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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

THE emperor Constantius having died on the frontiers of Cilicia on the third of November, during the consulate of Taurus and Florentius, Julian leaving the western parts of the empire about the eleventh of December following, under the same consulate, came to Constantinople, where he was proclaimed emperor. And as I must needs speak of the character of this prince who was eminently distinguished for his eloquence, let not his admirers expect that I should attempt a pompous rhetorical style, as if to make the delineation correspond with the dignity of the subject: for my object being to compile a history of the Christian religion, it is both proper in order to the being better understood, and consistent with my original purpose, to maintain a simple and unaffected style. Having to describe his person, birth, education, and the manner in which he became possessed of the sovereignty, to give a clear view of these matters, it will be needful to enter into some antecedent details. Constantine who gave Byzantium his own name, had two brothers named Dalmatius and Constantius, the offspring of the same father, but by a different mother. The former of these had a son who bore his own name: the latter had two sons, Gallus and Julian. When, after the death of Constantine who founded Constantinople, the soldiery had put the younger brother Dalmatius to death, the lives of his two orphan children were also endangered: but a disease which threatened to be fatal preserved Gallus from the violence of his father’s murderers; while the tenderness of Julian’s age, who was not then eight years old, protected him. The emperor’s jealousy toward them having been gradually subdued, Gallus attended the schools at Ephesus in Ionia, in which country considerable hereditary possessions had been left them. And Julian, when he was grown up, pursued his studies at Constantinople, going constantly to the palace, where the schools then were, in plain clothes, under the superintendance of the eunuch Mardonius. Nicocles the Lacedemonian instructed him in grammar; and Ecebolius the Sophist, who was at that time a Christian, taught him rhetoric: for the emperor was anxious that he should have no Pagan masters, lest he should be seduced from the Christian faith in which he had been educated, to the Pagan superstitions. His proficiency in literature soon became so remarkable, that it began to be said that he was capable of governing the Roman empire; and this popular rumour becoming generally diffused, greatly disquieted the emperor’s mind, so that he had him removed from the Great City to Nicomedia, forbidding him at the same time to frequent the school of Libanius the Syrian Sophist. This celebrated rhetorician having been driven from Constantinople, by a combination of the professors there against him, had retired to Nicomedia, where he opened a school; and to revenge himself on his persecutors, he composed an oration against them. Julian was however interdicted from being his auditor, because Libanius adhered to Paganism: nevertheless he privately procured his orations, which he not only greatly admired, but also frequently and with close study perused, so as to become very expert in the rhetorical art. About this period Maximus the philosopher arrived at Nicomedia, not he of Constantinople, Euclid’s father, but he of Ephesus, whom the emperor Valentinian afterwards caused to be executed as a practiser of magic. The only thing that then attracted him to Nicomedia was the fame of Julian, to whom he imparted, in addition to the principles of philosophy, his own religious sentiments, and a desire to possess the empire. When the emperor was informed of these things, Julian between hope and fear, became very anxious to lull the suspicions which had been awakened, and therefore began to assume the external semblance of what he once was in reality. He was shaved to the very skin, and pretended to live a monastic life: and although in private he pursued his philosophical studies, in public he read the sacred writings of the Christians, and moreover was constituted a reader in the church of Nicomedia. But while by these specious pretexts, under the influence of fear, he succeeded in averting the emperor’s displeasure, he by no means abandoned his hope; telling his friends that happier times were not far distant, when he should possess the imperial sway. In this condition of things his brother Gallus having been created Cæsar, on his way to the East came to Nicomedia to see him. But when not long after this Gallus was slain, the emperor becoming still more suspicious of Julian, directed that a guard should be set over him: he soon however found means of escaping from them, and fled from place to place, until the empress Eusebia having discovered his retreat, persuaded the emperor to leave him uninjured, and permit him to go to Athens to pursue his philosophical studies. From thence, to be brief, the emperor recalled him, and after creating him Cæsar, united him in marriage to his own sister Helen: and the barbarian mercenaries whom the emperor Constantius had engaged as auxiliary forces against the tyrant Magnentius, beginning to pillage the Roman cities, Julian was despatched into the Gallias against them, with orders on account of his youth, to undertake nothing without consulting the other military chiefs.

This restrictive power rendered these generals so lax in their duties, that the barbarians were suffered to strengthen themselves; which Julian perceiving, allowed the commanders to give themselves up to luxury and revelling, but exerted himself to infuse courage into the soldiery, offering a stipulated reward to any one who should kill a barbarian. By these means he conciliated to himself the affections of the army, while he effectually weakened the enemy. It is reported that as he was entering a town a civic crown which was suspended between two pillars, fell upon his head which it exactly fitted: upon which all present gave a shout of admiration, regarding it as a presage of his one day becoming emperor. Some have affirmed that Constantius sent him against the barbarians in the hope that he would perish in an engagement with them. Whether he had such a design I know not, let each form his own judgment of the matter; but it certainly is improbable that he should have first contracted so near an alliance with him, and then have sought his destruction to the prejudice of his own interests. Be this as it may, Julian’s complaint to the emperor of the inertness of his military officers, procured for him a coadjutor in the command more consonant to his own ardour: and by their combined efforts such an assault was made upon the barbarians, that they sent him an embassy, assuring him that they had been ordered by the emperor’s letters, which were produced, to march into the Roman territories. Instead of listening to these excuses, he cast the ambassador into prison, and vigorously attacking the forces of the enemy, totally defeated them; and having taken their king prisoner, he sent him alive to Constantius. Immediately after this brilliant success he was proclaimed emperor by the military; and inasmuch as they had no imperial crown, one of his guards took the chain which he wore about his own neck, and bound it around Julian’s head. Thus he obtained the object of his ambition: but whether he subsequently conducted himself as became a philosopher, let my readers determine. For he neither entered into communication with Constantius by an embassy, nor paid him the least homage in acknowledgment of past favours; but constituting other governors over the provinces, he conducted everything just as it pleased him. Moreover he sought to bring Constantius into contempt, by reciting publicly in every city the letters which he had written to the barbarians; and thus having rendered the inhabitants of these places disaffected, they were easily induced to revolt from Constantins to himself. After this he no longer wore the mask of Christianity, but everywhere opened the Pagan temples, offering sacrifice to the idols; and designating himself Pontifex Maximus, gave permission to such as would to celebrate their superstitious festivals. In this manner he managed to excite a civil war against Constantins; and thus would have involved the empire in all the disastrous consequences of such a calamity; for this philosopher’s aim could not have been attained without much bloodshed: but God in the sovereignty of his own councils, checked the fury of these antagonists without detriment to the state, by the removal of one of them. For when Julian arrived among the Thracians, intelligence was brought him that Constantius was dead; and thus was the Roman empire at that time preserved from the horrors that threatened it. Julian forthwith made his public entry into Constantinople; and considering with himself how he might best secure popular favour, he had recourse to the following measures. He knew that Constantius had rendered himself odious to the defenders of the Homoousian faith by having driven them from the churches, and proscribed their bishops. He was also aware that the Pagans were extremely impatient of the prohibitions which prevented their sacrificing to their gods, and were very anxious to get their temples opened, with liberty to exercise their idolatrous rites. In fact he was sensible that while both these classes secretly entertained rancorous feelings against his predecessor, the people in general were exceedingly exasperated by the violence of the eunuchs, and especially by the rapacity of Eusebius the chief officer of the imperial bed-chamber. Under these circumstances he treated all parties with a good deal of subtlety: with some he dissimulated; others he attached to himself by conferring obligations upon them, for he was fond of affecting beneficence; but he unscrupulously manifested his own predilection for the idolatry of the heathens. And first in order to brand the memory of Constantius by making him appear to have been cruel toward his subjects, he recalled the exiled bishops, and restored to them their confiscated estates. He next commanded his confidential agents to see that the Pagan temples should be opened without delay. Then he directed that such individuals as had been victims of the extortionate conduct of the eunuchs, should be repossessed of the property of which they had been plundered. Eusebius, the chief of the imperial bed-chamber, he punished with death, not only on account of the injuries he had inflicted on others, but because he was assured that it was through his machinations that his brother Gallus had been killed. Having taken care that the body of Constantius should be honoured with an imperial funeral, he expelled the eunuchs, barbers and cooks from the palace. The eunuchs he dispensed with, because they were unnecessary in consequence of his wife’s deccase, as he had resolved not to marry again: the barbers, because he said one was sufficient for a great many persons; and the cooks, because he intended to maintain a very simple table. The palace being cleared of these supernumeraries, he reduced the majority of the secretaries to their former condition, and appointed those who were retained a salary befitting their office. The mode of public travelling and conveyance of necessaries he also reformed, abolishing the use of mules, oxen, and asses for this purpose, and permitting horses only to be so employed. These various retrenchments were highly lauded by some few, but strongly reprobated by all others, as tending to bring the imperial dignity into contempt, by stripping it of those appendages of pomp and magnificence which exercise so powerful an influence over the minds of the vulgar. At night he was accustomed to sit up composing orations which he afterwards delivered in the senate: though in fact he was the first and only emperor since the time of Julius Cæsar who made speeches in that assembly. To those who were eminent for literary attainments, he extended the most flattering patronage, and especially to the professors of philosophy; in consequence of which, abundance of pretenders to learning of this sort resorted to the palace from all quarters, wearing their palliums, being more conspicuous for their costume than their erudition. These impostors, who invariably adopted the religious sentiments of their prince, were all inimical to the welfare of the Christians; and Julian himself, whose excessive vanity prompted him to deride his predecessors in a book which he wrote entitled “The Cæsars,” was led by the same haughty disposition to compose treatises against the Christians also. In expelling the cooks and barbers he acted in a manner becoming a philosopher indeed, but not an emperor; but in condescending to vilify others he ceased to maintain the dignity of either, for such personages ought to be superior to the influence of jealousy and detraction. An emperor may be a philosopher in all that regards moderation and self-control; but should a philosopher attempt to imitate what might become an emperor, he would frequently depart from his own principles. We have thus briefly spoken of the emperor Julian, tracing his extraction, education, temper of mind, and the way in which he became invested with the imperial power.

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