Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Emperor Constantine

What can I say, Constantine is a favorite of mine. There are so many wonderful quirky things about him & then he is a saint & then he is an emperor. Really, what's not to love? You can look up all the garden variety stuff in any world history, so let me go straight to the good bits:

Constantine had several children & named most of them for himself (except one daughter he named Helena, for his mother & another son called Crispus). Three of his sons were called Constatine, Constantius & Constans. He even named a daughter Constantina. For a man named Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, son of Constantius Chlorus this shows a shocking lack of imagination. Or incredible self promotion. Ever since I learned this, I picture Constantine looking a lot like George Foreman. In a toga.

"Scholars debate" when he actually converted to christianity. His mother had converted many years before her death, but he held on to (& took advantage of) his pagan title until the day he died. I actually think you can make an solid argument for his being an atheist or at a minimum a major hedger of bets. While they debate, scholars like to point to the many protections he gave chirtians, certainly not the norm. Except his mother was a christian & even an emperor can have a soft spot for his mother. Finally, there is no disputing that the christians were not singled out for special treatment. He had a remarkably even hand when it came to religious tolerance. The better to tax you with, my dears.

& that was Constantine's real claim to fame. Put everyone in touch with everyone else, let them barter, let them trade & take your percentage off the top. He is looking more & more like George Foreman to you, too now, right. 

Anyhow today is Constantine's feast day.  The one I mean anyhow.  Not the Constantines that came before & after.  Not to be confused with the saints Constantius (yep more than one).  There are scores of better looks at his life than this one.  My brother recommends John Julius Norwich's Byzantium in three easy volumes.  Our boy appears mostly in the first--but he is felt all the way through.  I instead give you this

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