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Julian the Emperor (1888).  Preface to the online edition

Gregory Nazianzen wrote 40 orations, of which a selection is already available online in the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection.  Not among them were two further orations, nos. 4 and 5, which are the first and second invectives against Julian the Apostate.  Quasten's Patrology, vol. 3 p.242 reports that they were probably never delivered in public; and that the tone is so angry and hostile that their historical value is almost zero.  The last point, however, is probably an over-statement.

The English translations are those of C.W.King, published in 1888 as the first two works in a volume entitled, "Julian the Emperor" and published by George Bell & co, London in the Bohn's Library series.  The volume also included the funeral oration delivered by the pagan Libanius, and two pagan works  by Julian himself.  After some hesitation, these have been included, and placed in the appendix because of their historical interest.  The whole volume is thus online, including the advertisements, but the plan of this collection has meant some dispersal of the material not by Gregory himself.

Reading the translator's preface and notes, the reader will quickly discover that C.W. King was an enthusiastic partisan of Julian.  It is unusual for a translator to detest the author or the work he is translating, but the notes by Mr. King leave little doubt that he did so detest these orations of Gregory.  The majority of the notes contain the translator's opinion of the sentiments expressed, rather than explanation of historical obscurities.  In fact, they seem to form a running rejoinder, in which Gregory is repeatedly described as a liar or hypocrite.  But the reader will recall that a 'vituperation' or 'invective' is a literary form, as Quintilian indicates and as the Philippics of Cicero remind us, and it is useless to complain that Gregory does not give a fair picture when he did not set out to do so.   After some hesitation, I have reproduced the footnotes anyway.  

This is not the place to write an evaluation of Julian the Apostate.  Julian has been well-served by his apologists and panegyricists, such as Libanius, and even today is regarded much more positively than any other member of his dynasty.   Gregory reminds us of the darker side of this controversial reign.  

8th March, 2003

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