Julian the Apostate

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire. Fifty years after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and introduced a policy of tolerating the faith across the empire, Julian (c.331 - 363 AD) aimed to promote paganism instead, branding Constantine the worst of all his predecessors. Julian was a philosopher-emperor in the mould of Marcus Aurelius and was noted in his lifetime for his letters and his satires, and it was his surprising success as a general in his youth in Gaul that had propelled him to power barely twenty years after a rival had slaughtered his family. Julian’s pagan mission and his life were brought to a sudden end while on campaign against the Sasanian Empire in the east, but he left so much written evidence of his ideas that he remains one of the most intriguing of all the Roman emperors and a hero to the humanists of the Enlightenment.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • James Corke-Webster 2 episodes
    Reader in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King's College, London
  • Lea Niccolai No other episodes
    Assistant Professor in Classics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics, Trinity College
  • Shaun Tougher 2 episodes
    Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History at Cardiff University

Reading list

  • Julian: An Intellectual Biography
    Polymnia Athanassiadi (Routledge, 2014) Google Books →
  • Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian the Apostate
    Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.) (Classical Press of Wales, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Sons of Constantine, AD 337-361: In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian
    Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) Google Books →
  • Julian the Apostate
    G.W. Bowersock (Harvard University Press, 1997) Google Books →
  • Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome
    Susanna Elm (University of California Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Specter of the Jews: Emperor Julian and the Rhetoric of Ethnicity in Syrian Antioch
    Ari Finkelstein (University of California Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • Julian and Christianity: Revisiting the Constantinian Revolution
    David Neal Greenwood (Cornell University Press, 2021) Google Books →
  • Christianity, Philosophy, and Roman Power: Constantine, Julian, and the Bishops on Exegesis and Empire
    Lea Niccolai (Cambridge University Press, 2023) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Julian the Apostate
    Stefan Rebenich and Hans-Ulrich Wiemer (eds) (Brill, 2020) Google Books →
  • Julian's Gods: Religion and Philosophy in the Thought and Action of Julian the Apostate
    Rowland Smith (Routledge, 1995) Google Books →
  • The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity
    H.C. Teitler (Oxford University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • Julian the Apostate
    Shaun Tougher (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Works of Emperor Julian of Rome
    W. C. Wright (Loeb, 1913-23)

Related episodes

Programme ID: m001xd7b

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001xd7b

Auto-category: 937.09 (Late Roman Empire (284-476))

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, considering he ruled as Roman Emperor for less than two years, 361 to 363 AD, Julian the Apostate made an extraordinary impression on history.