Julian’s Recapitulation of Constantine
Embargo end date20/09/2025
Greenwood, David Neal
This thesis offers a new understanding of the reign of the Emperor Julian, using as a heuristic tool the Christian theological concept of recapitulation (anacephalaiosis/recapitulatio). Recapitulation encompasses similitudo, iteratio, and restitutio: in Christian thought, Adam is the similitudo of Christ, Christ reiterates Adam’s wrong acts for the purpose of setting them right, overwriting the narrative of his failure, and Christ’s work has the goal of restoration of humanity to God’s friendship. The thesis shows that Julian's imperial programme is illuminated when viewed in similar terms, with the substitution of his uncle Constantine for Adam. The Emperor Constantine had overwritten the narratives of his own political and religious opponents, while Eusebius of Caesarea had portrayed Constantine as a mimetic Christ-figure. The thesis uses the evidence of Julian's writings, above all his Oration VII ‘To the Cynic Heracleios’ to argue that Julian himself also adopted this approach and co-opted the Christian language of recapitulation, narrating Constantine’s career as one of religious apostasy which needed to be set right by his own reversal of Constantine's actions and consequent restoration of the empire to friendship with the gods. Julian cast Constantine as the failed representative who apostatised from Helios and himself as the son of Helios and the divinely chosen representative who would act as saviour for the empire. In this oration, Julian also outlined his role as a new Heracles, sent by his father Helios to be the saviour of the world. In the same work, he criticised Constantine's desecration of pagan religious places. Both literary and material evidence indicate Julian responded in kind with building programs designed to support a pagan revival: the thesis demonstrates that his activities in Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Antioch in particular show a systematic programme of reversal and restoration. Julian's letters to his priests indicate his plans to supplant Christianity's ecclesiastical structure, clerical instructions, and charitable activities. Bringing this theological concept to bear on a series of texts more often considered by classicists than theologians offers, it is hoped, a richer understanding of Julian’s response to Constantine and Christianisation.