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How useful is the Panegyric to the Emperor Julian by Claudius Mamertinus for understanding the life and times of the Emperor Julian? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

The Panegyric to the Emperor Julian by Claudius Mamertinus was delivered to the Senate at Constantinople on the first day of 362 AD. Julian had only recently become sole Augustus, upon the death of his rival Constantius II. His short reign remains controversial, as the last pagan Emperor and with few unbiased sources to give an account of his life. In this speech, unlike the works of Ammianus Marcellinus, no mention is made of Julian' early life. He was born in 331 in Constantinople, was the son of Julius Constantius, half brother of Emperor Constantine I, and his second wife, Basilina. He grew up in Bithynia, raised by his maternal grandmother, at the age of seven he was tutored by Eusebius, the Arian Christian Bishop of Nicomedia, and Mardonius, a Gothic eunuch. In 342 both Julian was exiled to the imperial estate of Macellum in Cappadocia. At the age of 18, the exile was lifted and he dwelt briefly in Constantinople and Nicomedia. In 351, Julian returned to Asia Minor to study Neoplatonism under Aedesius, and later to study the IamblichanNeoplatonism from Maximus of Ephesus. During his studies in Athens, Julian met Gregory Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea, two Christian's who would later become his critics.

There is some debate as to the historical worth of this material. Pauly-Wissowa (1899) considered the speech to be of no real historical value, being as it was an obvious piece of pro-Julian propaganda. This has been refuted by later studies (for example Pichon, 1906; Galletier 1955), which view the oration as incisive as to the motivations and achievements of the emperor. The purpose of this essay then, is to assess the historical significance of the speech and to determine what, if anything, the orator reveals about the life of his subject.

Much of this has been contradicted by other, equally biased, historians of the time. However, these accounts are backed up by the admittedly pro-Julian Ammianus and Libanius. It is likely then that we have been given an accurate account of Julian's character, or at least that character he wished others to know. This is what makes the speech useful in a historical sense. It does not necessarily give us insight into who Julian was, but how he wanted to be perceived. It gives details for his plans for reform: a return to the constitutional rule of the past. It points out the achievements that he has apparently made: the rejection of luxury, the removal of corrupt officials and the new wealth spreading to the cities. While not as inherently valuable as other works, it is these points which make the panegyric of Claudius Mamertinus to the Emperor Julian particularly useful.

 

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