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Julian [Paperback]

Gore Vidal
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Sep 1993
Gore Vidal's fictional recreation of the Roman Empire teetering on the crux of Christianity and ruled by an emperor who was an inveterate dabbler in arcane hocus-pocus, a prig, a bigot, and a dazzling and brilliant leader.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (23 Sep 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349104735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349104737
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"High entertainment." --"The New York Times Book Review""A subtle, provoking, enthralling book. . . . Vidal's ability to invoke a world is amazing." --"The Christian Science Monitor ""Simply great. . . . A truly monumental novel." --"Associated Press ""Historical fiction in the true, honorable sense. . . . Full of vivid, richly wrought fictional detail." --"The Wall Street Journal ""Impressive. . . . To the formidable task which Vidal sets himself, he brings an easy and fluent gift for narrative; a theatrical sense of scene and dramatic occasion; and a revealing eye and ear for character delineation-to say nothing of wide reading." -"Newsweek""A real hero. . . . An excellent book." -"Chicago Daily News""Gore Vidal has the sharpest sense of what political power consists of, how it is achieved and what it does to a man. And at the same time he is funny, roaringly funny. . . . "Julian "is a brilliant beacon of light in the dim grey landscape of the historical novel." -Louis Auchincloss "A brilliant study of Julian's era. . . . That rare historical novel which enjoys all the virtues of good history and good fiction." -"Washington Star""No odder figure ever guided the destinies of the Roman Empire than the Emperor Julian Augustus. Here was a recluse and a scholar who became a great military leader, an ascetic who preached the life of the senses, a fatalist who believed he would remake the world. . . . He is endlessly fascinating." -"Time" ""

About the Author

Gore Vidal is one of the greatest living American novelists and essayists. He has written numerous Hollywood screenplays, including BEN HUR, and ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress. He appeared with Tim Robbins in the film BOB ROBERTS.

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First Sentence
"Yesterday morning as I was about to enter the lecture hall, I was stopped by a Christian student who asked me in a voice eager with malice, ""Have you heard about the Emperor Theodosius?""" Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the feint-hearted. 10 Aug 2007
What would the be the prerequisites for a sympathetic novel about Julian the Apostate? A detailed knowledge of the late Roman Empire, a detailed knowledge of early Christianity and a certain antipathy towards that religion. Gore Vidal demonstrates a virtuosity in all three that makes for one of the best reads of the last fifty years. This is, quite simply, a tour-de-force that has few parallels in historical fiction. For those who don't share Vidal's suspicion of organised religion, especially Christians, this novel might prove an uncomfortable experience. For those who like their history warts and all, it is simply brilliant. One of the few works of fiction that takes a serious look at the origins of Christianity and gives a reasoned account of its development, it refuses to even pay lip-service to the unthinking acceptance of Christianity as a religion that sprang fully formed into the world. Nor does he shrink from comparing the morality of two very different religious systems and finding Christianity wanting. It almost makes you wish that Julian had obtained his goal and had, after all, reinstated the ancient philosophy that was tolerant of all beliefs and had little concept of evangilism or heretical thinking.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 15 Sep 2004
I was advised to read this novel in preparation for a course in later Roman history during my final year at university.
Don't let that put you off. along with the Claudius novels this must be one of the best pieces of historical fiction ever. A marvellous read, grounded in excellent research. Gore Vidal clearly did his homework before sitting down to write Julian as his novel provides an excellent introduction to the history of the Roman Empire in the fourth century.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Howler
Gore Vidal brings the Roman Empire of the 4th century to life. The best parts of the book are early on when Julian is more of a philosopher than a soldier, and Julian puts up a good case against the various absurdities of the rising Christian religion. Those absurdities are still with us 1700 years later. I'm an atheist but if I had to choose I'd rather worship the Greek gods than the Christian God. Even in the 4th century the Christians were fighting amongst themselves. Is God a triple God (Father, son and Holy Ghost) or was Jesus mortal ? Who cares, certainly not Emperor Julian, a man of integrity and learning who attempted to hold back Christianity. I wish he'd succeeded, the world's civilisations may have advanced more quickly if he had. Gore Vidal has put a lot of effort into the research for this book, but it is very accessible to the non-historians amongst us.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
An easily accessible insight into the conflict between Christianity and the traditional forms of worship in the Roman world. However that does not do the book justice, and makes it sound slightly dull. In fact the book also makes an entertaining novel with a strong storyline, that makes it brilliantly readable, whilst also educational for those people who like that sort of thing!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real power 23 Jun 2010
When you are born into greatness, you may be forgiven for exhibiting a sense of destiny or an assumption of purpose. When you also find yourself marginalised, you may also be praised for a decision to pursue philosophy and learning alongside religious purity. When the celebrity that is your birthright also suggests that others might prefer you dead, you might be excused for wanting to keep your head down. But then you were born into greatness and had no choice in the matter. Your head is permanently above the parapet.

Gore Vidal's masterpiece of historical fiction works on every level. The Roman emperor Julian is his subject. The novel charts Julian's origins and early years in the eastern part of the late Roman Empire. He thinks of himself as Greek, never really masters Latin and never willingly expresses himself in it. Neither is he one of those new-fangled Galilean types who espouse a new religion with three gods. No, Julian is a traditionalist, though not because of a propensity for conservatism, but more because the tried and tested has worked for centuries, continues to do so and, crucially, reveals itself to him. Like his own pedigree, the old religion has an identity and record all its own and, alongside that, proven power. He takes this stand despite the habit of conversion, manifest in Constantine's adoption of the new faith, running in the family.

Julian's form - in the sense of literary form - works with remarkable success and consistency. It is presented as his own journal, jottings toward an intended autobiography. But these notes have been pored over by two readers, Libanius and Priscus, both of whom the emperor has known since childhood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carefully Researched with a Compelling Narrative 20 May 2009
Gore Vidal's "Julian" is one of those rare historical novels that is not only meticulously researched but also absorbing. The author has read his ancient sources, including the fourth-century historian, Ammianus Marcellinus and the writings of the Emperor Julian and his contemporaries, very carefully. "Julian", in fact, makes an excellent supplement to a university course on the Late Roman Empire.

Mr. Vidal breathes life into the remote statues and the hieratic mosaics of the period; his descriptions of the rigid court etiquette in the age of Constantine are especially vivid. The author also takes us to the regions of the Empire--e.g., Antioch, Pergamon, Athens; Milan, Ravenna; Autun and Paris--that the city of Rome eclipses in most works focusing the Roman Empire from Augustus to Hadrian. Mr. Vidal's characterization of Julian, the last of Constantine's dynasty, is laced with charm and humor (His protagonist, who, in real life wrote a treatise satirizing his critics, entitled "The Hatred of Beards," continually alludes to his scraggly beard.). The novel, set between the years 331-363, reflects the fact that during the fourth century of our era, Christianity was by no means a "done deal," the Temple of Sarapis at Alexandria with its great medical school, for instance, being closed by Theodosius' decree only in 385.

The book is especially valuable in that it clarifies the central issues of a divided empire, including the religious, philosophical, and military problems as well as those of the imperial succession. Readers who are not historically inclined, however, ought to understand that chapter one, which purports to be a correspondence between the Sophists Priscus and Libanius, is a preface that necessarily establishes the historical background. Once they have begun reading chapter two--the "Memoirs of Julian Augustus"--they will become swept up in a riveting narrative as well as a fascinating recreation of the turbulent late Roman Empire.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An amazing and wonderful book !!!
Published 24 days ago by neil moray urquhart phelps
5.0 out of 5 stars Vidal at his best
Having read most of Gore Vidal's historical novels, I left this until last. In my opinion it's one of his best. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Cass
3.0 out of 5 stars Catches attention but then loses the pace.
Gore Vidal skillfully described the world of early Christianity. However, fantastic beginning was not followed equally interesting second half of the book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Michal Domanski
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
An absolutely wonderful novel, and a great critique of Christianity as well as good discussion, in numerous places, of its origin. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Sheriff
3.0 out of 5 stars A Postate
If sign of art is to conceal art then this novel falls down. It's oozing research from every printed mark on the page. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2012 by John Coffey
4.0 out of 5 stars julian
book in good condition but no dust cover and cheap edition .
however nice size and book is good and would order again
Published on 2 Sep 2012 by A. Howard-smith
5.0 out of 5 stars "One Brief Shining Moment...": a beautiful and heart-breaking...
As a historian, I tend to be wary of historical fiction: too often I've been disappointed or ended up with my blood-pressure going through the roof in rage. 'Julian' is different. Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2012 by Silver Whistle
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Historical
The amount of research that went into this shows. A great read and an indepth look into an interesting emperor. Read more
Published on 12 July 2012 by A Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful perspective on decreasingly pagan Rome
This is Vidal's take on Julian the Apostate, in a fictional memoire, who tried to stamp Christianity out of Rome. Read more
Published on 23 April 2011 by rob crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars Aesthetically and historically superb, but not very exciting
This is the little-known but stirring tale of Flavius Claudius Julianus, who reigned as sole emperor of the Roman world for less than two years in AD 361-363. Read more
Published on 3 Dec 2010 by T. D. Welsh
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