speakers like Eusebius and Agapetus redeployed and redefined the standard virtues.

When Eusebius proclaimed, for instance, at LC5.4 that Constantine had been 'furnished by God with natural virtues' that made him 'perfectly wise, good, just, courageous, pious and god-loving' (ototeAectOeís oró^pwv, áyaOós, Sfcaios, avSpEios, eOcte^^s, ^iAóOeos) - that made him, in fact, 'a philosopher-king' (^iAócto^os paaiÁEÜs) - he was clearly drawing on standard watchwords of Hellenistic kingship, in this case throwing in as well a reference to Plato's by now proverbial definition of an ideal ruler. But as Eusebius develops these standard themes a new emphasis emerges: pietas (EUcé^Eia) is now the central virtue.13 Constantine, Eusebius says, is a 'high-minded sovereign, learned in divine matters', who 'pursues things higher than his present life' and does 'all things with piety' (^ávTa te ctüv EÚCE^EÍa •páTTWv).14 In classical times, pietas meant doing one's duty to men and gods; here, it has a more restricted sense, one more familiar to modern ears. Constantine's piety leads him to offer 'his subjects, just as if they were students of a good teacher, the holy knowledge of the Supreme Sovereign' (LC 5.8). Piety is the basis for the special relationship between the emperor and the divine: it is because of his piety, Eusebius says, that Constantine has been permitted the thirty years of rule now being celebrated (LC 2.5). Piety is what makes the emperor a 'friend of God'.

In their emphasis on piety, both speeches represent a subtle transaction between speaker and listener. For with his words of praise, Eusebius also delineates a code of behaviour that the emperor is expected to live up to: 'For he who would bear the title of sovereign with true reason has patterned regal virtues in his soul after the model of that distant kingdom' (LC 5.2). The emperor is expected not only to lead his subjects to God, but also to proclaim 'laws of genuine piety' (LC 5.8). To bring home the message, Eusebius contrasts such genuine sovereignty with its opposite, bluntly warning that one who has alienated himself from these virtues and who has denied the Universal Sovereign, who has neither acknowledged the Heavenly Father of souls nor adopted a decorum proper to a sovereign, but who has instead taken into his soul the chaotic and shameful and traded for regal kindness the spirit of a wild beast; . . . one who has surrendered himself to these, even if on occasion he be considered to rule by despotic power, at no time will he hold the title of sovereign with true reason. (LC 5.2)

13 Chesnut, The first Christian histories, ch. 10.

14 LC 5.8; see also his 'abundance of piety' (EUCTE^EÍas ü^Ep^oA^, LC 7.12).

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment