This was an entertaining and well researched biography of the last pagan emperor of Rome It is an academic work and not a piece of pop history, but the material is so damned interesting even a scientist can enjoy and has enjoyed it It traces the unlikely rise of a humble scholar and academic philosopher to the imperial purple Along the way he becomes a great war hero and also parts ways with his family s Christian religion His Quixotic efforts to restore pagan religion, learning and culture to a world slipping into the dark ages, make him a most tragic and heroic character Some of his edicts meant to reign in Christians are very funny He did not hurt anyone or persecute them, but rather he tried to help Christians in living up to their ideals e.g taking wealth from rich Bishops to distribute to the poor, etc When Christians attacked him he published a series of academic works to support the philosophical basis of his program rather than tossing them all to the lions Pretty good show This Portrayal Of One Of Antiquity S Most Enigmatic Figures Offers A Vivid And Compact Assessment Of The Apostate S Life And Reign Proceeding Directly From An Evaluation Of The Ancient Sources The Testimony Of Friends And Enemies Of Julian As Well As The Writings Of The Emperor Himself The Author Traces Julian S Youth, His Years As The Commander Of The Roman Forces In Gaul, And His Emergence As Sole Ruler In The Course Of A Dramatic March To Constantinople In Bowersock S Analysis Of Julian S Religious Revolution, The Emperor S Ardent Espousal Of A Lost Cause Is Seen To Have Made Intolerable Demands Upon Pagans, Jews, And Christians Alike I feel like any book about Julian that perpetuates the label apostate must have a pro Christian bias, and this one is no exception It s a short and decent intro to the emperor Julian though originally written in 1978, there is certainly newer scholarship about Julian out there It s well researched, but the authors bias against Julian definitely shows at some points For example, it seems the author thinks that Julian s questions of consience when he went against Constantius were a bad thing What about Constantius consience when he murdered his family members including Julian s relatives I suppose we all must look at the ancient world through the lens of our own experience and beliefs. The book is set out or less as a chronological biography from Julian s birth to his accession to the throne as sole Augustus in 361 From there, it takes on a thematic aspect as it describes his policies and movements throughout his time in Naissus, Constantinople and then on to Antioch, where the narrative picks up again and swiftly carries the emperor to his greatest triumph against the Sassanid Persians at their own capital of Ctesiphon and his final end on the return journey.The major downside to this work is Bowersock s clear, at times vitriolic disdain for the Emperor Julian and many of his policies In the early part of the book, he writes seemingly as an apologist for Constantius II, portraying him in a far favourable light than most other historians of the period He castes Julian in the mold of a zealot and a bigot, and eventually as a persecutor of Christians, something which most historians stop short of This is not the book one should read first on Julian, as I can imagine it would colour one s views irrevocably against the man Despite this, however, Bowersock s writing is clear, his style engaging, and his research clearly meticulous If one is able to see beyond the surface layer of strongly opinionated commentary, an incredible amount of knowledge in a short run of pages only 119 for the main section is revealed For that reason, this is a must read for anyone with a solid background knowledge of Julian, looking to learn. A good concise biography This is a second reading of this for me I finished a biography of Valens, who came after him, and Constantine, who came before, and thought that I would get out of another reading I did the first time I read it was an introduction for me to the era, so I got a lot out of it this time My only complaint is that some of it is too brief the author mentions that Julian was traumatized by the murder of his brother, but the book gives little information about him However, I noticed the lack only on a second reading when I was first reading it, I was found it really informative So a good book on the subject, that makes me want to research. I think this is as far as I know the definitive biography and I ll be rereading it again It s pretty dense but features some interesting dissections of where Julian s account of his life and elevation to the height of power differs from the facts in the historical record He s also good at analyzing the few firsthand sources we have on this troubling figure in history. I can t help but have a sneaking admiration for Julian He tried it was a lost cause, but he tried Can t help but feel fond for an underdog, sometimes.
Glen Warren Bowersock is a contemporary American scholar of the ancient world He is the author of over a dozen books and has published over 300 articles on Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern history and culture as well as the classical tradition.
- 152 pages
- Julian the Apostate
- G.W. Bowersock
- 20 August 2017 G.W. Bowersock