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Ding Dong, the Emperor’s Dead

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.

3 thoughts on “Ding Dong, the Emperor’s Dead

  1. One of the interesting facts about Julian was in an attempt to be unbaptized he took a bath in bull’s blood according to Dr Warren Carroll excellent series on Christendom.

  2. Thanks, Jeff, for sharing that. The rite seems to have had its own pseudo-baptismal effect — incorporating Julian into a sort of bull-life. Because for years afterward the whole empire had to put up with his bull****.

  3. There used to be a street in downtown Jerusalem named for Julian the Apostate, but apparently its name was changed some time ago.

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