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Julian as Citizen: Attic Oratory and the Misopogon

Joshua J. Hartman

Julian's Misopogon has proved difficult to categorize with certainty. While Hunger tentatively classified the work as invective (Hunger 1978), others have suggested that it is an inverted panegyric or an attempt to subvert fourth-century rhetorical practice (Marcone 1981; Quiroga 2009). As Elm has recently shown, it is a work that combines many of these elements, written as if it were an invective in se ipsum (Elm 2012: 327-335). Those who have demonstrated that the Misopogon attempts to subvert other genres have analyzed the work against other panegyrics and rhetorical treatises, but there has been less emphasis placed on its thematic relationship to invective, especially classical invective. I would like to suggest that while the Misopogon does feature rhetorical subversion, it also represents a performance of paideia that has yet to be fully explored. My interpretation of the speech suggests that Julian, who attempted to return to a “princeps model” of governance, engages in a self-presentation in the Misopogon that characterizes him as both an emperor and a citizen. After discussing the importance of Julian’s citizen status for the work, I examine the Misopogon as a discussion of each group's (i.e Julian/his entourage and the Antiochenes) failure to live up to idealized standards or norms, relying on earlier Attic oratory as the medium through which these idealized norms are defined and transmitted. It will be seen that Julian relies on the topoi of Attic invective in order to effect criticisms of himself or of the Antiochenes. For example, he frequently styles himself as a μισόπολις, a figure characterized by boorish, sullen behavior. Thus, I argue that this topos is deployed by Julian to mock the Antiochenes' misunderstanding of his virtues while inverting the portrayal of the Athenian μισοπόλις (cf. Demosthenes 45.68-69). Furthermore, given the importance of oratory to Julian’s earlier career, and his emphasis on Greek learning (both in the Misopogon and elsewhere), these invective topoi also serve as proof of another fundamental part of Julian’s identity. Therefore, this approach to reading the Misopogon compels one to see the piece as a natural response to Julian’s discomfort at Antioch, rather than an aberrant approach to punishment that no emperor committed before or afterwards. To return to the topic of his objective, I argue that Julian intended the Misopogon to be an indictment of the Antiochenes that would allow him to maintain the identities that he held most dear – citizen, orator and emperor.

Session/Panel Title:

The Emperor Julian

Session/Paper Number

47.3

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