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Most Literary Emperor of the Romans,
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This review is from: Julian, Volume II. Orations 6-8. Letters to Themistius. To The Senate and People of Athens. To a Priest. The Caesars. Misopogon (Loeb Classical Library No. 29) (Hardcover)Since there are so many of these darn things the review shall be divided into three sections. First, a brief description of the Loeb series of books and their advantages/disadvantages. Second shall be my thoughts on the author himself, his accuracy, as well as his style and the style of his translator. This is of course only my opinion and should be treated as such. The final part shall review what this particular book actually covers.
The Loeb series date back to the turn of the last century. They are designed for people with at least some knowledge of Greek or Latin. They are a sort of compromise between a straight English translation and an annotated copy of the original text. On the left page is printed the text in Greek or Latin depending on the language of the writer and on the right side is the text in English. For somebody who knows even a little Greek or Latin these texts are invaluable. You can try to read the text in the original language knowing that you can correct yourself by looking on the next page or you can read the text in translation and check the translation with the original for more detail. While some of the translations are excellent mostly they are merely serviceable since they are designed more as an aid to translation rather than a translation in themselves. Most of them follow the Greek or Latin very closely. These books are also very small, maybe just over a quarter the size of your average hardcover book. This means that you'll need to buy more than just one book to read a complete work. They are also somewhat pricey considering their size. The Loeb Collection is very large but most of the more famous works can be found in better (and cheaper) translations elsewhere. If you want to read a rarer book or read one in the original language then you can't do better than the Loeb Editions.
There are 3 volumes of Julian in the Loeb series which includes all his known works. Julian the Apostate was Emperor of Rome in the middle of the 4th Century. He was a member of Constantine's family but he abandoned Constantine's new faith and tried to return Rome to paganism. He was also a philosopher which explain the quantity of his writing which has survived. Ever since a child he had been locked away in a villa by his cousin Constantius who also had his father killed. His life before becoming Emperor was filled with danger since any hint that he could be a threat to his cousin would be met with deadly consequences. In the end through lucky chance he ended up as Emperor only to be killed in just over a year when his Persian campaign failed disastrously. He is easily the best documented Emperor in Roman history since we have more of his writings than of any other Emperor's as well as an excellent history by Ammianus Marcellinus (the last great Latin historian), panegyrics and letters by the orator Libanius, and violent denouncements from Christian writers like Gregory of Nazianzus all of whom knew him personally. He wrote letters, orations, philosophical treatises, satires, and hymns. He also wrote a Commentary of his wars in Gaul which was based off of Caesar's Commentaries and which is unfortunately lost. Also missing is his denunciation of Christianity called Against the Galilaeans. Only fragments survive. His works are (mostly) easy to read and engaging and the translation is solid if a little formal. It was translated in 1913 after all. This is one of those cases where this material is unavailable outside of the Loeb series.
This book contains the last of Julian's Orations as well as some of his more attractive works. The Orations dealing with politics are interesting, but those dealing with philosophy and religion are deadly dull and indecipherable. The only way to understand what he's talking about is to have a good background in Neoplatonism and that is hard to come by since there are no good introductory books on the subject. The worst of these is the 'Hymn to King Helios.' More engaging is 'the Caesars.' In it Julian imagines the gods holding a feast where all the Roman Emperors show up and have a debate over who is the greatest. It is filled with a great deal of warmth and humor. Also included is the 'Misopogon' or 'Beard-Hater.' This is a somewhat bitter piece written when he failed to get along with the people of Antioch. In it he turns what is ostensibly an apology for his behavior into a diatribe against the Antiochans. Essentially, he apologizes for being too educated for them and for not reducing himself to a base creature for their benefit. There is plenty of humor here but it is rather dark and twisted.
Julian, Volume II. Orations 6-8. Letters to Themistius. To The Senate and People of Athens. To a Priest. The Caesars. Misopogon (Loeb Classical Library No. 29)(2 customer reviews)