Sassanids stand on Julian the Apostate's corpse. Taq-e_Bostan_-_High-relief_of_Ardeshir_II_investiture
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Julian the Apostate was the last Roman Emperor to attempt to return the empire to paganism. However, he was also a notable philosopher and scholar. His reign ended in 363 while campaigning against the Sassanid Empire. Julian's bold invasion plan brought early success. Despite this, the Romans failed in their ultimate objective and withdrew. Julian died when a Sassanid raiding party struck his column. Emperor Julian decided on a needless invasion of Persian territory. There does not seem to be any imminent threat or Sassanid provocation to warrant an attack. In fact, the Sassanids sent a diplomatic mission to seek peace with Julian. The emperor may have been seeking military glory. Whatever the reason, Julian rebuffed the diplomats and invaded. The Romans began the invasion in March 363. Several regional powers offered Julian their assistance in defeating the Sassanids, but the emperor declined all offers. The Sassanids put forth little resistance. The invaders moved to within range of the capital by the middle of May. Julian defeated the Persians at the Battle of Ctesiphon. The Sassanid survivors fled into the city. At this point, Julian had few options. The Romans could not take the city without a siege. While Julian dithered, the main enemy army approached. Rather than retreat, Julian decided to launch forays into Persian territory and ordered the destruction of his fleet. This was insane. A large enemy army still lurked and Sassanid forces harassed the Romans. As the invaders continued into the Persian interior, they discovered the enemy engaged in a scorched earth policy. The Romans could not live off the land or on the backs of civilians. As a result, Julian decided to retreat back to Roman territory. The Sassanids harassed the withdrawing Roman troops. On June 26, 363, a raiding party attacked Julian's column and wounded the emperor. Earlier, Julian decided to forgo wearing his armor. The decision proved fatal as a spear punctured his liver and intestines. The emperor's physician worked frantically to repair the damage, but to no avail. Julian the Apostate died from a major hemorrhage created by his wound. He was buried in Tarsus, but later re-interred in Constantinople. Julian the Apostate earned his reputation as an intelligent, scholarly ruler. However, he blundered in Persia. Although his forces grabbed great swaths of land, they could not hold it nor take the enemy capital. Then, he compounded his error by launching an attack into Persia as opposed to withdrawing. In the end, he was forced to retreat and died in a Sassanid reprisal raid.
---Julian the Apostate was the last Roman Emperor to attempt to return the empire to paganism. However, he was also a notable philosopher and scholar.--- ...