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)


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