Numismatic and History Discussions > History and Archeology

The Anti-Christian Emperors

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I know I should do my homework on this, but...

Who were some of the most anti-Christian of the roman emperors?  I knew nothing about Julian the Apostate until this morning and had no idea of his anti-Christian, pro-paganism stance.

I'm slowly educating myself on these emperors whose coins I own, but it's slow going.

I'm curious, who are some of the greatest (or most infamous) anti-Christian emperors?


Marcus Aurelius
Trajan Decius
Claudius Gothicus
Julian II
Possibly Basil II, someone theorised he was a pagan for some reason. Trust me to know this eh. ::)
                                        LordBest. 8)

Nero (I don't think he'd ever heard about the sect), Decius and Diocletian are sometimes considered as having taken a special delight in pursuing the Christians.

If you want to read about good old Julian there are many books and ancient sources. The apostate is probably the emperor about whom we know the most. Ammianus Marcellinus (a pagan) wrote about him and then there are the Christian historians. Socrates for instance - I believe - (I'm just too lazy to get up from my chair and check it out) wrote extensively about Julian or Julien le Philosophe as the Frogs call him.

G. W. Bowersock has written a short and highly readable book on the emperor and some of the emperor's own writings are also extant. (3 volumes in the Loeb library)

Some Byz pagans used the death of Julian instead of the death of Christ as marking a new era.

Yes, Nero blamed them for the fire, Claudius II (Gothicus) claim to fame is martyring St Valentinus and Diocletian should in fact come after Galerius as Galerius was really fanatical about it while Diocletian thought it was just good for a laugh, I'd imagine. Some of Julian IIs own writing have surived, I have a letter he wrote the public of Antioch (who didnt like him much and didnt want to convert) which is a brilliant piece of self-satire. And guess what, the public of Antioch converted. ::) I think it was Antioch anyway.
                                       LordBest. 8)

If you're interested in the transition from paganism to christianity I recommend that you get Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox. I'm almost prepared to promise you the money back if you're dissatisfied by this broad work that conjures up a lost world. The past is a foreign country and reading this book is like travelling.

There's also an old German work called die letzten Tagen des Griechischen-Römischen Heidenheits by J. Geffcken. I don't know if there's a translation but if anyone should have a dusty copy on their shelf I'm more than willing to buy it.

T. D. Barnes is supposed to be very good on Constantine and should include lots of info about his pagan forerunners as well.

Ramsay McMullen, A. D. Nock and Peter Brown are also recommended.


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