Book Review: Julian and Christianity: Revisiting the Constantinian Revolution


by David Neal Greenwood

Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2021. Pp. xiv, 177. Tables, stemma, append., notes, biblio., index. $55.00. ISBN: 1501755471

A Revisionist Look at the Imperial Apostate

Dr. Greenwood, a specialist in the study of the “Apostate” Emperor Julian (r. 361-363), has a revisionist view of the man, and not necessarily one as respectful of him as many earlier scholars have been, or the public perception, influenced by Gore Vidal’s novel Julian.

In this well researched and often insightful book, Greenwood discusses how, despite supposedly despising Christianity, Julian drew upon Christian models to shape his vision of what arguably could be termed a “reform paganism”. So Julian’s paganism emerges as nearly a “pagan monotheism” centering on a rather trinitarian Zeus, Herakles, and Athena, and with a unified institutional structure based on the Christian hierarchy, Moreover, and rather curiously, Julian portrays his uncle Constantine the Great as a pagan.

In presenting this view, Greenwood gives us a look at Julian’s family background, his intellectual evolution, and his actions. He also questions Julian’s reputation as an upright character, noting that he probably engineered his acclamation as Augusts by the troops at Paris in 360, while pretending reluctance. He was also quite willing to kill people whom he perceived to be a threat, or who were merely disagreeable.

Greenwood naturally also discusses Julian's military career, rightly showing him to have been an able tactician, successfully defeating “barbarian” invaders in the West, but then only lightly touches on the emperor’s ill-conceived and totally mismanaged invasion of Persia, which led to his death, and the loss of much of the East.

Julian and Christianity is an insightful work for those interested in Julian, the late Empire, and the rise of Christianity.




Note: Julian and Christianity is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium (

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close