Witty, extraordinarily accurate and beautifully written, this best-selling novel retraces the life of Roman Emperor Julian, narrated in first person. Two of his mentors, renowned pagan philosophers, exchange letters on Julian’s manuscript, adding first-hand accounts that are both dispassionate and tongue in cheek. The result is a multifaceted and often contradictory portrait of the protagonist.
Julian (331-363) was Emperor Constantine’s nephew. After his ascension to the title of Emperor, he became embroiled in a fierce intellectual war with Christianity and died at the age of thirty-two during a military campaign in Persia.
Remembered only as “the Apostate” in the following centuries, Julian was a philosopher, a fine essayist and had a charming personality. He tried to preserve the Hellenistic culture and the ancient religious eclecticism crushed by the violence of the New Religion.
In the novel, the characters are penned with all their humanity and flaws. Despite the complexity of the themes, Vidal handles the ideas of the time in a simple and effective way. The novel captures the religious and political ferment of a brutal age and restores the legacy of a ruler who wanted to preserve the ancient tolerance.
This historical reconstruction provides, as all historiography should, a picture of the past that serves the contingencies of the present.
The remarkable book about the fourth-century Roman emperor who famously tried to halt the spread of Christianity, Julian is widely regarded as one of Gore Vidal’s finest historical novels.
Julian, nephew of Constantine the Great, was one of the brightest yet briefest lights in the history of the Roman Empire. A military genius on the level of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, a graceful and persuasive essayist, and a philosopher devoted to worshiping the gods of Hellenism, he became embroiled in a fierce intellectual war with Christianity that provoked his murder at the age of thirty-two, only four years into his brilliantly humane and compassionate reign. A marvelously imaginative and insightful novel of classical antiquity, Julian captures the religious and political ferment of a desperate age and restores with blazing wit and vigor the legacy of an impassioned ruler.
ex libris inscription