Chapter V.—Julian restores Liberty to the Christians, in order to execute Further Troubles in the Church. The Evil Treatment of Christians he devised.
It was from these motives that Julian recalled from exile 1373 all Christians who, during the reign of Constantius, had been banished on account of their religious sentiments, and restored to them their property that had been confiscated by law. He charged the people not to commit any act of injustice against the Christians, not to insult them, and not to constrain them to offer sacrifice unwillingly. He commanded that if they should of their own accord desire to draw near the altars, they were first to appease the wrath of the demons, whom the pagans regard as capable of averting evil, and to purify themselves by the customary course of expiations. He deprived the clergy, however, of the immunities, honors, and provisions which Constantine had conferred; 1374 repealed the laws which had been enacted in their favor, and reinforced their statute liabilities. He even compelled the virgins and widows, who, on account of their poverty, were reckoned among the clergy, to refund the provision which had been assigned them from public sources. For when Constantine adjusted the temporal concerns of the Church, he devoted a sufficient portion of the taxes raised upon every city, to the support of the clergy everywhere; and to ensure the stability of this arrangement he enacted a law which has continued in force from the death of Julian to the present day. They say these transactions were very cruel and rigorous, as appears by the receipts given by the receivers of the money to those from whom it had been extorted, and p. 330 which were designed to show that the property received in accordance with the law of Constantine had been refunded.
Nothing, however, could diminish the enmity of the ruler against religion. In the intensity of his hatred against the faith, he seized every opportunity to ruin the Church. He deprived it of its property, votives, and sacred vessels, and condemned those who had demolished temples during the reign of Constantine and Constantius, to rebuild them, or to defray the expenses of their re-erection. On this ground, since they were unable to pay the sums and also on account of the inquisition for sacred money, many of the priests, clergy, and the other Christians were cruelly tortured and cast into prison.
It may be concluded from what has been said, that if Julian shed less blood than preceding persecutors of the Church, and that if he devised fewer punishments for the torture of the body, yet that he was severer in other respects; for he appears as inflicting evil upon it in every way, except that he recalled the priests who had been condemned to banishment by the Emperor Constantius; but it is said he issued this order in their behalf, not out of mercy, but that through contention among themselves, the churches might be involved in fraternal strife, and might fail of her own rights, or because he wanted to asperse Constantius; for he supposed that he could render the dead monarch odious to almost all his subjects, by favoring the pagans who were of the same sentiments as himself, and by showing compassion to those who had suffered for Christ, as having been treated unjustly. He expelled the eunuchs from the palaces, because the late emperor had been well affected towards them. He condemned Eusebius, the governor of the imperial court, to death, from a suspicion he entertained that it was at his suggestion that Gallus his brother had been slain. He recalled Aëtius, the leader of the Eunomian heresy, 1375 from the region whither Constantius had banished him, who had been otherwise suspected on account of his intimacy with Gallus; and to him Julian sent letters full of benignity, and furnished him with public conveyances. For a similar reason he condemned Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, under the heaviest penalty, to rebuild, within two months, and at his own expense, a church belonging to the Novatians which he had destroyed under Constantius. Many other things might be found which he did from hatred to his predecessor, either himself effecting these or permitting others to accomplish them.
Soc. iii. 11; Philost. vi. 7, vii. 4.329:1374
Eus. V. C. ii. 30–42.330:1375
Juliani Op. Ep. 31, a letter from him to Aetius.