After Constantine converted to Christianity, every Roman emperor, for all time, was Christian – with one brief exception: his nephew Julian, most frequently referred to as Julian the Apostate, who ruled for nineteen months in 361-63 CE. This short reign was highly significant: Julian tried to turn the empire back to the ways and worship of paganism. He is called “the Apostate” because he started out as Christian but then opted to worship the traditional gods of Rome. And he tried to enforce this view on his Empire. Here is how I describe how he did that (or tried to do it) in my book on the Triumph of Christianity.
The Last Pagan Emperor
Julian spent his first six months as emperor in Constantinople, and then nine unhappy and turbulent months in Antioch, before marching against the Persians. He was killed early in the conflict, having ruled the empire for a mere nineteen months. It was, however, an eventful year and a half, especially for pagan-Christian relations. Upon ascending to the throne, Julian declared he had converted to paganism years earlier. (The very fact that he could understand paganism as a “religion” to which he could even convert shows just how much had changed by his time.) He made it one of his goals to reinstate traditional pagan sacrificial practices throughout the empire. That required him to suppress the burgeoning Christian movement.
We do not know why, exactly, Julian became such a passionate devotee of pagan traditions. We do know that …
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