Flaviy Iulian

Flaviy Iulian

Roman Emperor in 361-363.
Country: Italy

Biography of Flavius Julian

Flavius Claudius Julianus, also known as Julian the Apostate, was a Roman emperor from 361 to 363. He was born in 331 and was the nephew of Constantine the Great. Julian was raised by the bishop Eusebius and had a strong passion for Hellenistic culture, influenced by his eunuch tutor Mardonius. From a young age, Julian was a secret follower of pagan religions.

Julian was the son of Julius Constantius, one of the half-brothers of Constantine I. He became the cousin of Emperor Constantius II. His mother died shortly after his birth, and his father was killed in 337. Julian was saved from death due to his young age. He and his brother Gallus were ordered to live in Macellum in Cappadocia, near the city of Caesarea. They lived in a magnificent palace with baths, gardens, and springs. The prisoners were given royal treatment. Under the orders of Emperor Constantius, they were educated in various subjects and gymnastics. The boys were also included in the clergy and read church books to the people.

While Gallus did not benefit much from his education, Julian diligently studied in Cappadocia and later in Constantinople. He was highly skilled in academics and had a better command of the Greek language than Latin. He was also skilled in rhetoric, had a remarkable memory, and had a better understanding of certain subjects than philosophers.

He also trained rigorously in military exercises, being very active and physically strong, despite his short stature. It is said that he used to walk around the capital in civilian clothes and strike up conversations with passersby. This increased his popularity among the people, and there were rumors that Julian would be a good ruler of the Roman Empire.

These rumors grew so loud that they began to worry Constantius. Therefore, the emperor sent Julian away from the capital to Nicomedia. It was there that he met the philosopher Maximus of Ephesus, who instilled in him a hatred for the Christian religion. When he was suspected of this, Julian shaved his hair and pretended to lead a monastic life. It was during this time that he became interested in divination and zealously began to study it.

In 354, Gallus was executed by order of Constantius. Julian himself narrowly escaped the same fate, spending seven months in a fortress near Mediolanum awaiting his sentence. However, Empress Eusebia intervened on his behalf. Julian was granted freedom and permission to go to Athens to complete his education. The following year, Constantius summoned Julian back, granted him the title of Caesar, gave him his sister Helena in marriage, and entrusted him with the governance of Gaul and Germanic provinces, which were being ravaged by Germanic tribes.

Thus, the emperor seemed to have placed great trust in his cousin. However, there were rumors everywhere that Julian was chosen as Caesar not to ease the difficult situation in Gaul but rather to ensure his own downfall in a cruel war. It was believed that due to his lack of experience in warfare, he would not withstand the sound of weapons. But the enemies of Caesar miscalculated: Julian's thirst for glory was boundless, and he enthusiastically took on the responsibilities entrusted to him.

He immediately went to Gaul and spent the winter in Vienna, preparing for war. He lived a very moderate life, contenting himself with simple and occasional food, sleeping on a mat and a sheepskin coat. He spent his nights on state affairs and philosophical studies, dedicating his days entirely to military concerns. In the summer of 356, he moved towards Germany. He frightened and drove away some of the Alemanni with his mere presence and defeated others in a battle at Brotomagus. The barbarians were shocked but did not surrender. When Julian retreated with part of his forces for winter quarters in Senones, he had to withstand a month-long siege by them. In the spring of 357, he once again confronted the enemy, reaching the banks of the Rhine and restoring the Three Tabernae, an old Roman fortress recently taken and destroyed by the Alemanni. He soon learned that seven Alemannic kings had gathered their forces near the city of Argentoratum, and he hurried to meet the enemy. When the two armies clashed, Julian deployed his legions, placing all the cavalry on the right flank. The Germans, confident in their superiority, were the first to attack the Roman formation. The Roman cavalry couldn't hold and gave way, but the legionnaires, closing ranks tightly, withstood the blow. A fierce battle began, and for a long time, it was unclear who would prevail. However, in the end, the superiority of Roman weapons became evident. In an attempt to break through the Roman formation, many barbarians were killed, and the rest began to retreat and eventually turned to flight. Julian pursued them all the way to the Rhine.

The enemy fled from Roman provinces, but the emperor decided not to give him rest even within his own borders. He crossed the Rhine and suddenly attacked the Alemannic settlements. The Romans captured people as prisoners and destroyed everything else. Seeing this devastating destruction, the Alemannic kings sent ambassadors to Julian with peace proposals. He agreed to a ten-month truce and returned to Gaul for the winter quarters. In 358, Julian confronted the Salian Franks, who had settled in Roman territory near Toxandria. He attacked them and forced them to seek peace, accepting them into Roman subjection. He then swiftly attacked the Chamavi, killing many and expelling the rest from the empire. The Chamavi sent envoys, promised to submit to Rome, and were allowed to return to their devastated settlements.

Having cleared Gaul, Julian turned his attention to the Alemanni once again. He crossed the Rhine for the fourth time and advanced into the heart of Germany. The soldiers ravaged fields, drove away livestock, and mercilessly killed people. Seeing this devastating devastation, the Alemannic kings, one by one, began to seek peace. They promised to surrender prisoners and provide Julian with everything necessary to build fortresses. In 359, seven old Roman border cities, destroyed by the Germans, were restored. Then Julian crossed the Rhine for the third time against those kings who still hesitated to submit. After burning their fields and homes and capturing many of their people, these kings sent envoys, humbly seeking mercy. Julian made peace with them.

After four years of intense war, he strengthened the western borders of the empire and achieved unexpected success. Worried about his growing popularity, Constantius decided to take away the most combat-ready troops from Julian under the pretext of a war with the Persians. However, when the Germanic units learned that they were being sent to the east, they revolted. The soldiers surrounded Julian's palace in Paris with great noise and proclaimed him Augustus. Julian stubbornly resisted the demands of the crowd, expressing anger and pleading with them not to commit unworthy deeds but eventually had to give in. They placed him on a shield and, lacking a diadem, put a chain on his head, which one of the standard-bearers tore off. Julian sent two letters to Constantius to inform him of his election. One was official and did not contain anything provocative or offensive. But the other, personal letter contained criticisms and sharp attacks.

Until the end of the year, he crossed the Rhine for the fifth time and launched a bold attack on the Attuarian Franks, who were raiding the outskirts of Gaul. The Franks did not expect such swiftness from the Romans, and the victory came easily to Julian. Many people were killed or taken prisoner. The survivors requested peace, and the emperor granted it on the conditions he deemed appropriate. He also prohibited Christian rhetoricians and grammarians from teaching. Julian then moved from Constantinople to Antioch and prepared for a campaign against the Persians. He spent a lot of time serving the gods. Pagan religious ceremonies were restored with unprecedented scope: on certain days, hundreds of bulls were sacrificed, along with various livestock and white birds. To demonstrate his enthusiasm, the emperor personally handled the sacred vessels instead of priests and performed prayers surrounded by a crowd of women. He did not initiate persecutions against Christians but, when the Temple of Apollo Daphne burned down, he suspected Christians of arson and closed the largest church in Antioch.

In 363, with a large army, Julian set out from Syria to Mesopotamia and crossed the Euphrates. Moving along the river, the Romans entered Assyria and captured several fortresses one after another. Some were abandoned by the inhabitants, while others surrendered after a proper siege. The garrison at Maiozamalcha put up particularly fierce resistance. Overcoming all obstacles, Julian approached the Persian capital, Ctesiphon, and defeated a large Persian army outside its walls. However, after inspecting the city's fortifications, he abandoned the idea of besieging it and instead devastated the country and led his army to Corduene. In Maranga, the Romans defeated another army trying to block their path. However, they were soon plagued by hunger in the devastated land. Julian ordered the soldiers to distribute all the supplies intended for the imperial table. Trying to share their hardships, he often exposed himself to unnecessary danger. Upon learning that the Persians had attacked one of the Roman detachments and were pressing them, he rushed to their aid without wearing armor, armed only with a shield. In the ensuing battle, someone threw a spear at the emperor, which pierced his ribs and lodged in the lower part of his liver. The dying Julian was carried into a tent, where he passed away a short time later. Marcellinus writes that he maintained exceptional firmness until the end and held discussions with philosophers Maximus and Priscus about the lofty qualities of the human spirit.