Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Saturday 22 August, 02009

Truth to power

by Matthew Bartlett @ 7:58 pm

From Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which I recommend:

It was an ancient custom in the funerals, as well as in the triumphs, of the Romans, that the voice of praise should be corrected by that of satire and ridicule; and, that in the midst of the splendid pageants, which displayed the glory of the living or of the dead, their imperfections should not be concealed from the eyes of the world. This custom was practised in the funeral of Julian [the Apostate]. The comedians, who resented his contempt and aversion for the theatre, exhibited, with the applause of a Christian audience, the lively and exaggerated representation of the faults and follies of the deceased emperor. His various character and singular manners afforded an ample scope for pleasantry and ridicule. In the exercise of his uncommon talents, he often descended below the majesty of his rank. Alexander was transformed into Diogenes; the philosopher was degraded into a priest. The purity of his virtue was sullied by excessive vanity; his superstition disturbed the peace, and endangered the safety, of a mighty empire; and his irregular sallies were the less intitled to indulgence, as they appeared to be the laborious efforts of art, or even of affectation. The remains of Julian were interred at Tarsus in Cilicia; but his stately tomb, which arose in that city, on the banks of the cold and limpid Cydnus, was displeasing to the faithful friends, who loved and revered the memory of that extraordinary man. The philosopher expressed a very reasonable wish, that the disciple of Plato might have reposed amidst the groves of the academy: while the soldier exclaimed in bolder accents, that the ashes of Julian should have been mingled with those of Caesar, in the field of Mars, and among the antient monuments of Roman virtue. The history of princes does not very frequently renew the example of a similar competition.

3 Responses to “Truth to power”

  1. psybertron says:

    Interesting I read Gibbon recently and also quoted from The Julian sections …
    http://www.psybertron.org/?p=2233

  2. Matthew Bartlett says:

    Now I’m getting bogged down in the barbarians — hard to keep track of which tribe is which.

    I was disappointed to miss hearing about Constantine — either my abridgement misses that chapter, or he doesn’t talk about him directly. Did you read an abridgement?

  3. psybertron says:

    Hi Matthew … I was reading D.M.Low’s abridgement originally published n 1960.

    Constantine and his various offspring immediately preceed Julian in the “Rise of Christianity” and the “Move to the East”

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