Julian, 31

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 

VI

“Naturally the Caesar is concerned.”
“But without cause.”
“Without cause? You are a pupil of Maximus.”
“I am also a pupil of Ecebolius.”
“But he has not been with you for a year. Your brother feels that you are in need of a spiritual guide, especially now.”
“But Maximus is responsible.”
“Maximus is not a Christian. Are you?” The question came at me like a stone from a sling. I stared a long moment at the blackrobed Deacon Aetius of Antioch. He stared serenely back. I was close to panic. What did they know of me at Gallus’s court?
“How can you doubt that I am a Christian?” I said finally. “I was instructed by two great bishops. I am a church reader. I attend every important church ceremony here at Pergamon.” I looked at him, simulating righteousness doubted. “Where could such a rumour get started? If there is such a rumour.”
“You cannot be seen too often in the company of a man like Maximus without people wondering.”
“What shall I do?”
“Give him up.” The answer was prompt.
“Is that my brother’s order?”
“It is my suggestion. Your brother is concerned. That is all. He sent me here to question you. I have.”
“Are you satisfied?”
Aetius smiled. “Nothing ever satisfies me, most noble Julian. But I shall tell the Caesar that you are a regular communicant of the church. I shall also tell him that you will no longer study with Maximus.”
“If that is the wisest course, then that is the course I shall take.” This ambiguity seemed to satisfy Aetius. My friends often tell me that I might have made a good lawyer. As I escorted Aetius to the street, he looked about him and said, ‘The owner of this house…’
“… is Oribasius.”
“An excellent physician.”
“Is it wise for me to see him?” I could not resist this.
“A highly suitable companion,” said Aetius smoothly. He paused at the door to the street. “Your brother, the Caesar, often wonders why you do not come to visit him at Antioch. He feels that court life might have a… ‘polishing’ effect upon you. The word is his, not mine.”
“I’m afraid I was not made for a court, even one as celebrated as my brother’s. I resist all attempts to polish me, and I detest politicians.”
“A wise aversion.”
“And a true one. I want only to live as I do, as a student.”
“Studying to what end?”
“To know myself. What else?”
“Yes. What else?” Aetius got into his carriage. “Be very careful, most noble Julian. And remember: a prince has no friends. Ever.”
“Thank you, Deacon.”
Aetius departed. I went back into the house. Oribasius was waiting for me.
“You heard every word?” I hardly made a question of it. Oribasius and I have never had any secrets between us. On principle, he eavesdrops.
“We’ve been indiscreet, to say the least.”
I nodded. I was gloomy. “I suppose I shall have to stop seeing Maximus, at least for a while.”
“You might also insist that he not talk to everyone about his famous pupil.”
I sighed. I knew that Maximus tended—tends—to trade on his relationship with me. Princes get very used to that. I don’t resent it. In fact, I am happy if my friends prosper as a result of knowing me. I had learned Oribasius’ lesson, and I do not expect to be loved for myself. After all, I don’t love others for themselves, only for what they can teach me. Since nothing is free, to each his price.
I summoned a secretary and wrote Maximus asking him to remain at Ephesus until further notice. I also wrote a note to the bishop of Pergamon to tell him that I would read the lesson on the following Sunday.
“Hypocrite,” said Oribasius when the secretary had gone.
“A tong-lived hypocrite is preferable to a dead… what?” I often have trouble finishing epigrams. Or rather I start one without having first thought through to the end, a bad habit.
“A dead reader. Aetius has a good deal of influence with Gallus, hasn’t he?”
“So they say. He is his confessor. But who can control my brother?” Without thinking, I had lowered my voice to a whisper. For Gallus had become as suspicious of treason as Constantius. His spies were everywhere.
I blame Gallus’s wife Constantia for the overt change in his character. She was Constantius’ sister and took it for granted that conspiracy is the natural business of the human race. I never met this famous lady but I am told that she was as cruel as Gallus, and far more intelligent. She was also ambitious, which he was not. He was quite content to remain Caesar in the East. But she wanted him to be the Augustus and she plotted the death of her own brother to achieve this end. As for Gallus, even now I cannot bear to write about his reign.