The Ammianus Marcellinus Electronic Project
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Another condemnation of the excesses of Julian as emperor is cited in 22.12.6: “He [Julian] drenched the altars with the abundant blood of sacrificial victims with excessive frequency. On several occasions he sacrificed a hundred bulls at a time, countless flocks of varied livestock and white birds sought afar by land and sea. As a result, almost every day soldiers, who gorged themselves uncontrollably with meat till their bellies were distended and they were demoralised by their craving for drink, were carried to their quarters on the shoulders of passers-by through the streets from public temples where they indulged in wild parties which ought to have been punished rather than permitted.”

Here it shows Julians knowledge of the classics, and the urge to reinstall ancient customs. Only, in the ancient Greek polis sacrifice was based on a collective civic practice, which gave expression to the bonds that tied the citizens to another and served as a privileged means of communication with the divine world. A strict framework of sacrifice was necessary for the polis to prevent its inhabitants to become beasts all over again (Bruit Zaidman & Schmitt Pantel 1992, 29-30). Because the inhabitants of Antioch, where the sacrifices took place, were not involved in this outlet of religion and also in hunger, they were, so to say, not amused. Thus a very important feature of the role of sacrifice to a god was missing, and Julian did not see it. Ammianus saw this too: “He [Julian] was too devoted to divination, so that he seemed in this respect to rival the emperor Hadrian. He was superstitious rather than a genuine observer of religious rites…” (25.4.17). In this citation, Julian was superstitiosus magis quam sacrorum legitimus observator, and Ammianus believed that Julian perverted traditional religion as badly as Constantius perverted Christianity (Barnes 1998, 162).

Bibliography

- Barnes, T.D, Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality, Ithaca 1998
- Blockley, R.C., Ammianus Marcellinus. A Study of his Historiography and Political Thought, Brussels 1975
- Bruit Zaidman, Louise & Schmitt Pantel, Pauline Religion in the ancient greek city, Cambridge 1992
- Hunt, David, “Julian,” in: The Cambridge Ancient History XIII, The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, Cambridge 1998, 44-78
- Thompson, E.A., The Historical Work of Ammianus Marcellinus, Cambridge 1947 (repr. Groningen 1969)

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