The Sarcasm of Julian

Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor (361-363) of the Constantinian dynasty, wrote a letter to the city of Edessa, where the Arians had been harassing the Gnostics. Here is an excerpt, in which Julian’s sarcastic take on asceticism displays his sharp, dry wit.

Therefore, since by a most admirable law they have been advised to prefer poverty, in order to journey by the easier way to the kingdom of heaven; in order that we may assist their people to this, we have ordered all the money belonging to the church of the Edessenes to be taken away, so that it may be given to the soldiers. I have also ordered that their possessions are to be added to our private domain; in order that being in poverty they may be prudent and not be deprived of the heavenly kingdom, which they still hope for.


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