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Commentaries of Gregory of Nazianzus, Byzantine, 879-883AD
f.374v (middle register) Julian the Apostate sacrificing

A larger image of Julian the Apostate sacrificing, f.374v, ‘Commentaries of Gregory of Nazianzus’, Byzantine, BnF Grec 510

Julien l’apostat sacrifiant
Titre : Grégoire de Nazianze, manuscrit dédié à l’empereur Basile Ier le Macédonien.
Date d’édition : 0879-0883
Type : manuscrit
Langue : Grec
Format : Parchemin. - 465 fol. - Onciale. - Peint. - 435 x 300 mm
Description : Grégoire de Nazianze, Homélies.

Miniature au folio 374v. Registre médian : Julien assiste au sacrifice d'un taureau.
Miniature on folio 374v. Middle register: Julian attends the sacrifice of a bull.

Source : Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Grec 510

The scene painted in the middle register of f.374v is less tightly bound to Gregory’s text than are the other two images on the page. It shows Julian, clad in imperial regalia, watching the slaughter of a bull; the miniaturist then depicted the sacrificial animal burning before a circular flaming altar set within a niche topped by three gold statues. Two attendants stand behind Julian, and the sorcerer of the top register, still wearing a light brown mantle over a blue tunic, stands next to him, gesturing toward the sacrifice. The scene illustrates Julian’s reintroduction of pagan ritual and, despite its generic titulus ‘Julian sacrifices to the idols’ (ΙΟΥΛΙΑΝΟC ΘΥΩΝ ΤΟΙC ΕΙΔΩΛΟΙC), seems in its specifics to have been inspired by one of the epithets Gregory bestowed on the emperor, ‘burner of bulls’. Although this epithet is only one of many that Gregory used, it epitomized an aspect of Julian’s reign habitually noted by later historians: Sokrates explained that Julian ‘sacrificed bulls continuously in front of altars of idols’, and Sozomen claimed that ‘They say jokingly that in the time of his reign the world itself had been destroyed quite as much as the supine bulls.’ Neither the ecclesiastical histories nor Gregory however, provide an account of any specific sacrificial rite. The picture on f.374v should be viewed as a general image representative of Julian’s predilection for sacrifices - a visualization of Gregory’s epithet ‘burner of bulls’ - rather than as an illustration of a particular episode.
Source: p. 230, Vision and Meaning in Ninth-Century Byzantium by Leslie Brubaker

The four figures on the left are referenced on p.31, Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard by Timothy Dawson
Detail from miniature, The History of Julian the Apostate, c. AD 880. Note (left) the Imperial Kandidatos in his white uniform, and the three-knot gold maniakion around his neck and falling to his breast. This ceremonial collar is described in the Kletorologion of Phyloteus (90–91) as being worn for the investiture of the Kandidatoi. The shield is painted red with a gold boss and rim. (Cod. Par. Gr. 510, folio 374v; ex Omont)
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