« Maximus, an ecclesiastical writer Maximus of Ephesus Melania, a Roman lady »

Maximus of Ephesus

Maximus (25) of Ephesus. A "master of theurgic science," commonly reckoned among the neo-Platonic philosophers, the interest of whose life consists merely in the fact that he supplied an essential link in the transit of the emperor Julian from Christianity to paganism. The account given by Eunapius, in his Life of Maximus, shews exactly how this was. Julian, while still under tutelage and in early youth, with the natural self-will of a vigorous mind, had rebelled in secret against his Christian instructors and betaken himself to Greek philosophy as a liberal and congenial study. This bent was not disallowed by the emperor Constantius, who thought it safe when compared with political ambitions But philosophy at that era indicated much more than quiet intellectual research. It was a name of power, to which all whose sentiments flowed with a strong current towards the traditionary heathenism had recourse for self-justification; and it was natural that Julian, once he had attached himself to this study, should instinctively seek for more practical advantages from it than the mere increase of theoretical wisdom. Maximus, though flashy and meagre as a philosopher, was better supplied with an ostentatious show of practical power than any of his philosophic rivals. The amiable rhetorician Libanius, the aged sage Aedesius, could please Julian, but evidently were lacking in the force which could move the world. But when Aedesius, compelled by increasing infirmity, resigned Julian to the tuition of his two followers, Chrysanthius and Eusebius, Julian began to be struck with the terms in which these two spoke of their old fellow-pupil Maximus. Chrysanthius, indeed, alone seemed to admire him; Eusebius affected to depreciate him; but this feigned depreciation was calculated to excite the interest of Julian. For what Eusebius spoke of in this slighting manner was a certain miraculous power possessed by Maximus, of which he gave one or two casual instances. Julian had never seen miracles like those with which Maximus was credited; so he bade Eusebius stick to his learning and hurried off to Maximus. That skilful adept, after a solemn preparation of his imperial pupil, in which he was aided by Chrysanthius, described to Julian the revered religious authority of the hierophant of Eleusis, whose sacred rites were among the most famous in Greece, and urged him to go thither. He went, and was imbued with a teaching which combined a mysterious exaltation of the power of the Greek deities with hints of his own personal aggrandizement. By such acts as these, and by his initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, he passed over to paganism, though his having done so was still unknown to the world. When, Constantius being dead, he became sole master of the Roman empire, he did not forget his instructors. He sent for Chrysanthius and Maximus; they consulted the sacrificial omens; the signs were unfavourable, and dissuaded them from accepting the invitation. Chrysanthius trembled, and refused to go; the more ambitious Maximus declared it unworthy of a wise man to yield to the first adverse sign, and went. He was received by Julian with extraordinary honours, but by his haughtiness and effeminate demeanour earned the censure even of the heathen, among whom was the partial panegyrist Eunapius. After the death of Julian he was severely and even cruelly treated by Valentinian and Valens, and though released for a time, was beheaded by order of 717Valens in 371, on a charge of having conspired against him. His personal appearance is described by Eunapius as impressive. The four extant letters of Julian to him (Nos. 15, 16, 38, 39) consist of such indiscriminate panegyric that they tell little of his real character or views. For other authorities see D. of G. and R. Biogr.


« Maximus, an ecclesiastical writer Maximus of Ephesus Melania, a Roman lady »
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