Mike Aquilina

Ding Dong, the Emperor’s Dead

Monday June 26th 2006, 7:18 am

On this day in 363, the Emperor Julian — known to Christians as “Julian the Apostate” — died in battle, having failed utterly in trying to re-establish paganism in the Roman Empire. Once the classmate of St. Gregory Nazianzen, Julian was one of Christianity’s three most articulate opponents in antiquity. Readers of this blog know him well from a post last month.

Julian was creepy, of course, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the guy. Christian historians too often downplay the scandal of his early childhood, when Julian saw his father, his siblings, and other family members butchered by the ostentatiously Christian emperor, who was also Julian’s kinsman. I don’t mean to play therapist, but that sort of thing can leave one with a bad — perhaps invincibly bad — attitude about Christianity.

So I’m actually ambivalent about celebrating this one with chocolate — though I’ll likely mark the day’s main memorial (see below) with abundant confection. Maybe it’s better to pray, in hope, for deliverance of the emperor’s soul. Devout optimists may find reasons for such hope in Julian’s last recorded words.

Hat tip on the anniversary: Rogue Classicism, the keeper of the ancient calendars.