The Ammianus Marcellinus Electronic Project
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But these virtues are no guarantee for a person’s well-being as emperor. According to Ammianus, Julian had felicity (felicitas). When for example he went eastward, leaving Gaul, the Barbarians he was victorious over kept the peace for quite some time. Ammianus writes: “His success was so conspicuous that for a long time he seemed to ride on the shoulders of Fortune herself” (25.4.14).

Julian’s faults according to Ammianus

Ammianus makes his deepest feelings against Julian recognisable in his piece on the Chalcedon-trials (22.3). Here, Julian had several high-ranking officers of the Constantius’ regime (Hunt 1998, 61; cf. 22.3) convicted, by several judges. Not only enemies of Julian were convicted, but also close accomplices. Ammianus accuses Julian too of being timid in this affair (22.3.9), although Julian is honest enough to observe that there was much wrong with these inquisitions (Blockley 1975, 78).

Several faults of Julian can be found throughout the Res Gestae, because Ammianus felt he was being too gentle with Julian (Thompson 1947, 79). Thus Julian, in the eyes of the cautious and circumspect officer Ammianus, was unnecessary rash, impulsive and emotional in military actions. Ammianus eventually was right, because Julian died in exactly such an action.

Another aspect of his character, which did not find Ammianus’ approval, was Julian’s loose way of presenting himself. Constantius was praised for his almost divine appearance in public, and Ammianus admired Constantius for this. Julian on the other hand, had a shaggy beard, but right from top to toe he was a man of straight well proportioned bodily frame. In the eyes of the people of the later Roman Empire, Julian, knowing his classics, must have looked like a Homeric Greek to them, in an age where this was no longer associated with bravery and courageousness.

Julian was a pagan from 351 on, although he was raised as a Christian, and in his first years as Caesar in Gaul, he presented himself as being Christian. It was only in 361 that he openly practised his paganism. This paganism mainly contained the ideas of Neoplatonism. Ammianus’ Res Gestae is silent on this. The relationship of Julian with one of his teachers, Maximus of Ephesus, however, is treated by Ammianus as idiosyncratic (Barnes 1998, 160). On one hand he shows respect to Maximus, but he criticises Julian for his excessive display of his friendship for him (idem; cf. 22.7.3).

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