The Roman emperor Julian (331 or 332-363) was a member of the illustrious family of Constantine the Great, who was his grandfather. He was named Caesar of the western provinces by Emperor Constantius II in 355. Amazingly, he turned out to be a military leader of genius and cleared Gaul of the German threat.
In 360, Julian was proclaimed Augustus (emperor) of the entire Roman Empire by his troops in Gaul. Before Julan and Constantius could face each other in battle, however, Constantius died...after naming Julian as his rightful successor. In 363, Julian embarked on an ambitious campaign against the Sassanid Empire in Persia. Though initially successful, Julian was mortally wounded in battle and died shortly thereafter.
After gaining the purple, Julian started a religious reformation of the state, which was intended to restore the lost strength of the Roman state. As such, he supported the restoration of Hellenistic polytheism as the state religion. His laws tended to target wealthy and educated Christians, and his aim was not to destroy Christianity but to drive the religion out of the governing classes of the empire.
Gore Vidal's wonderful fictional account is very close to the actual events as chronicled by ancient historians. Vidal captures the dramatic tension in a world in which the familiar and traditional is melting away.
©1962 Estate of Gore Vidal (P)2014 Audio Connoisseur