Podcast episode

Episode 168: Jeremy Swist on Julian, Part II: The Emperor’s Religio-Philosophic Project

We continue our discussion of the Emperor, turning to his metaphysical, theological, and just-plain-religious beliefs, practices, and programmes. Topics discussed include:

  • Julian’s three-hypostasis scheme of the supreme god, Emperor Helios, how the subsidiary gods, traditional figures like Athena, are incorporated into his philosophic/metaphysical schema, and the integral role played by the Roman emperor – Julian himself, in this case – in this providential framework,
  • The idea of Julian’s religious project incorporating a ‘pagan counter-church’, and his (very late-antique) syncretism of the entire spectrum of Hellenic philosophy into a single ‘true account’ (minus Epicureanism and a few other rejected movements), and
  • The measures he took, ideologically and practically, to deal with the problem of what he saw as ‘Christian atheism’, including, funnily enough, official toleration, a ban on Christians in education,
  • And, last but not least, we ask the extremely-irresponsible (even for the SHWEP) speculative question: What would the world look like if Julian hadn’t died in 363 in Persia? Swist commendably refuses to take the bait, but nevertheless delivers some fascinating reflections on the kinds of things which might have changed in such a contra-factual world.

Interview Bio:

Jeremy Swist works on imperial Greek and Roman historiography, with an emphasis on late antiquity, and with a particular emphasis on the great Julian. He also studies classical reception in the greatest musical genre – I refer, of course, to heavy metal. Find his work on this subject at his blog, Heavy Metal Classicist. He is currently working on a monograph on Julian’s political project, working title Julian, Refounder of the Roman Empire.

For Works Cited and Recommended Reading, see Part I.


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