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Prefaces to online edition of Julian the Emperoro which includes Two Invectives Against Julian by Gregory of Nazianzusa

Julian the Emperor (1888).  Preface to the online edition by Roger Pearse

Gregory Nazianzen wrote 40 orations, of which a selection is already available online in the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection.  Not among them were two further orations, nos. 4 and 5, which are the first and second invectives against Julian the Apostate.  Quasten's Patrology, vol. 3 p.242 reports that they were probably never delivered in public; and that the tone is so angry and hostile that their historical value is almost zero.  The last point, however, is probably an over-statement.

The English translations are those of C.W.King, published in 1888 as the first two works in a volume entitled, "Julian the Emperor" and published by George Bell & co, London in the Bohn's Library series.  The volume also included the funeral oration delivered by the pagan Libanius, and two pagan works  by Julian himself.  After some hesitation, these have been included, and placed in the appendix because of their historical interest.  The whole volume is thus online, including the advertisements, but the plan of this collection has meant some dispersal of the material not by Gregory himself.

Reading the translator's preface and notes, the reader will quickly discover that C.W. King was an enthusiastic partisan of Julian.  It is unusual for a translator to detest the author or the work he is translating, but the notes by Mr. King leave little doubt that he did so detest these orations of Gregory.  The majority of the notes contain the translator's opinion of the sentiments expressed, rather than explanation of historical obscurities.  In fact, they seem to form a running rejoinder, in which Gregory is repeatedly described as a liar or hypocrite.  But the reader will recall that a 'vituperation' or 'invective' is a literary form, as Quintilian indicates and as the Philippics of Cicero remind us, and it is useless to complain that Gregory does not give a fair picture when he did not set out to do so.   After some hesitation, I have reproduced the footnotes anyway.  

This is not the place to write an evaluation of Julian the Apostate.  Julian has been well-served by his apologists and panegyricists, such as Libanius, and even today is regarded much more positively than any other member of his dynasty.   Gregory reminds us of the darker side of this controversial reign.  

8th March, 2003

PREFACE from C. W. KING (translator)

IN the case of the Emperor Julian, Historic Truth possesses the very rare advantage of having two portraits of the same person, taken from diametrically opposite points of view—and both of them by painters intimately acquainted with their subject during the whole course of his career. Gregory of Nazianzus, a city of Cappadocia, sometime Bishop of Constantinople, had been a fellow-student of Julian's at the University of Athens, and had been treated by him with marked kindness and consideration (for which the worthy Father was subsequently forced to invent a very malicious motive), after his elevation to the purple. Libanius, a teacher of Eloquence, or, in modern phrase, a Professor of Greek Literature, had been summoned and established at Antioch by Julian's ill-fated brother the Caesar Gallus; in which city during the nine months whilst the emperor was making his vast preparations for the Persian War, he lived upon terms of the greatest familiarity with him. They then renewed the friendship formed some seven years before at Nicomedia, where Julian, as yet in a private station, had greatly benefited by the lectures of the Pagan Professor, although debarred |viii from personally attending them by the jealousy of his appointed Tutor, Ecdicius. The satirist and the panegyrist were both of them men of the highest education their times could afford. I leave it to the reader of their respective productions to decide which of the two had reaped the greater advantage from that education. But the careful perusal of their Attack and Defence will throw a clearer light upon the state of feeling that distracted the civilized world, at this, in every sense, the most critical period of its history, than can be gained from the study of all the Church historians that have written, from the gigantic treatise of Philippus Sidetes in a thousand books ("equally useless to the learned and the unlearned"), down to whatever of the kind may be most in vogue at the present day. I may however remark, parenthetically, that some of Gregory's charges against the emperor, require a very prejudiced construction to give them the blackness aimed at—as for example, his refraining from actual persecution from no other motive than that he begrudged the Christians the honour of martyrdom to which they so zealously aspired. The history of this, in every way, remarkable man, has hitherto been considered merely in its connection with Religion: and, so treated, it is become the most threadbare of all themes. I, therefore, take some credit to myself for discovering a totally new way of investigating these records of his life, and that is, for the valuable service they afford to archaeology. A glance at my Index (compiled specially with that view), will show how many curious questions of antiquity derive fresh light from the casual remarks of the two |ix writers. To instance a few----we get descriptions of ancient "University life;" the course of study there pursued; military matters, such as the system of carrying on distant campaigns; and what is unexplained from any other source, the true nature of the Dracones (ventosa draconum pallia, as Prudentius calls them); the transformation of the materials of the ancient temples into the decorations of private houses; the inner life of the later Imperial Court, with its swarms of rapacious officials and domestics, so comparable to that of a Turkish Sultan; the duties and the abuses of the Agentes in rebus; the constitution and the burdens of the Provincial Guriales; the British corn-trade, and the route it followed; and the solution of the problem that has so long vexed every intelligent numismatist----the existence of that incalculable quantity of billon denarii, of various degrees of baseness, but nevertheless all pretending to be the actual mintage of the emperors of the third century.1

The Manes of the saintly Gregory himself ("si quis sensus in illis") will doubtless rejoice at my thus making use of the unintentional service he has rendered to archaeology, for that he, despite his austere Puritanism, was a lover of Antiquity, is abundantly shown by the hundred and eighty-two little poems, full of good feeling and good taste, which he has directed against the bigoted, or rapacious, destroyers of ancient monuments.

To complete my portrait of the imperial philosopher, |x I have added a translation of his only two theosophical treatises still extant; from which the reader will be able to form an unprejudiced view of the religious system adopted by him. These little "Confessions of Faith" are evidently coloured by the careful study of certain Treatises amongst the "Moralia" of Plutarch: but they exhibit the fullest and latest development of notions only briefly sketched out by the earlier writer. Plutarch and Julian, therefore, enable us to contemplate Platonism and Neo-Platonism side by side, and I know not where can be found so lucid and able an exponent of the latter system as the emperor shows himself in these writings. In these our days, when we are gravely assured that "Cosmic Theism is the future religion of the World," many thinking men (but unable to wade through the difficulties of philosophic Greek) will be thankful to know what "Cosmic Theism" meant in the ages when it was the religion of the World (or, at least, of its educated portion), in the form under which its doctrines are here set forth by a man of acute intellect and high education, and who, at a mature age, and dissatisfied with all other systems, had embraced it out of a deep conviction of its truth.


             March 1, 1888.