Ancient Rites – “Apostata (Imperator Fidelis)”

On this day in 363 CE, the last Roman emperor not to take up the banner of Christ, the nephew of the very Constantine who was the first Christian emperor, was wounded by a spear to the abdomen on the battlefield against the Sassanid Persian Empire. Julian would succumb to his wound 3 days later, engaging like Socrates in a dialogue with his closest friends on the immortality of the soul. A council of his generals hastily elected as his successor one of their own, Jovian, who happened to be a Christian. The efforts of Julian’s 18-month reign to reverse the tide of the empire’s Christianization begun by his uncle came to an abrupt halt. One of Julian’s most vocal supporters, the pagan rhetorician Libanius of Antioch, would later promote the rumor that Julian’s death was an inside job, that the fatal spear had been wielded not by a Persian but Christian Roman traitor.

As a member of Constantine’s house, he was raised Christian, and it was not until his teenage years that he came under the influence of pagan philosophers who subscribed to the Neoplatonic school. This mystical interpretation of Plato’s writings insisted that worship of the traditional gods of Greece and Rome was essential to the salvation not only of one’s individual soul, but to the preservation of the world at large, which to a Roman emperor meant the empire that he ruled with the gods’ blessing. When Julian succeeded as sole emperor, he openly rejected his former Christian faith, which he now believed to be a form of atheism and spiritual disease, in favor of restoring the old cults, temples, and blood sacrifice of classical polytheism. For this, he was later branded by ecclesiastical writers as “Apostata”, “The Apostate”, since he denied the “true faith” of Christianity.

The Belgian extreme folk metal band Ancient Rites are avid students of Roman history, particularly where it intersects with that of northern Europe. Defending the frontiers of northern Gaul, Julian began his imperial career with smashing military successes against Germanic incursions across the Rhine. In this track from their 2015 album Laguz, Ancient Rites celebrate not only Julian’s military prowess, but take special issue with how the philosopher-emperor has been remembered. “Apostate” is a misnomer, rather “Fidelis” (Faithful) is more appropriate, since he was faithful to the original gods of Greece and Rome, rather than to the newfangled imposter-god of the Christians. Indeed, it was Constantine, not Julian, who was the true apostate. The band also lends credit to the inside-job theory of Julian’s death, citing Libanius’ original claim. “KATA GALILEON!” they take up as their battle cry to avenge the fallen emperor, citing the title of Julian’s treatise “Against the Christians.” What Julian put into writing, Ancient Rites puts into music, reclaiming the legacy of the last truly faithful imperator of Rome.

“Apostata”,One without religion,a name given to Thee
That is how one sees Thee,through the eyes of history
But as a pupil and writer of the ancient Hellenist school
“Fidelis” more appropriate,Thou embraced a more Ancient Rule

People and Senate of Rome
Thou could not rely on Heathen Frankish Legions Allies to count on 
history cannot be changed,irony or a trick of fate?
For Reformation Thy Life too short,Thy dream came too late
Philosopher,Man of Letters,Military Commander
Whilst Rome Christianised,Neoplatonic Pagan Defender
Last Heathen Ruler over a changing Empire
Restoring the Old Rome,enlightening the Ancient Pagan Fire

In the haste of pursuing a retreating Sassanid Foe
Taking only Thy sword,Front line,though
Choosing speed over caution,in 363 AD
A spear infliced a mortal wound,causing The End of Thee

AGAINST THE GALILAEANS! KATA GALILEON!
CONTRA GALILEOS! KATA GALILEON!

Philosopher,Man of Letters,Military Commander
Whilst Rome Christianised,Neoplatonic Pagan Defender
Last Heathen Ruler over a changing Empire
Restoring the Old Rome,enlightening the Ancient Pagan Fire

“Apostata”,One without religion,a name given to Thee
That is how one sees Thee,through the eyes of history
History cannot be changed,irony or a trick of fate?
For Reformation Thy Life too short,Thy dream came too late

Against the Galilaeans! Kata Galileon!
Contra Galileos! Kata Galileon!
APOSTATA! APOSTATA!
Libanius the Theosophist wrote,it was Treason causing your fall
A spear hired by the Clergy against whom Thou stood Tall

APOSTATA! APOSTATA!

It was Basil of Caesaria,who ordered The Kill,later made a Saint
Well at least so John Malelas from Antioch always claimed
Restoring Ancient Temples,casting out politicians corrupt
Not even two years Thy Rule,Your Reign ended abrupt

For Life does not treat kind the Idealist Nostalgic Soul
Those chasing Dreams lost,must burn for Once…For All

“Apostata”,One without religion,a name given to Thee
That is how one sees Thee,through the eyes of history
History cannot be changed,irony or a trick of fate?
For Reformation Thy Life too short,Thy dream came too late

AGAINST THE GALILAEANS! KATA GALILEON!
CONTRA GALILEOS! KATA GALILEON!

AGAINST THE GALILAEANS! KATA GALILEON!
CONTRA GALILEOS! KATA GALILEON!

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