Helena (wife of Julian)
Helena (died 360) was the wife of Julian, Roman Emperor in 360–363. She was briefly his Empress consort when Julian was proclaimed Augustus by his troops in 360. She died prior to the resolution of his conflict with Constantius II.
On 6 November 355, Julian was declared Caesar by Constantius II. The new Caesar was a paternal first cousin to Helena and her siblings. He was a son of Julius Constantius and his second wife Basilina. His paternal grandparents were Constantius Chlorus and his second wife Flavia Maximiana Theodora. At the time of his declaration Julian was the only viable candidate for this position, at least within the ranks of the Constantinian dynasty. The various other males of the family had died out.
The marriage of Helena and Julian took place days after his proclamation. The marriage confirmed the alliance of Julian to her brother. According to Ammianus Marcellinus:"This happened on the sixth of November of the year when Arbetio and Lollianus were consuls. Then, within a few days, Helena, the maiden sister of Constantius, was joined in the bonds of wedlock to the Caesar." Zosimus reports: "Constantius declared him Caesar, gave him in marriage his sister Helena, and sent him beyond the Alps. But being naturally distrustful, he could not believe that Julian would be faithful to him, and therefore sent along with him Marcellus and Sallustius, to whom, and not to Caesar, he committed the entire administration of that government."Eutropius narrates: "Constantius then remained sole ruler and emperor over the Roman dominions. He then sent into Gaul, with the authority of Caesar, his cousin Julian, the brother of Gallus, giving him his sister in marriage, at a time when the barbarians had stormed many towns and were besieging others, when there was everywhere direful devastation, and when the Roman Empire was tottering in evident distress." According to Socrates of Constantinople: "The emperor recalled him [Julian], and after created him Caesar; in addition to this, uniting him in marriage to his own sister Helen, he sent him against the barbarians. For the barbarians whom the Emperor Constantius had engaged as auxiliary forces against the tyrant Magnentius, having proved of no use against the usurper, were beginning to pillage the Roman cities. And inasmuch as he [Julian] was young he [Constantius] ordered him to undertake nothing without consulting the other military chiefs."
Sozomen apparently confused Helena with her sister, calling her Constantia He narrates:"Constantius recalled him [Julian], and proclaimed him Caesar, promised him his sister Constantia in marriage, and sent him to Gaul; for the barbarians whose aid had been hired by Constantius previously against Magnentius, finding that their services were not required, had portioned out that country. As Julian was very young, generals, to whom the prudential affairs were turned over, were sent with him; but as these generals abandoned themselves to pleasure, he was present as Caesar, and provided for the war." Philostorgius reports: "He [Constantius] summoned Gallus' brother Julian from Ionia and appointed him Caesar in Milan, giving his own sister Helena to him as his wife and taking oaths with him. He then sent him to Gaul to watch over the realm there.". The marriage is also recorded in the Chronicon Paschale.
None of the primary sources mention the age of Helena at the time of her marriage. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon does comment on her age. "If we recollect that Constantine, the father of Helena, died above eighteen years before, in a mature old age, it will appear probable, that the daughter, though a virgin, could not be very young at the time of her marriage." Constantine I had died in 337. Fausta had died in 326. Which would mean Helena was at least twenty-nine years old at the time of her marriage.
Caesar's wife 
Helena seems to have followed her husband to Gaul and is next reported being pregnant with his child. This pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Ammianus reports on further miscarriages: "Meanwhile Constantius' sister Helena, wife of Julian Caesar, had been brought to Rome under pretence of affection, but the reigning queen, Eusebia, was plotting against her; she herself had been childless all her life, and by her wiles she coaxed Helena to drink a rare potion, so that as often as she was with child she should have a miscarriage. For once before, in Gaul, when she had borne a baby boy, she lost it through machination: a midwife had been bribed with a sum of money, and as soon as the child was born cut the umbilical cord more than was right, and so killed it; such great pains and so much thought were taken that this most valiant man might have no heir." In the historical study "Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality" (1998) by Timothy Barnes, the birth of this stillborn son is estimated to 356. The miscarriage in Rome to 357. Barnes considers the story of the potion-induced miscarriages to be an allegation without further reference. Gibbon had not completely dismissed the report:"even the fruits of his [Julian's] marriage-bed were blasted by the jealous artifices of Eusebia herself, who, on this occasion alone, seems to have been unmindful of the tenderness of her sex, and the generosity of her character" ... "For my own part I am inclined to hope that the public malignity imputed the effects of accident as the guilt of Eusebia." He left the question of the existence of such a poison open and to be determined by physicians rather than historians. "A History of Medicine" (1995) by Plinio Prioreschi dismisses the account as an example of a very common error in accounts of ancient medicine, "the attribution to drugs of properties that they could not have". In this case, a potion which is consumed just once and keeps having effect for years. Prioreschi regards it as "an obvious impossibility in the light of modern pharmacology".
"The Propaganda of Power: The Role of Panegyric in Late Antiquity" (1998) contains a number of essays on the subject of panegyrics. Among them is "In praise of an Empress:Julian's speech of thanks to Eusebia" by Shaun Tougher, discussing a "Panegyric In Honour Of Eusebia" written by Julian himself. Tougher examines the relationship of Julian and Eusebia, commenting on whether Helena was affected by it. The historian considers that the image of a politically influential but "kind-hearted and philanthropic" Eusebia is directly based on her depiction in the works of Julian. According to Tougher, later historians have tended to accept this depiction with little to no questioning of it. He regards Eusebia to be the greatest threat to Julian for the duration of his term as Caesar. This rank effectively made Julian heir presumptive to the imperial throne. His position as such relied solely on Constantius and Eusebia remaining childless. Had an heir been born to the imperial couple, Julian could find himself outliving his usefulness to his imperial patrons. Tougher follows the example of senior historian Noël Aujoulat in considering the story of Helena's miscarriages being the result of abortifacients to be entirely plausible. Both historians consider Ammianus' allegations, casting Eusebia as the orchestrator of such a plot, should be taken into consideration and "not be lightly dismissed".
Whatever the case, "The Cambridge Ancient History" notes that the occasion of her presence in Rome were the Vicennalia of Constantius II, a celebration in honor of completing twenty years on the throne. Constantius and his Milan court moved to Rome for the occasion, marking the first and only known visit of this particular Augustus in the ancient capital of the Roman Empire. Constantius was following the examples of Diocletian and Constantine I who also visited Rome during their own Vicennalia. The presence of Constantius, Eusebia and Helena marked this as a dynastic display.
By 360, Julian had restored peace to Gaul and reached a ceasefire with the Alamanni in particular. This secured the local borders for a while. Meanwhile Constantius was involved in a conflict against Shapur II of the Sassanid Empire, another phase of the Roman–Persian Wars. He took advantage of the peace achieved by Julian, sending orders that would transfer many officers and units from Gaul to the Persian borders. The Petulantes, one of the units ordered to the eastern border, revolted and proclaimed Julian to be their Augustus. Soon their cause was joined by the rest of the Gallic troops. Julian accepted his proclamation with some initial reluctance. The exact date of his proclamations in unknown, estimated to February or March, 360. Helena served as his Empress consort. She is mentioned being alive at the time of his proclamation in Julian's "Letter To The Senate And People of Athens".
The Letter was written in 361. At the time Julian and his forces were marching east to face Constantius. Julian took the time to write a series of public letters which explained and justified his course of action. These letters were addressed to several cities of the empire which Julian was attempting to win over, including (at least) Athens, Corinth, Rome and Sparta. The letter to Athens happens to be the only one preserved to modern times. Among other subjects, Julian narrates the conditions of his proclamation to the throne by army revolt:"He [Constantius] had ordered all the flower of the army, without exception, to be withdrawn from Gaul, charging Lupicinus and Gintonius with this commission, and commanding me in no respect to oppose them."
"In what words shall I now relate the works of the Gods? It was my intention, they can witness, divesting myself of all regal slate and magnificence, to rest in peace, and never more to act in public. I only waited the return of Florentius and Lupicinus, the one being in Britain, and the other at Vienne. In the meantime, a great disturbance was raised among the natives and soldiers, an anonymous libel being dispersed in a neighbouring town, among the Petulants and the Celts (the legions so named) filled with invectives against Constantius, and with complaints of his having betrayed the Gauls. And the author of that paper no less lamented my disgrace. This being circulated, a general disaffection ensued, and those who were most in the interest of Constantius used their utmost endeavours to persuade me to detach the troops as soon as possible, before the like libels were dispersed among the rest of the army. (Not one of my friends was then present). They were Nebridius, Pentadius and Decentius, the latter of whom Constantius had dispatched for that purpose".
"My reply that we ought to wait for Lupicinus and Florentius, was totally disregarded, they all insisting that the opposite plan should be pursued; unless I meant to confirm and corroborate former suspicions. Besides, they added, the detaching the troops will now be deemed your measure;but when those ministers return, Constantius will impute it not to you, but to them, and consequently will reprobate your contact. Thus I was persuaded, or rather compelled, to write to him. For he may be said to act by persuasion, who has the liberty of refusing. But those who can be compelled it is needless to persuade, as they act not by choice but necessity. There being two roads, it was next debated which should be taken. I proposed one but they compelled me to adopt the other;lest my opposition should excite some tumult and disorder in the army, and when a disturbance was once begun, a general confusion might ensue. An apprehension this, which seemed by no means groundless".
"The legions approached. I, as usual, went out to the city to meet them, and urged them to pursue their march. They halted one day, till when I was a stranger to what they had been concerting. Jupiter, the Sun, Mars, Minerva, and all the Gods know, that I had not the least suspicion of their intentions till the evening of that day, when at sunset they were disclosed to me. [At midnight] on a sudden, the palace was invested and a universal shout was raised, while in the meantime I was deliberating with measures to pursue but without forming any determination. Though my wife was then living, I happened to sleep alone in an adjoining upper chamber from which, there being an opening in the wall, I paid my adoration to Jupiter. The clamour increasing and a general tumult prevailing throughout the palace, I intreated that God to give me a sign. This he immediately shewed me, commanding me firmly to confide in it and not oppose the resolution of the army. Though I had received these omens, I did not however yield without reluctance but resisted as much as possible, nor would I admit on the salutation or the diadem. But not being able singly to oppose so many and the Gods, whose will it was, strongly animating them and at the same time, composing my spirits, at length in the third hour some soldier, I know not whom, giving me a collar, put it on, and then reentered the palace groaning, as the Gods can witness, from the bottom of my heart. For though the confidence which the former sign had given me in God could not but inspire me in fortitude , I was ashamed and abashed at not seeming to obey Constantius faithfully to the last."
"A great dejection prevailing in the palace, the friends of Constantius endeavoured to improve that opportunity of forming a conspiracy against me, and distributed money among the soldiers, hoping to alienate some of them, so at least as to make a division between us if not to persuade them openly to attack me. One of the officers who attended my wife in public, hearing what they were clandestinely transacting, disclosed it to me.But finding that I disregarded it, with the frenzy of an enthusiast, he loudly exclaimed in the marketplace: Soldiers, foreigners, and natives, do not betray the Emperor. The minds of the troops being thus inflamed, they all ran armed to the palace. Finding me there alive and unhurt, and rejoicing like friends who meet unexpectedly, they embraced me, clasped me in their arms and bore me on their shoulders. It was indeed a most pleasant sight, seeming like inspiration. Surrounding me on all sides, they then insisted that every friend of Constantius should be put to death. The strenuous endeavours that I used to save them, all the Gods know." 
"After this, what was my contact towards Constantius? In my letters to him, even to the present hour, I have never assumed the title which the Gods have given me, only styling myself Caesar; and I prevailed on the soldiers to swear to me that they would attempt nothing farther, if he would suffer me to dwell peaceably in the Gauls and ratify all that had been done. Add to this, the legions that were with me sent him a united letter, urging a reconciliation between us. In return he spirited the Barbarians against us, proclaimed to be a public enemy and bribed them to ravage the Gallic provinces. He wrote also to them who were in Italy and warned them to guard against those who came from the Gauls. In the towns bordering the Gallic frontier, he ordered magazines to be formed. In particular, one of six hundred thousand quarters of flour at Brigantia and another of as many more at the foot of the Cottian Alps, that he might be enabled to march an army against me. All these things were not only said but done. For the letters which he sent to spirit the Barbarians I intercepted, and all the provisions which he had ordered to be collected I seized and also the letters of Taurus". Taurus was the prefect of the Praetorian prefecture of Italy at the time. "Besides this he addressed me still as Caesar and declared that he would never be reconciled to me. He sent however one Epictetus, a Gallic bishop, to assure me of my safety. And in all his letters he intimates that he will spare my life, but as to my honour he is silent. In regard to his oaths, I think, as the proverb says, they should be written in ashes, so little do they deeserve belief. Julian was attempting to convince his audience that Constantius was to blame for their conflict, not himself. His narrative suggests Helena was alive early in his new reign, attended by soldiers and in close proximity to her husband at Gaul. As an officer of her guard was able to contact Julian with no prolonged journey mentioned. He does however claim to have slept alone without stating a reason. Her role in the conflict between her husband and brother is left unmentioned.
Helena is next mentioned by Ammianus as already deceased for some time: Julian "being now an Augustus, he celebrated quinquennial games; and he wore a magnificent diadem, set with gleaming gems, whereas at the beginning of his principate he had assumed and worn a cheap crown, like that of the director of a gymnasium attired in purple. While these games were going on, he had sent to Rome the remains of his deceased wife Helena, to be laid to rest in his villa near the city on the Via Nomentana, where also her sister Constantina, formerly the wife of Gallus, was buried." In his assessment of Julian, Ammianus claims Julian practiced chastity and avoided sexual intercourse for the rest of his life. "He was so conspicuous for inviolate chastity that after the loss of his wife it is well known that he never gave a thought to love: bearing in mind what we read in Plato, that Sophocles, the tragic poet, when we was asked, at a great age, whether he still had congress with women, said no, adding that he was glad that he had escaped from this passion as from some mad and cruel aster. Also, to give greater strength to this principle, Julianus often repeated the saying of the lyric poet Bacchylides, whom he delighted to read, who declares that as a skilful painter gives a face beauty, just so chastity gives charm to a life of high aims. This blemish in the mature strength of manhood he avoided with such care, that even his most confidential attendants never (as often happens) accused him even of a suspicion of any lustfulness." Barnes notes that Ammianus offers much praise of both Julian and Eusebia. In contrast, there is no such praise for Helena, nor an actual assessment of her.
The "Funeral Oration upon the Emperor Julian" by Libanius elaborates on the subject of Julian's chastity:"This was the pleasure our emperor reaped from the length of the nights, whilst others were following the business of Venus. But he was so far from inquiring where there was a fair daughter, or wife, that had he not once been tied by Juno with the bond of marriage, he would have ended his days knowing nothing of sexual intercourse but by name. But as it was he regretted his wife, yet did not touch another woman, either before or after her; being by his constitution enabled to be continent, and his constant occupation in the art of soothsaying concurring to require this restraint. ... Being exhorted by his relations to marry, that he might get children for heirs to his power, "It was out of fear of this very thing," replied he, "that I have neglected to do so, lest they, succeeding by hereditary right, should turn out bad and ruin the state, experiencing the same fate with Phaethon." Thus did he regard his own want of children as a lighter calamity than the chance of mischief to the provinces."
Gibbon notes that Helena's "pregnancy had been several times fruitless, and was at last fatal to herself." Gibbon used as his source another work by Libanius, "a very weak apology, to justify his hero [Julian] from a very absurd charge of poisoning his wife, and rewarding her physician with his mother's jewels." An entry of the Liber Pontificalis, the one covering Pope Liberius, mentions Helena being a devout Christian and an adherent of the Nicene Creed. However, like Sozomen, the entry writer confused her with her sister and calls her "Constantia Augusta".
- Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 1
- Michael DiMaio, Jr., "Helena (Wife of Julian the Transgressor)"
- Hans Pohlsander, "Fausta (ca.293-326 A.D.)"
- Hans Pohlsander, "Crispus Caesar (317-326 A.D.)"
- Jan Willem Drijvers, "Helena Augusta (248/249-328/329 A.D.)"
- Michael DiMaio, Jr., "Maximianus Herculius (286-305 A.D)"
- Walter E. Roberts and Michael DiMaio, Jr., "Julian the Apostate (360-363 A.D.)"
- Michael DiMaio, Jr., "Julius Constantius and His Wives"
- The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, vol. 1, Book 15, chapter 8. 1935 translation
- Zosimus, New History, Book 3. 1814 translation.
- Eutropius, Abridgement of Roman History, Book 10. 1853 translation
- Socrates Scholasticus, "The Ecclesiastical History", Book 3, Chapter 1, translation by Philip Schaff (1819 - 1893).
- Sozomen, "The Ecclesiastical History", Book 5, Chapter 2, translation by Philip Schaff (1819 - 1893).
- Philostorgius: Church History. Translation by Philip R. Amidon, Book 4, chapter 2, page 65
- Edward Gibbon, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", vol. 2, Chapter 19, note 39
- Hans A. Pohlsander, "Constantine I (306 - 337 A.D.)"
- The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, vol. 1, Book 16, chapter 10. 1935 translation
- Timothy Barnes, "Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality" (1998), page 123
- Plinio Prioreschi, "A History of Medicine" (1995), page 658
- "The Propaganda of Power: The Role of Panegyric in Late Antiquity", page 122
- "The Cambridge Ancient History vol. 13: The Late Empire, A.D. 337–425" (1998), pages 29 - 30
- Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, "The Book of Acts in Its Ancient Literary Setting" (1993), page 207
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), page 93
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), pages 93-95
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), pages 95-96
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), pages 96-99
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), pages 99-100
- "Select Works of the Emperor Julian: And Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius" (1784), pages 100-101
- The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, vol. 2, Book 21, chapter 1. 1940 translation
- The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, vol. 2, Book 25, chapter 4. 1940 translation
- Timothy Barnes, "Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality" (1998), pages 122-123
- Libanius, "Funeral Oration upon the Emperor Julian". 1888 translation
- Edward Gibbon, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", vol. 2, Chapter 22, note 21
- Her profile in the "Prosopography"
- Page mentioning her marriage in Philostorgius' history
- Page in "Representation of Historical Reality" mentioning her depiction by Ammianus Marcellinus
- Page of "History of Medicine" which mentions Eusebia and Helena
- Page of "Propaganda of Power" discussing Helena's miscarriages
- Page of the "Cambridge Ancient History" mentioning her visit to Rome
- Page of the "Book of Acts" mentioning Julian's letter to Athens
- Page of the "Epistle to the Athenians" which mentions her being alive at the proclamation of Julian
|Roman Empress consort
with Eusebia (360)