purse of deerskin, containing his god, gold. “We have not the men for a major campaign. Until the Emperor sends reinforcements, which he is not apt to do this year since he is already committed on the Danube, we must confine ourselves to holding what we have, and to regaining what we can, without too much risk.”

Florentius clapped his hands, and a secretary who was squatting against a wall sprang to his feet. Florentius was most imperial in his ways, but then, praetorian prefects are important men. At this time Florentius governed Morocco, Spain, Gaul and Britain. The secretary held up a map of Gaul.

Florentius pointed to a town called Autun, just north of us. “We have received news that the town is besieged.” I almost asked why I had not been told before, but I held my tongue. “Now if the Caesar chooses, he might-with General Sallust”—Florentius addressed a small crooked smile at Sallust, whose face remained politely attentive—“relieve Autun. It is an old city. The walls were once impregnable but they are now in considerable disrepair, like nearly all our defences, I’m afraid. There is not much of a garrison but the townspeople are valiant.”

I told him quickly that nothing would please me more. I would go immediately to the relief of Autun.

“Of course,” said Florentius, “it will take several weeks to equip your troops, to assemble supplies, to…”

“One good thing,” Marcellus interrupted, “you won’t have to worry about siege engines. Even if the Germans capture the city before you get there, they won’t occupy it. They never do.”

“But what about Cologne and Strasbourg?”

“Destroyed,” said Marcellus, with almost as much pleasure as if he personally had done the destroying. “But not occupied. The Germans are frightened of cities. They won’t stay in one overnight.”

“Their custom,” said Florentius, “is to occupy the countryside around a city and starve the inhabitants. When the city finally capitulates, they burn it and move on.”

“How many troops will I be allowed?”

“We are not certain just yet. There are other… contingencies.” Florentius shifted from hand to hand the purse of gold. “But in a few weeks we shall know and then the Caesar may begin his first… Gallic war.” This jibe was crude but I had learned not to show offence.

“Then see to it, Prefect,” I said, as royally as possible, and accompanied by Sallust I left the palace.

As we walked through the city streets to my villa, not even the memory of Florentius’s contempt could shatter the delight I took in the thought of action. “Just one successful campaign and Constantius will give me the whole army!”

“Perhaps.” Sallust was thoughtful. We crossed the square, where carts from the countryside were gathering with the first of the season’s produce. Two guards followed me at a discreet distance. Though I was Caesar, the townspeople were by now quite used to seeing me wander alone in the streets and where before they had done me frightened obeisance, they now greeted me—respectfully of course—as a neighbour.

“Only….” Sallust stopped.

“Only if I have too great a victory, Constantius will see to it that I never command an army again.”


I shrugged. “I must take my chances. Besides, after the Danube, Constantius will have to face the Persians. He’ll have no choice except to trust me. There’s no one else. If I can hold Gaul, then he must let me.”

“But suppose he does not go against Persia? Suppose he moves against you?”

“Suppose I am struck dead by… that cart?” And we both leaped to the side of the road as a bullock-cart rumbled past us while its driver loudly cursed it and us and the gods who had made him late for market. “It will be all right, Sallust,” I said as we approached the villa. “I have had signs.”

Sallust accepted this, for he knew that I was under the special protection of Hermes, who is the swift intelligence of the universe.

Published in: on July 14, 2019 at 11:58 am  Comments Off on Julian, 71  

Julian, 70

The winter 355-356 was a painful one for me. I had no authority. I was ignored by the praetorian prefect. I had no duties, except to make an occasional progress through the countryside. Yet whenever I did show myself to the Gauls, I attracted large crowds. Even on the frostiest winter days, the people would come from miles around to look at me, and cheer me on. I was much moved even though I was aware that often as not they hailed me not as Julian Caesar but as Julius Caesar. Indeed, there was a legend among the peasants that the great Julius had once vowed that he would return from the grave to protect Gaul from its enemies; many thought the time had now come for the dead general to keep his promise, and that I was he.

Out of these progresses came several unexpected victories for us. One town, besieged by Germans, took heart at the presence of the Caesar, and the townspeople drove the enemy from their fields. Another town in Aquitania, defended only by old men, repulsed a German attack, shouting my name as war-cry and talisman of victory.

In Aquitania I fought my first “battle”. We were passing two abreast through a thick forest, when a band of Germans fell upon us. For a moment I was afraid my Italians would break and run. But they held their ground. That is all one needs when taken by surprise. In those first few minutes of attack an alert commander can rally his troops and strike back, if they hold fast initially.

Fortunately, we were at the forest’s edge. I ordered the men at the front to divert the Germans while the men at the rear got through the forest to the open plain. In a matter of minutes, our men were free of the woods. There were no casualties. Then, when we began to get the better of the Germans, they promptly fled: first one, then another, then several at a time.

Suddenly I heard myself shouting, “After them! Cut them off!” My troops obeyed. The Germans were now in full flight, back into the forest. “A silver piece for every German head!” I shouted. This bloodthirsty cry was taken up by my officers. It was the incentive needed. Roaring with excitement and greed, my troops fell upon the enemy. By the end of the day, a hundred German heads had been brought to me.

I have described this engagement not because it was of military importance—it was not—but because this was my first taste of battle. Unlike nearly all my predecessors (not to mention any conscientious patrician), I was quite without military experience. I had never even seen a man killed in battle. I had always preferred peace to war, study to action, life to death. Yet there I was shouting myself hoarse on the edge of a Gallic forest, with a small hill of bloody human heads in front of me. Was I sickened? or ashamed? Neither. I was excited in a way that men who choose to serve Aphrodite are excited by love. I still prefer philosophy to war, but nothing else. How I came to be like this is a mystery whose origin must be divine, determined by that fierce sun who is the genesis of all men and the protector of kings.

As we rode back to Vienne in the pale winter light, I trembled with an excitement that was close to joy, for I knew now that I would survive. Until that moment, I had not been certain of myself. For all that I knew, I might have been a coward or, worse, too paralysed by the confusion of the moment to make those swift decisions without which no battle was ever won. Yet when the shouting had begun and the blood flowed, I was exalted. I saw what had to be done with perfect clarity, and I did it.

This skirmish was not taken very seriously at Vienne. What was taken seriously, however, was the fact that Constantius had named me his fellow consul for the new year. It was his eighth consulship, my first. I was pleased, but only moderately. I have never understood why men so value this ancient title. The consul has no power (unless he also happens to be emperor), yet ambitious men will spend a fortune to be admitted to consular rank. Of course, one’s name will be known for ever, since all dates are figured by consulates. Even so, I am not much drawn to any form which has lost its meaning. Yet at my investiture, Florentius was almost civil, which was something gained. In a private meeting, he told me, “We plan an offensive in the late spring. You will, if you choose, take part.”

“As commander?”

“Caesar commands all of Gaul.”

“Caesar is most sensible of his high place. But am I to lead the armies? Am I to plan the war?”

“You will be our guide in all things, Caesar.” He was evasive. Clearly, he was not about to give up control of the province. But a beginning was made. The wall was breached. Now it was up to me to exploit this small change for the better.

When Florentius had departed, I sent for Sallust, my military adviser. He had been assigned to me when I first arrived in Gaul and I am forever in Constantius’s debt for having brought the two of us together. Sallust is both Roman soldier and Greek philosopher. What higher compliment can I give him? When we met, Sallust was in his late forties. He is tall, slow of speech but swift of mind; he comes of an ancient Roman family and like so many Romans of the aristocracy he has never wavered in his allegiance to the true gods. A close friend of such distinguished Hellenists as Symmachus and Praetextatus, he published some years ago a classic defence of our religion, On the Gods and the World. As Maximus is my guide to mysteries and Libanius my model for literary style, so Sallust remains my ideal of what a man should be.

Sallust was as pleased as I by the news. Together we studied a map of Gaul, and decided that the best move would be to strike directly at Strasbourg. This large city not only commanded a considerable part of the Rhine; it was also being used as a centre of operations by King Chnodomar. Its recapture would greatly strengthen us and weaken the enemy.

“There is a lesson in this,” said Sallust suddenly.

“In what?”

“Why are the Germans in Gaul?”

“Plunder. Desire for more territory. Why do the barbarian tribes ever move from place to place?”

“They are in Gaul because Constantius invited the tribes to help him against Magnentius. They helped him. And then they remained in Gaul.”

The point was well taken. One must never appeal for help to barbarians. Engage them as mercenaries, bribe them if that is the only way to keep the peace, but never allow a tribe to move into Roman territory for eventually they will attempt to seize what is Roman for themselves.

Even as Sallust and I were talking, Constantius was on the Danube, fighting two rebel tribes he had once allowed to settle there. Sallust then told me that there was conclusive evidence that Florentius was dealing secretly with certain of the German chiefs. Some he paid on the sly to remain where they were; others paid him not to disturb their present holdings. Carefully Sallust and I constructed our case against Florentius.

Published in: on July 7, 2019 at 12:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Julian, 69

Julian Augustus

It is not easy to understand the Gauls. Their ways are strange to us, despite their many years as Roman subjects. I think they are the handsomest of the world’s people. Both men and women are tall and fair-skinned, often with blue eyes and blond hair. They are forever washing their clothes and bodies. One can go from one end of the province to the other without seeing a man or woman in soiled or ragged clothes. Laundry hangs drying beside every hovel, no matter how poor.

But despite their beauty, they are remarkably quarrelsome. Both men and women speak with curiously loud voices, braying their vowels and sounding hard their consonants. Whenever I gave justice, I used to be deafened by the rival lawyers and claimants, all bellowing like wounded bulls.

They boast that in a fight one Gaul is worth ten Italians. I’m afraid this is true.

They love battle. They have both the strength and heart for it. And their women love fighting, too. It is not at all unusual for a Gaul in the heat of battle to call to his wife to aid him. When she does, his strength increases tenfold. With my own eyes I have seen Gallic women attack the enemy, teeth gnashing, necks corded with veins, large white arms revolving like the cross-piece of a windmill, while their feet kick like shots discharged by catapult. They are formidable.

The Gallic men take pride in military service, unlike the Italians, who think nothing of cutting off their own thumbs to thwart the state’s recruiting officers. Gauls, however, delight in blood-letting, and they would be the greatest of all soldiers but for two reasons: they do not take well to military discipline, and they are drunks. At the most inconvenient moments a commander of Gallic troops is apt to find his soldiers mad with drink, under the excuse that such and such a day is holy and must be marked with a little wine or one of those powerful drinks they brew from grain and vegetables.

I shall not describe my campaigns in Gaul, for I have already published an account of them which flatterers declare is the equal of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries. I will say that I put more care into writing about the Gallic wars than I did in fighting them! But I shall record some of the things which I could not reveal at the time.

Published in: on June 30, 2019 at 12:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Julian, 68

Constantius never meant me to take actual command of the province. I was to be a ceremonial figure, reminding the Gauls by my presence that Constantius had committed, if not a full army, at least his flesh and blood to the task of rallying a frightened people to the defence of the province. Florentius wielded all actual power. He was in direct charge of the army at Vienne and his personal courier service held together the various legions scattered about Gaul. Most of them, incidentally, were trapped in fortresses, for the Germans had laid siege to every sizeable town and military installation from the Rhine to the North Sea.

Only last year, in going through Constantius’s secret archives—a fascinating if at times depressing experience, rather like hearing what people say behind one’s back—I came across his instructions to Florentius. Now that I have read them I am more tolerant of the prefect; he was merely carrying out orders. Constantius wrote—I am paraphrasing, for the documents are all at Constantinople that this “dearly beloved kinsman the Caesar Julian” was to be looked upon as a cadet in the art of war and as a novice in the business of government. Florentius was to be that pupil’s dedicated tutor, to instruct, edify and guard him against evil companions and wrong judgments. In other words, I was to be put to school. Military matters were to be kept from me. I was to be watched for signs of ambitio, as the Romans say, a word no other language has devised, meaning that sort of worldly ambition which is injurious to the balance of the state.

My first year in Gaul did teach me a good deal, not only in the art of war but also in the arts of concealment and patience. I became a second Ulysses, hiding my time. I was not allowed to attend the military council. But from time to time I was briefed on the general military situation. I was not encouraged by what I was told. Though the army of Gaul was considerable, Florentius had no intention of committing it in battle.

We did nothing. Fortunately our enemy Chnodomar did nothing either; his promised offensive never materialized. He declared himself quite pleased to control the Rhine and our largest cities. I was eager to engage him, but I did not command a single soldier, excepting my doughty Italian bodyguard. I was also in need of money. My salary as Caesar was supposed to be paid by the quarter, but the Count of the Sacred Largesse was always late in making payments. I lived entirely on credit my first year in Gaul, and credit was not easily come by when there were daily rumours that I was in disfavour and might be recalled at any moment. I was also irritated to discover that the villa where I lived was not the palace of the Caesar but a sort of guest-house where official visitors were housed. The city palace was on the Rhone; and here Florentius and his considerable court were richly housed. He lived like the Caesar, I lived like a poor relation. But there were compensations. I had Oribasius with me, as well as Priscus, who arrived in March from Athens.

Priscus: I should add a bit to Julian’s account of his relations with Florentius. The praetorian prefect was avaricious but capable. More to the point, he was following the Emperor’s instructions to the letter. I always thought Julian was unduly bitter about him. Of course, on several public occasions the prefect humiliated him. I remember one military review when there was no place for Julian on the dais. So the Caesar was forced to watch “his” troops from the crowd, surrounded by old women selling sausages. That was probably Florentius’s revenge for Julian’s behaviour at their first meeting.

To Constantius’s credit… why is one always trying to find good things to say about the bad? Is it our uneasy knowledge that their version of us would be precisely the same as ours of them, from another viewpoint and a conflicting interest? In any case, Constantius was perfectly correct in not allowing a youth with no military or administrative experience to take over the direction of a difficult war which older and supposedly wiser soldiers had nearly lost. No one could have known then that Julian was a military genius, except possibly himself. I almost find myself believing in that Helios of his when I contemplate his Gallic victories.

But at this time he lived much as a student in the villa next to the city wall. His “court”, as it had to be termed, was no more than a hundred people, counting slaves. We dined meagrely. There was never enough wine. But the conversation was good. Oribasius kept us all amused as well as healthy. He was, even then, compiling remedies from every witch he could find, and trying them out on us. Eutherius was also an amiable companion.

I note with some amusement that though Julian mentions specifically my joining him at Vienne, he says nothing of the far more important person who arrived at the new year: his wife Helena. I was not present when she came to Vienne but I am told that she arrived with a luxurious suite of hairdressers, seamstresses, cooks, eunuchs, and wagon-loads of fine clothes and jewels. I don’t think she ever got over the shock of that cold depressing villa. But Julian was always very kind to her, though somewhat absent-minded. He would start to leave table without her, or openly make plans for a visit to a near by town and then forget to include her in the arrangements. I think she liked him a good deal more than he liked her. Not that he disliked her; rather, he was profoundly indifferent. I doubt if he performed his conjugal duties often. Even so, she was twice pregnant in the four years they were married.

My chief memory of Helena is her valiant attempts not to look bored when Julian was talking excitedly about those things which interested him and mystified her. Fortunately, she had learned the royal art of yawning without opening the mouth; but if one watched her very carefully, whenever there was talk of Plato or lamblichos or you, my dear Libanius (great triad!), one could see her nostrils dilate suspiciously from time to time. I am certain that we literally bored Helena to death.

Libanius: I cannot imagine anyone finding it remarkable that Julian should speak of Plato, Iamblichos and myself as being of a quality. But one can always trust Priscus to be envious. “Great triad!” indeed! Simply because he has failed as a philosopher and a teacher, he would like to bring down all his contemporaries to his own level. Well, he will fail in that, too.

Published in: on June 16, 2019 at 9:08 am  Comments Off on Julian, 68  

Julian, 67

The next morning we continued our journey. The weather in the mountains was not yet cold, nor was there any snow except on the highest slopes. Even the soldiers, a remarkably complaining lot of Galileans, admitted that God must be with us. He should have been: they prayed incessantly. It was all they were good for.

When we crossed into Gaul, an interesting thing happened. All up and down our route my coming had been excitedly reported, for I was the first legitimate Caesar to be seen in Gaul in many years. I say “legitimate” because Gaul, traditionally, is the place for usurpers. There had been three in a decade. Each had worn the purple. Each had minted coinage. Each had accepted the oath of fealty. Each had been struck down by Constantius or fate. Now a true Caesar was at last in Gaul, and the people took heart.

Early one evening we entered our first Gallic village, set high in the mountains. The villagers were gathered along the main street to cheer me. As decoration, they had tied many wreaths of fir and pine between the houses on either side of the road. As Hemes is my witness, one of the wreaths broke loose and fell upon my head, where it fitted as close as a crown. I came to a dead halt, not certain what had happened. My first reaction was that I had been struck by a branch. Then I raised my hand and felt the wreath. The villagers were wide-eyed. Even my slovenly troops were impressed. Eutherius who was beside me murmured, “Even the gods mean for you to be crowned.”

I did not answer him, nor did I remove the wreath. Pretending that nothing had happened, I continued through the village while the inhabitants cheered me with a new intensity.

Oribasius said, “By tomorrow everyone in Gaul will know of this.”

I nodded. “And by the next day Constantius will know.” But even this thought could not depress me. I was now in a fine mood, reflecting the brilliant winter day, not to mention the love the gods had shown me.

My passage through the Gallic towns was triumphal. The weather held until we arrived at the gates of Vienne. Then black clouds rolled out of the north and a sharp wind blew. One could smell snow upon the air. Bundled in cloaks, we crossed the winterblack Rhone and entered the city at about the third hour. Cold as it was, the streets were crowded and once again there was the remarkable response. I could not understand it. Constantius inspired awe and fear, but I seemed only to evoke love… I do not mention this out of vanity but only as a puzzling fact. For all these people knew, I might be another Gallus. Yet there they were, cheering me as though I had won some important battle or increased the supply of grain. It was inexplicable but exhilarating.

Just as I came opposite the temple of Augustus and Livia, an old blind woman was thrust forward by the crowd. She fell against my horse. Guards pushed her back; she fell again. “Help her,” I ordered.

They got her to her feet. In a loud voice she asked, “Who is this?” Someone shouted, “It is the Caesar Julian!” Then she raised her blind eyes to heaven and in the voice of a Pythoness proclaimed, “He will restore the temples of the gods!” Startled, I spurred my horse through the crowd, her words still ringing in my ears.

I met Florentius in the main hall of the palace, which was to be my residence, though “palace” was hardly the word for this not very large villa. Florentius received me courteously. Yes, he received me, rather than the other way around, and he made it perfectly clear from the beginning that this was his province, not mine, even though I was Caesar and he merely praetorian prefect.

“Welcome to Gaul, Caesar,” he said. as we saluted one another. He had not thought it worth while to call in the city’s magistrates or, for that matter, any officials. Several military men attended him, and that was all. Oribasius was my only attendant.

“A warm welcome for a cold season, Prefect,” I said. “The people at least seem pleased that I have come.” I stressed the “at least”.

All of us are pleased that Augustus has seen fit to elevate you and to send you to us as a sign of his interest in the matter of Gaul.” Florentius was a small swarthy man with sharp features. I particularly recall his sinewy forearms, which were black with hairs, more like a monkey’s than a man’s.

“Augustus will indeed be pleased to learn that you approve his actions,” I said dryly. Then I walked past him to where the room’s single chair was placed on a small dais. I sat down. I could see this had some effect. The military men exchanged glances. Florentius, however, was imperturbable, even though I was sitting in his chair.

“Present the officers, Prefect.” I was as cool as my disposition ever allows me to be.

Florentius did so. The first officer was Marcellus, chief of staff of the army of Gaul. He saluted me perfunctorily. The next officer was Nevitta, a powerfully built Frank, blue-eyed, loud-voiced, a remarkable commander who serves with me now in Persia. But that day in Vienne, he treated me with such obvious disdain that I realized I would have to respond in kind, or lose all pretence of authority. Either I was Caesar or I was lost.

I turned to Florentius. I spoke carefully. “We are not so far from Milan that the respect due to the Caesar can be omitted. Field conditions do not prevail in a provincial capital, despite the reverses of our armies on the Rhine. Instruct your officers, Prefect, in their duty to us. Show them by your example what we are.” Constantius could not have done it better, and in truth I meant every word of this arrogant speech. I was convinced that I had come to Gaul to die, and I meant to die in the most honourable way possible, upholding to the end the great title that was mine.

Florentius looked astonished. The officers looked frightened. Oribasius was impressed… curious how much we enjoy those rare moments when we can by some public act impress an old friend.

In his confusion, Florentius took too long to react. So in careful imitation of Constantius, I raised my right arm and pointed with forefinger to the floor in front of me, and in a hard voice said, “We wear the purple.”

The military men with a clatter of armour dropped to their knees. Florentius, with a look of singular venom, followed suit. He kissed the robe. With that gesture, hostilities between us began. They were to continue for five years.

Published in: on June 9, 2019 at 10:24 am  Comments Off on Julian, 67  

Why pay attention to Game of Thrones?

Normies don’t read The Occidental Observer or Counter-Currents. I remember so well Andrew Hamilton complaining in the latter webzine that comparatively so few read his articles.

After the finale of Game of Thrones Alt-Right folks are complaining that only classic books or films prior to the 1960s are valid forms of escapism. They completely fail to notice that Ivanhoe, a historical novel remarkable because its sympathetic portrayal of Jewish characters, was published by Sir Walter Scott in 1819. The novel, authored by the non-Jew Scott (raised a Presbyterian but adhered to the Scottish Episcopal Church) started to idealise the subversive tribe in the popular mind.

Remember the point of view of this site: Christianity and the Jewish Problem are one and the same. At the other side on the Atlantic über-cuck Lew Wallace published in 1880 Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It is considered the most influential Christian book of the 19th century and became a bestseller surpassing another über-cuck author in sales (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Ben-Hur remained at the top of the US all-time bestseller list until the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind the next century.

Debunking pop culture is more important than debunking Das Kapital.

Published in: on May 20, 2019 at 2:24 pm  Comments (5)  

Julian, 66



At Turin, as I received city officials in the law court, a messenger arrived from Florentius, the praetorian prefect of Gaul. The prefect thought that the Caesar should know that some weeks ago Cologne had fallen to the Germans, and the Rhine was theirs. The military situation was, Florentius wrote with what almost seemed satisfaction, grave. The German King Chnodomar had sworn to drive every Roman from Gaul within the year. This was the bad news Constantius had not told me.

While the reception continued, Oribasius and I withdrew to the prefect’s office to study the report. For some inexplicable reason the only bust to adorn the room was that of the Emperor Vitellius, a fat porker who reigned several months in the year of Nero’s death. Why Vitellius? Was the official a descendant? Did he admire the fat neck, the huge jowls of the man who was known as the greatest glutton of his day? To such irrelevances does the mind tend to fly in moments of panic. And I was panicky.

“Constantius sent me here to die. That’s why I was given no army.”

“But surely he doesn’t want to lose Gaul.”

“What does he care for Gaul? As long as he can have his court, his eunuchs, his bishops, what more does he need?” This was not accurate; in his way, Constantius was a patriot. But in my bitterness there was no stopping me. I denounced Constantius recklessly and furiously. I committed treason with every breath. When I had finished, Oribasius said, “The Emperor must have a plan. It can’t be that simple. What are those instructions he gave you?”

I had forgotten all about the packet I had been given on the road to Turin. It was still in my wallet. Eagerly, I undid the fastenings. I read quickly, with growing astonishment. “Etiquette!” I shouted finally, throwing the document across the room. “How to receive an ambassador. How to give a dinner party. There are even recipes!” Oribasius burst out laughing, but I was too far gone to find any humour in the situation.

“We’ll escape!” I said at last.

“Escape?” Oribasius looked at me as if I had gone mad.

“Yes, escape.” Curious… I never thought I would be able to write any of this. “We can desert together, you and I. It will be easy. Nothing but a piece of cloth to throw away.” I tugged at the purple that I wore. “Then we let our beards grow, and back to Athens. Philosophy for me, medicine for you.”

“No.” He said it flatly.

“Why not? Constantius will be glad to see the end of me.”

“But he won’t know it’s the end of you. He’ll think you have gone to plot against him, raise an army, become usurper.”

“But he won’t find me.”

Oribasius laughed. “How can you hide in Athens? Even with a new beard and student’s clothes, you are the same Julian everyone met a few months ago with Prohaeresius.”

“Then it won’t be Athens. I’ll find a city where I’m not known. Antioch. I can hide in Antioch. I’ll study with Libanius.”

“And do you think Libanius could hold his tongue? His vanity would betray you in a day.”


I shall say here that I never found Oribasius particularly sympathetic. Apparently, he felt the same about me. He is of course very famous nowadays (if he is still alive); but medical friends tell me that his seventy-volume encyclopedia of medicine is nothing but a vast plagiarism from Galen. After Julian’s death, he was exiled and went to the court of Persia, where I am told he is worshipped by the Persians as a god; he must have enjoyed this, for he was always vain. Also avaricious: he once charged me five gold solidi for a single treatment for gout. I could not walk for a month after.

Julian Augustus

“Then I shall find a city where no one has ever seen me or heard of me.”

“Farthest Thule. Wherever you go, officials will know who you are.”

Complete disguise? A new name?”

“You forget the secret agents. Besides, how will you live?”

“I can teach, become a tutor…”

“A slave.”

“If necessary, why not? In a proper household, a slave can be happy. I could teach the young men. I would have time to write, to lecture…”

“From the purple to a slave?” He said it with slow cold wonder.

“What do you think I am now?” I exploded. I raged. I lamented. When I finally stopped for lack of breath, Oribasius said, “You will continue into Gaul, Caesar. You will put down the German tribes, or die in the attempt.”


“Then be a slave, Julian.” It was the first time he had called me by my name since I had been raised to Caesar. Then he left me alone in the office, where I sat like a fool, mouth aiar, the hog-like face of Vitellius peering at me from above the doorway… even after three centuries in stone, he looked hungry.

I folded the letter into many squares, each smaller than the other. I thought hard. I prayed to Hermes. I went to the latticed windows and looked for the sun, my peculiar deity. I searched for a sign. At last it came. From the setting sun, light suddenly shone in my face. Yes, out of the west where Gaul was, Helios blazed darkgold in my eyes. I was to follow my god, and if death was what he required of me, then that would be my offering. If victory, then that would be our glory. Also, it was perfectly plain that I could not escape even if I wanted to. I had indeed been seized by purple death.

I returned to the citizens of Turin as though nothing had happened. As I received their homage, Oribasius looked at me questioningly. I winked. He was relieved.

Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 10:28 am  Comments (20)  

Julian, 65

At dawn on the first of December I left Milan for Gaul. I said farewell to Helena, who was to join me later at Vienne. We both behaved according to the special protocol the eunuchs have devised governing a Caesar’s farewell to his new wife as he goes to a beleaguered province. Then, accompanied by the newly arrived Oribasius, I went down to the courtyard of the palace to place myself at the head of my army.

Outside in the frosty air, some three hundred foot soldiers and a score of cavalry were drawn up. I took this to be my personal bodyguard. I was about to ask the whereabouts of the army of Gaul when I was joined by Eutherius. He was frowning. “I’ve just spoken to the Grand Chamberlain. There has been a last-minute change in plans. Your legions have been assigned to the Danube.”

I indicated the men in the courtyard. “Is this my army?”

“I am afraid so, Caesar.”

I have never in my life been so angry. Only the arrival of Constantius prevented me from saying the unsayable. I saluted the Emperor; gravely, he returned the salute. Then he mounted a black horse and I mounted a white one. His personal guard (twice the size of my “army”) fell into place behind him. My troops and household brought up the rear. Thus the Augustus and his Caesar launched the power of Rome against the barbarians. It was ludicrous.

The few citizens who were up and around at this hour cheered us dutifully. We made a particularly fine impression at the vegetable market which is just inside the city gate. The farm women waved their carrots and turnips at us, and thought us a brave sight.

Neither Constantius nor I spoke until we were out on the main road, the high Alps visible to us across the Lombard Plain. He had agreed to escort me as far as the two columns which stand on either side of the road midway between Lumello and Pavia. He had obviously decided this would give us sufficient time for a good talk. It did.

Constantius began with, “We have great confidence in Florentius, our praetorian prefect at Gaul.” This was an announcement; there was no invitation for me to comment.

Of course he has confidence in Florentius, I thought savagely, otherwise he would have had him murdered by now. But I said, “Yes, Augustus.” And waited. We rode a few more yards. Occasionally, our armoured legs touched, metal striking metal, and each would shrink instinctively from the other. The touch of another man has always disturbed me; the touch of my father’s murderer alarmed me.

We passed a number of carts containing poultry; they had pulled off the road at our approach. When the peasants saw the Emperor, they fell fiat on their bellies, as though blinded by the sight of that sacred figure. Constantius ignored them.

“We are fond of our sister Helena.” This was also launched upon the dry cool air in an oracular tone.

“She is dear to me, too, Augustus,” I replied. I was afraid he was going to lecture me on my marital duties, but he made no further mention of Helena.

Constantius was constructing a case. His occasional fiat sentences, suitable for carving in marble, were all part of an edifice created to contain me. I was to obey the praetorian prefect of Gaul, even though as Caesar I was his superior. I was to remember that Helena’s first loyalty was to her brother and ruler, not to her husbafid. So far, I understood him clearly.

“We have heard from your military instructor that you show promise.”

“I shall not fail you, Augustus. But it was my understanding that I was to go to Gaul with an army, not an escort.”

Constantius ignored this. “You have come to soldiering late. I hope you are able to learn what you will need to know.”

This was not optimistic, but not unnatural. There was no reason for anyone to suspect that a philosophy student should show any talent for war. Curiously enough, I had every confidence in myself because I knew that the gods would not desert me now they had raised me up. But my cousin had no way of knowing my feelings, or judging my capacity. He merely saw a young untried soldier about to go into battle against the fiercest fighters in the world.

“At all times remember that we are divine in the eyes of the people and sacred to heaven.”

I took the “we” to mean Constantius and myself, though he may have been merely reminding me of his own rank. “I shall remember, Augustus.” I always called him by his proper title, though he much preferred Lord, a title I despise and do not use for it means that one is the master of other men, rather than simply first among them.

“Control your generals.” Though he still sounded as if he were repeating maxims, I could tell that now he was on the verge of actual advice, if not conversation. “No officer should be admitted to senatorial rank. All officers must be under strict civilian control. Any governor of any province outranks any general sent to him. No officer must be allowed to take part in civil affairs. Our praetorian prefects are set over all military and civil officials. That is why the administration of the empire runs as smoothly as it does.”

Needless to say, I did not remark that the collapse of Gaul was hardly a sign of smooth administration. But in principle Constantius’s advice was good and I tend still to follow it. There is no denying that he had a gift for administration.

“In matters of taxes, take whatever is owing us. Show no mercy to the cities and villages which are delinquent in meeting payments. It is their nature to complain. Assume that your tax gatherers are honest unless proved otherwise. They are never honest, but no one has yet found a way to correct their abuses. As long as they return to you the larger part of what they collect, be satisfied.”

I was later to revise the system of taxation in Gaul, disproving everything he said. But all that in its proper place.

“Control the generals.” He repeated this suddenly as if he’d forgotten he had already said it to me. Then he turned and looked at me for the first time that day. It was startling. No longer was he the sun god on his charger. This was my cousin, my enemy, my lord, source of my greatness and potential source of my death. “You must know what I mean,” he said, sounding like a man, not an oracle. “You have seen the state disrupted. Our high place threatened. Provinces wrecked. Cities destroyed. Armies wasted. The barbarians seizing our lands, because we were too busy fighting one another to protect ourselves from the true enemy. Well, Caesar, remember this: allow no general sufficient power to raise an army against you. You have seen what I have had to suffer. Usurper after usurper has wasted our power. Be on your guard.”

“I will, Augustus.”

Then he said, very slowly, his eyes on mine, “As I am on my guard.” He looked away when he saw that his meaning was quite clear. Then he added for good measure, “We have never yet lost so much as a foot of earth to any usurper, nor will we ever.”

“As long as I live, Augustus, you shall have at least one arm to fight for you.”

We rode until midday. Then at the two columns we stopped. It was a fine brisk noon and, despite the chill in the air, the sun was hot and we were all sweating under our armour. A halt was ordered.

Constantius and I dismounted and he motioned for me to accompany him into a hard stubbled field. Except for our troops, no one was in sight. In every country peasants vanish when they see armed men coming: all soldiers are the enemy. I wish one could change that.

Constantius walked ahead of me towards a small ruined shrine to Hermes which stood at the edge of the field (a favourable omen, Hermes has always watched over me). Behind us, our men watered horses, rearranged armour, swore and chattered, pleased by the good weather. Just as Constantius entered the shrine, I broke a dead flower off its stalk. Then I followed him inside the shrine, which smelled of human excrement. Constantius was urinating on the floor. Even in this, he was grave and majestic.

“It is a pity,” I heard myself saying, aware as I spoke that I was breaking protocol, “what has happened to these old temples.”

“A pity? They should all be torn down.” He rearranged his clothes. “I hate the sight of them.”

“Of course,” I muttered.

“I shall leave you here,” he said. We stood facing one another. Though I deliberately stooped, I could not help but look down on him. He edged away from me, instinctively searching for higher ground.

“Whatever you need, you shall have. Call on me. Also, depend on our praetorian prefect. He represents us. You will find the legions of Vienne alert, ready for a spring campaign. So prepare yourself.”

He handed me a thick document. “Instructions. To be read at your leisure.” He paused. Then he remembered something. “The Empress has made you a gift. It is with your baggage. A library, I believe.”

I was effusive in my gratitude. I said words but Constantius did not listen. He moved to the door. He paused; he turned; he tried to speak to me. I blushed. I wanted to reach out and take his hand and tell him not to fear me, but I did not dare. Neither of us was ever able to face the other.

When Constantius finally spoke, his voice broke with tension. “If this should come to you…” Awkwardly he gestured at himself to indicate the principate of the world. “Remember…” Then his voice stopped as if a strangler’s thumb had blocked the windpipe. He could not go on. Words had failed him again, and me.

I have often wondered what it was he meant to say; what it was I should remember. That life is short? Dominion bitter? No. Constantius was not a profound man. I doubt if he had been about to offer me any startling insight. But as I think back on that scene in the ruined shrine (and I think of it often, I even dream of it), I suspect that all he meant to say was, “Remember me.” If that is what you meant, cousin, then I have, in every sense, remembered you.

Constantius left the shrine. As soon as his back was to me, I placed the withered flower on the profaned floor and whispered a quick prayer to Hermes. Then I followed the Emperor across the field to the road.

Once mounted, we exchanged formal farewells, and Constantius rode back to Milan, the dragon banner streaming in the cool wind before him. We never saw one another again.

Julian, 64

Editor’s note: ‘“Helena has her own money,” said Eusebia sharply. “She should use it. She owns half of Rome”,’ wrote Gore Vidal. When Rome was healthy, women could own no more than an ounce of gold. But in imperial times, especially after Christian takeover, in addition to the Imperial Church feminism undermined the hard Roman ethos of the now gone Republic. (See my first comment below, in the comments section.)

My wedding day… what a strange thing for a celibate to write! It seems impossible now that I could ever have been a husband. Yet I became one on 13 November 355. I shall not describe the atrocious Galilean rites. It is enough to say that I endured them, heavy with purple and glittering with state jewels which I later sold in Gaul to buy soldiers.

After the ceremony, there were the usual celebrations and games in our honour. Helena delighted in all the panoply of rank; in this she resembled her brother. I was merely dutiful and did what was expected of me. A few days after the ceremony I was summoned to an audience with Eusebia.

“What do you think of the world now?” Eusebia’s eyes gleamed with mischief.

“I owe it all to you,” I said warmly.

“And how do you find Helena?”

“She is my wife,” I said formally; again the conspiratorial look.

“She is very… handsome,” said Eusebia, with an edge of malice.

“Noble, I should say.” I almost burst out laughing. But there is a rule to these games.

“You will leave soon.”

“I’m glad,” I said. Then added, “Not that I look forward to leaving…” I could not say “you” so I said “Milan”.

She shook her head. “This is not your sort of place. It’s not mine either, but…” She left what was serious unsaid. Then: “You will go into winter quarters at Vienne. Money…”

“Will be scarce.” The Grand Chamberlain had already told me that I would have to maintain myself and household on my salary as Caesar. Additional funds could not be granted at this time.

“Luckily, you are frugal.”

“Helena is not.”

“Helena has her own money,” said Eusebia sharply. “She should use it. She owns half of Rome.”

I was relieved to hear this, and said so.

“It is my hope,” said Eusebia, “that you will soon have a son, not only for yourself but for us.”

I admired her boldness. This was the one thing Eusebia did not want me to have, since it would endanger her own position. Rather than accept my son as his heir, Constantius was capable of divorcing Eusebia and taking a new wife who could give him what he most desired.

“It is my hope,” I answered evenly, “that you will be blessed with many children.”

But she did not believe me either. The interview now turned painful. No matter what either of us said, it sounded false. Yet I believe she did indeed wish me well, except in that one matter.

Finally, we got off the subject and she revealed to me the state of Constantius’s mind. “I speak to you candidly.” An admission that neither of us had been speaking candidly before. The sad face looked sadder still, while her long hands nervously fingered the folds of her robe. “He is divided. He cannot make up his mind about you. Naturally, there are those who tell him that you wish to overthrow him.”

“Not true!” I began to protest, but she stopped me.

“I know it is not true.”

“And it never will be true!” I believed myself.

“Be tolerant. Constantius has had to face many enemies. It is only natural that he fear you.”

“Then why won’t he let me go back to Athens, where I am no danger?”

“Because he needs you more than he fears you.” She looked at me, suddenly frightened. “Julian, we are in danger of losing all Gaul.”

I stared at her dumbly.

“This morning Constantius had a message from the praetorian prefect at Vienne. I don’t know what it said. But I suspect the worst. We have already lost the cities of the Rhine. Should the Germans attack this winter, it is the end of Gaul, unless…” She held her hand above the flame of the alabaster lamp. The flesh glowed. “Julian, help me!” For a stupid moment I thought she had burned her hand. “You must be loyal to us. You must help us!”

“I swear by all the gods, by Helios, by…”

She stopped me, unaware that in my sincerity I had sworn by the true gods. “Be patient with him. He will always be suspicious of you. That is his nature. But as long as I live, you are safe. If something should happen to me…” This was the first inkling I had that Eusebia was ill. “Be loyal to him anyway.”

I forget what I said. Doubtless more protestations of loyalty, all sincere. When I rose to go, she said, “I have a gift for you. You will see it on the day you leave.”

I thanked her and left. Despite all that Eusebia did to hurt me in the next two years, I still love her. After all I owe her not only the principate but my life.

Published in: on April 21, 2019 at 11:02 am  Comments (6)  

Julian, 63

Editor’s note: ‘Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey’ wrote Gore Vidal below referring to Paul, of Constantius’ secret service.

Although Julian is only a novel, the author knew that the Roman courts after Constantine were plagued with Semites (as the secret service after Lenin was plagued with Jews): something that most white nationalists are still unwilling to acknowledge.

Vidal wrote:

______ 卐 ______

My first act as Caesar was to send for Oribasius, who was at Athens. He had arrived there only a week after my recall. I also wrote Maximus and Priscus, inviting them to join me. Meanwhile, I continued military practice. I also learned as much as possible about the administration of Gaul.

During this time I saw none of the imperial family, including my soon-to-be wife. Yet the day of the wedding had been set and the inevitable documents were brought to me to be studied. I was given a meticulous ground plan of the chapel and my position from moment to moment during the ceremony was precisely traced.

I had but one friend at court, Eutherius, the Armenian eunuch who had taught me at Constantinople. Every evening we would study various documents and memoranda. It was his task, he said, to make an administrator of me.

The night before my wedding, Eutherius came to me with the news that I was to leave for Gaul the first week in December.

“To what city?”

“Vienne. You’ll be there for the winter. Then in the spring you will take the field.” He looked at me closely. “Does it seem strange to you to be a general?”

“Strange!” I exploded. “Insane!”

He raised his hand in some alarm, indicating the shadows where guards stood and informers listened, always hopeful of catching me at treason.

I lowered my voice. “Of course it is strange. I’ve never seen a battle. I’ve never commanded a single soldier, much less an army. But…”


“But l’m not afraid.” I did not say what I really felt: that I looked forward to military adventures.

“I am relieved.” Eutherius smiled. “Because I have just been appointed grand chamberlain at the court of the Caesar Julian. I go with you to Gaul.”

This was marvellous news. I embraced him warmly, babbling happily until he was forced to say, “Roman gravity, Caesar. Please. You are far too Asiatic.”

I laughed. “It can’t be helped, I am Asiatic…”

Suddenly, Eutherius was on his feet. With a speed which I would not have thought possible for one of his age, he darted into the shadowed archway just opposite us. A moment later he reappeared with a dark, richly dressed man.

“Caesar,” said Eutherius with grim ceremony, “allow me to present Paul, of the secret service. He has come to pay your greatness homage.”

I was hardly startled. I had been under surveillance all my life. The presence of the government’s chief secret agent merely reminded me that the higher I rose the more important it was for Constantius to have me watched.

“We are always pleased to receive the Emperor’s agents,” I said politely.

Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey. He bowed. He spoke with a slight Spanish accent. “I was on my way to the east wing. To report to Rufinus, the praetorian prefect.”

“This is not the usual way to the east wing,” said Eutherius amiably.

“What can I say?” Paul spread his hands, bird’s talons ready to seize.

“You can say good night, Paul, and report to the praetorian prefect that you heard nothing useful,” I said.

Paul bowed. “I report only what I hear, Caesar.” He was carefully insolent.

“Stay longer,” I said, “and you will hear the beginning of your death.”

That shook him, though my boldness was perfect bluff. I had no power. One word from him and I could be brought down. Yet I knew that if I was to be Caesar I would have to assert myself or earn the fatal contempt of eunuchs and spies. Paul withdrew.

I turned to Eutherius. “Was I too Asiatic?” I teased him, though my heart pounded.

He shook his head. “Perhaps that is the wisest way to handle him. Anyway, you are safe for the moment.”

“But he is constructing one of his chains.”

“Perhaps he will trap himself.”

I nodded. Paul had been a prime mover in the plot which had destroyed my brother. That night in the palace at Milan I began my own plot.

Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 10:07 am  Comments Off on Julian, 63