Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate was the Roman emperor from 361 to 363. During his reign he attempted to revert the Roman empire from Christianity back to Paganism, thus the appellation ‘’’Apostate’’’. Through his edict of tolerance of 362 he reopened pagan temples, provided for restitution of alienated temple properties, and called for return of bishops who had been exiled. His reign was cut short by his death during the Battle of Ctesiphon in Persia in June of 363.
Born Flavius Claudius Julianus in either 331 or 332, to Julius Constantinus and his second wife Basilina, Julian was the nephew of Constantine the Great (Constantine I) through his father who was a half brother of the Constantine I. Julian was raised within the imperial household and thus witnessed its intrigues that resulted in the murder by his uncle Constantius II of members of his family including his half brother Constantius Gallus. In 355, Julian was made Caesar of the West. In the following years he led the defense of the Roman Empire along the Rhine River against the intruding Germanic tribes. His successes included recovering Colonia Agrippina (Cologne) and securing the frontier on the Rhine for the next 50 years. With the death of Constantius II on November 3, 361, Julian became emperor, being recognized in Constantius‘ will as his rightful successor.
Having become skeptical of Christianity through the intrigues and murders under Constantius, Julian upon becoming emperor, established policies through his 362 edict of tolerance that suppressed the on-going persecution of pagans and destruction of temples. His actions sought to undermine efforts of the Christians to resist reestablishment of paganism in the empire. His edict for schools prohibited Christian teachers from using pagan sources that formed the core of Roman education. Thus, he was attempting to alienate Christian students from Roman society by depriving them of knowledge needed for success in the Roman society. By recalling exiled bishops Julian appeared to encourage dissension among the Christians, already fighting the heresy of Arius.
While encouraging restoration of pagan temples, he appeared not to practice the civic paganism of the pre-Constantine empire but identified himself to a magical approach to the classical philosophies sometime identified as theurgy or neoplatonism. In the event, his practices were not Christian. He believed himself to be Alexander the Great in another body through migration of souls as taught by Plato and Pythagoras. He was a writer of a number of controversial books and writings, some of which have survived.
In 362, Julian began a campaign against the Persians in the east. There, on June 26, 363, Julian received a fatal wound during the Battle of Ctesiphon, a victorious but inconclusive battle. He had not worn any armor, either through confidence of a victory or through haste or forgetfulness. With his death the last formal opposition to Christianity ended, and, in February 380, Theodosius I (Theodosius the Great) published the edict that all his subjects should profess Christianity.