«Misopogon» as an example of self-presentation of Emperor Julian

Keywords: Late Antiquity, Julian, Antioch, Misopogon


The famous speech of the Roman emperor of the IV century AD Julian «Misopogon» («Beard-Hater») is an extraordinary example of how a ruler can present his image to his subjects. The article explores this question. Among the research tasks are the following: to determine the reasons, circumstances and purpose of writing «Beard-Hater» by Emperor Julian; to find out the genre of the work and its specifics; to single out the methods used by Julian to portray himself in a good light and the Antiochians in a bad light; to investigate how the very fact of writing «Misopogon» can affect the assessment of the relationship of the Roman emperor and his subjects in the IV century.

The speech was written in early 363 in Antioch before the ruler left the city to participate in the Persian campaign. Julian’s policy was unsuccessful in the city. His desire to attribute paganism was not accepted by the population. Interventions in the food crisis and setting maximum grain prices have only exacerbated the crisis. Attempts to reform the curia led to the fact that this institution was in opposition to the ruler. The emperor understood that his failures in Antioch would be known to the people throughout the empire. Therefore, to rehabilitate himself as a politician, he wrote a speech in which he tried to put the blame for all the failures on the Antiochians.

Misopogon is written in the tradition of epideictic rhetoric. It uses its two main varieties – the word of praise (panegyric) and accusatory speech (invective), creatively rethinking them. Julian presents a speech as an invective to himself and a eulogy to Antioch. In fact, the opposite is true – the emperor glorifies himself and exposes the bad customs of the Antiochians. Julian describes himself as a wise ruler who respects and cares for his subjects, as well as a spiritually rich person. The ruler opposes ungrateful and down-to-earth Antiochians who are only interested in sensual pleasures. According to Misopogon, the ruler’s activities in the food crisis failed because of their greed, and religious reform was not implemented because of lack of their spirituality.

In his speech, Julian showed himself not so much a ruler as a man. He allowed himself to start figuring relationship with the Antiochians. The ruler revealed his feelings, showed that the events in Antioch were of great concern to him. The emperor showed himself vulnerable to his subjects and thus put himself on a par with them.


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How to Cite
Pukhovets, D. (2021). «Misopogon» as an example of self-presentation of Emperor Julian. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (4(36), 109-122. https://doi.org/10.33782/eminak2021.4(36).560
World History and International Relations