Julian was born in a time of decay and during the emergence of the most powerful political, social and religious force in all history … Christianity.
In the year 313 D.C. Constantine “The Great” had embraced and favored the Christian faith and had succeeded with the “Edict of Milan” to put an end to the bloody persecution of those who professed Christianity, restoring to them the liberty of which they had been deprived for many years.
Constantine and his sons had dressed the great city of Constantinople with the ostentatious riches of polytheistic temples. Paganism was losing its splendor, leaving only the vestiges of what for centuries would have been the extraordinary gods and sacred monuments of the Roman Empire.
Julian’s life began in the shadows; To the death of Constantine, the brutal massacre of all the male relatives that at some moment could reclaim the throne was ordered, pardoning the life only to his two smaller nephews: Galo the oldest and his half brother Julian.
For a short but decisive time they taught him the religion of the classical age and the old gods of the empire, but then, on the orders of the new emperor, his cousin Constantius, he was led into a kind of exile separated from everything to the dark distances of Cappadocia. He was baptized and educated in the Christian faith by acquiring an extensive knowledge of Christianity. However, he himself would describe this stage of his life as a sad time in which he felt alone “like a prisoner in a Persian jail.”
Being an older boy and not posing a threat, he was allowed to leave the exile and live in the great city of Athens, where he secretly abandoned Christianity and began to take an interest in ancient religions of mystery and religion of the classical age. He enjoyed studying the great philosophers, rhetoric and literature.
With time, Constantius died leaving him as supreme and absolute emperor of the whole empire.
Julian ambition was to return to Rome his dying gods and his religious beliefs more and more in decay and to do so, he not only needed to promote paganism but to attack his strongest rival: the Christianity he so much hated.
He began by publicly declaring himself a pagan, a neo-Platonist, and, being of the agile mind of those who prefer intellectual debates before getting their hands dirty, he was convinced that the way to weaken Christianity would not be by force, but by intelligence.
He issued a decree repealing all property titles, rights and immunities granted to Christians, demanding that they return taxes since the reign of Constantine. And such was his hatred and rancor for Christianity that did not hesitate to ally with the Jews to rebuild their temple; Since there are two prophecies that inspired the sagacious but twisted mind of Julian to carry out the construction of this luxurious monument.
In one of those prophecies, Jesus Christ himself predicted that the temple would be destroyed and that no stone would remain on stone. This Word was fulfilled around AD 70 with a revolt in which the Emperor Titus destroyed and burned the temple, leaving behind no vestiges of the old temple.
The other prophecy predicts that the temple will be rebuilt when the Messiah, Christ, has returned to stay among us. Thus, the emperor was convinced that believers, seeing the temple standing without the return of the Christ, would apostatize their faith and return to worship the ancient gods. Devoted to this task, he ordered the best craftsmen and architects from all over the empire to be brought in, paying all the expenses with his own money …
“Julian intends to rebuild at an extravagant price the once proud temple of Jerusalem, entrusting this task to Alipio of Antioch. Alipio was put into it with vigor, aided by the governor of the province.” (Amiano Marcellin, Roman Historian)
Carrying on this greedy task was the emperor, when suddenly, in the words of the Bishop of Jerusalem, these were the events:
“The next night, a powerful earthquake destroyed the stones of the ancient temple foundation and dispersed them along with the adjacent buildings. Consequently, the terror seized the Jews and the news of this came to many who lived at a great distance, so that a great multitude assembled to see this, and another miracle happened. From the sky fell fire and consumed all the tools of the builders, so that the flames were seen on the decks, the plates for smoothing and polishing the stones, saws, axes, bolts, in short all the various utensils that the workers had Estimated necessary for the task; And the fire burned among them a whole day ” (Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem)
His plan was frustrated divinely and violently, but he continued to resuscitate the corpse of paganism and devise strategies to avenge his hatred of Christianity … on June 26, 363, death struck him; A lost spear hit his body.
We do not know at what point he apostatized from the faith or if he was actually one day adept to it, but what we do know is that Julian was a tormented and capricious heart turned against those who had killed his family, sending him into exile on behalf of of Jesus Christ.
With his death rumors ran and with them the legends were made. Some say that he was wounded by an invisible being or a soldier of the empire, others by nomads called Ishmaelites, but there is one especially that tells us that frustrated and violent fell on his knees to the ground and with his relentless fist blasphemed with a cry against heaven, saying: “You have overcome, O Galilean” …