Posted by: ken98 | February 1, 2010

Julian Prepares for War with an Empire and is Snubbed by His Own City

Day 143 – Ken here (M)(2-1-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.23, pp.910-920)

A short day – we continue in chapter 23 – prepare for war with Persia. Julian wars with the giddy, changeable Antiochenes, and loses.

The Story
Julian and Antioch, Preparing for the Persian War

  • Julian resolves to attack Persia (362)
  • Julian leaves Constantinople, arrives at Antioch 8 months after Constantius dies and he took the sole emperorship (8-362)
  • Sapor sends ambassadors to sue for peace – Julian responds by suggesting they meet when he takes Ctesiphon
  • Julian arrives at uber-Christian Antioch – Gibbon gvies a brief discussion of the Antiochene character – “licentious and soft” – rich, passionate, sensual, given to spectacle and pleasure, and insanely zealous in matters spiritual
  • Antiochenes complain the apostate Julian carries famine with him as he marches from Constantinople to Antioch – famine hits Antioch, Julian arranges for grain to be diverted from Egypt to Antioch and sold at a low price – he also fixes grain prices (always a bad idea – Nixon, Diocletian, Julian found the same thing: fixing prices is counter-productive) grain speculators buy all the grain up – scarcity worsens – Antioch openly snubs and satirizes Julian, his paganism, his governmental policies and his beard
  • Julian arrests the entire Senate for a day (most emperors would have allowed his Gaulish troops to sack the city for him – example: Theodosius slaughtering the inhabitants of Thessalonica in 390 (30 years from now))
  • Julian’s reaction: to write and publicly post an essay satirizing the Antiochenes and himself – called the Beard-Hater (Misopgon)(see previous post) – Julian’s a gentleman and a scholar – literally

  • Libanius (314-390) orator of Antioch, famous teacher, famous friend of Julian – main character in Gore Vidal’s Julian
  • Gibbon’s take on Julian: “voluminous writings… are the vain and idle compositions of an orator who cultivated the science of words – the productions of a recluse student”
    Julian marches to the Euphrates – the Persian War Starts

  • Julian leaves Antioch in disgust (3-5-363)
  • Rapidly moves across the Fertile Crescent, makes “landfall” on the Persian frontier at Carrhae
  • Counts on (with a lack of success) considerable Armenian support from the King of Armenia – Gibbon notes problems with that: Armenian King Arsaces Tiranus is weak, he was very close to Constantius (was wife to woman who had been betrothed to Constans), was fervently Christian (Armenians are absolutely dedicated to their church), and was descended from the Parthian Arsacides. He wasn’t too interested in helping
  • 18th cent. French Woodcut of Libanius the Orator (middle 300's) - great friend of Julian, wordy, self-involved windbag to Gibbon, key character in Vidal's novel Julian, major source of historical material to us

    18th cent. French Woodcut of Libanius the Orator (middle 300's) - great friend of Julian, wordy, self-involved windbag to Gibbon, key character in Vidal's novel Julian, major source of historical material to us

    Sample of Libanius
    Libanius (314-369) was a great friend of Julian, an accomplished orator, a famous citizen of Gibbon’s hated, effeminate Antioch, and a major character in the Gore Vidal novel Julian. Of course, our pleasure in his work is only as good as the english version of it, and I’m sure most of the poetry and power has been lost in translation – both translating the literal words, and translating from Late Roman 4th century culture to that of the 20th century. Libanius seems wordy and long, and this speech was made to be spoken and not read, but it is a civilized and elegant composition (comparing it to the style of yesterday’s John Chrysostom and his sermon against the Jews which sounds a little bit like an elementary school reading exercise). Here Libanius gives Julian’s Eulogy and recounts his life, this if an incident from when he was advancing on Constantius on the point of civil war after he had been acclaimed by the legions against his will (from an online translation at here)

    Rushing thence like a torrent, mastering all that come in his way, ever growing in numbers, seizing upon the bridges, surprising his opponents in their sleep, feigning to attack them in a different quarter, but approaching them in the rear, making them expect something different and attempt things in vain; making use of the land, but when the rivers were not watched, sailing down them with a small party whenever it was possible; leaving the guards on the frontiers undisturbed, but taking possession of the towns; effecting all he had proposed through persuasion, through force, through stratagem.

    Such, for instance, was the following fact:—-Having equipped his men in the armour of the soldiers whom he had captured, he sent them against a certain well fortified town; the people thought those approaching to be their own men, and opening their gates admitted the enemy. But the most pleasing thing of all was that—-having seized beforehand on the beautiful Italy, and having also possessed himself in advance of the Italians, those excellent soldiers, |157 and their numerous and strong cities, and a territory sufficient for a great empire—-on no one occasion was he laid under the necessity of fighting and bloodshed, but the mere opinion of him sufficed, with the news of the coming of the sovereign. Of mighty service also to his cause were the letters of that coward and traitor, with which he called on the Barbarians.

    Thus making his way by water and by land, through cities opened to him, and through opened camps; enumerating his labours in those noble manifestoes 45 which exasperated the hearer against the one emperor, and gained him over to the other, and this too when he was bringing a very inconsiderable part of his army with him. Yet the Macedonians revolted in his favour, as did also Greece, which hailed the moment for which she was praying in silence and without an altar—-for there was none.

    Opened was the temple of Minerva and the temples of the other gods, the emperor in person opening them, and honouring them with gifts, and himself offering sacrifice and exhorting others to do the like. And knowing that the gods had been brought to judgment before the Athenians, he condescended to give in a justification of his own conduct; and he, the sovereign, appointed the people of Erechtheus for his judges—-sending them his defence in writing. For he held it to be the privilege of a tyrant not to be judged, but of a lawful sovereign to give the reasons for his actions.

    (Libanius, ” Julian the Emperor” (1888). Monody: Funeral Oration for Julian)

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