Near the beginning of the period covered by this volume, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, the celebrated 'father of church history', composed two addresses in which he praised the accomplishments of Constantine's reign. Toward its end, another Christian clergyman, the deacon Agapetus, addressed a series of aphorisms on kingship to the emperor Justinian.1 The two works serve as a convenient means to bracket the monumental changes that the church underwent during these centuries as it moved from the periphery to the centre of Roman social and political, as well as religious, thought. This is a story traditionally told in terms of Christianity's 'innate intolerance' and imperial 'Caesaropapism', explaining at once the ruthless suppression of traditional religions that accompanied this movement and the intrusion of the state into the domain of the church. But these are concepts that (to borrow words coined for a vastly different situation) have by now outlived their uselessness. The writings of Eusebius and Agapetus open the way to a more complex, but also far more interesting, story, one that involves questions of imperial ideology, Christian identity, and demographic disruptions whose impact we have only recently come to appreciate.
The first of Eusebius' two writings was a speech, 'On the Holy Sepulchre', composed for the eight-day Encaenia ceremony celebrating the dedication of Constantine's magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in September 335.2 Ostensibly a reply to critics who thought the structure a waste
1 Agapetos Diakonos, ed. and trans. Riedinger; about half of the text is translated in E. Barker, Social and political thought in Byzantium, 54-61.
2 The speech, which I have labelled De sepulchro Christi, comes down mingled with the text of Eusebius' Laus Constantini (hereafter, LC), where it appears as chs. 11-18. (To avoid confusion, I have retained the traditional numbering.) In the form we have it, the speech may include modifications Eusebius made when he repeated it for Constantine two
Was this article helpful?