Julian the ApostateG. W. Bowersock (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978) 135 pp. $12.50
After Alexander the Great, the Roman emperor Julian may well be the most intriguing personality of ancient history. So saying, G. W. Bowersock, Professor of Greek and Latin at Harvard, introduces his 135-page work on the life and personality of the man who less than 40 years after the institution of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire tried to reverse that momentous act and restore, if only briefly, the former pagan gods to primacy.
Inspirer of early and late church invective, a great deal of secular Roman history, and even modern-day fiction (witness Gore Vidal’s Julian), the Emperor was himself a prolific writer, thus supplying much of the documentation for Bowersock’s characterization of him as an ascetic revolutionary not unlike Lenin or Mao-Tse-Tung.
Written with style and precision, Bowersock’s sketch of Julian and his reign takes account of the latest scholarship about this enigmatic figure and solidly evaluates all earlier accounts.
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