chapter  VII
17 Pages

First and last things

Th e existence of original sin Julian (c.386-454), bishop of the small town of Eclanum in southern Italy, landowner, son and son-in-law of bishops, well connected inheritor of the traditions of Roman culture and imperialism, was out of tune with the spirit of his age, a man doomed to be one of history’s failures, a defender of causes that were lost. The Pelagians gained in him a clever and pertinacious disputant, but not the astute politician they needed. The tone of his controversy with Augustine shows both parties aware of these facts of power: Julian strident in his hatred of the new provincial barbarism which he discerned in western Christianity, with its Jewish sense of despondency before the crimes and inadequacies of men, its dark selfabasement; Augustine harsh and contemptuous, unwilling to offer the courtesies of sober debate which he had used even against pagans in the City of God and always against his antagonists nearer home, but demolishing Julian like a house in the path of road improvements. It is a sorry episode.