Julian and Paganism

In 361 A.D., Julian came to the imperial throne. Like everyone else in the imperial family, he was a Christian. Or so it was thought. He proclaimed that he was, in fact, a pagan.

Julian had a great love for the old ways and hoped to restore Roman greatness by restoring the pagan religion.

He did not institute a persecution, which would have been difficult in any case. Instead, he spent liberally to open and restore pagan temples and revoked all privileges of the Church.

He decreed tolerance for all Christian sects, hoping that their vehement differences would cause them to destroy each other.

His efforts did not bear fruit. He was upset to learn from pagan priests that Christian conversions were on the rise. Julian attributed this to Christian charity and good works and enjoined the pagans to do likewise.

He wrote a trace, Against the Galileans, in which he argued that Christianity was no religion at all—thus atheism—because it claimed to come from Judaism. Yet the Jews disowned it.

Why, he asked, would anyone want to follow a religion of such recent vintage rather than the ancient faith of Judaism?

These arguments led him to favor Jews at the expense of Christians. He even began a project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.

Earthquakes and mysterious explosions claimed many workers' lives and thus the project was abandoned.

Wounding of Julian

Roman Emperor Julian (331 - 363) is mortally wounded by a spear at the walls of Ctestiphon (near modern Baghdad) during a retreat from an attack on the Persians.

Wounding of Julian

Roman Emperor Julian (331 - 363) is mortally wounded by a spear at the walls of Ctestiphon (near modern Baghdad) during a retreat from an attack on the Persians.

In 363, Julian began a military campaign against the Persians. This was advised by the oracles and soothsayers and was to be a clear example of the power of the ancient gods.

It went badly from the start. At last he was forced to retreat, greatly grieved by the loss.

During the retreat, he was wounded by a spear. A later tradition, perhaps untrue, held that he said on his deathbed, "Galilean, you have won."

With Julian went his anti-Christian initiatives. All subsequent emperors were Christian.

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