Following on from yesterday's post, another, again surprisingly sympathetic, note about the Emperor Julian (p74 n.6):
Julian the Apostate takes a similar philosophy as his starting point and emphasises that one should respect the variety of national cultures and ways of life and likewise, accordingly, the multiplicity of divinities and religions. The principal reproach he makes against Christianity, and his sole objection to Judaism, lies in his rejection of the First Commandment: he sees in monotheism, in the denial of other gods, the original sin of Christian and Jewish religion.
It is strangely satisfying to see that the Emperor Julian can still have a relevance, indeed is still significant (irritating?) enough for the Church to engage with his thoughts. I would not have come across this had Mike Aquilina not passed it over (thanks) but Pope Benedict XVI mentions Julian several times in his book Truth and Tolerance (p174-174):
We can see that this [caritas] gave Christianity its inner power perhaps most clearly in the way that the emperor Julian went about trying to restore paganism in a new form. He, the Pontifex Maximus of the restored religion of the old gods, now set up something that had never before existed, a pagan hierarchy with priests and metropolitans. The priests were supposed to give a moral example; they were to practice the love of God (the high god over all the gods) and of their neighbours. It was their duty to practice deeds of love toward the poor; they were no longer allowed to read lascivious comedies or erotic novels, and on festivals they were to preach on a philosophical theme, so as to teach and to edify the people. Teresio Bosco quite rightly remarks about this that in reality the emperor was seeking, not to restore paganism, but to reform it in a Christian sense – in a synthesis of enlightenment and religion within which the cult of the gods was enfolded.
A final letter from Synesius (in this series) complaining about a slave (Ep 32):
The man I quite ignorantly bought as a personal trainer [teacher of gymnastics] from the heirs of Theodorus, was a slave both in name and in nature.
He was a waste of space from the beginning, badly born and badly brought up, nor had he failed to receive a training appropriate to his nature. From his childhood he had wallowed in cock-fighting, in gambling, and in drinking at pubs. To-day, as Lysias would say, all is up with him. He has attained his goal. He is the very limit of all that is unsavoury. He does not care at all for Hermes and Hercules, the guardians of the palaestra, but serves Cotytto and the other Attic gods of lechery, and whatever other demons of that stamp there may be. All these are his, and he is theirs.
I have no idea of punishing him in any other way than this. Vice is enough of a penalty in itself for the vicious, but because a proved wretch like this is quite unfit to live with masters who are philosophers, and whom shame haunts in their homes because of such, let him be banished from the city that harbours us. At the sight of this degenerate swaggering through the forum, garlanded, perfumed, and drunk, giving way to every excess and singing songs appropriate to the life he leads at the top of his voice, every one naturally blames his owner.
Find some way, therefore, of handing him over to the captain of a ship, to take him to his home country. That may tolerate him with more reason. But during the voyage by all means tie him upon the deck. If he is allowed to go down below, don’t be surprised to find many wine jars half empty. And if the voyage is prolonged, he will drain the perfumed liquid to the dregs. Worse, he might encourage the whole crew to do these very things. In addition to other motives, evil is most persuasive when it assumes the leadership for enjoyment’s sake. And of those who sail in the ocean for pay, who is so austere as not to give way to the dissipation at the sight of this pest dancing the cordax as he passes round the cup? He is an adept in every sort of buffoonery, and the captain of the ship must steel himself against him. Odysseus indeed passed by the shore of the Sirens fast bound, that he might not succumb to pleasure, and this wretch too will be bound, if the crew are wise, that he may not destroy the ship's company with indulgences.
I love op-ed pieces like this. From an article in ABS-CBN about how Robert Burns could be used to reinforce Filipino national identity:
At the peak of the expansion of the Roman Empire, the Scots successfully resisted Roman conquest. Two Roman legions that were sent as an advance column to Scotland vanished without a trace – no bones, no armor, no signs of battle to suggest what became of them. The mighty Romans lost their nerve and zest for conquering Scotland and instead built Hadrian’s Wall; running 73 miles of open country "to separate Romans from the barbarians."
Synesius complaining in very recognisable terms to his brother about their relatives (Ep 3):
Aeschines had already been buried three days when his niece came
to visit his tomb for the first time. Custom, you know, does not permit girls to attend
funerals once they are engaged to be married. However, even then she was dressed in
purple, with a diaphanous veil over her hair, and she had decked herself with gold and
precious stones that she might not be a sign of evil omen to her fiance. Sitting on a
chair with double cushions and silver feet, so they say, she complained against the bad-timing of this misfortune, on the grounds that Aeschines should have died either
before her wedding or after it, and she was angry with us because we were in mourning. Hardly waiting for the seventh day, on which we had met for the funeral banquet, she got into her mule car, along with that talkative old nurse of hers, and, when the
forum was busy, set out on her stately course for Teucheira with all her adornments.
Next week she is preparing to display herself crowned with fillets and
with a towering head-dress like Cybele.
We are in no way wronged by this except in the fact, patent to the entire world, that we have relations with very bad taste. .
The last of the Theodosian anniversaries. On this day in 393, Honorius was made emperor by his father Theodosius. This is what Sozomen had to say (7.24.1):
When he had completed his preparations for war, Theodosius declared his younger son Honorius emperor, and leaving him to reign at Constantinople conjointly with Arcadius, who had previously been appointed emperor, he departed from the East to the West at the head of his troops