Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Julian the Apostate's support of the Jews


I found this article about Julian's support for the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem quite interesting. I have read Michael Curtis Ford's "Gods and Legions", a novel about the life and reign of the emperor Julian and gained an admiration for this "soldier, inspired military commander and rhetorician" despite the centuries of vilification heaped upon him by subsequent Christian rulers.

"The Roman Emperor Julian, who ruled 361-363 CE, called on the Jews to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem. Whatever his motives, he showed our ancestors unusual respect and understanding.

Julian was hardly an ordinary emperor, though history has failed to pay sufficient attention to his policies. In Julian, the Romans had a just ruler and brave soldier. He was a modest man who labored to relieve the distress of his subjects while endeavoring to connect authority with merit and happiness with virtue.

As a young soldier Julian subdued, against the odds, the German threat in Gaul with a small force. He ruled ancient Gaul with wisdom and authority, hardly ever seeking a personal gain. He slept on the ground with his legionnaires, earning their respect. Julian was an excellent organizer, an honest judge, a writer and a philosopher.

Brought up as a Christian, Julian rejected the religion and turned back to the paganism of Greek and Roman days. He argued that Christianity would weaken and ultimately destroy the Roman Empire. As a result, he attempted to restore Hellenism, which earned him everlasting Christian disdain.

Known to Christians as Julian the Apostate, the emperor restored pagan temples and the cult of the old Roman gods. These were to be served by a reform-minded pagan clergy with high moral character, who would compete with the Christian clergy in meeting the religious needs of the people.

Julian remains famous for having declared absolute freedom for all religious beliefs - making him perhaps the first leader to extend toleration of religion to all Romans.

ON THE July 19, 362 C.E., Julian left Constantinople and arrived in Antioch to prepare for the invasion of Persia. However busy he must have been, he met with "the chiefs of the Jews."

The details of this fascinating meeting, preserved only in Christian sources, are cited in Michael Avi Yona's The Jews under Roman and Byzantine Rule - A Political History from the Bar Kochba War to the Arab Conquest.

Julian, who wanted to form a common cause with the Jews against Christianity, asked: "Why do you not sacrifice to God, as required by the laws of Moses?"

The Jews replied: "We are not allowed by our laws to sacrifice outside our Holy City. How can we do it now? Restore to us the City, rebuild the Temple and the altar, and we shall offer sacrifices, as in days of old."

He promised: "I shall endeavor with the utmost zeal to set up the Temple of the Most High God."

THE RESTORATION of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem would, in Julian's opinion, defeat the Christian argument of replacement theology - that the Church was the true Israel, and that the Temple's destruction and the subsequent exile was the just punishment suffered by the Jewish people for the Crucifixion. The Temple's restoration, Julian figured, would persuade Christian converts that God still favored the Jewish people.

As an army commander, embarking on a war against a formidable Persian enemy, Julian could also expect that the Jews of Mesopotamia would assist his legions. But there can also be no doubt that Julian's attitude of fairness and his respect for the stubborn stand of the Jewish remnant played a role in his desire to achieve a Jewish restoration.

In his "Four Letters" addressed to the Jewish people, Julian recognized their dire situation and appealed to them to join him in his campaign. That's a vast difference from the Persian ruler Cyrus, who had only allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple; Julian virtually ordered them to do so, and perhaps, upset by their initial hesitation, appointed Alypius, a pagan native of Antioch and his best friend, to supervise the work.

In a letter to the Jewish Patriarch Hillel II, residing in Tiberias, Julian abrogated the entire gamut of anti-Jewish legislation and recognized Jewish authority in Israel, including the right to levy taxes.

ACCORDING TO the Christian sources, there was considerable initial enthusiasm among the Jews of Diaspora. Many purses were opened. But other leading Jews were confused and apprehensive. The community had only recently suffered yet another painful defeat in the failed uprising against Gallus (351 C.E.), which erupted in protest against discriminatory anti-Jewish legislation. The Patriarchate had lost Lydda, the few remaining settlements in Judea and several vital Galilean villages.

The people quoted a verse from Daniel (11:34): "Now when they shall stumble, they shall be helped with a little help; but many shall join themselves unto them with blandishments."

The Jews were doubtless divided between those who believed that Julian was a savior and those who remembered Rabbi Simon Ben Eliezer's warning against the youthful enthusiasm of the second generation after the Bar Kochba disaster: "If children tell you: 'Go, build the Temple - do not listen to them.'"

Above all, could Jewish hopes depend on the fortunes of one man?

In the end, no attempt was made to set up a temporary altar and offer sacrifices on the former Temple grounds, as the Maccabeans had done. While the Jews could not oppose the will of the Roman emperor, they could drag their feet. Apparently the majority did. They remembered Rome as Amalek, not as a benefactor.

THE WORK ordered on the Temple's foundation advanced slowly. It took time to provide silver spades and pickaxes, since no iron was allowed to be used. And then, according to the Roman writer Ammianus, "balls of fire" supposedly erupted from the foundations and rendered the place inaccessible.

The Christian majority of Jerusalem described this fire in glowing terms, as a splendid miracle, a further proof of the rightness of Christianity. The Jews suspected Christian arson. Meanwhile Alypius, Julian's pagan friend, seemed hardly in a hurry to carry out the emperor's order."

Visiting the Via Appia Antica


A nice piece about the Via Appia. I hope to see the sights listed when I visit Rome in October. I planned to take the relatively new hop-on-hop-off Archaeobus to the park and spend the day exploring the catacombs, the baths of Caracalla, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, and a couple of the churches and museums (if my feet don't give out!). I would also like to try the spit-roasted goat they mentioned was a local specialty.

"A modern-day tour of the Via Appia Antica might start at the end of the Forum, just beyond the Circus Maxentius where charioteers raced seven times around an obelisk cheered by spectators in 10 tiers of stone bleachers. Near here, weary travelers beheld Rome's golden milepost - where all roads led. Soon the pleasant road, shaded with cypresses and umbrella pines, passes scattered piles of eroded bricks that once were grand mausoleums.

A short distance brings the traveler to the dome-shaped ruins of the ornate tomb of the noblewoman Cecilia Metella. She was the daughter-in-law of Marcus Crassus, who shared the triumvirate with Pompey and Julius Caesar. In "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," Lord Byron muses whether she died young and fair or old and wise:

"This much alone we know: Metella died, the richest Roman's wife. Behold his love or pride."

Pope Urban VIII ripped up the marble floor of her tomb to build the Trevi Fountain.

At Porta San Sebastiano is the landmark Church of Domine Quo Vadis. Here legend says St. Peter, fleeing Nero's persecutions after the great fire, saw a vision of Christ heading toward the city. "Lord, where goest Thou?" he asked, and the vision replied, "To Rome to be crucified again."

Also at Porta San Sebastiano stands the largest and best preserved of the fortified gates in the Aurelian Wall that embraced the seven hills of Rome for more than a thousand years. The twin gate towers house a small museum of wall artifacts. Here you can walk along the top of the wall for postcard views of the Appian Way and the distant Alban Hills. All about are vineyards producing Rome's refreshing Frascati wine.

Beyond the narrow ancient gate, the road dips slightly into a valley covering a maze of catacombs where thousands of bodies were buried along five levels of tunnels. Rome has more than 60 catacombs, some not yet fully explored.

If you go

APPIAN WAY: 011-39-06-512-6314. Web site offers information on tours of the Appian Way; how to get there by public transportation, bike or on foot; opening times for monuments and museums, and other information. Visitor center is located at Via Appia Antica 42 (open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 2:30 p.m.-5 p.m.).

AP
The two most important catacombs open to the public along the Appian Way are St. Sebastian and St. Callixtus, where most of the early popes and many martyrs were buried. Walls and ceilings have paintings and frescoes of early Christian symbols like the fish, the dove and the anchor, and scenes from Scripture such as Jonah swallowed by the whale, Daniel in the lions' den, the raising of Lazarus and, most often, the Good Shepherd.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Julius Caesar Study Guide


N.S. Gill from About.com has put together a number of references for students studying Julius Caesar:


"Julius Caesar (July 12/13, 102/100 B.C. - March 15, 44 B.C.) may have been the greatest man of all times. By age 39/40, Caesar had been a widower, divorce, governor (propraetor) of Further Spain, captured by pirates, hailed imperator by adoring troops, quaestor, aedile, consul, and pontifex maximus -- a lifelong honor usually reserved for the end of a man's career. What was left for his remaining 16/17 years? That for which Julius Caesar was most well known: the Triumvirate, military victories in Gaul, the dictatorship, civil war, and, finally, assassination.

Julius Caesar was a general, a statesman, a lawgiver, an orator, an historian, and a mathematician. His government (with modifications) endured for centuries. He never lost a war. He fixed the calendar. He created the first news sheet, Acta Diurna, which was posted on the forum to let everyone who cared to read it know what the Assembly and Senate were up to. He also instigated an enduring law against extortion."

Friday, July 6, 2007

York moves its Roman Festival to October

"York's popular Roman Festival is being moved from its summer time slot to the autumn school holiday weekend of October 26, 27 and 28.

The organisers of the Roman Festival have moved the dates for this year's festival in the hope it can improve the event, with more re-enactors and more attendees.

Organisers say moving the festival back until the end of the week of the half-term break in October gives more time to promote the event and gives York a big festival event at a quieter time of the year.

Furthermore, they claim it allows lots of other re-enactment groups, who are booked elsewhere in July, to attend, meaning more soldiers will be able to march around the city.

Last year's extravaganza - in the city centre and at Castle Howard - attracted up to 30,000 people..."

Roman Archaeology Timeline