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Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church

Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome

Susanna Elm
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 558
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  • Book Info
    Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking study brings into dialogue for the first time the writings of Julian, the last non-Christian Roman Emperor, and his most outspoken critic, Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, a central figure of Christianity. Susanna Elm compares these two men not to draw out the obvious contrast between the Church and the Emperor’s neo-Paganism, but rather to find their common intellectual and social grounding. Her insightful analysis, supplemented by her magisterial command of sources, demonstrates the ways in which both men were part of the same dialectical whole. Elm recasts both Julian and Gregory as men entirely of their times, showing how the Roman Empire in fact provided Christianity with the ideological and social matrix without which its longevity and dynamism would have been inconceivable.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95165-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    This is a book about two powerful, enduring, and competing visions of universalism in the fourth century: Christianity and the Roman Empire. Yet, I will argue that these visions were in fact one, since Christianity was essentially Roman. Christianity’s universalism lasted because it was, from the beginning, deeply enmeshed in the foundational ideologies granting Rome’s supremacy. In the crucial fourth century of imperial patronage and religious conflict, Christian universalism was even more profoundly influenced by those ancient Roman ideological foundations. The book demonstrates these claims through the figures of one of Rome’s ancient foundations’ defenders, the pagan emperor Julian the...


    • 1 Nazianzus and the Eastern Empire, 330–361
      (pp. 17-59)

      “I have been beaten, and I recognize my defeat: I have surrendered to the Lord and have come to supplicate him” (Gr. Naz.Or. 2.1).¹ With these words Gregory the Younger of Nazianzus begins his second oration, delivered probably on Easter 363 and circulated soon thereafter. This oration represents the earliest systematic treatment of the Christian priesthood propagated by a member of the Greek-speaking Roman elite.² Gregory’s treatise on the nature of Christian leadership had a profound and lasting impact, for example on John Chrysostom, another member of that elite and bishop of Constantinople. Chrysostom’s work on the priesthood, based...

    • 2 Julian, from Caesar to Augustus: Paris to Constantinople, 355–362
      (pp. 60-87)

      Nazianzus, themansioon the route linking Constantinople and Antioch, though a comparatively insignificant city when it appeared on the historical map in 362 or 363, had not remained unscathed by the seismic shifts accompanying the end of Constantius’s reign and the beginning of Julian’s. Indeed, Nazianzus owed its appearance on that map in no small measure to Julian’s reign and his effect on both the emerging formulations of Christianity and their relevance within the Roman Empire. In other words, as the chapters that follow demonstrate, Gregory the Younger in his inauguralOration2 and in the subsequent ones—Orations...

    • 3 Philosopher, Leader, Priest: Julian in Constantinople, Spring 362
      (pp. 88-144)

      Julian entered Constantinople, the city of his birth, on December 11, 361, surrounded by troops of soldiers. As Sabine MacCormack has emphasized, the choreography of hisadventusinto Constantinople crystallized and projected the central tenets of his inaugural letters to the Athenians and to Themistius and thus to the Constantinopolitan senate: as his military victories demonstrated, Julian came as one chosen by the gods to alter Constantius’s legacy. The new emperor, though acknowledging his dynastic connections to the mighty house of Constantine, entered the city as victorious military leader and independent man.¹ The citizens of Constantinople approved. They, too, “all...


    • 4 On the True Philosophical Life and Ideal Christian Leadership: Gregory’s Inaugural Address, Oration 2
      (pp. 147-181)

      During the summer of 362 Julian crossed Cappadocia en route from Constantinople to Antioch. The journey was the first phase of a daunting military campaign against the Persians under Shapur, the archenemy of the Romans. Thus the emperor, as part of his preparation, intensified his efforts, hisergaas philosopher, priest, and leader, to guide those in his care to the divine by all imperial means at his disposal, for the favor of the gods was essential for the success of his military campaign. Nazianzus was on the emperor’s route, and one of its prominent citizens was in his entourage:...

    • 5 The Most Potent Pharmakon: Gregory the Elder and Nazianzus
      (pp. 182-212)

      In 362 and 363, as Gregory was writing his first three orations, the philosopher’s principal duty as physician of the soul—to comprehend theLogosas fully as humanly possible, to imprint its healing words on the souls in his care, and to strengthen his own and their kinship(oikeiōsis)with God—had assumed particular urgency. Thekoinōniaof those affiliated with God was in deep crisis, indeed engaged in a veritable civil war (Or. 2.85). Incapable and insufficiently trained persons had assumed leading positions out of base motives: selfishness, vanity, hunger for money and power. Their words, rather than...

    • 6 Armed like a Hoplite Gregory the Political Philosopher at War: Eunomius, Photinus, and Julian
      (pp. 213-266)

      Gregory faced a monumental task as philosopher–physician of the soul and as armed combatant, engaged in the war within himself as preparation for both the civil war that divided his kin inside and the attack of the enemy outside. Gregory’s doubts and hesitations as he considered the dangers are poignant, even though they conform to the ritual ofrecusatio—the protestations expected from one chosen to lead. He must have found it excruciating to witness Christians tear each other apart while also under intense attack from outside. Thus, before he intervened, Gregory armed himself like a hoplite. He was...


    • 7 A Health-Giving Star Shining on the East: Julian in Antioch, July 362 to March 363
      (pp. 269-335)

      I left Julian, the beast threatening Gregory and his church from the outside, in early summer of 362 en route from Constantinople to Antioch. The emperor and his court, including Caesarius, passed Nazianzus shortly after Julian issued an imperial letter declaring those who denied the true gods’ inspiration of men such as Homer, Hesiod, Plato, and Aristotle unfit to teach and comment on their writings. This and other, similar imperial pronouncements propelled Gregory of Nazianzus and other members of the Greek Christian elites into action. Gregory claimed only his own (Christian) reading of these writings, inspired by theLogos, granted...

    • 8 The Making of the Apostate: Gregory’s Oration 4 against Julian
      (pp. 336-377)

      “Rumor, the swiftest messenger of sad events, . . . flew through provinces and nations,” bearing the news of Julian’s death while the emperor was on thekatabasisfrom Ctesiphon back to Roman territory.¹ Libanius knew only that “a cavalryman’s spear struck him when he was without armor, . . . and the spear went through his arm and entered his side. . . . You are anxious to hear who killed him. I do not know his name.”² By early August Jovian had been elected the new emperor by the army, still in Persian territory. To control the worst...

    • 9 A Bloodless Sacrifice of Words to the Word: Logoi for the Logos
      (pp. 378-432)

      The nexus between the gods and the philosophy proper to them, the appropriate way to venerate the Greek and Roman gods, and following god as instituted by the ancients stood at the center of Julian’s imperial endeavor, because for him too piety had been the highest virtue. As Plato had demanded in hisLaws, Julian as legislator served the gods at all times in their hierarchical order (down todaimonesand heroes) and as proper to each cultic place, because venerating the sacred (hiera) and thelogoiproper to them guaranteed the well-being of thepoliteia.² To strengthen again that...

    • 10 Gregory’s Second Strike, Oration 5
      (pp. 433-478)

      “‘The first of my declamatory strikes is completed and brought to an end.’ . . . ‘Now [on to] another target I do not know anyone else has already hit.’”² Gregory begins his second oration against Julian innocuously enough, seamlessly interweaving a quotation from Homer’sOdyssey(22.5–6) with one from Proverbs (3:11–12) to alert his audience to what is to come. But in fact Gregory’s opening sentence encapsulates everything he represents. The context of the seemingly innocuous remark Gregory quotes from Homer—my first strike is complete—is the brief pause before Odysseus’s second and final attack on...

  9. Conclusion: Visions of Rome
    (pp. 479-488)

    This book, about the power of words to fashion a world and about the radical consequences of small differences, also addresses the corollary: that words can be so powerful and the consequences of small differences so radical because of profound similarities. All the principals of this book were intellectual twins, affiliated (oikeioi) with one another and with the empire in which they lived and that they governed by their commonpaideia, literally how they were raised. Indeed, though they exercised power to different degrees, all the principals of this book (most of whom were bishops) had one dominant concern: how...

    (pp. 489-528)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 529-553)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 554-554)