The transformation from the classical period to the medieval has long been associated with the rise of Christianity. This association has deeply influenced the way that modern audiences imagine the separation of the classical world from its medieval and early modern successors. The role played in this transformation by Constantine as the first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire has also profoundly shaped the manner in which we frame Late Antiquity and successive periods as distinctively Christian. The modern demarcation of the post-classical period is often inseparable from the reign of Constantine.
The attention given to Constantine as a liminal figure in this historical transformation is understandable. Constantine’s support of Christianity provided the religion with unprecedented public respectability and public expressions of that support opened previously unimagined channels of social, political and economic influence to Christians and non-Christians alike. The exact nature of Constantine’s involvement or intervention has been the subject of continuous and densely argued debate. Interpretations of the motives and sincerity of his conversion to Christianity have characterized, with various results, explanations of everything from the religious culture of the late Roman state to the dynamics of ecclesiastical politics.
What receives less-frequent attention is the fact that our modern appreciation of Constantine as a pivotal historical figure is itself a direct result of the manner in which Constantine’s memory was constructed by the human imagination over the course of centuries. This volume offers a series of snapshots of moments in that process from the fourth to the sixteenth century.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Bjornlie / Imagining Constantine, then and now, Van Dam / The reception of classical pastoral in the age of Constantine, Chinn / Platonism in the palace: the character of Constantine’s theology, DePalma Digeser / What hath Constantine wrought?, Drake / Constantine and Silvester in the Actus Silvestri, Sessa / Constantine in the 6th century: from Constantinople to Tours, Bjornlie / Back to the future: Constantine and the last Roman Emperor, Baxter Wolf / Charlemagne: a new Constantine?, Emerick / Dante, Constantine the Christian, and the illegitimate donation of Constantine, Deen Schildgen / ‘If possession be Poysen’: endowment, sophistic and the legacy of Constantine in late medieval England, Jahner / Constantine in late medieval western art: just the son of a holy mother?, Jaritz / Constantine and the Renovatio Romae in the Renaissance and Baroque, Gorse.
M. Shane Bjornlie is a Fellow of the American Academy of Rome (2011) and Associate Professor of Roman and Late Antique History in the Department of History at Claremont McKenna College in Los Angeles.