Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
Sign in to follow this  
fohu

Constantine's Christianity

Recommended Posts

Constantine is, perhaps understandably, eulogised by typical christian thinking whereas there's plenty of reasons to see him as anything else than laudable. Anyone who puts Constantine into context is doing just fine in my book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A very rich subject, often observed in hindsight through the lens of modern Christianity rather than viewed in a polytheistic context - let's face it, he started as a Pagan and chose Christianity as one of any number of possibilities.

Edited by GhostOfClayton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the last couple of years there have been a number of books on Constantine and the Nicean Council.

 

I have read at least 1 bio of Constantine that took an even handed approach (he did have some political and military acumen, regardless of what I think of his religious policies).

 

http://www.unrv.com/...ntine-great.php

 

The main problem was that it was not, strictly speaking, academic.

Edited by Ursus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome aboard, Fohu. I hope you decide to stay with us and share some of your knowledge and opinions.

 

Regarding Constantine and his christianity, I believe that there are three main points which need to be considered:

 

1) For several decades prior to Constantine, efforts had been made by emperors to find a religion which would unify the otherwise diverse provinces and cultures of the Empire. Why did Constantine choose Christianity, rather than the many other very similar cults which existed at the time?

 

2) How much truth is there in the Pagan assertion that Christianity was the only religion which would forgive him for the murder of various members of his family?

 

3) To what extent did constantine influence the Christian religion to make it more palatable to Romans? Was a version of Christianity which was most amenable to the Roman mindset adopted in favour of other, possibly original versions of the religion?

 

I pose these questions because in many ways, nothing major seemed to have changed with the adoption of Christianity, apart from a form of unity which gave the Roman World perhaps a further century or so of stability, and a sudden rush of self - denial and embarassment about natural functions and drives. Prominent people were still deified (sanctified), Women still ended up being second class citizens, pagan festivals were retained and renamed, and if one includes Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary AND all the saints, the Roman tradition of having a choice of 'gods' to pray to even remained.

 

Could it be that Constantine's aims were primarily self - interest and politics?

Edited by Northern Neil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your comments.

 

Just as an example, regarding the narratives of Eusebius and Zosimus, the most important difference between the two historians was that Eusebius was a Bishop since Zosimus was a pagan. When we read Eusebius we'll think that constantine was a saint but when we read Zosimus he claimed that Constantine was a tyrant. Their ideas about Constantine's personality totally different from each other so, I

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Was Constantine the servant of God, the fellow-servant of the bishops and God

Edited by Northern Neil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what its worth, my view is that Constantine was not actually very religious (although probably a little), and that he favoured Christianity as a political solution to many problems, and to receive absolution from his monstrous acts.

 

Well said, Northern Neil. Although he was possibly a true Christian, he certainly was an opportunist.

 

Constantine's deathbed conversion is indicative of his opportunism. Not only did he wait till near death to be baptized (to absolve all the possible sins), he was baptized by the Arian anti-Trinitarian priest Eusebius of Nicomedia. Remember, it was Constantine who had earlier called the First Council of Nicaea

where Arius's anti-Trinitarian doctrine had been condemned and the Nicene Creed of 325 was adopted.

 

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be glad if you share your opinion about the reagrding topic, is it a very specific area for a doctoral study or not?

 

Have you spoken with your advisor (assuming you have one)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would make a recommendation to talk to the Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania Greek Orthodox Metropolitan. He has a deacon everyone keeps telling me to talk to regarding text and translation questions.

 

Plus, he can hook you up, if needed, with a phone interview with the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople, your thesis warrants it.

 

In my personal heretical, I scoff at the claims of Constantine being a saint. There really isnt a scientific way to recognize a saint, save in the modern catholic church.... you either are one by merit, or your not. Typically miracles are intermixed in there. Think Mexico or Argentina with their dubious, unsanctioned but tolerated saints. Its the older impulse strata of anything goes.

 

Constatine's main claim to sainthood was a battle. Other warrior saints like St. Maurice, St. Sebastian, St. George (not the pagan horseman that is the patron saint of england, the real one who was a general) didnt earn their sainthood by jihad, but rather restraint, faith, and self sacrifice.

 

But the greeks are greeks, and every orthodox church and monastery I visit has a icon of him up. Much less so in the Catholic Church.

 

Do I think he was a christian? In the end yes. It took time to grasp it, and he was a judgemental snd complex person. But in the beginning I doubt it, beyond just a general religious superstitious fever. He likely noted the Christians, though a stubborn minority, intentionally mimicked the besaspects of the nobility. They had stable marriages, served in the military, respected government so long as it tolerated them, and had a seemingly unbreakable resilience at times.

 

I dont know why your trying to make Constatine a either or character. Your imposing a 21st century dichotomy that honesty and sincerity requires conviction to be either completely religious or secular in the atheist sense. Constantine lived in a more intelligent and intellectually free era, where a emperor could be a man of both opportunism and convictions without having to endlessly compartamentalizing the aspects of who he is, fitting it into various philosophical schemes to gain a politically correct, noncontradicting identity.

Constantine was, in essence, a bad ass emperor, in the true meaning of being a badass. He was awesome. Emperor of the world. Of course he waowasopprotunistic..... thats a requirement of being a good emperor. He has great concerns, multitude and varied.... thats the office of the emperor's function.

 

Given he focused so much on faith, not just leaving it to the bishops but exploring it himself and taking awkward stands against the, be it for sun cults or the arians, shows he was religiously active, and already had a rough theological bias he was attracted to. Monotheism made sense to him. It was opportunity, taking the chance to back it, that made and sustained him, and it seemed to be god that sustained him, securing him in power, and revived his empire. That matters alot on a deeply personal level to someone who happens to be emperor. Similar to how a man can love God for saving family from peril and offer support in hard times.

 

The hardest thing for a historian, writing a biography from another age, is to escape from the prejudice of his own age. Its hard to see where the cracks and weaknesses of our era are intellectually. Constantine offers that insight.

 

The secular, anti religious outlook of Europe mirrors the era Constantine was fighting against. Decaying, state administered temples trying to enforce a cultural and religious status quo had progressively failed. In both cases, bad traditions and deep seated prejudice towards new, invigorating ideas strangled those with aspirations. He recognized the old system of agnosticism or absurd mystery cults wasnt going to keep the population going. The age of 'spiritualism' over 'religion' was at hand, and most spiritualists are nebulous, lack conviction and concepts of right and wrong, or the backbone to stand up and fight in the long term.

 

And constantine's efforts were successful. The new center of the empire lasted a thousand years, while the old decayed part struggled between christian and pagan factions, dragging the field army out west to put down decadent pagan aristocrats, letting the barbarians through to occupy western europe.

 

To this day, greece is highly religious, whereas places like Britian and the Netherlands, constantines old stomping grounds, are intellectually and socially decaying. Despite all its weaknesses, you can take a state like greece and expect it to last a thousand years more. Half of England and the Netherlands think they'll be dominated by Islam in a few years. This is ironic, considering the ottoman occupation and genocide, the greeks have no intention of going.

 

Thats Constantine's influence. Europe in cycles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×