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Earthdate 2003-06-02

9.  Julian in Gaul  by the Rev. T. M. Lindsay, D.D., LL.D.

Constantius was childless — the punishment of the gods whose temples he had despoiled, said the pagans; a retribution for the slaughter of his kinsmen, his own conscience sometimes whispered.  The needs of the Empire demanded assistance.  It is hard to say whether the Emperor or the student was the more unwilling, the one to summon and the other to obey the call.  Julian was ordered to Milan where the Court was.  He was made Caesar, was married to Helena, the Emperor's sister, and was sent to Gaul to protect the province from invading Germans.  The recluse bookworm, the man whose emotional nature had succumbed without suspicion to the suggestions of spiritualist séances, was suddenly confronted with one of the hardest tasks that practical life could offer.  He had to restore a half-ruined province and to overcome an enemy grown bold by success.  He was totally ignorant of the arts of war and of administration.  It need not cause surprise that he proved an intrepid soldier.  He was the last of a race of warriors, and the blood spoke.  His studies had taught him the need of concentration and thoroughness; he set himself to learn and speedily mastered the elements of drill and discipline.  But what the world did wonder at was that, hampered as he was by the assistants whom the jealousy of the Emperor had forced upon him, he shewed himself a general who defeated his foes as much by strategy as by fighting.

The Germans had been driven back; the administration of Gaul was improved and its finances reformed, when the legions, irritated at commands from the distant Emperor, mutinied and called upon their general to assume the purple (Jan. 360).  After long hesitation Julian consented.  It meant civil war.  But the gods encouraged him, his mission called him, the soldiers rallied round him, and he marched against Constantius.  There was no battle.  Constantius died before the armies met, and Julian became sole ruler over the Roman Empire.

During the whole of Julian's five years' stay in Gaul he publicly professed the Christian religion which privately he had repudiated.  He allowed his name to be attached to the persecuting edicts of Constantius, while in secret he began the day with a prayer to Hermes.  His dissimulation went the length of joining with Constantius in threatening anyone with torture who took part in the very ceremonies of divination which he himself was all the while practising in private.  The only trace of his real feelings is that no Christian emblems appear on the coins which he struck in Gaul.  This double life did not cease when he assumed the purple.  He ostentatiously joined in the public devotions of the people during the festival of Epiphany (361), while in private he was practising all manner of secret incantations and divinations aided by an adept in the mysteries of Eleusis.  It may be that he waited until he was sure of the sympathies of the army.  He seems to have taken care that most of the soldiers who followed him from Gaul were pagans; and that the Christian troops were left behind to guard the province.  At all events it was not until he reached Sirmium on the lower Danube, where the magistrates, citizens and soldiers received him with acclamations, that he declared himself a pagan, and could write to Maximus: “We worship the gods openly; most of the soldiers who follow me reverence them!  We have thanked the gods in the sight of men with many hecatombs.”  He entered Constantinople a professed pagan, believing himself commissioned by the gods to restore the ancient religion, a Dionysos and a Hercules in one, the prophet and king of a pagan revival.



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