Julian as Emperor
Julian’s short reign as Emperor was marked by constant attempts to turn back the tide of Christianization that had been begun by Constantine. Julian had little reason to put his faith in the new religion, especially when he recalled how his supposedly Christian cousins had behaved, and had he lived longer he might have succeeded in restoring Paganism to the empire.
His main tactic was to set bishop against bishop and to establish rival pagan priesthoods that would attract people away from the Christian ones. In this latter endeavour he was largely unsuccessful because the pagans could not replicate the charitable works of the Christians and so were unable to compete with them.
Another plan was to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Titus in AD 70. Julian’s idea here was to disprove the Biblical prophesy that the Temple would never be rebuilt. However, the project ended in 362 when an earthquake struck Jerusalem.
Julian then turned his attention to taking on the Persians, by beginning an invasion of Iraq in the spring of 363. However, his planning was woefully inadequate, neglecting, for example, to include equipment for laying siege to cities along the way. As he advanced along the Euphrates the Persians flooded the land in his rear, thus cutting off his retreat by the same route.
The invasion was a disaster and Julian had no choice but to return along the Tigris, his troops being harried from the rear all the way along. The army eventually ran desperately short of food and supplies.
On 26 June 363 Julian was killed during a Persian attack on the rearguard of his army and a relatively junior officer, Jovian, was declared Emperor in his place.
Julian is known to Christian historians as “The Apostate” for his attempts to revive the old religion, although his conduct before and during his reign was, in the main, more in keeping with Christian principles than that of several of his predecessors and successors.
He left behind a number of writings that show evidence of a remarkably active mind, including letters and satires.