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The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World Paperback – April 18, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594772266
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594772269
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A thoroughly engaging book about one of the fourth century’s most interesting emperors.” (The Journal of Classics Teaching)

“Keenly paced and beautifully written . . . quite simply one of the best historical biographies of the year.” (Catholic Herald)

“Friendly to its controversial subject and an easy read.” (Church Times)

"Although this is a book written for the general reading public, and not particularly aimed at Pagan readership, it contains a wealth of information concerning Pagan/Christian relations. It also shows a number of concerns expressed by Julian that are still valid today. . . . This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to everyone." (Michael Gleason, Witchgrove.com, May 08)

"An eye-opening alternate history uses over 700 pages of Julian's original writings to provide some eye-opening new revelations on his beliefs." (The Midwest Book Review, July 2008)

"Murdoch, a Roman historian, sees the short reign of Julian as the real end of ancient Rome. His biography of the young emperor is based on Julian's own words, the angry response of Christian writers, and the comments of other pagans." (Book News, Inc., Aug 2008)

"With the current end of the Twentieth Century we are also witnessing the death throes of the most influential religious movements of the last twenty centuries--Christianity and Islam. . . . This end of the Christian Era as some call it, is however, not without its own dangers and precedence. By looking back to the early centuries of the Christian Era, we can in fact, get a better understanding of its origins and what may be awaiting us in the future. . . " (Institute of Hermetic Studies, Aug 2008)

"British historian Adrian Murdoch's The Last Pagan (the phrase comes from the English poet Swinburne) is a thorough-going biography of Julian. In this book, we get a strong sense of the history of the fourth century, which is the age of the decline of the Roman empire made famous by English historian Edward Gibbon, who Murdoch asserts, made Julian the hero of his work." (Barbara Ardinger, reviewer, Aug 2009)

From the Back Cover


History / Biography

“A thoroughly engaging book about one of the fourth century’s most interesting emperors.”
--The Journal of Classics Teaching

“Keenly paced and beautifully written . . . quite simply one of the best historical biographies of the year.”
--Catholic Herald

“Friendly to its controversial subject and an easy read.”
--Church Times

The violent death of the emperor Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus, AD 332-363) on a Persian battlefield has become synonymous with the death of paganism. Vilified throughout history as the “Apostate,” the young philosopher-warrior was the last and arguably the most potent threat to Christianity.

The Last Pagan examines Julian’s journey from an aristocratic Christian childhood to his initiation into pagan cults and his mission to establish paganism as the dominant faith of the Roman world. Julian’s death, only two years into his reign, initiated a culture-wide suppression by the Church of all things it chose to identify as pagan. Only in recent decades, with the weakening of the Church’s influence and the resurgence of paganism, have the effects of that suppression begun to wane. Drawing upon more than 700 pages of Julian’s original writings, Adrian Murdoch shows that had Julian lived longer our history and our present-day culture would likely be very different.

ADRIAN MURDOCH is a historian and journalist. He is the author of Rome’s Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest and The Last Roman, a biography of Romulus Augustulus, the Western Roman Empire’s final emperor. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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Customer Reviews

I found this text to be readable and entertaining, as well as thoroughly and accurately researched.
S. Atkinson
Nevertheless, the book is well worth plodding through if you have more than a passing interest in the man Julian or the history of the Roman Empire.
Giordano Bruno
The religious climate of the times is particularly well developed - especially in view of Julian's religious beliefs.
G. Poirier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By S. Atkinson on January 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a "lettered academic", I would have to disagree with Mr Clarkson's review. I found this text to be readable and entertaining, as well as thoroughly and accurately researched. Adrian Murdoch has accepted the challenge to historians to do more than merely report history, but to offer some analysis and interpretation of events. I would recommend his study to those interested both in this specific historical period, and in the development of Western religious thought.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on April 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... but only three for the writing craft. Either Adrian Murdoch had no editorial support at all, or else he's dismally inattentive to the basics of English syntax. There are several points in his narrative where an attentive reader will have to conclude that he has written precisely the opposite of what he intended to say. Nevertheless, the book is well worth plodding through if you have more than a passing interest in the man Julian or the history of the Roman Empire.

"The Last Pagan" is a straight-forward old-fashioned modestly footnoted biography of the emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, CE 332-363, the grandson of Constantine and successor to Constantius, known for most of the last 1700 years as "Julian the Apostate". Few emperors of the Roman or any other empire have ever been as upright, decent, or well-intentioned as Julian -- at least as author Murdoch portrays him -- yet few have been so persistently execrated, particularly for such a brief and benign rule, just 18 months, scarcely long enough for news of his few edicts to spread from Syria at one edge of his empire to Britain at the other. The reforms in fiscal and administrative policies that Julian instituted in the few months of his reign, before his disastrous invasion of Persia, were of no lasting importance, though Murdoch evaluates their potential impact positively. What distinguished Julian from so many short-term emperors was his effort to disestablish the Christian religion and to revitalize the Greco-Roman 'state' religious cult usually labeled "paganism". Julian was not a persecutor of Christians;for many of them, he was something worse, a "philosopher" capable of dismissing their beliefs as vulgar superstitions.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Guillo on September 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An easy-to-read biography that presents Julian from a different perspective. Julian, the human being. A man trapped between 2 worlds. A man that dreams of bringing back the Old Roman glory and traditions. A man who perhaps would have succeeded if not for a twist of fate.

It is obvious that there was a substantial amount of research on the author's part. In my opinion, this book makes for great reading even if biographies or history are not the reader's cup of tea. "Talle lege!"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amrit on September 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a biography of the Emperor Julian, nephew of Constantine who ruled Rome for a short period from 361 to 363 ACE. Perhaps best know for his attempt to hold back Christianity and bring back to the centre the old religion of the Graeco-Roman world, there was, however, a lot more to Julian than just his religious policy. Murdoch's biography brings back to life Julian in his many facets through his easy to read and sometimes racy prose. Though not an academic text and perhaps not really adding substantially to the scholarship on Julian, this is nevertheless an enjoyable read.

Briefly, Julian was born into the family of Constantine and though brought up as a Christian, grew attached to the old religion though his study of the Greek and Roman classics. His entire family was murdered by Constantine's successor Constantius in a bid to eliminate rivals. Julian threw himself into scholarly pursuits perhaps to escape the attention of Constantius and to avoid being seen as a threat. He became an accomplished scholar but eventually was selected by Constantius to take up an administrative post in Gaul. Here he proved himself an able ruler, reforming the tax system. Though not having had military training, he showed that he was an effective military commander, defeating German invaders in 357ACE. Eventually, a revolt propelled him to challenge Constantius as Emperor but before the two could fight it out, Constantius died and Julian becomes Emperor. He attempts in the end unsuccessfully to restore to primacy the old religion. His reforms include the emulation of Christian organisational skills (where Christians excelled) and charitable giving, but in the end his attempt to hold back Christianity fails. He died on a disastrous (for the Romans) campaign against Persia.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Norse Victorian on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
I think that many reviewers have pointed out the strong sides to this book, while missing many of its weak spots. If I focus on these it's not that this is a bad book as such, but rather that there should be some balance in the reviews.

First it is a good book for beginners, in that it provides you with the basic information on the period as well as a good bibliography. That said there is no new information here if you're at all read on the period. Certainly if you've read any other biography of Julian you're highly unlikely to find anything new. I doubt it set out to be more than this, but you should be aware of it.

As for the prose style I personally found it a tad sparse. The author is a journalist and it shows in his writing, which to me reads a bit like an extended article or opinion piece. Not that this is necessarily bad, many modern readers seem to like that sort of thing. If however you prefer descriptive and evocative language you won't find that here.

Finally there is an annoying tendency to draw conclusions from limited facts. Certainly they are educated guesses, well founded too for that matter. Indeed I am inclined to agree with the author as to the nature of Julian's death. Yet there were times when it interrupted the rhythm of my reading, so take note.

So for these reasons I make it 3 star rather than 4.
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