The Apostate in Albion: Evocations of the Emperor Julian in English Disputation and Satire, ca.1600 to ca.1750

  • Rowland Smith Newcastle University
Keywords: Apostate, persecution, toleration, Roman Catholic, Nonconformist, satire, Whig


The survival of a body of writings by the Emperor Julian, and the intellectual allegiances and aspirations that underpinned his anti-Christian politics, set parameters of sorts for his posthumous reception as a renegade ‘Apostate’. This paper discusses a particular aspect of Julian’s post-Classical afterlife: it attends to a sequence of learned evocations of his career and person in English works of disputation and satire published over the period ca.1600–ca.1750. Within that time-frame, the focus is restricted to deal only with cases that had a signifi­cant political edge, and to privilege evocations that disclose direct engagement by the authors with Julian’s own writings. As a preliminary, a brief outline of the early editorial tradition of Julian’s own writings is offered, with an eye to the bearing of Continental scholarship on the reading and reception of Julian in England in the selected time-frame. The paper then passes to close discussion of Julian’s reception by six selected English authors, and explicates the lines of influence or reaction that connect the English texts and authors at issue. It emerges that certain items and passages in Julian’s literary repertoire were repeatedly deployed and ‘flipped’ as tools of argument, particu­larly in volatile political contexts.