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Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World Paperback – 21 Jun 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions International (21 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594772266
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594772269
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 787,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Although this is a book written for the general reading public, and not particularly aimed at Pagan readership, it contains a wealth of information concerning Pagan/Christian relations. It also shows a number of concerns expressed by Julian that are still valid today. . . . This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to everyone."

"An eye-opening alternate history uses over 700 pages of Julian's original writings to provide some eye-opening new revelations on his beliefs."

"British historian Adrian Murdoch's "The Last Pagan "(the phrase comes from the English poet Swinburne)" "is a thorough-going biography of Julian. In this book, we get a strong sense of the history of the fourth century, which is the age of the decline of the Roman empire made famous by English historian Edward Gibbon, who Murdoch asserts, made Julian the hero of his work."

"Murdoch, a Roman historian, sees the short reign of Julian as the real end of ancient Rome. His biography of the young emperor is based on Julian's own words, the angry response of Christian writers, and the comments of other pagans."

"With the current end of the Twentieth Century we are also witnessing the death throes of the most influential religious movements of the last twenty centuries--Christianity and Islam. . . . This end of the Christian Era as some call it, is however, not without its own dangers and precedence. By looking back to the early centuries of the Christian Era, we can in fact, get a better understanding of its origins and what may be awaiting us in the future. . . "

"A thoroughly engaging book about one of the fourth century's most interesting emperors."

"Friendly to its controversial subject and an easy read."

"Keenly paced and beautifully written . . . quite simply one of the best historical biographies of the year."

From the Back Cover

History / Biography"A thoroughly engaging book about one of the fourth century's most interesting emperors."--The Journal of Classics Teaching"Keenly paced and beautifully written . . . quite simply one of the best historical biographies of the year."--Catholic Herald"Friendly to its controversial subject and an easy read."--Church TimesThe violent death of the emperor Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus, AD 332-363) on a Persian battlefield has become synonymous with the death of paganism. Vilified throughout history as the "Apostate," the young philosopher-warrior was the last and arguably the most potent threat to Christianity.The Last Pagan examines Julian's journey from an aristocratic Christian childhood to his initiation into pagan cults and his mission to establish paganism as the dominant faith of the Roman world. Julian's death, only two years into his reign, initiated a culture-wide suppression by the Church of all things it chose to identify as pagan. Only in recent decades, with the weakening of the Church's influence and the resurgence of paganism, have the effects of that suppression begun to wane. Drawing upon more than 700 pages of Julian's original writings, Adrian Murdoch shows that had Julian lived longer our history and our present-day culture would likely be very different.ADRIAN MURDOCH is a historian and journalist. He is the author of Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest and The Last Roman, a biography of Romulus Augustulus, the Western Roman Empire's final emperor. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
About two decades ago I read the somewhat scholarly work by Bowersock on this fascinating character, and a popular history had been long overdue. The story of this short but eventful period can be well told because of the richness of the sources, including Ammianus the army officer who served under Julian, Libanius the somewhat pompous and self-important rhetorician from Antioch who befriended Julian, and not least the copious surviving literary output from Julian himself, giving a valuable insight into the mind of an emperor not seen since that of Marcus Aurelius two centuries previously.

Whilst for much of history being a hate figure of the Christian establishment, in recent times Julian seems to have become something of a hero figure amongst the left-wing anti-Christian intelligentsia, seemingly on the basis of nothing other than your enemy's enemy being your friend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think that many reviewers have pointed out the strong sides to this book, while missing many of its weak spots. If I focus on these it's not that this is a bad book as such, but rather that there should be some balance in the reviews.

First it is a good book for beginners, in that it provides you with the basic information on the period as well as a good bibliography. That said there is no new information here if you're at all read on the period. Certainly if you've read any other biography of Julian you're highly unlikely to find anything new. I doubt it set out to be more than this, but you should be aware of it.

As for the prose style I personally found it a tad sparse. The author is a journalist and it shows in his writing, which to me reads a bit like an extended article or opinion piece. Not that this is necessarily bad, many modern readers seem to like that sort of thing. If however you prefer descriptive and evocative language you won't find that here.

Finally there is an annoying tendency to draw conclusions from limited facts. Certainly they are educated guesses, well founded too for that matter. Indeed I am inclined to agree with the author as to the nature of Julian's death. Yet there were times when it interrupted the rhythm of my reading, so take note.

So for these reasons I make it 3 star rather than 4.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'The Last Pagan' is an enjoyable enough, though lightweight, canter through the life of Julian. What put me off at first was the Italian Renaissance cover, which looks nothing like Julian: surely a sculpture or coin portrait would have been better (and bearded)?

The text will give the general reader a decent enough overview of his reign, but I think Murdoch takes on trust a few things which I would question. Rather than being infatuated with Eusebia, I suspect Julian writing flatteringly of her was a way of keeping in with her husband - the cousin/brother-in-law who was responsible for making him an orphan and could easily have had him executed. He had to tread carefully until he was strong enough to make his own bid for the throne. Also, Murdoch takes on board Lascaratos and Voros's questionable theory about Julian's death, which depends on taking Philostorgios's (5C, surviving only in 9C summary) word over that of Ammianus and Libanios. It doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

If this book whets your appetite for the subject, I recommend Robert Browning's 'The Emperor Julian', Shaun Tougher's works, and, on religion, Rowland Smith's 'Julian's Gods' (which dismantles Bowersock effectively). And of course, nothing beats going back to source: Julian's Works are available in a bilingual Loeb edition, and are extremely enjoyable (some still very funny).
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this - a great and human insight into a period of classical history that normally gets ignored. I remember bits of classical Greece or Caesar's times, but hadn't ever looked at the later years of the Romans - the fourth century AD.
The research has been well done, but condensed into a story about a single man - real insight into the society and structure of the late Roman times.
And of course the whole episode of his invading Mesopotamia (Iraq now) was fascinating - from his mistakes and over-reaching to his eventual death. (The detective work round his cause of death was particularly interesting).
Highly recommended.
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