Brooding over the lowly status of the Greek gods sent me back to a remarkable book, Julian, Gore Vidal’s biographical novel about the brief reign of the fourth-century Roman emperor (355-363CE) whom Christians call Julian the Apostate. He decided that Constantine had embraced Jesus for crass political reasons and out of a weird attraction to “the mad haggling of bishops.” The world was “diseased by the quarrels and intolerance” of this radical Christianity business, Julian decided. He set about restoring the old gods — not, as fate would have it, a successful project.
Vidal’s biographer says he feared that in 1964 Christian disapproval would seriously limit the book’s sales. But even the Book of the Month Club loved it. Julian became a bestseller.
Vidal's Julian would be good material for an opera.