BLTC Press Titles

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Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Julian, philosopher and emperor

by Alice Gardner


Coins of Nicomedia. Coin of Nicza.

Three temples—Agonistic urns with branches of palm. A walled city.

Julian, Ep. 55.

" What do you read, my lord ? "
" Words, words, words ! "

Hamlet, i., 2.

[HE years during which Gallus held the dignity of Caesar, with the months that immediately followed his fall, constitute a very important period in the life of his brother. Julian henceforth found himself partly, at least, liberated from the restraints under which he had passed the preceding six years of his life, and able to follow more freely his own intellect


ual bent. Not that he was even now entirely his own master. We hear ' of allegations made against him, that he quitted Macellum for purposes of study in the Asiatic towns, and that he had held intercourse with his disloyal brother. There can be little doubt, however, that Constantius, whether influenced by friendly feeling or by self-interest, was not sorry to see his young cousin's eager longing after a learned and intellectual life. The pursuits on which his heart was set would be less likely than any others to bring him into opposition and rivalry to the ruling powers. There was indeed the chance that he might fall in with some theosophic oracle-monger, who by playing upon his youthful enthusiasm might instil into his mind the belief that he had a special vocation to constitute himself the champion of the ancient gods and their votaries. The fear of such influences may have crossed the mind of the suspicious Emperor, but, if so, the result was to make him insist that Julian should openly profess adhesion to the Christian faith and should avoid teachers known to be zealous in the cause of reaction. It certainly did not prompt him to endeavour by enticements or threats to draw away his cousin from his academic studies.

Accordingly Julian, who seems, at least before his rise to power and supremacy, never to have been deficient in worldly prudence, early perceived the need of caution and dissimulation, if he were not to be debarred from following his ruling passion. As Libanius says (in one of the few bright remarks that occasionally enliven his wearisome and bombastic pages), Julian reversed yEsop's fable, and became a lion in an ass's hide. His mental disguise was so successful that not only was Constantius disarmed, but serious doubts have been caused among eminent writers, down to our own days, as to what the earliest religious beliefs of Julian really were, and whether they were changed at the time when he decidedly embraced Hellenism. Though the matter cannot be regarded as settled beyond dispute, I think that most students of Julian's life and works will see little ground for the opinion * that his zeal in after days was that of a pervert who had once been a warm adherent of the opposite cause. The statement he makes in a letter to the Alexandrians ' that he " followed the way " of the Christians till he was twenty years old does not imply any very sincere adhesion to Christian beliefs and practices, nor do we find traces of such early attachment in any of his later works. He shows, it is true, considerable acquaintance with several books of the New Testament. This lends probability to the statement, made by some Christian writers, that Julian at one time held the ecclesiastical office of Reader. He may also 4 have contributed, with his brother, to the construction of the shrine of St. Mammas in Cappadocia. A silly story is told of supernatural forces which caused the part undertaken by Julian to crumble away and the part built by Gallus to stand secure, a proceeding which showed little discernment of character on the part of the saint, so far at least as Gallus is concerned. All that Julian himself tells us of his early habits and thoughts shows him to us as a dreamy boy, devotedly fond of Greek poetry, and soon aspiring to the study of philosophy. His enthusiasm for Greek letters may naturally have developed into a zeal for Greek religion, or rather, may have itself become a religion to him, without any critical revulsion of feeling.

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