Julian

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Let all people live in harmony ... Men should be taught and won over by reason, not by blows, insults, and corporal punishments.

Flavius Claudius Julianus (c. 331 - 26 June 363) was a philosopher, military leader, and Roman emperor, often referred to as Julian the Apostate because of his rejection of formal Christian doctrines, and opposition to their spread, and sometimes as Julian II, to distinguish him from Didius Julianus.

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  • Whither are we fleeing, my most valiant men? Do you not know that flight never leads to safety, but shows the folly of a useless effort? Let us return to our companions, to be at least sharers in their coming glory, if it is without consideration that we are abandoning them as they fight for the Republic.
    • Julian, to his fleeing troops at the Battle of Strasbourg, as recorded by Ammianus Marcellinus, in Book XVI of his history . His army rallied and crushed the Germans. Here, the term "republic" was used in its literal Latin meaning to denote the Roman state.
  • Can anyone be proved innocent, if it be enough to have accused him?
    • Julian, at the trial of Numerius, governor of Gallia Narbonensis, who was accused of embezzlement. Numerius had successfully defended himself against the prosecutor Delphidius, who in his exasperation, declared whether anyone could be found guilty if they only denied the charges, which provoked Julian's response. As quoted in Book XVIII of Ammianus's History.
  • I had imagined that the prelates of the Galilaeans were under greater obligations to me than to my predecessor. For in his reign many of them were banished, persecuted, and imprisoned, and many of the so-called heretics were executed ... all of this has been reversed in my reign; the banished are allowed to return, and confiscated goods have been returned to the owners. But such is their folly and madness that, just because they can no longer be despots, ... or carry out their designs first against their brethren, and then against us, the worshippers of the gods, they are inflamed with fury and stop at nothing in their unprincipled attempts to alarm and enrage the people.
    • Edict to the people of Bostra, as quoted in Documents of the Christian Church (1957) by Henry Bettenson
  • They are irreverent to the gods and disobedient to our edicts, lenient as they are. For we allow none of them to be dragged to the altars unwillingly... It is therefore my pleasure to announce and publish to all the people by this edict, that they must not abet the seditions of the clergy ... They may hold their meetings, if they wish, and offer prayers according to their established use ... and for the future, let all people live in harmony ... Men should be taught and won over by reason, not by blows, insults, and corporal punishments. I therefore most earnestly admonish the adherents of the true religion not to injure or insult the Galilaeans in any way ... Those who are in the wrong in matters of supreme importance are objects of pity rather than of hate ...
    • Edict to the people of Bostra, as quoted in Documents of the Christian Church (1957) by Henry Bettenson
  • The end and aim of the Cynic philosophy, as indeed of every philosophy, is happiness, but happiness that consists in living according to nature, and not according to the opinions of the multitude.
    • As quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 39; also in The Missing Jesus: Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament (2003) by Craig Alan Evans, Carl A. Elliott, Bruce Chilton, Jacob Neusner
I think he who knows himself will know accurately, not the opinion of others about him, but what he is in reality…
  • Is it not absurd when a human being tries to find happiness somewhere outside himself, and thinks that wealth and birth and the influence of friends… is of the utmost importance?
    • As quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 41
  • So long as you are a slave to the opinions of the many you have not yet approached freedom or tasted its nectar… But I do not mean by this that we ought to be shameless before all men and to do what we ought not; but all that we refrain from and all that we do, let us not do or refrain from merely because it seems to the multitude somehow honorable or base, but because it is forbidden by reason and the god within us.
    • As quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 47
  • I think he who knows himself will know accurately, not the opinion of others about him, but what he is in reality… he ought to discover within himself what is right for him to do and not learn it from without…
    • As quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 91
  • Nature loves to hide her secrets, and she does not suffer the hidden truth about the essential nature of the gods to be flung in naked words to the ears of the profane…
    • "Oration VII": "To the Cynic Heracleios", as quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 105; also in Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (2005) by Gedaliahu A. G. Stroumsa, p. 25
  • Zeal to do all that is in one's power is, in truth, a proof of piety.
    • As quoted in The Works of the Emperor Julian (1923) by Wilmer Cave France Wright, p. 311; also in The Paganism Reader (2004) edited by Chas S. Clifton, Graham Harvey, p. 26
  • Most opportunely friends, has the time now come for me to leave life, which I rejoice to return to Nature, at her demand, like an honorable debtor, not (as some might think) bowed down with sorrow, but having learned much from the general conviction of philosophers how much happier the soul is than the body, and bearing in mind that whenever a better condition is severed from a worse, one should rejoice, rather than grieve...Considering, then that the aim of a just ruler is the welfare and security of its subjects, I was always, as you know, more inclined to peaceful measures, excluding from my conduct all license, the corrupter of deeds and of character…And therefore I thank the eternal power that I meet my end, not from secret plots, nor from the pain of a tedious illness, nor by the fate of a criminal, but that in the mid-career of glorious renown I have been founds worthy of so noble a departure from this world...
    • Julian, mortally wounded in battle, upon his deathbed, as recorded by Ammianus Marcellinus (who was probably present) in Book XXV of his history.
  • Who and from where are you Dionysus?
    Since by the true Bacchus,
    I do not recognize you; I know only the son of Zeus.
    While he smells like nectar, you smell like a goat.
    Can it be then that the Celts because of lack of grapes
    Made you from cereals? Therefore one should call you
    Demetrius, not Dionysus, rather wheat born and Bromus,
    Not Bromius.

    • As quoted in The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe (2005) by Max Nelson, p. 28. In this epigram, Julian mocked the beer of the Germans and Celts as disgusting and uncouth.
  • No wild beasts are so dangerous to men as Christians are to one another.

Misattributed

  • By purple death I'm seized and fate supreme.
    • Lines from Homer's Iliad which he has been quoted as having reciting upon his elevation to Caesar by Constantius II. Such elevations had often proven fatal to others.
  • Vicisti, Galilaee
    • "You have conquered, Galilean" or "You have won, Galilean."
    • This has often been attributed to him, as his last words, but it actually originates much later.

Quotes about Julian

  • More than any other Hellenic thinker, Julian insisted on the virtue of paradox and on the importance of the search for religious truth.
    • Gedaliahu A. G. Stroumsa in Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (2005)
  • Of all the emperors, one there was whom I recall from boyhood --bold in war, a lawgiver, far-famed in word and deed; he cared much for his country, but care not for the true faith, and loved a host of gods, False to the Lord, although true to the world.
    • Adrian Murdoch quoting 'Prudentius' (Writing about Julian in 405 AD) in The Last Pagan (2003)

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