When Julian found himself sole possessor of the empire, he commanded that all the pagan temples should be reopened throughout the East; that those which had been neglected should be repaired; that those which had fallen into ruins should be rebuilt, and that the altars should be restored. He assigned considerable money for this purpose; he restored the customs of antiquity and the ancestral ceremonies in the cities, and the practice of offering sacrifice.
He himself offered libations openly and publicly sacrificed; bestowed honors on those who were zealous in the performance of these ceremonies; restored the initiators and the priests, the hierophants and the servants of the images, to their old privileges; and confirmed the legislation of former emperors in their behalf; he conceded exemption from duties and from other burdens as was their previous right; he restored the provisions, which had been abolished, to the temple guardians, and commanded them to be pure from meats, and to abstain from whatever according to pagan saying was befitting him who had announced his purpose of leading a pure life.
He also ordered that the nilometer and the symbols and the former ancestral tablets should be cared for in the temple of Serapis, instead of being deposited, according to the regulation, established by Constantine, in the church. He wrote frequently to the inhabitants of those cities in which he knew paganism was nourished, and urged them to ask what gifts they might desire. Towards the Christians, on the contrary, he openly manifested his aversion, refusing to honor them with his presence, or to receive their deputies who were delegated to report about grievances.
When the inhabitants of Nisibis sent to implore his aid against the Persians, who were on the point of invading the Roman territories, he refused to assist them because they were wholly Christianized, and would neither reopen their temples nor resort to the sacred places; he threatened that he would not help them, nor receive their embassy, nor approach to enter their city before he should hear that they had returned to paganism.
He likewise accused the inhabitants of Constantia in Palestine, of attachment to Christianity, and rendered their city tributary to that of Gaza. Constantia, as we stated before, was formerly called Majuma, and was used as a harbor for the vessels of Gaza; but on hearing that the majority of its inhabitants were Christians, Constantine elevated it to the dignity of a city, and conferred upon it the name of his own son, and a separate form of government; for he considered that it ought not to be dependent on Gaza, a city addicted to pagan rites. On the accession of Julian, the citizens of Gaza went to law against those of Constantia. The emperor himself sat as judge, and decided in favor of Gaza, and commanded that Constantia should be an appendage to that city, although it was situated at a distance of twenty stadia.
Its former name having been abolished by him, it has since been denominated the maritime region of Gaza. They have now the same city magistrates, military officers, and public regulations. With respect to ecclesiastical concerns, however, they may still be regarded as two cities. They have each their own bishop and their own clergy; they celebrate festivals in honor of their respective martyrs, and in memory of the priests who successively ruled them; and the boundaries of the adjacent fields by which the altars belonging to the bishops are divided, are still preserved.
It happened within our own remembrance that an attempt was made by the bishop of Gaza, on the death of the president of the church at Majuma, to unite the clergy of that town with those under his own jurisdiction; and the plea he advanced was, that it was not lawful for two bishops to preside over one city. The inhabitants of Majuma opposed this scheme, and the council of the province took cognizance of the dispute, and ordained another bishop. The council decided that it was altogether right for those who had been deemed worthy of the honors of a city on account of their piety, not to be deprived of the privilege conferred upon the priesthood and rank of their churches, through the decision of a pagan emperor, who had taken a different ground of action.
But these events occurred at a later period than that now under review.