THE PLATONIC PHILOSOPHER'S CREED
This exposition of the basic principles of the Platonic Philosophy is set forth in the form of a creed; but it is not meant to be regarded as a dogmatic statement which must be accepted without examination. It embodies in a concise form the essence of Plato's teaching and may thus afford a most valuable guide to students. It is based largely upon the writings of Thomas Taylor.
I. I believe in ONE FIRST CAUSE of all things, Whose Nature is infinitely transcendent and immeasurably beyond all finite speculations; Who is Super-essential, Super-vital, and Super-intelligible; Who cannot truly be named, spoken of, or conceived of by opinion or imagination.
II. I believe, however, that if it be lawful to apply names or predications concerning That Which is of necessity absolutely ineffable, then the appellations of THE ONE, THE GOOD, THE TRUE, and THE BEAUTIFUL, are of all others, the most appropriate and adapted to IT, as signifying, not only the First Principle from Which all things proceed, but also their Final Goal, and the Power by which all things consciously or unconsciously progress.
III. I believe that all things characterized by the GOOD, the TRUE, and the BEAUTIFUL, have an abiding and causal subsistence in the Supreme ONE, and, as such are transcendentally more excellent than when they are considered as effects; hence, the First Principle contains and IS all things prior to all, being exemptly transcendent, self-sufficient, self-perfect, -abiding immutably in and for Himself.
IV. I believe that the Supreme ONE not only abides, but also proceeds; that HE is not only Transcendent, but also Immanent; that all Goodness proceeds from One First Fountain of GOOD, all Beauty and beautiful objects are suspended from the One Supreme BEAUTY, all Truth finds its first and last Principles in Absolute TRUTH and all Number subsists occultly in the ONE First Monad of all.
That all principles are comprehended in this First Principle - not with interval and multitude - but as parts in One Great Whole; and that IT is not a Principle, like those that proceed from It (for of these, one is a Principle of Beauty, another of Goodness, another of Truth), but that It is simply THE PRINCIPLE - not the Principle of Being, or of Life, or of Intelligence, but the Principle of Principles, the ONE of, and in, all things, but likewise the ONE superior and prior to all.
V. I believe that all things not only abide in, and proceed from, One First Cause, but that all, likewise, consciously or unconsciously tend to return to, and remain in, That First Cause.
That all Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, having their primal causes in the First Principle, are consequently in some way connascent with It, and, in so far as they return to It, participate in an eternally increasing measure in the Supreme Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Nevertheless, that all natures, since they are produced by, and have proceeded from the Supreme Goodness, Truth, and Beauty - without, however, being immutably established Therein - possess, on this account, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, by participation.
VI. I believe that the Supreme Principle of all things produces that which is most like unto Itself, and that the Primal Emanations of the ONE (namely, "the Gods"), although They make the Unmanifest manifested, yet, at the same time, partake of the Transcendence and Immanence of the First Cause of all, and are, in reality, co-existent, co-eternal, and consubstantial Aspects of the One Supreme.
Nevertheless, since, when They are considered as causally subsisting in the Supreme, They are necessarily more excellent than when conceived of as proceeding from Him, the First Principle is very properly said to be all things, prior to all - priority, denoting exempt transcendency.
VII. I believe that the most proper mode of venerating the Great Principle of all Principles is to contemplate It in profound silence; and that in worship It should be celebrated as the GOD of all Gods, the UNITY of all Unities, the GOOD of all Goodness, the BEAUTY above all Beauty, the TRUTH in and beyond all Truth; as more ineffable than all silence and more occult than all essence; as Holy before all Holy Ones; and as eternally hidden in the Glory of His Own Progeny, the Immortal High Gods.
VIII. I believe that the Immediate Offspring, or First Manifestations of the Supreme ONE, are Self-subsistent Natures, and may with propriety be denominated the High GODS; being Ineffable Unfoldings into light of the Unfathomable and Incomprehensible ONE, but making that Great ONE manifest and conceivable.
IX. I believe that the High Gods are conceivable as a beautiful series of Principles proceeding from The Principle of All, partaking of Its ineffable Nature or Super-nature, and possessing in like manner an overflowing fullness of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty; that upon these ineffable Blossoms of Deity, the Primal Unities of Real Being, True Life, and Intellect depend; and that from these again, are suspended the Unities of the All-Soul, the All-Nature, and the All-Body; that each of these Primal and Secondary Unities is a Leader of a series which extends to the last of things; which, while it proceeds from, yet is, at the same time, causally rooted in, and tends to return again to, its leader.
Thus, all beings are comprehended in, proceed from, and return to, One First Being, Who comprehends the Realm of True Being; all lives are aspects of the One Great All-Pervading Life, Which flows from, and returns to, the Realm of True Life; all Intelligences emanate from, depend upon and tend to return to, ONE First Intellect, Who Himself comprehends the Realm of Creative Intellect; and, in like manner all Souls from One Soul, all natures from One First Nature, and all bodies from one First Body or Realm of Form.
X. I believe that there are Eternal Prototypes, or Divine Ideas, of everything subsisting perpetually according to Nature; that these Ideas are resident primarily in the Realm of True Life; that They possess a paternal, producing, preserving, connecting, and uniting power; and that They are the guarantee of the ultimate Perfection of all Secondary Natures.
XI. I believe that all Secondary Natures and Principles are produced according to the Eternal Ideas causally rooted in the Unity of True Life; that through the Unity of Divine Intelligence - called the Demiurgus - all created things are differentiations flowing perpetually from these Prototypes, and also advancing to Them, as to their own Archetypal Perfect Ideas or Ideals.
XII. I believe that the Creation of the Demiurgus, considered as a comprehensive whole, may appropriately be named the Macrocosm; that, as such, it is animated by a Divine All-Soul, and subsists in a perpetual dispersion of temporal extension, through the Principle of All-Nature, being the receptacle of all-various forms, the body of bodies, and the whole of wholes.
XIII. I believe that all the parts of the Macrocosm are differentiations of the Primal Principles of Real Being, True Life, and Intelligence, but that through their partial and secondary subsistence, they are unable to participate in a similar manner in the Perfection of their First Principles - some enjoying this in a greater and some in a lesser degree.
Hence, the Macrocosm may be considered as possessing a first, a middle, and a last part or subsistence - the first being more excellent and approaching nearer its Prototype, but the last being most removed from it, and existing sometimes according to, and sometimes contrary to, Nature - thus the circle of generation unfolds all the variety it contains, and is perpetually prolific; hence, also, all things tend to move from partial and secondary states of existence towards more complete and primary subsistences.
XIV. I believe that as the Macrocosm, considered as one Great Comprehending Whole, is characterized by all the Divine Unities which proceed from the ONE Unity or Principle of All; so, likewise, every whole which the Macrocosm contains, is itself a world possessing in the first place a Unity, a Life, and a Guiding Principle; and secondly, a particular characteristic existence, nature, and body; that each of these wholes, is, in turn, a producing cause, and may be considered as a Whole prior to the parts it contains, and to the multitude which proceeds from it, and which tends to return again to its Source.
XV. I believe that Man is a Microcosm, or little world, comprehending in himself partially and potentially everything that the Macrocosm contains totally and actually: hence, he possesses not only a Body, a characteristic and particular Nature, and a Soul, but also a Principle of Real Being, True Life, and Intelligence, from which his secondary threefold principles proceed and to which they are destined to return.
XVI. I believe that the Soul of Man is immortal, being an aspect of the Uncreated, Eternal, All-Soul of the World; that, in consequence of this, it is self-motive, subsisting between That Which is Immovable or Immutable and that which is moved, or which it moves; having, likewise, the capacity of becoming identified with either of these; hence when resting in its own Essence, it is eternal and changeless, but when identified with that which it moves, it assumes a mutable and temporal subsistence and is transitively subject to the same laws.
XVII. I believe that Man, the Microcosm, follows the same laws as those of the Macrocosm, and that in like manner the whole of his partible and secondary nature is unable to participate in perfection at once and in the same degree, but that some principles enjoy this blessedness in a greater and some in a lesser degree - some being more harmonious, and some less; but that all are moving, in spite of transitory ups and downs, towards a fuller measure of realized perfection, proceeding from potentialities to actualities.
XVIII. I believe that since Man is a Microcosm of the Macrocosm, he essentially and potentially contains, within his Eternal and Immutable Principles, all Knowledge; and hence, whatever he appears to acquire or learn, is in reality nothing more than making active and conscious that which was dormant, but latent.
XIX. I believe that the proper and true life of the Soul is eternal and infinite, and that it suffers limitation and privation when identified with the body and its secondary principles; that, consequently, while in this state, it is in a fallen condition, an apostate from Deity, an exile from Light; but that it can gain freedom from all limitations and bondage by fulfilling the purpose for which it descended into a transient existence; by the exercise of the ethical, political, cathartic, theoretic, and paradigmatic Virtues.
XX. I believe that at the death of the body, the Soul continues to subsist in other spheres of transient existence, ere it can enjoy the full blessedness of union with its First Principles; and that such future existence or existences will be punitive and purgative according to the manner in which this present existence has been passed.
XXI. Lastly, I believe that when the Soul becomes entirely liberated from the bondage of secondary natures, and has fully unfolded all its latent potentialities, it will be conjoined consciously with its First Principles, enjoying an existence superior to all limitations, governing all secondary natures, in company with those Principles by Whom it was itself produced.
PRAYERS OF THE MYSTICS
Hear us, O never-failing Light, Lord our God, the Fountain of light, the Light of Thine Angels, Principalities, Powers and of all intelligent beings; who hast created the light of Thy Saints. May our souls be lamps of Thine, kindled and illuminated by Thee. May they shine and burn with the truth, and never go out in darkness and ashes. May the gloom of sins be cleared away, and the light of perpetual faith abide within us. (Mozarabic)
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O God Who art Love, grant to Thy children to bear one another's burdens in perfect goodwill, that Thy peace which passeth understanding may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord (Book of Hours)
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O God of patience and consolation, give us such good-will, we beseech Thee, that with free hearts we may love and serve Thee and our brethren; and having thus the mind of Christ, may begin heaven on earth, and exercise ourselves therein till that day when heaven where love abideth shall seem no strange habitation to us. (Christina G.Rossetti)
Let death surprise me when it will, and where it will, I may be eumoiros, or a happy man, nevertheless. For he is a happy man, who in his lifetime dealeth unto himself a happy lot and portion. A happy lot and portion is, good inclinations of the soul, good desires, good actions. (Marcus Aurelius)
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That which most men would think themselves most happy for, and would prefer before all things, if the Gods would grant it unto them after their deaths, thou mayst whilst thou livest grant unto thyself; to live again. (ibid)
What is that that is slow, and yet quick? Merry, and yet grave? He that in all things doth follow reason for his guide. (ibid)
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It is the bounden duty of all who are not intellectually incapable of independent thought, to search out the true meaning of the doctrines they accept and the foundations of these doctrines in Reason (Rabbi Bachye)
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Since Reason obliges us to do good to all who do good to us, a recognition of the existence and unity of God, and of His beneficence, shows the duty of serving Him. (ibid)
THE EMPEROR JULIAN
Flavius Claudius Julianus was born at Constantinople on November 17th, 331 AD. He was the grandson of Constantius Chlorus and the nephew of Constantine the Great.
Upon the death of Constantine, Constantius II, his son and successor, had upon his accession ordered the massacre of all the surviving male members of the imperial family, with the exception of Julian and his elder brother Gallus, who were too young to be dangerous.
Julian's boyhood was spent in what was really captivity, although both he and Gallus were treated with the respect due to their birth and were given a good education. The two boys were brought up in the Christian religion and Julian was placed under the care of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia
onIn 35 AD Gallus was invested by the emperor with the title of Caesar and appointed governor of the East. Julian's position was now easier. He obtained more liberty and his inheritance was restored to him, but in 354 AD Gallus, whose administration had been cruel and unjust was put to death by the order of Constantius.
Julian had at first studied at Constantinople but the reputation which he acquired excited the jealousy of Constantius, and he withdrew to Bithynia and Ionia.
The disgrace and death of Gallus involved Julian in great danger. He was conveyed under a strong guard to Milan, where he lived for about seven months surrounded by spies and under the constant fear of sharing the fate of the rest of his family. At length, however, through the friendship of the empress Eusebia, whose influence counteracted to some extent that of the flatterers and informers by whom Constantius was surrounded, he obtained an interview with the emperor and having allayed his suspicions, was allowed to withdraw into private life at Athens.
Here he devoted himself to the study of the Platonic philosophy. His first teacher had been Aedesius, the successor of lamblichus. Aedesius had established a school at Pergamus in Mysia and there some of the most brilliant men of the age were among his disciples. But Aedesius was growing old and he therefore handed over the training of Julian to his two most learned pupils, Chrysanthes and Eusebius. Having been instructed by them, Julian was entrusted to the care of Maximus, who initiated him into the Mysteries at Ephesus in his twentieth year. Later, during his residence at Athens, Julian was also initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Athens was at this time the centre of Greek learning, and Julian soon obtained no small reputation as a philosopher. At the same time he became popular for his gentleness and virtue.
Among the young men with whom Julian attended lectures at Athens was Gregory Nazianzen, who afterwards became famous as a Christian orator and wrote the Invectives against Julian.
Meanwhile the anxieties of the Constantius were increasing; the empire was exposed to the invasions of the Persians and the Germans, so that at length the emperor took the advice of Eusebia and summoned Julian to Milan with the object of giving him a responsible position in the government of the empire.
Julian obeyed reluctantly; for the life of a philosopher was more to his taste than that of a ruler.
On his arrival he found himself saluted with servile respect by those who had been the murderers of his family. In accordance with custom, he ceremonially shaved his beard and exchanged the cloak of a Greek philosopher for the military garb of a Roman prince.
On November 8th 355 AD Julian was proclaimed Caesar, and was given the command of the provinces beyond the Alps.
The emperor, as a mark of his affection and trust, bestowed upon him the hand of his sister Helena in marriage.
After a short stay at the court, during which Julian found some difficulty in adapting himself to his new surroundings, he left for Gaul.
In later years he would speak with amusement of his early awkwardness and his difficulty in keeping up the weighty appearance of dignity which was expected of him.
Gaul was at this time suffering severely from the inroads of the Germans, who had crossed the Rhine and burnt many cities. After a series of campaigns in the summers of 356 and 357, Julian fought a battle against the Alemanni near Strassburg and, although outnumbered by nearly three to one, gained a great victory and captured the enemy's king.
By invasions of the territory of the Germans in 358 and 359, Julian established the peace of Gaul and rescued from the Alemanni 20,000 Roman prisoners.
The career of Julian is a remarkable proof that a real philosophic training will fit a man for any walk of life. The wisdom which he had acquired in the schools of Greece was true virtue and stood the test of practical life. He had acquired the habit of self-discipline. The luxuries and temptations of the Roman court were powerless to corrupt his character; his food and bed were not more luxurious than those of a common soldier. His capacity as an administrator was equal to his efficiency as a general, and after securing the safety of Gaul he took measures to restore her agricultural prosperity which had suffered severely through constant wars and invasions.
Nor did he neglect his philosophical studies even while on his campaigns. In the veteran general Sallust, who was his chief adviser in Gaul, he found a congenial spirit; for Sallust, too, was a philosopher as well as a soldier, and is known to us as the author of the treatise "On the Gods and the World".
Julian's popularity increased in the provinces and his fame spread over the empire. The court favourites were not slow to insinuate to Constantius that Julian was aiming at securing the empire for himself. The emperor became suspicious and planned to bring about his downfall.
In an order which reached Julian in April 360 AD, Constantius peremptorily commanded that four of Julian's best legions and a number of picked troops, the strength of the army in Gaul, should instantly begin their march from Gaul to Persia which was again threatening the eastern provinces of the empire.
Such a command was fatal both to the safety of Gaul and the discipline of the troops; for most of the auxiliaries, when entering on their voluntary service, had received a pledge that they should not be obliged to serve beyond the Alps.
Julian nevertheless prepared to obey and endeavoured to persuade the troops to do likewise. The detachments began to move amid general lamentation.
A farewell address to the departing contingent was received in dead silence. At midnight on the same evening a tumultuous crowd of soldiers, armed with drawn swords and carrying torches, invaded the palace which was Julian's headquarters at Paris and proclaimed their general emperor.
Julian resisted as long as he could, but at dawn was dragged from his apartments, carried through the streets of Paris, and clamorously saluted as emperor. His refusals and entreaties were in vain. In this time of extreme difficulty he prayed to Heaven for guidance and it is related that he received a clear sign that he should submit to be crowned. Held up high upon a shield above the shouting soldiers, he was crowned as emperor with a military collar, the best available insignia.
Julian did not wish to go to war against the emperor if it could be avoided, and he therefore despatched to Constantius a letter suggesting merely that he should be recognized officially as emperor of Gaul. Constantius, however, haughtily rejected these proposals and required Julian's complete submission. After some further ineffectual negotiations, Julian sent to the emperor a letter openly refusing to abandon his claims and, at the same time, prepared for hostilities. He did not, however, neglect the safety of Gaul and while conducting the negotiations with Constantius, continued to strike terror into the hostile Germans.
It was at this time that Julian publicly announced his adherence to the ancient religion.
Having thus irrevocably committed himself, he prepared to march against the capital. He divided his army into three parts and instructed the generals in charge of the first two divisions to meet him at Sirmium. He himself with three thousand picked men plunged into the heart of the Black Forest and, after a most rapid march over difficult and hostile territory, seized a fleet of light ships on the Danube, traversed seven hundred miles in eleven days, and arrived near Sirmium before his enemies knew that he had left the Rhine.
At Sirmium he met the other portions of his army as he had planned, and from there moved upon Constantinople. The officers of Constantius fled before him, but the inhabitants received him with joy. He sent explanatory letters to Athens, Rome, and other important cities, and was either publicly or privately acknowledged as emperor. Constantius set out from Syria to defend his capital but died suddenly on his way at Mopsucrene near Tarsus on November 3rd 361 AD.
Before his death Constantius is said to have named Julian as his successor, and thus without the necessity of a civil war Julian became undisputed master of the empire. He made a triumphal entry into Constantinople on December 11th.
A few days later the body of Constantius was landed in the harbour and Julian, clad in mourning and without his crown, accompanied the funeral on foot as far as the church of the Holy Apostles.
Remembering the teaching of Plato that the government of flocks and herds is always committed to beings of a superior species and that the rulership of nations requires the celestial guardianship of Gods and angels, Julian aspired to the highest perfection, purified his soul from anger and desire, practised the most rigorous self-control, and diligently sought to attain to greater wisdom.
He was thirty-one years old when he became emperor. One of his first acts was to reform the imperial court. Soon after his entrance into Constantinople he had occasion to send for a barber. A magnificently dressed official presented himself. "It is a barber that I want," exclaimed Julian, " not a receiver-general of the finances." He questioned the man and was informed that besides a large salary and valuable perquisites he had a daily allowance for twenty servants and twenty horses.
The entourage of Constantius had included a thousand barbers a thousand cup-bearers, and a thousand cooks, besides countless other officials who had increased their wealth by oppressing the public.
At one sweep Julian did away with all this and by a single edict dismissed the whole train and reduced the palace of Constantius to an immense desert.
He established also a tribunal of six judges to deal with all charges against the officials of Constantius.
Julian was an ardent devotee of the ancient religion with which the growing Christian Church was in conflict. The adherents of Christianity looked forward with apprehension to a renewal of the persecutions, to which they had been subjected by other non-Christian emperors. But when the control of the empire was delivered into his hands, Julian displayed a religious toleration which had seldom been equalled by his predecessors.
It was a time when religious fanaticism was common, and persecutions on both sides had increased the bitterness between the Christians and their opponents.
By a wise edict, Julian extended to all the inhabitants of the Roman world the freedom to worship as they chose, and the only hardship which he inflicted upon the Christians was to forbid them to insult their fellow-subjects by calling them idolaters and heretics.
At the same time the bishops and clergy who had been banished by the Arian Constantius were recalled from exile.
Julian also invited the leaders of the hostile sects to his palace, and endeavoured to persuade them to live together in peace. But his efforts were powerless against the fanatical zeal of the rival sectarians.
In accordance with custom, Julian assumed the office of Pontifex Maximus and became High Priest as well as emperor. He discharged its duties with enthusiasm, and endeavoured by all legitimate means to restore the religion to which he was devoted. A great revival of the ancient worship spread over the empire.
In this work he chose for his assistants those priests and philosophers whom he most admired and trusted, exhorting them in pastoral letters to keep the worship of the Gods pure from all those elements which had brought the ancient religion into disrepute.
He encouraged philosophy and learning but forbade the Christians to teach grammar and rhetoric because they had no respect for the ancient religion and its sacred names.
Shortly after his accession, Julian visited Antioch andthere made the acquaintance of the orator Libanius. Libanius became his close friend and later composed his funeral oration.
In 362 AD Julian decided to make an expedition against the Persians and set out in March of the following year.
His plans were upset by the treachery of the king of Armenia upon whose help he had counted. After capturing several cities he laid siege to Ctesiphon, but as he was unable to take it, and the expected Armenian help failed to arrive, he burnt his fleet behind him and marched into the interior of Persia in search of the main army of the Persian king.
But the advice upon which he acted had been treacherously given. As he advanced the country was laid waste before him by the Persians themselves, so that his army was in difficult straits for provisions. Julian fell back in the direction of the friendly province of Corduene.
The main army of the Persians now appeared and harassed the retreating Romans, although they were unable to stop their march. At length, as the Roman army passed through some hilly country, the Persians fell upon them front and rear.
Julian, who was always at the point of danger, hastened to the relief of the rearguard. The day being very hot he had laid aside his cuirass. As he rode along the column, the Persians charged the centre. The attack was repulsed but a javelin discharged by the flying enemy struck Julian and he fell senseless from his horse. The news of the disaster spread, but the Roman soldiers, who were deeply attached to Julian, fought with obstinate courage and when night fell the Persians abandoned the field.
But the wound of Julian was mortal. The same night, with his friends and generals around him, he died. The words of his farewell speech are recorded by Ammianus. Having distributed by a military testament the remains of his private estate, he engaged in a metaphysical argument on the immortality of the soul with the philosophers Maximus and Priscus, who were present. But his strength rapidly failed and he died without pain about midnight, on June 26th, 363 AD. He was thirty-two years old and had reigned one year and eight months. The general Jovian was chosen as his successor by the soldiers.
Something less than justice has been done by historians to the memory of Julian. His opposition to the Christian religion has been imputed to him as a vice, and yet if with his own religious convictions he had acted in any other way, he would have been untrue to his own faith.
One of the great virtues of Julian and one that is often overlooked is that although he was himself as earnestly and enthusiastically religious as any of those who opposed him, yet, while possessing every power and opportunity for oppressing and persecuting those with whom he disagreed, he used to the utmost of his power the fair and legitimate means of open argument.
In Julian's day the Christian church was already rent by schism and disturbed by fanaticism. The various sects persecuted each other with as much cruelty as had been displayed by earlier emperors against Christians in general. The manner in which the Christians spoke of the Gods of the ancient religion was to any one who believed in it blasphemous and revolting. With their intolerance, bitterness, and contempt for philosophy the Christians must have seemed to Julian to be a real danger to the peace and well-being of his empire. Constantius, too, the murderer of his relations, had been in name a Christian.
The real Christianity had nothing to fear from Julian, for the ideals towards which it leads its adherents were his own. If Julian worshipped under other names and in different formularies than the Christians, he was nevertheless a true worker to bring about upon earth that Heavenly City to which all the greatest saints, heroes and sages of all religions and all nations, have looked.
The keynote of Julian's character was enthusiasm. On his campaigns he was an active, energetic, and brilliant commander, a strict disciplinarian but one who was loved by his soldiers. As an administrator he possessed an enormous capacity for work. He was equally efficient as a priest, a prince, a general, a magistrate and an author.
He could pursue three separate trains of ideas and could write a letter, listen to a report, and dictate to a secretary at one and the same time. In one day he would give audience to ambassadors, write a great number of public and private letters, and still find time for the study of philosophy. His energy was such that his secretaries and servants had to rest on alternate days, for their strength was not equal to his.
His dress was simple, his food light and sparing, and usually of a vegetarian nature. He slept little but always spent part of the night in prayer and in the study of philosophy.
As a priest he did not despise the most humble duties connected with the worship of the Gods.
In an age of great moral corruption, he maintained an example of the most conspicuous virtue.
When acting as a judge, he was careful to obey to the letter the law as it stood, but as a legislator he laboured to make the laws better. Fifty-four of the laws which he enacted in his short reign were included in the codes of Theodosius and Justinian.
In the words of Gibbon, "he laboured to relieve the distress, and to revive the spirit of his subjects, and endeavoured always to connect authority with merit and happiness with virtue."
In the Invectives by Gregory of Nazianzen and the funeral oration by his friend Libanius, we have two widely differing portraits of Julian. Gregory's fanaticism and violent dislike leads him to the wildest falsifications, while the profound admiration of Libanius may sometimes cause him to exaggerate his praise. The main object of Gregory is to present Julian as the blackest of criminals, while Libanius labours to crown him as the greatest and most glorious of mankind.
But when the two accounts are impartially considered and compared with other sources, the real greatness of Julian becomes more and more manifest, and he emerges from the decaying splendours of Rome as one of the noblest rulers in the history of the world.
The outward form of the religion to which he had adhered had become too corrupt to survive; but the inner essence of it lived on, not in opposition to Christianity but in harmony with it, for the essential underlying principles of all particular religions are the same, whatever be the names by which the One God is worshipped.
If Julian had not been an emperor he would still have gained fame as a thinker and a writer. His works, composed in camp while on active service or in the little leisure which the administration of an empire allowed, show a powerful and active mind expressing itself with remarkable purity of style.
The works which have survived are the following:-
I. Nine Orations, or dissertations - Among these the most important are those "To the Sovereign Sun" and "To the Mother of the Gods." Both these works are most valuable contributions to theological speculation and show that Julian was a profound thinker. ~
The "Oration to the Sovereign Sun" is dedicated to his friend Sallust. "The Oration to the Mother of the Gods" was written in a single night in the winter before the Persian expedition at Pessinus, where Julian restored the temple of the Great Mother.
Proclus held the writings of Julian in high esteem and often quotes from them, sometimes referring to the emperor simply as "the theurgist".
II. Letters, of which 83, together with some fragments, remain. One of the most interesting of the letters is that addressed to the Senate and People of Athens when Julian was preparing to fight against Constantius. In this Julian relates much of his own life history and it thus forms a valuable historical
III. Other Works
I. "Caesars or the Banquet", a satyrical production which is one of the most witty and amusing of ancient compositions. Julian describes the Roman emperors, his predecessors, coming up one by one to take their places at a banquet prepared in heaven. Their faults, vices and crimes are commented upon freely by old Silenus, whereupon each defends himself as well as he can. The moral brought out is that a king who is also a philosopher is better than one who possesses physical courage only.
2. "The Citizen of Antioch or the Enemy of the Beard", another satyrical composition directed against the effeminate and luxurious Antiochans who had seriously insulted the imperial dignity by their open flouting of Julian's wishes. They had also made fun of his personal appearance and the simplicity of his way of life.
Whereas another emperor might have revenged himself by wholesale judicial murder, Julian contented himself with this mode of reply, confessing ironically in the course of it his own offences against the dictates of fashion.
IV. A Few Poems
V. Lost Works
The most important is that "Against the Christians" a work in either 3 or 7 books. A few fragments only have been preserved in Cyril's reply, for the Emperor Theodosius II ordered all the copies which could be found to be destroyed.
Other lost works include Memoirs of his Campaigns in Germany and his Journal, in which he used to record the events of each day.
All these works were composed in the space of seven years and the greater part of them during the last three years of his life, a striking testimony to the energy and industry of one of the greatest of Roman emperors.
© The Shrine of Wisdom 2001