Letters of Julian/Letter 81

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

From The Works of the Emperor Julian, volume III (1913) Loeb Classical Library.

81. To Basil[1][edit]

Up to the present I have displayed the innately mild and humane temper that I have shown since childhood, and have brought under my sway all who dwell on the earth beneath the sun. For lo, every tribe of barbarians as far as the boundaries of the river of Ocean has come bringing gifts to lay at my feet! And likewise the Sagadares[2] who are bred on the banks of the Danube, and the Cotti with headdresses of many shapes and colours, who are not like the rest of mankind to look at, but have a fierce and wild appearance. These at the present time are grovelling in my footprints and promise to do whatever suits my majesty's pleasure. And not only am I distracted by this, but I must with all speed occupy the country of the Persians and put to flight the great Sapor, who is the descendant of Darius, until he consents to pay me tribute and taxes. Afterwards I must also sack the settlements of the Indians and Saracens, until they too shall all take second place in my Empire and consent to pay tribute and taxes. But you have in your own person displayed a pride far exceeding the power of all these, when you say that you are clothed in pious reserve, but in fact flaunt your impudence, and spread a rumour on all sides that I am not worthy to be Emperor of the Romans. What! Do you not yourself know that I am a descendant of the most mighty Constans? And although this your conduct has come to my knowledge I have not, as concerns you, departed from my former attitude — I mean that mutual regard which you and I had when we were young men of the same age. But with no harshness of temper I decree that you shall despatch to me one thousand pounds weight of gold, as I march by Caesarea, to be paid without my leaving the high-road, since I purpose to march with all speed to carry on the war with Persia, and I am prepared, if you do not do this, to lay waste the whole district of Caesarea,[3] to tear down on the spot those fine buildings erected long ago, and to set up instead temples and images, that so I may persuade all men to submit to the Emperor of Rome and not be inflated with conceit. Accordingly, weigh the above-mentioned gold to that amount on Campanian scales, oversee it yourself and measure it carefully and despatch it safely to me by someone of your household in whom you have confidence, and first seal it with your own seal-ring, so that, if you have recognised, late though it be, that the occasion admits of no evasion, I may deal mildly with your errors of the past. For what I read, I understood and condemned.[4]


  1. This letter, generally recognised as spurious, is perhaps a Christian forgery, since it gives an unfavourable impression of Julian. The writer knew nothing of Julian's style and mannerisms. Julian was no boaster and avoided outlandish words. It was probably read by Sozomen, 5. 18. 7, and is of early date. Julian was in frequent correspondence with Basil, and for their friendly relations cf. To Basil, Letter 26.
  2. This tribe cannot be identified. Julian himself always calls the Danube "Ister."
  3. Caesarea had had three fine temples destroyed by the Christians. Julian ordered their restoration, confiscated the estates of the Church, and imposed a fine of 300 lbs. of gold, cf. Sozomen 5. 9. 7. Julian's death may have prevented the enforcement of the penalty.
  4. See below, frag. 14, p. 303. This last sentence was probably not in the original letter but was quoted as Julian's by Sozomen 5. 18 and added to this letter in some MSS. It occurs separately in one MS., Ambrosianus Β 4, with the title πρὸς ἐπισκόπους (Cumont, Recherches, p. 47).