Constantine: Unconquered emperor, Christian victor

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9781849160025: Constantine: Unconquered emperor, Christian victor

Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor is a masterly survey of the life and enduring legacy of the greatest and most unjustly ignored of the later Roman emperors - from a richly gifted young British historian. In 312, Constantine - one of four Roman emperors ruling a divided empire - marched on Rome to establish his sole control of its western half. On the eve of the decisive battle, at Rome's Milvian Bridge, he had a vision. A cross appeared to him in the sky with an exhortation, generally translated as 'By this sign conquer'. Inscribing the cross on the shields of his soldiers, Constantine drove the followers of his rival Maxentius into the Tiber and claimed the imperial capital for himself. He converted to Christianity and ended persecution of his co-religionists with the defeat in 324 of his last rival, Licinius. Under Constantine, Christianity emerged from the shadows, its adherents no longer persecuted. Constantine united the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire, and presided over the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church, at Nicaea in 325. He founded a new capital city nearby on the Bosphorus, where Europe meets Asia. This site, the ancient trading colony of Byzantium, became the city of Constantine, Constantinople, a new Christian capital set apart from Rome's pagan past. Thereafter the Christian Roman Empire endured in the East as Byzantium, while Rome itself fell to the barbarian hordes in AD 476. 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 historically crucial idea of a unified Christian Europe underpinned by a commitment to religious tolerance. In Constantine: Unconquered emperor, Christian victor, a seminal figure in the political and cultural history of the West has at last found the biographer he deserves.

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About the Author:

Paul Stephenson is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Durham and a specialist in the early and middle Byzantine periods. His publications include The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer (2003) and Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204 (2000), both for Cambridge University Press. Stephenson has researched and taught in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA.

Review:

"Scholar Stephenson offers a stately though academic biography of the first Roman emperor who converted to Christianity, with a heavy emphasis on the archaeological record... Stephenson's knowledgeable account pursues a wide variety of historical branches of Constantine's story." - "Kirkus"

"Everyone interested in the classical period should read this exemplary biography, which eschews psychological speculation and instead builds its case inventively from primary accounts and the iconographic record in statuary, architecture, and coinage."-"Library Journal" STARRED REVIEW

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