Julian: The Light in the Darkness

Many years before, a man was made deputy of Western Rome on behalf of the Emperor. When the man first arrived to his newly appointed office a woman cried out “This is the man who will restore the temples of the Gods!” [1]

The man was in shock, for he was not a Galilean as his uncle Constantine the Apostate or his mother Basilina were. For this man was Julian, a Hellene. For now he was in the closet, but even though he did not know it yet, he would one day animate the woman’s word.

Now just over half a decade later, Julian received the news he wanted to hear. He swiftly begun to draft a letter to his friend Maximus of Ephesus who introduced him to the very Gods that his family abandoned decades ago.

“I worship the Gods openly and the whole mass of the troops who are returning with me worship the Gods.” penned the new Augustus, “I sacrifice oxen in public. I have offered many great public sacrifices to the Gods as thanks offerings. The Gods command me to restore Their worship in the utmost purity and I obey Them, yes and with a good will” [2].

Julian sat down his writing utensil, his hands trembling in excitement. He looked to the heavens and the Gods gave him a warm smile. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship in a storm, they led Julian on the right path and landed him on the purple. The civil war that erupted across the Empire had ended just as fast as it had begun, a bloodless conflict. Julian’s cousin, the now-deceased Emperor Constantius II who had ruled arbitrarily, the very man who years ago murdered Julian’s own father and brother, was dead, having received Thanatos’ cold embrace in a fever far away from any battlefield. Julian, the Caesar of the West, was now recognized as ruler of the East. Julian was now the sole ruler of Rome.

No longer did he have to shave. No, now he was newly bearded, with all the grace of youth. No longer did he attend a mass to listen to the sermons of a bishop. No, now he publicly embraced the message of Heracles, the begotten son of the sun. No longer did he scribe for someone else’s church. No, now he wrote for his Gods, his philosophy and his temples. In his heartfelt gratitude to the Gods who he felt love for like the family he never had, Julian legalized temples to be built again and public sacrifice to be performed once more. Hellenism was to be made the state religion of Rome again, and with the utmost piety.

Julian entered the capital city of where he was born on December 11, 361 ACE through its Golden Gate as sole Augustus of the Roman Empire. The atmosphere was dreamy and energetic. He could hear the cries of joy coming from his people, who appeared en masse to cheer their new Emperor on.

Temples were constructed and great rituals were performed. He reformed the faith and devoutly organized it. He wrote great literature and sang hymns of praise to the Gods. He both refurbished the Oracle of Delphi and even begun helping the Jewish people rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. For this is the man who was going to restore the temples of the Gods.

But his time was cut short. After a failed campaign against an aggressive Persia at his country’s borders, he was mortally wounded on June 26th and laid semi-conscious in bed for three days [3]. He was to die too young to fix the world before it would stop making sense. The light in the darkness was to fade.

An Oracle came before the semi-conscious Emperor who laid in bed. “A fiery chariot whirled among storm-clouds shall carry you to Olympus; loosed from the wretched suffering of men” spoke the wise priest, “You shall attain your Father’s halls of heavenly light, whence you have fallen and come into the body of a mortal man” [4].

It was June 28th that he was too greeted by a now-somber Thanatos. Serapis came before the dying Emperor and freed Julian from his corporeal bonds. The gentle God lifted Julian’s soul towards the Islands of the Blest; Elysium-bound, through a divine ray of light towards henosis. Helios, the King of All, hugged Julian with warm embrace.

 

“Whom the Gods love die young.”

-Menander

 

Notes

  1. Ammianus, 15.8.22
  2. Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 25
  3. Philostorgius, 7.15
  4. Smith 1995, 113

About HeliosTheDemiurge

Proud Pagan and polytheist. Reconstructing Late Antiquity-Early Medieval Hellenism of the Roman imperial era based on the teachings of Julian the Philosopher and Iamblichus, referred to as "Julian Hellenism."
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8 Responses to Julian: The Light in the Darkness

  1. Ev says:

    This is absolutely beautiful, Klay. Thank you for writing and sharing this post. It gave me goosebumps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Proprietor says:

    The artist is Dr Marianne Gilchrist

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pharmakeus1 says:

    I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, but how do you personally reconcile worshipping a king with actions he committed such as wars/battles?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not rude at all! It’s firstly important to note that the divine Julian’s wars were usually not of his own choice. Julian was sent to Gaul, where he first got the support of troops, likely with the expectation from the tyrant Constantius II that he would die. A lot of Julian’s wars here were defensive. The Germans were invading and ransacking the region, and even a major provincial capital, Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, being abandoned in the war. With regards to the civil war, the soldiers were the ones to declare Julian as the new Augustus, and Constantius II was a tyrant who spat on Hellenism, made worship illegal, and closed temples; and with the grace of the Gods, this conflict ended without any serious bloodshed. With regards to the divine Julian’s war with Persia, there were already long-standing tensions and conflicts existing long before Julian, which were persisting even as recent as the reign of Constantius II. Julian’s plan wasn’t to conquer Persia ala Alexander, but rather to place a puppet King on the Sasanian throne to cease hostilities.

      I acknowledge that being the ruler of the Fourth century CE Roman Empire required a lot of decisions we could never imagine considering, let alone making, in contemporary society. It was a very different time, and much rougher. I keep in mind that many of Julian’s decisions were overall made to defend the eternal city and the faith.

      Like

  4. caelesti says:

    Out of curiosity since it was mentioned, is that a Roman Christian-specific custom, Christian men shaved, but polytheists didn’t?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was typical after the Antonine dynasty that Emperors didn’t shave. The rise of Constantine made it a semi-expectation that Emperors would shave their beards. Julian, however, went on to grow a Greek beard.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Louis Menard: ‘Julian’s Last Night’ / ‘Julian’ın Son Gecesi’ |

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