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After a childhood spent mostly in exile, Juian was elevated to the rank of Caesar in 355. His first assignment was to clear Gaul of Germanic invaders.
143- Julian the Pre-Apostate
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I think the comparison to Marcus Aurelius was apt. Julian sounds like an interesting character.
Is anyone else really feeling like the Roman Empire, once it became Christian, wasn't really the Roman Empire they knew and loved anymore? Like something had been lost along with the pagan religion?
July 10, 2011 at 09:52 PM
a bit yes. Yet it start to look more and more like the Byzantine empire I love. So for me, it's a welcome transition, if only sadden by the ever approaching finale to this incredible Podcast. We are only a hundred years from then. Which could mean something in the order of 30 to 50 golden podcast more.
July 10, 2011 at 10:32 PM
I have a question concerning this episode, what would "pagans" like Julian have referred to themselves as ?
I thought "pagan" was a somewhat derogatory term used by Christians, and would not have been used by the "pagans" themselves. Is this true? If so what Latin (or Greek as I believe that was the more common everyday language of the Empire at this point) would they have used to describe their religious beliefs ?
July 10, 2011 at 11:56 PM
There generally was no word, just as there was no word for the religions of India and Japan before Westerners came there to puzzle over them.
July 11, 2011 at 02:26 AM
But seeing as Christianity and paganism existed side-by-side for centuries surely pagans would have had to have someway of describing their religion.
Particularly in Julian's day when it had very much become a matter of Christians versus "Everyone else".
July 11, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Thats because there wasnt just 1 pagan religion.
July 12, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Post Constantine the Great it was getting a little boring, but I enjoyed this episode. Julian seems to have overcome many problems, older generals and the paranoia of Constantius II.
July 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Armchair psychologists love Julian because there is so much to work with: father, uncles and brother murdered by paranoid second cousin; childhood and youth spent in house arrest; domineering religious tutors (Christian and then polytheistic); reactionary religious and political influences under polytheistic tutors; constant threat of sudden violent and unexpected death; sudden rise in status, power and vulnerability; and forced into a job that killed predecessors. Note that he ascribes to Roman polytheism, which is the most incoherent, internally contradictory and superstitious of all existing belief systems, rather than stoicism, which was arguably more closely associated with Rome's greatness (ie. Cincinnatus, M. Aurelius) and more congruent with pre-Christian Roman ideals. There is more than a hint of passive rebelliousness - polytheism was more abhorrent to the Christian hierarchy than stoicism, which was seen as an enlightened philosophy. The comparison between Julian and M. Aurelius is weak. Nothing Julian wrote is comparable to the Meditations. Julian shows none of the insight, subtlety of thought or rhetorical skill that he should have acquired from his years at the feet of the masters of late antiquity. Compared with Caesar, Augustus, Marcus and Constantine, Julian's writings are embarrassingly adolescent and self-indulgent.
July 13, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Sorry for the derail but I guess this is the best spot to call attention to it...
It's impossible to listen or download episode 45 "The End of the War" located at http://blip.tv/file/get/MikeDuncan-45TheEndOfTheWar420.mp3
Always get a "forbiden access" or some such. :(
July 14, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Miguel, you can still listen and download the episode using the RSS feed or in the iTunes store in the podcast section.
Christopher Culpepper |
July 14, 2011 at 06:44 AM
At the expense of looking like a fool but... how can I do either? :P
July 14, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Found it, thanks! :)
July 14, 2011 at 07:40 PM
@ les. What is remarkable about Julian is that he did not turn into the monster he should have been. His brother Gallus had an identical family situation, while Commodus, Nero, Caligula and Caracalla had fewer obstacles and many more advantages and turned out far worse. While he may not have been an effective, high IQ emperor, like Augustus, Diocletian or Constantine, he came close to being a reasonably good one. He starts to unravel only when he begins evangelising for poltytheism and believing he is the reincarnation of Alexander. Enlightenment thinkers love Julian because he rejects Christianity. They tend to gloss over his fanatical polytheism.
July 15, 2011 at 05:00 AM
Mike: best episode so far. Funny, insightful, and brilliant war analyses
July 15, 2011 at 10:10 PM
@Ies: "Julian shows none of the insight, subtlety of thought or rhetorical skill that he should have acquired from his years at the feet of the masters of late antiquity. Compared with Caesar, Augustus, Marcus and Constantine, Julian's writings are embarrassingly adolescent and self-indulgent."
Rather than just take your word on that, do you have any sites where his surviving works are translated? I'd be very interested in taking a look into them myself. :) Although I despise rhetoric, if considered an intellectual discipline, to my core as it is empty showmanship that disregards facts and merely try to trick others into agreeing with you, so him not applying that is a point in his favour, IMO. All of these "armchair" interpretations I've heard of him by Christians sound terribly defensive since, even if he personally wasn't good at expressing the ideas (which you'll hopefully give me the opportunity to see for myself), the points were still valid.
The contradictions are there, the incompatibilities with reality are there and the intolerance inherent in Monotheism had been on full display when they seized control. You're also exaggerating Roman Polytheism's relative amount of contradictions, since it's impossible for a religion that makes fewer paradoxical claims to be less believable (not to mention that people always have a blind-spot for their own religion. Thus why a Christian doesn't become a Muslim and vice-versa as a muslim/christian will know plenty of things wrong with the other's beliefs, but fail to see those same errors with his own faith).
July 16, 2011 at 07:02 AM
Julian is interesting because of the absolute hopelessness of his quest to stamp out Christianity when it had already been established as a state religion. Its like a modern-day ruler attempting to stamp out using the Internet or demanding that cars be banned in order to bring obesity levels back under control.
Like Julian, however, there is always an undercurrent in society that remembers the good ol' days (through rose coloured glasses of course). Ever heard grandpa say "In my day things were different..." I wonder just how many of the citizens of Julian's empire secretly shared his intoxication with paganism? I wonder how many of his soldiers secretly sacrificed to the Roman pantheon or dreamed of the Fields of Elysium once they'd suffered a fatal injury in battle?
I guess we'll never know, but it sure would be interesting to know how the average solider or citizen felt about the imposition of Christianity upon his/her life before it became a cultural norm...
Brad Penney |
July 16, 2011 at 05:06 PM
I think Brad is right. Julian is more like the 'whip-smart' conservative kid of hippy parents than the hippy kid of conservative parents. With respect to the gods, Romans had always been good at hedging their bets and even Christians, or 'Gallileans' as Julian calls them, would probably have retained some pagan, or in Julian's words 'Greek', practices. Roman Catholics today still have saints which fulfil the role of some pagan deities and South American Christianity incorporates some preChristian beliefs.
July 16, 2011 at 08:43 PM
In his Letter to Arsacius, Julian as Pontifex Maximus (ironically the precursor to the Pope)bemoans the fact that pagan priests do not engage in more charity and sobriety (ie. do not behave more like their Christian counterparts). The style tries to emulate that of some of the Pauline Epistles but does not quite make it. He gives the religion he abhors the best advertisement.
Here he flaunts his skill as an orator. Perhaps he learnt his rhetoric too well? He certainly likes to show it off.
Julian tries his hand at Greek satire and complains that the people of Antioch do not like him.
He was certainly not an ignoramus or an idiot. I tend to forget he was only in his mid 20s at the time. To be fair, Ammianus can be just as ponderous; so it may have been considered fashionable at the time. Also, Julian preferred to write in Greek while Marcus Aurelius and Caesar chose Latin, a language better suited for brevity and directness. Finally, Julian writes for a very specific and narrow audience - the highly erudite pagan - while Caesar wrote for anyone who could read.
I suppose another reason why we all find him fascinating is that he actually tells us what he thinks. In that way he is like Marcus Aurelius.
July 17, 2011 at 05:58 AM
July 17, 2011 at 06:49 AM
Sorry, Marcus wrote his Meditations in Greek.
July 17, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Long time listener, first time poster...I would really like a stop in the narrative to reflect on the changes on the ground again soon. Technology, language, culture, etc. I get the impression that life in the empire for 95% of the people hasnt really changed since Augustus or before. I am guessing this is largely true - there have been hints but I am really interested in how we are going to fade into the "Dark Ages".
July 17, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Well, I am now up to date and will have to wait for a new episode like millions of others. :(
And what a journey it has been!
I always wanted to read a complete history of Rome especially after watching BBC's I, Claudius and HBO's Rome, but I wanted to start chronologically and all the way back from Remus and Romulus. Mike Duncan began his series even earlier than that ("beginning with Aeneas's arrival in Italy") and that meant I had give this podcast at least a chance. The rest is history.
The only other talking book that I'd listened to prior to THOR was "Band of Brothers", which chronicled the feats of a company of airborne soldiers in WW2. I'd already had a dim view of podcasts and talking books in general, and the enjoyment I had with the Band of Brothers greatly diminished each time the narrator said the wounded were 'evacuated'. (According to a journo in HBO's The Wire: "You can't evacuate people. A building can be evacuated. To evacuate a person is to give that person an enema.")
So I was acutely sensitive to a possible 'evacuation of Romans', which, in my view, would be the only blemish on this truly historic podcast. Much to his credit, Mike did not use that word once and he'll be remembered for a thousand years for it.
July 18, 2011 at 01:05 AM
This is a great podcast, Im not up to this episode yet because I recently did a rewind, back to the beginning, The age of kings and "Youthful Indiscretions." I never paid any attention whatspever to early Rome until this podcast, but Duncan made it fascinating. Im probably not alone in knowing most of the story but listening to Duncan's storytelling anyway.
I love how when I subscribed, it was still before the consulship of Julius and Caesar back when Mike Duncan didnt know how long hed be doing this. Im glad Audible stepped in to make the Podcast profitable, so now its gauranteed to end in 476AD. Although, if its making a couple grand a month Duncan will go all Edward Gibbon on us and take it to 1453.
Roo Malax |
July 18, 2011 at 02:42 AM
Roo Malax, you say that almost as if it is a bad thing. :)
Rome doesn't feel very Roman anymore. When was the last time an Emperor ruled from Rome? To me the Roman empire is already fallen and the Byzantine has risen.
Ryan Reyes |
July 18, 2011 at 04:11 PM
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