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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Julian the Apostate (361-363)


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After surviving the dangerous period of the death of his brother Gallus, slain by the orders of Constantius, Julian was called to the court at Milan for acquittal and then exiled to Athens. This city, famous for its great past, was no more than a quiet provincial town where the famous pagan school stood as a reminder of the former glorious days. Julian's stay at Athens was full of deep interest. In later life in one of his letters he recalled with great pleasure the Attic discourses the gardens and suburbs of Athens and its myrtles, and the humble home of Socrates. Many historians claim that it was during this stay in Athens that Julian was initiated by an Eleusinian hierophant into the ancient mysteries of Eleusis. This, according to Boissier, was a sort of baptism of a newly converted soul. Some scholars, however, have expressed doubt about the Eleusinian conversion of Julian.

In 355 Constantius appointed Julian to the position of Caesar, married him to his sister, Helena, and sent him as head of the army to Gaul to aid in the long and arduous campaign against the advancing Germans, who were devastating the land, ravaging the cities, and slaying the population. Julian handled the difficult task of saving Gaul very successfully and defeated the Germans near Argentoratum (later Strassburg). Julian's main seat in Gaul was in Lutetia (Lutetia Parisiorum, later Paris). At that time it was a small city on an island of the Seine, which still bears the name La Cite (Latin civitas), a city which was connected with both banks of the river by means of wooden bridges. On the left side of the Seine, already occupied by many houses and gardens, was the palace erected probably by Constantius Chlorus; the remains of it may still be seen near the Cluny Museum in Paris. Julian chose this palace as his residence. He was fond of Lutetia, and in one of his later works he recalled wintering in his beloved Lutetia.

Julian was successful in driving the Germans across the Rhine. Three times, while I was still Caesar, he wrote, I crossed the Rhine; twenty thousand persons who were held as captives on the farther side of the Rhine I demanded and received back ... I have now with the help of the gods recovered all the towns, and by that time I had already recovered almost forty. Among his soldiers Julian inspired great love and admiration.

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