This paper is concerned with how particular ways of remembering the past are both produced and in themselves productive. Focusing on the language of pollution and disgust that permeates the emperor Julian’s writings on the topic of the worship by Christians of corpses, this paper appeals to Moral Foundations Theory and other recent research in cognition. Understanding the agency of language in activating subconscious moral judgements, it is argued, is helpful for explaining how, despite his policy of religious tolerance, Julian’s discourse escalated anti-Christian sentiment, on the one hand, and hostility on the part of Christians, on the other. The after-effects at Antioch are traced through the presbyter John Chrysostom’s discourses against the Jews and in praise of his anti-Julian model, the apostle Paul. The paper is in essence about how an emperor’s conversion and zeal to reinstate a pure version of pagan religion that no longer existed – if it ever did – led not only to the production of how he was later remembered as an apostate but to escalated hostility towards the Jews as an unintended consequence.

Presented by Prof. Wendy Mayer (Australian Lutheran College)

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at


Lev 5, Michie Building (9), St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensland