Ecclesiastical history (Socrates)/Book III

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Ecclesiastical history by Sozomen
Book III


Of Julian; his Lineage and Education; his Elevation to the Throne; his Apostasy to Paganism.

The Emperor Constantius died on the frontiers of Cilicia on the 3d of November, during the consulate of Taurus and Florentius; Julian leaving the western parts of the empire about the 11th of December following, under the same consulate, came to Constantinople, where he was proclaimed emperor. And as I must needs speak of the character of this prince who was eminently distinguished for his learning, let not his admirers expect that I should attempt a pompous rhetorical style, as if it were necessary to make the delineation correspond with the dignity of the subject: for my object being to compile a history of the Christian religion, it is both proper in order to the being better understood, and consistent with my original purpose, to maintain a humble and unaffected style. However, it is proper to describe his person, birth, education, and the manner in which he became possessed of the sovereignty; and in order to do this it will be needful to enter into some antecedent details.Constantine who gave Byzantium his own name, had two brothers named Dalmatius and Constantius , the offspring of the same father, but by a different mother. The former of these had a son who bore his own name: the latter had two sons, Gallus and Julian. Now as on the death of Constantine who founded Constantinople, the soldiery had put the younger brother Dalmatius to death, the lives of his two orphan children were also endangered: but a disease which threatened to be fatal preserved Gallus from the violence of his father's murderers; while the tenderness of Julian's age— for he was only eight years old at the time— protected him. The emperor's jealousy toward them having been gradually subdued, Gallus attended the schools at Ephesus in Ionia, in which country considerable hereditary possessions had been left them. And Julian, when he was grown up, pursued his studies at Constantinople, going constantly to the palace, where the schools then were, in plain clothes, under the superintendence of the eunuch Mardonius. In grammar Nicocles the Lacaedemonian was his instructor; and Ecebolius the Sophist, who was at that time a Christian, taught him rhetoric: for the emperor had made the provision that he should have no pagan masters, lest he should be seduced to the pagan superstitions. For Julian was a Christian at the beginning. His proficiency in literature soon became so remarkable, that it began to be said that he was capable of governing the Roman empire; and this popular rumor becoming generally diffused, greatly disquieted the emperor's mind, so that he had him removed from the Great City to Nicomedia, forbidding him at the same time to frequent the school of Libanius the Syrian Sophist. For Libanius having been driven at that time from Constantinople, by a combination of the educators there, had retired to Nicomedia, where he opened a school. Here he gave vent to his indignation against the educators in the treatise he composed regarding them. Julian was, however, interdicted from being his auditor, because Libanius was a pagan in religion: nevertheless he privately procured his orations, which he not only greatly admired, but also frequently and with close study perused. As he was becoming very expert in the rhetorical art, Maximus the philosopher arrived at Nicomedia (not the Byzantine, Euclid's father) but the Ephesian, whom the emperor Valentinian afterwards caused to be executed as a practicer of magic. This took place later; at that time the only thing that attracted him to Nicomedia was the fame of Julian. From him [Julian] received, in addition to the principles of philosophy, his own religious sentiments, and a desire to possess the empire. When these things reached the ears of the emperor, Julian, between hope and fear, became very anxious to lull the suspicions which had been awakened, and therefore began to assume the external semblance of what he once was in reality. He was shaved to the very skin, and pretended to live a monastic life: and while in private he pursued his philosophical studies, in public he read the sacred writings of the Christians, and moreover was constituted a reader in the church of Nicomedia. Thus by these specious pretexts he succeeded in averting the emperor's displeasure. Now he did all this from fear, but he by no means abandoned his hope; telling his friends that happier times were not far distant, when he should possess the imperial sway. In this condition of things his brother Gallus having been created Caesar, on his way to the East came to Nicomedia to see him. But when not long after this Gallus was slain, Julian was suspected by the emperor; wherefore he directed that a guard should be set over him: he soon, however, found means of escaping from them, and fleeing from place to place he managed to be in safety. At last the Empress Eusebia having discovered his retreat, persuaded the emperor to leave him uninjured, and permit him to go to Athens to pursue his philosophical studies. From thence— to be brief— the emperor recalled him, and after created him Caesar; in addition to this, uniting him in marriage to his own sister Helen, he sent him against the barbarians. For the barbarians whom the Emperor Constantius had engaged as auxiliary forces against the tyrant Magnentius, having proved of no use against the usurper, were beginning to pillage the Roman cities. And inasmuch as he was young he ordered him to undertake nothing without consulting the other military chiefs.