Synopses & Reviews
In 312 A.D., Constantine-one of four Roman emperors ruling a divided empire-marched on Rome to establish his control. On the eve of the battle, a cross appeared to him in the sky with an exhortation, "By this sign conquer." Inscribing the cross on the shields of his soldiers, Constantine drove his rivals into the Tiber and claimed the imperial capital for himself. Under Constantine, Christianity emerged from the shadows, its adherents no longer persecuted. Constantine united the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire. He founded a new capital city, Constantinople. Thereafter the Christian Roman Empire endured in the East, while Rome itself fell to the barbarian hordes. Paul Stephenson offers a nuanced and deeply satisfying account of a man whose cultural and spiritual renewal of the Roman Empire gave birth to the idea of a unified Christian Europe underpinned by a commitment to religious tolerance.
"Stephenson, a historian at the University of Durham, successfully combines historical documents, examples of Roman art, sculpture, and coinage with the lessons of geopolitics to produce a complex biography of the Emperor Constantine. Rather than the divinely guided hero of legend who singlehandedly brought pagan Rome to Christian orthodoxy, Constantine is depicted as very much a product of his political environment. Recognizing the growing influence of the Christian Church, he adapted the generally pacifist faith to the Roman 'theology of victory' and created a newly militant Christianity that would sustain his rule. Constantine wisely sought to impose religious toleration on the diverse Roman Empire while discouraging 'trivial' disputes among the Christian faithful. Stephenson examines the variety of religious beliefs in the early fourth century with emphasis on Mithraism, a pagan mystery cult practiced by pre-Constantine soldiers, and on the bitter divisions within victorious Christianity that ultimately led to the Council of Nicaea. Constantine is revealed as a master politician who, while delaying his own baptism for reasons not fully explained in the text, became the ruler of both church and state. 24 pages of illus.; 8 maps. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A masterly life of the first Christian Roman emperor and founder of Constantinople
A fascinating survey of the life and enduring legacy of perhaps the greatest and most unjustly ignored of the Roman emperors-written by a richly gifted historian.
About the Author
Paul Stephenson is a professor of history at Durham University and a specialist in the early and middle Byzantine periods. His publications include The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer and Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204. Stephenson has researched and taught in the UK, Germany, and the USA.