Presenter: Nicola Holm (Thesis review seminar)

The emperor Julian (AD 361-363) is well known as Rome’s last pagan emperor and for his attempt to wind back the pro-Christian reforms of his uncle Constantine. However, unlike the bloody persecutions of his Tetrarchic and third-century predecessors, Julian opted for a bloodless approach to his anti-Christian policies. In many respects Julian was a traditional ruler, who sought to address the administrative and religious ‘problems’ of the empire in a manner similar to many of his ‘good’ predecessors. In particular, Julian sought to emulate the rule of Marcus Aurelius, whom he declared in his Caesars to be the best of all emperors (Julian, Caesars 335C). However, Julian’s role as the last persecutor of the Christians often overshadows this, with many of his approaches to Christianity understood as solely innovative in their nature. This paper will argue that a number of the religious policies and actions of Julian appeared to be traditional in their form and purpose, while additionally being a covert vehicle for promoting his austere, philosophical agenda. These policies include Julian’s infamous school law, the return of blood sacrifice, and the recall of exiled bishops. In all three cases I will demonstrate that Julian’s polices combined elements of traditionalism and innovation in an attempt to win the widest possible support for his reforms.


Michie Building (9),
St Lucia campus