The Roman emperor Julian (331 or 332-363) was a member of the illustrious family of Constantine the Great, who was his grandfather. He was named Caesar of the western provinces by Emperor Constantius II in 355. Amazingly, he turned out to be a military leader of genius and cleared Gaul of the German threat.
In 360, Julian was proclaimed Augustus (emperor) of the entire Roman Empire by his troops in Gaul. Before Julan and Constantius could face each other in battle, however, Constantius died...after naming Julian as his rightful successor. In 363, Julian embarked on an ambitious campaign against the Sassanid Empire in Persia. Though initially successful, Julian was mortally wounded in battle and died shortly thereafter.
After gaining the purple, Julian started a religious reformation of the state, which was intended to restore the lost strength of the Roman state. As such, he supported the restoration of Hellenistic polytheism as the state religion. His laws tended to target wealthy and educated Christians, and his aim was not to destroy Christianity but to drive the religion out of the governing classes of the empire.
Gore Vidal's wonderful fictional account is very close to the actual events as chronicled by ancient historians. Vidal captures the dramatic tension in a world in which the familiar and traditional is melting away.
"To the formidable task which Vidal sets himself, he brings an easy and fluent gift for narrative, a theatrical sense of scene and dramatic occasion, and a revealing eye and ear for character delineation - to say nothing of wide reading." (Newsweek)
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An Old Favorite, Brought To Life
The memories of when I first read it in print. It was nice to relive Julian's "life" and everything that led up to his fateful choice outside Ctesiphon, as well as Priscus and Libanius' passive-aggressive sniping.
Vidal's Burr. In both novels Vidal takes the known historical events and strings them together in a more or less faithful manner through the lens of a biased memoir, immersing one into the flavor of the times. In a way this is better than Burr, as the "outside" commentators don't run off into a lengthy and mostly irrelevant B-plot.
It can also be compared to the I, Claudius novels as both are about a Roman Emperor main character writing his secret life story while inadvertently revealing his character flaws. The primary difference is that Graves wrote his story in the style of a translated contemporary document, and this is a more modern first-person novel.
Not too much. In my experience, audiobooks range from being passionately acted to being read in a restrained manner, with the narrator careful not to enlarge the effects caused by the text. Both approaches have things that recommend them, but the second limits any special qualities the reader may add to the text. This reading is in the middle leaning toward restraint.
Of this type, I found Griffin's narration to be wholly competent. Unlike the other reviewer, I don't recall there being anything wrong with the (few) female characters.
Julian is the only thing that this should be named, as this book is first and foremost a look into the paradoxical nature of a fascinating character.
Vidal had such a way with words (and snark). I hope Audible gets more of his novels.
A must-read for lovers of Greece and Rome