Saturday, March 28, 2009

The last Pagan European Emperor

I discovered that the last pagan emperor of Europe who tried his best to remove the murdering Xtianity from the empire and re-introduce paganism was Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus.

It can be seen that even then theXtians indulged in activities such as temple burning and mass murders of Pagans.

"He is sometimes termed Julian the Apostate, because of his rejection of Christianity in favour of Neo-Platonic paganism; Edward Gibbon wrote:
The triumph of the party which he deserted and opposed has fixed a stain of infamy on the name of Julian; and the unsuccessful apostate has been overwhelmed with a torrent of pious invectives, of which the signal was given by the sonorous trumpet of Gregory Nazianzen."

Interesting notes on his opinion on Religion:

"The 4th century was a time of religious frenzy when people were obsessed with the divine and relations with the gods had to be kept in constant order. For Julian, as it had been for the Tetrachs, Christianity was a threat because by their non-compliance they placed the welfare of the state at risk and sought to abandon the faith that had been the founding of classical civilization. Julian considered Christianity a disease (ep. 41 & 58, 229d) and he referred to the members of the faith as Galileans to deny their creed the claim of being universal. Among his objections was that Christianity did not promote virtue by allowing its adherents simple absolution for sins, even capital crimes (336a-b). Indeed, Constantine had waited until his deathbed before being baptized to receive forgiveness for his numerous crimes. The veneration of martyrs he saw as a morbid preoccupation with corpses.
Julian had been at pains to keep his pagan faith a secret, even after he was proclaimed emperor he continued to observe Christian ceremonies. On the march from Naissos to Constantinople he openly performed a sacrifice which hr recounted to Maximus (ep. 8; Lib. 18.114) writing that the gods had commanded him to restore their worship to its former purity. However, Julian had no intention of merely restoring pagan religion but raising a challenge against the dominance of Christianity. Had Julian enjoyed a reign as long as his cousin or uncle paganism might have been established as a power to be reckoned with, a far greater threat to Christianity.

Among the reforms of early 362, Julian issued one or more decrees aimed at restoring the ancient faith. Property that had been confiscated from pagan temples was restored and public worship of all religious ceremonies, pagan as well as Christian, were allowed. Subsidies that the imperial government had paid to Christian clergy were withdrawn and shifted to pagan clergy and for the rebuilding of temples. Julian also recalled Christian heretics from exile hopeful that their presence would cause the Christian church to fragment.

Unlike Christianity, pagan religion did not perform missionary work to seek converts. Julian sought to remedy this by creating pagan monasteries and establish a systematic theology. Salutius, his military advisor in Gaul, wrote a catechism, almost certainly with Julian's participation, called On the Gods and the Cosmos that sought to establish religious unity, at least among the educated. Pagan faith, however, had never been exclusive in its worship; cities and small communities had charge of their own rites and festivals. Pagan monotheism, in Christian terms, did not exist and was the recognition of a supreme god, as Helios was for Julian (138c, 151a-d), with the other gods as his subordinates.

One of Julian's goals was to establish a pagan clergy with the emperor at the apex as pontifex maximus. Regional high priests, ideally schooled in Neoplatonic philosophy, would be given charge over major areas and were entitled to appoint priests. Julian intended to write a guide for the priesthood but it seems he did not accomplish this task, however, many of his principles appear in his letters. His priests were charged to perform charitable works based on brotherhood "because every man, whether he will or no, is akin to every other man" (291d). Priests were exhorted to be generous to the poor, even to criminals, in the belief that philanthropy does not hinder justice (290d-291a). In a letter to Arascius, the high priest of Galatia, (ep. 22) Julian is particularly clear in what expected from his priests. One fifth of the corn and wine that was provided to Arasacius must be set aside for the poor. The pagan priesthood in each city were to found orphanages and hostels that were open to all in need, not just pagans. Julian was critical of the Christians for keeping their charity to themselves (ep. 22.430d). These ideas may appear to be Christian in origin but the Stoics had maintained a long and deeply felt tradition of philanthropy based on brotherhood.

Pagan priests usually performed their duties part-time; Julian endowed pagan temples to allow a priest to worship full-time. Days and times were fixed for sacrifices and priests were urged to set an example for the community by abstaining from frivolous company and habits, and cultivating the reading of edifying books. They were to preach regularly in the temple and to avoid going to the theater. Julian defined the function of the images of the gods to his priests as symbolic representations only that allowed one to worship, but not being the god himself (293a-b, 294b-c). On the other hand, Julian associated the cult of the emperor with the traditional gods as their sole representative on earth, upholding the notion of the divinity of the emperor, something his model, Marcus Aurelius, would have disapproved of.

Always impatient, Julian had expected paganism to make quicker gains against Christianity (ep. 22.429c). in the summer of 362, while residing in Antioch, he issued a rescript concerning the character of the person city councils ought to appoint as teachers. But the law was so vague it needed further explanation by an additional edict (ep. 36). This law, in no uncertain terms, forbade Christians to teach classical literature for the reason that Christians should not teach what they do not believe. The literature of Greek antiquity was cherished by society; its study was intended to form a student's character and the ability to express oneself in a classical frame of reference. Anyone who wished to pursue a career in public affairs or gain social distinction needed such an education. For believers of Hellenism, writings such as those of Homer and Hesiod, were divinely inspired by the gods, so it was contrary to allow Christians to teach this sacred literature.

The law forced Christian teachers to abandon their professions, although Julian made an exception with Prohairesios, who he knew, but who refused the dispensation. Christian students, of course, could attend the lectures of pagan teachers, giving no choice to a youth who wished to pursue a career in law or the civil service. The edit was well-timed as Julian understood that Christians had not established an educational system of their own. Perhaps the scope of the law went further than teachers of literature to include other professions as the edict was considered inhumane by pagans (Amm. 22.10.7), as well as Christian. Whatever the full implications of this edit were for Julian's contemporaries, for modern historians, the passage of time has blurred its impact.

Julian's idea that Homer and Plato could not be appreciated unless they were thought of as sacred was eventually accepted by the Christian church. Homer, Plato and Aristotle, the main influences of intellectual life for the eastern empire, were given a place as saints in the kingdom of Christ."

There are many parallels to what happened in Europe at that time and what is happening in India right now.

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