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Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance (Ancient Society and History)by H. A. Drake
Synopses & Reviews
"A refreshingly original and powerfully argued re-conception of the issues and the forces at work in this period of the conversion not of Constantine, but of Christianity. A riveting story, and masterfully told." — New Republic
"If you read one book on late antiquity this year, read this one. If you read one book on politics this year, read this one again. Drake's study offers a fascinating and meticulous (and fascinating in its meticulousness) analysis of the rise of 'intolerance' as acceptable policy in the Roman Christian Empire of the fourth century AD. The brilliance of the book originates in its methodology, which eschews the plodding and narrow reliance on classical sources alone (though it is quite classically erudite), in favor of approaching historical events with the savvy of political analysis. Rejecting as indefensible the premise that Christianity, as monotheism, is essentially intolerant, Drake unpacks the history of 'Constantinian theocracy' in order to reveal the essentially accidental character of its emergence and triumph; 'the explanation lies in social processes, not theology,' The book is not without its flaws; at times, the reliance on political analysis can seem just as anachronistic and procrustean as the assumptions underlying the consensus position he contests. But the flaws are microscopic when compared to the achievement. A work of visionary brilliance, it at one blow overturns the consensus which it begins by opposing, and teaches us, with elegance and wit, invaluable lessons about religion, politics, and the study of history." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Historians who viewed imperial Rome in terms of a conflict between pagans and Christians have often regarded the emperor Constantine's conversion as the triumph of Christianity over paganism. But in Constantine and the Bishops, historian H. A. Drake offers a fresh and more nuanced understanding of Constantine's rule and, especially, of his relations with Christians.
Constantine, Drake suggests, was looking not only for a god in whom to believe but also a policy he could adopt. Uncovering the political motivations behind Constantine's policies, Drake shows how those policies were constructed to ensure the stability of the empire and fulfill Constantine's imperial duty in securing the favor of heaven.
Despite the emperor's conversion to Christianity, Drake concludes, Rome remained a world filled with gods and with men seeking to depose rivals from power. A book for students and scholars of ancient history and religion, Constantine and the Bishops shows how Christian belief motivated and gave shape to imperial rule.
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