Books: The Ascetic Pagan

JULIAN by Gore Vidal. 503 pages. Little, Brown. $6.95.

No odder figure ever guided the destinies of the Holy Roman Empire than the Emperor Julian Augustus (circa 331-363), known as Julian the Apostate. Here was a recluse and a scholar who became a great military leader, an ascetic who preached the life of the senses, a fatalist who believed he would remake the world. More important, here was a man who did his best to write an end to Christianity before it had fairly begun. As the subject of biography he is endlessly fascinating. As the subject of fiction he has one...

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