Posted by: ken98 | January 21, 2010

The Dangers of a Humorous Emperor, and Julian Wagers All on One Desperate Chance

Day 132 – Ken here (Th)(1-21-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.22, pp.840-850)

We continue with the story of the emperor Julian – for the next 3 chapters we will move almost in slow-motion as Julian has a wealth of source material and Gibbon is endlessly fascinated by the young, short-lived pagan emperor.

The Story
 
Julian’s Negotiations with Constantius fails

  • Julian sends messengers with his proposal for joint co-augustus-ship – they are mysteriously delayed by provincial governors, imperial post, etc – news reaches Constantius first by means of rumor – Constantius is furious
  • Both Eusebia (wife of Constantius) and Helena (daughter of Constantius, wife of Julian) have died, so his intimate supporters at court are few and unpowerful
  • Constantius demands total subjection in a sarcastic and violent letter – Julian refuses, prepares for war
  • Constantius incites the Germans of Gaul to invade the empire (this is bad stuff indeed – no wonder all of the West will be lost in just under 40 years)
  • Gibbon notes – Julian celebrates the Epiphany for the last time in 361, after he receives Constantius’ letter, he announces the end of his friendship with Constantius in a a circular letter and places his fortune in the LAPS OF THE GODS – Julian is now pagan and apostate
  •  
    Julian moves on Constantius – the Illyricum marches

  • Julian’s only hope is to move quickly, take the empire, and return before the Germans have had time to attack properly (if Germans can be said to attack properly – wildly, passionately and successfully, yes, but not properly)
  • Unluckily for Julian, Constantius is given a reprieve in his wars with Sapor and Persia, Constantius pulls out his elite forces from the Eastern front and turns on Julian
  • Julian with hardly any legions (approx 15,000 men) needs speed and surprise to gain momentum in his (admittedly weak) bid for the emperorship – he moves on Illyricum for the soldiers, mines (money) and ease of access into Constantinople
  • Separating his forces, he makes a blitzkrieg dive through barbarian german and roman territory over the top of Illyricum down the Danube to take the important imperial city of Sirmium – he is acclaimed all along the Danube and accepts the surrender of Sirmium
  • Julian sends circular letters to all the chief cities of the empire with copies of Constantius private correspondence with Julian (a very Roman, republican thing to do). He pays especial care to plead his case most humbly and eloquently to both the Senates of Rome AND OF ATHENS (he is nothing, but a gentleman, and a Roman, and a pagan, and a man who should have been living 100 to 200 years earlier). I’m sure he sent one to Constantinople, but Gibbon doesn’t mention it
  • All of Italy follows Rome’s lead – Julian has Italy
  •  
    Constantius moves on Julian – and dies

  • Constantius contemptuous of Julian – refers to maneuvers against Julian as a “hunting party”
  • Aquileia is taken by an archer regiment loyal to Constantius – (Aquileia is in N. Italy in Julian’s rear, so Julian could lose all Italy as Aquileia is arguing to all Italy to resume their allegiance to Constantius)
  • Constantius gathers his troops, catches cold in Asia minor and dies at 45 years of age, the 24th year of his reign. With his dying breath, Constantius names Julian as his successor. The eunuchs (of course, Gibbon would mention this) elect a man in Constantius’ place as emperor, but he is not even noticed by the army or the people. What a lucky outcome for Julian! (11-30-361)
  •  
    Julian – SOLE EMPEROR

  • Julian enters Constantinople (12-11-361) as sole emperor
  • All accept him
  • Statue of Julian - in the Louvre - he wears the philosophers beard and the diadem - in some ways a latter-day Marcus Aurelius - certainly he had a harder time of it than Marcus did nearly 200 years earlier

    Statue of Julian - in the Louvre - he wears the philosophers beard and the diadem - in some ways a latter-day Marcus Aurelius - certainly he had a harder time of it than Marcus did nearly 200 years earlier

     
    Julian – the emperor with a (gentler, kinder) sense of humor
    Julian was lenient, just, and kind, but also had a wicked sense of humor. Not a man to slight as he was intelligent, educated, and knew just where to insert the proverbial knife blade to get maximum effect with minimal effort. Unlike other emperors whose humor might extend to forcing treasonous, bibulous, senators to drink wine (with their penises tied off with ropes) until their bellies burst, Julian had a little more subtlety.

    A little background first – in the Roman empire, acts of the Senate were dated by the names of the consuls appointed for that year. In 361, two of the consuls for that year (Taurus and Florentinus) also governed the praefectures of Italy and Illyricum – and both fled to Asia (and Constantius) at the approach of Julian and his armies, leaving the provinces to Julian. Usually great men, esp. emperors in the Roman empire had their greatest victories attached to their names (example: Claudius Gothicus – conqueror over the Goths, Constantine Sarmaticus, conqueror over the Sarmatians, etc). Julian thought he would kindly extend that privilege to Taurus and Florentinus.

    This from Gibbon:

    The praefectures of Italy and Illyricum were administered by Taurus and Florentius, who united that important office with the vain honours of the consulship; and, as those magistrates had retired with precipitation to the court of Asia, Julian, who could not always restrain the levity of his temper, stigmatised their flight by adding, in all the Acts of the Year, the epithet of fugitive to the names of the two consuls

    (DEF v.2, ch.22, p.846)

    The year 361 and later were bad years for Taurus and Florentinus. Imagine your name, used on countless documents as the official year of that document, and inscribed on monuments, lintels, and referred to in the law courts as the following:

    in the years of the consuls Taurus, fugitivus, and Florentinus, fugitivus (Taurus, the one who runs away, and Florentinus, the one who runs away).

    To fame-hungry, honor-seeking, thin-skinned, senatorial, upper-class Romans, it was probably a living death (literally and politically).

    Constantius II a contius coin - a last look at CoConstantius II a contius coin - a last look at Constantius emperor 26 years and a staunch Arian Christian - hater of Julian, died young in his mid 40's - strong, aggressive, a winner, and part of the reason the empire stayed Christian - he solidified Constantine's gains - but Gibbon felt he was a failure in many respectsnstantius emperor 26 years and a staunch Arian Christian - hater of Julian, died young in his mid 40's - strong, aggressive, a winner, and part of the reason the empire stayed Christian - he solidified Constantine's gains - but Gibbon felt he was a failure

    Constantius II a contius coin - a last look at Constantius emperor 26 years and a staunch Arian Christian - hater of Julian, died young in his mid 40's - strong, aggressive, a winner, and part of the reason the empire stayed Christian - he solidified Constantine's gains - but Gibbon felt he was a failure in many respects

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