David Frendo, Dangerous Ideas: Julian's Persian Campaign, Its Historical Background, Motivation, and Objectives





After a brief discussion of the circumstances and nature of Julian's seizure of power, the present paper considers the impact of Constantine’s earlier rise to the position of sole ruler of the Roman world and in particular of the fact that he appears to have believed that he achieved his victory at the Milvian bridge through having enlisted, by an action entirely compatible with the conventional set of ancient beliefs known as the pax deorum, the aid of a new and hitherto untried deity, the god of the Christians. It then describes how Constantine’s supremely successful career together with the intolerant and exclusive nature of the new deity conspired to undermine and destroy the very beliefs under the umbrella of which the intruding deity had first been introduced. Attention is then focused on Julian’s attempt to reverse the legacy of Constantine and restore the worship of the ancient gods. It also considers the extent to which the combination of absolute power with an overwhelming sense of mission in a somewhat disturbed individual was to blind him to the reality of the historical changes which had already taken place within the Roman Empire itself and how, frustrated by the hostility shown by many of the inhabitants of Antioch towards his grand design for reversing the legacy of Constantine and his sons, Julian resorted to a foolhardy and ultimately disastrous attempt to conquer and overthrow the Sasanian Empire and state, a polity whose real weaknesses and strengths he neither knew nor made any effort to understand.