Our knowledge of Julian’s antipathy towards Christianity, his admiration of the Jews and his intention to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple comes from his own letters (see the previous sidebar) and from various contemporaneous sources. The last great Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus (330–395), a Greek born into a middle-class family at Antioch, gave a detailed account of Julian’s Temple project in his Rex Gestae, Book XXIII (in John C. Rolfe, trans., Ammianus Marcellinus [London: William Heinemann, 1939]). Like Julian, Ammianus was a pagan, but he was tolerant of Christianity.

Three of Julian’s Christian contemporaries also provide a picture of the emperor’s actions and state of mind: Ephraem of Syria (306–373), famous for his plaintive hymns about Christian suffering during Julian’s reign (Hymni contra Julianum IV in N.C. Lieu, ed., The Emperor Julian: Panegyric and Polemic [Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1986]); Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389), who vehemently attacked Julian for his edict prohibiting Christians from teaching literature and rhetoric (Oratio V contra Julianum, in C.W. King, trans., Julian the Emperor [London: George Bell and Sons, 1988]); and John Chrysostom (345–407), whose interest in education and whose denunciations of luxury brought him into conflict with several Roman emperors (Adversus Iudaeos V, in Paul W. Harkin, trans., Saint John Chrysostom: Discourses Against Judaizing Christians [Washington, DC: Catholic Univ., 1979]).