Julian the Apostate, Letters - fragments (1923) Works, vol. 3, pp.294-303.
[Translated by W. C. Wright]
Then who does not know the saying of the Ethiopians about the food that with us is held to be most nutritious? For when they first handled bread they said they wondered how we manage to live on a diet of dung, that is if one may believe the Thurian chronicler.1 And those who write descriptions of the world relate that there are races of men who live on fish and flesh 2 and have never even dreamed of our kind of diet. But if anyone in our country tries to adopt their diet, he will be no better off than those who take a dose of hemlock or aconite or hellebore.
1 Herodotus 3. 22 describes the amazement of the Ethiopians, who lived on boiled meat, at the diet of the Persians. They said they were not surprised that men who lived on such food attained to a maximum of only eighty years. For the different temperaments and customs of different peoples cf. Against the Galilaeans, 143e.
2 Cf. vol. 2, Oration 6. 191c for Julian's remarks on diet.
We hastened to the Hercynian forest and it was a strange and monstrous thing that I beheld. At any rate I do not hesitate to engage that nothing of the sort has ever been seen in the Roman Empire, at least as far as we know. But if anyone considers Thessalian Tempe or Thermopylae or the great and far-flung1 Taurus to be impassable, let me tell him that for difficulty of approach they are trivial indeed compared with the Hercynian forest.2
1 Julian, Oration 2. 101 D. The Greek word is Platonic, cf. Theaetetus 161 D.
2 For Julian's knowledge of the Hercynian forest, which in ancient Germany extended from the Black Forest on the north-east to the Hartz Mountains, cf. Vol. 2, Misopogon 359b; Ammianus, 17. 1. 8 i.e. in his German campaign in 357; Zosimus, 3. 4. 3.
To the Corinthians 3
. . . My friendship with you dates from my father's 4 time. For indeed my father lived in your city, and embarking thence, like Odysseus from the land of the Phaeacians, had respite from his long-protracted wanderings5. . . there my father found repose.
3 This is all that remains of the manifesto sent to the Corinthians by Julian in 361, when he sought to justify his defection from Constantius.
4 Julius Constantius was murdered by his nephew, the Emperor Constantius, in 337.
5 Libanius says that Julian here spoke briefly about the "wicked stepmother" of Julius, the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, see Zosimus 2. 8 and 9.
. . . and the famous hierophant Iamblichus showed it to us . . . and we, since we believed the account of Empedotimus 6 and Pythagoras, as well as that of Heracleides of Pontus who derived it from them.7 . . .
6 For this famous Syracusan, who claimed to be immortal, see Vol. 2, 295b.
7 Geffcken points out that Julian's statement is derived from a commentary on Plato and quotes Proclus, On Plato's Republic 2. 119. 18. "The human soul may learn the sacred truth about the affairs of the underworld and report them to mankind. This is shown by the account of Empedotimus, which Heracleides of Pontus relates." Then follows the vision of Empedotimus in Hades; cf. Rohde, Psyche, p. 385.
They only knew how to pray 1
1 Julian said this of the soldiers who were assigned to him by Constantius when he went to Gaul in 355; cf. Libanius 18. 94, said of the soldiers who were to be left with Julian when Constantius summoned the best of the Gallic army to the East in 360.
. . . that they2 may not, by sharpening their tongues,3 be prepared to meet their Hellenic opponents in debate.
2 i.e. the Christians.
3 i.e. by the study of rhetoric.
. . . for in the words of the proverb, we are stricken by our own arrows.4 For from our own writings they5 take the weapons wherewith they engage in the war against us.
4 i.e. the arrows are feathered from our plumage; cf. Aristophanes, Birds 808. The figure is used by Byron, Waller and Moore of a wounded eagle "Which on the shaft that made him die, espied a feather of his own." The original is Aeschylus, Myrmidons, frag. 139.
5 i.e. the Christians.
Not to see beforehand what is possible and what impossible in practical affairs is a sign of the utmost foolishness.6
6 This is apparently a criticism of that lack of political instinct in the Christians of which Julian speaks in his treatise Against the Galilaeans, fragment 5. Hence Neumann regards the above fragment as derived from a lost part of the treatise.
Accordingly he says in a letter: At present the Scythians 1 are not restless, but perhaps they will become restless.
1 In 360 Constantius bribed the Scythians to aid him in his campaign against the Persians (Ammianus 20. 8. 1), and in 363 Julian employed Scythian auxiliaries for the same purpose (Ammianus 23. 2. 7). It is uncertain to which of these dates the fragment refers; Eunapius quotes this remark as evidence of Julian's foresight.
To Euthymeles the Tribune.
A king delights in war.
For I am rebuilding with all zeal the temple of the Most High God.2
2 Lydus says that Julian wrote this to the Jews. The letter is lost. For Julian's design of rebuilding the Temple see Letter 51 and Introduction.
To the citizens who acclaimed him in the temple of Fortune 3
When I enter the theatre unannounced,4 acclaim me, but when I enter the temples be silent5 and transfer your acclamations to the gods; or rather the gods do not need acclamations.1
3 At Constantinople there was a temple of Fortune (Τυχή) with a statue of the Goddess, cf. Socrates 3. 11. It was when Julian was sacrificing in this temple that he was denounced by the blind Bishop Maris of Chalcedon, as related by Sozomen 5. 4. But as Julian in the Μisopogon 346b speaks twice of sacrificing at Antioch in the temple of Fortune, this admonition may have been addressed to the citizens of Antioch, late in 362 or early in 363.
4 For Julian's rare visits to the theatre, see Misopogon 339c, 368c. For his love of applause, Ammianus 25. 4. 18 volgi plausibus laetus.
5 Cf. Vol. 2. Misopogon 344b,c, where Julian reproves the citizens of Antioch for applauding him in the temples.
1 This and the following fragment, wrongly placed among the letters by Hertlein and earlier editors, are, as Cumont saw, isolated mots historiques probably quoted from some historical work. They may have occurred in an edict.
To a Painter 2
If I did not possess it3 and you had bestowed it on me, you would have deserved to be forgiven; but if I possessed it and did not use it, I carried the gods, or rather was carried by them. Why, my friend, did you give me a form other than my own? Paint me exactly as you saw me.
2 Sozomen 5. 17. says that Julian had himself painted "on the public pictures" in juxtaposition with Zeus or Ares or Hermes in order that the people might be compelled when they saluted the Emperor to salute the gods also, and that few had the courage to refuse to conform with this established custom; cf. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 4. 81.
3 Whether because of mutilation or lack of context, the two first sentences are unintelligible; we do not know the object of the verbs or what is meant by the reference to the gods; but evidently Julian did not like his portrait.
To the Bishops.
I recognised, I read, I condemned.4
4 Sozomen 5. 18 says that Julian, in order to ridicule the Christian substitutes for the Greek classics, composed chiefly by Apollinaris, after Julian had forbidden Christians to teach the originals, wrote these words to the Bishops. Their answer was as follows: "You have read, but you have not understood; for, had you understood, you would not have condemned." See Letter 81, To Basil, p. 286.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2010. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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