22(1) The empire, however, was not left ungoverned. Arrayed in his father's own purple robe, Constantine emerged from his father's halls, showing to one and all that, as though revived, his father reigned through him. Then he led the cortege, and with his father's friends about him, he formed the escort for his father.
Enormous crowds of people and military guards, some before and some following behind, attended the Godbeloved in full state. All of them honored the Thriceblessed with acclamations and laudations and, with unanimous consent, praised the accession of the son as a new life for the dead; and immediately from the first word in their cries of acclamation they proclaimed the new Emperor Imperator and Venerable
From Eusebius'Life of Constantine: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, trans, and ed. Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1999. Used with permission.
Augustus. (2) They lauded the deceased with their acclamations for the son, and they blessed the son as appointed to succeed such a father; all the provinces under his rule were full of happiness and unutterable joy because not even for the briefest moment had they been deprived of orderly imperial rule. This was the end of a pious and devout life that God displayed to our generation in the case of the Emperor Con-stantius.
23 As to the others who used the methods of war to persecute the churches of God, I have decided that it is not proper to report the way their lives ended in the present account or to stain the record of good deeds by presenting their contrary. Experience of the events is sober warning enough to those whose own eyes and ears have known the story of what happened to each one.
24 In such a way, then, did God, the President of the whole world, of his own will select Constantine, sprung from such a father, as universal ruler and governor, that no man could claim the precedence that he alone possessed, since the rest owed the rank they held to election by others.
25 (1) Once he was established in imperial power, he first attended to the needs of his father's portion, supervising with loving care all the provinces that had previously been allotted to his father's government; if any barbarian tribes living beside the River Rhine and the Western Ocean dared to rebel, he subdued them all and turned their savagery to gentleness, while others he repulsed and chased off his territory like wild beasts, when he saw that they were incurably resistant to change to a gentle life.
(2) When these things were settled to his satisfaction, he turned his attention to the other parts of the inhabited world and first crossed to the British nations, which lie enclosed by the edge of Ocean; he brought them to terms and then surveyed the other parts of the world, so that he might bring healing where help was needed. 26 When he then perceived that the whole earthly element was like a great body and next became aware that the head of the whole, the imperial city ofthe Roman Empire, lay oppressed by bondage to a tyrant, he first gave opportunity for those who governed the other parts to rescue it, inas much as they were senior in years, but when none of these was able to give aid and even those who did make the attempt had met a shameful end, he declared that his life was not worth living if he were to allow the imperial city to remain in such a plight and began preparations to overthrow the tyranny.
27 (1) Knowing well that he would need more powerful aid than an army can supply because of the mischievous magical devices practiced by the tyrant, he sought a god to aid him. He regarded the resources of soldiers and military numbers as secondary, for he thought that without the aid of a god, these could achieve nothing, and he said that what comes from a god's assistance is irresistible and invincible. (2) He therefore considered what kind of god he should adopt to aid him, and while he thought, a clear impression came to him, that of the many who had in the past aspired to government, those who had attached their personal hopes to many gods, and had cultivated them with drink offerings, sacrifices, and dedications, had first been deceived by favorable predictions and oracles that promised welcome things, but then met an unwelcome end, nor did any god stand at their side to protect them from divinely directed disaster; only his own father had taken the opposite course to theirs by condemning their error, while he himself had throughout his life honored the God who transcends the universe and had found him a savior and guardian of his Empire and a provider of everything good. (3) He judiciously considered these things for himself and weighed well how those who had confided in a multitude of gods had run into multiple destruction, so that neither offspring nor shoot was left in them, no root, neither name nor memorial among mankind, whereas his father's God had bestowed on his father manifest and numerous tokens of his power. He also pondered carefully those who had already campaigned against the tyrant. They had assembled their forces with a multitude of gods and had come to a dismal end: one of them had retreated in disgrace without striking a blow, while the other had met a casual death by assassination in his own camp. He marshaled these arguments in his mind and concluded that it was folly to go on with the vanity of the gods that do not exist and to persist in error in the face of so much evidence, and he decided he should venerate his father's God alone.
28 (1) This God he began to invoke in prayer, beseeching and imploring him to show him who he was and to stretch out his right hand to assist him in his plans. As he made these prayers and earnest supplications, there appeared to the emperor a most remarkable divine sign. If someone else had reported it, it would perhaps not be easy to accept, but since the victorious emperor himself told the story to the present writer a long while after, when I was privileged with his acquaintance and company, and confirmed it with oaths, who could hesitate to believe the account, especially when the time that followed provided evidence for the truth of what he said? (2) About the time of the midday sun, when day was just turning, he said he saw with his own eyes, up in the sky and resting over the sun, a cross-shaped trophy formed from light and a text attached to it that said, "By this conquer." Amazement at the spectacle seized both him and the whole company of soldiers, which was then accompanying him on a campaign he was conducting somewhere, and witnessed the miracle.
29 He was, he said, wondering to himselfwhat the manifestation might mean; then, while he meditated, and thought long and hard, night overtook him. Thereupon, as he slept, the Christ of God appeared to him with the sign that had appeared in the sky and urged him to make himself a copy of the sign that had appeared in the sky and to use this as protection against the attacks of the enemy. 30 When day came, he arose and recounted the mysterious communication to his friends. Then he summoned goldsmiths and jewelers, sat down among them, and explained the shape of the sign and gave them instructions about copying it in gold and precious stones.
This was something that the emperor himself once saw fit to let me also set eyes on, God vouchsafing even this. 31 (1) It was constructed to the following design. A tall pole plated with gold had a transverse bar forming the shape of a cross. Up at the extreme top, a wreath woven of precious stones and gold had been fastened. On it two letters, intimating by its first characters the name "Christ," formed the monogram of the Savior's title, rho being intersected in the mid-
die by chi. These letters the emperor also used to wear upon his helmet in later times. (2) From the transverse bar, which was bisected by the pole, hung suspended a cloth, an imperial tapestry covered with a pattern of precious stones fastened together, which glittered with shafts of light, and interwoven with much gold, producing an impression of indescribable beauty on those who saw it. This banner, then, attached to the bar, was given equal dimensions of length and breadth. But the upright pole, which extended upward a long way from its lower end, below the trophy of the cross and near the top of the tapestry delineated, carried the golden head-and-shoulders portrait of the Godbeloved emperor and likewise of his sons. (3) This saving sign was always used by the emperor for protection against every opposing and hostile force, and he commanded replicas ofit to lead all his armies.
32 (1) That was, however, somewhat later. At the time in question, stunned by the amazing vision and determined to worship no other god than the one who had appeared, he summoned those expert in his words and inquired who this god was and what was the explanation of the vision that had appeared of the sign. (2) They said that the god was the Onlybegotten Son of the one and only God and that the sign that appeared was a token of immortality and was an abiding trophy of the victory over death, which he had once won when he was present on earth. They began to teach him the reasons for his coming, explaining to him in detail the story of his self-accommodation to human conditions. (3) He listened attentively to these accounts, too, while he marveled at the divine manifestation that had been granted to his eyes; comparing the heavenly vision with the meaning of what was being said, he made up his mind, convinced that it was as God's own teaching that the knowledge of these things had come to him. He now decided personally to apply himself to the divinely inspired writings. Taking the priests of God as his advisers, he also deemed it right to honor the God who had appeared to him with all due rites. Thereafter, fortified by good hopes in him, he finally set about extinguishing the menacing flames of tyranny.
33 (1) Indeed, the one who had thus previously seized the imperial city was busily engaged in abom inable and sacrilegious activities, so that he left no outrage undone in his foul and filthy behavior. He parted lawful wives from husbands, and after misusing them quite disgracefully, returned them to their husbands. He did this not to obscure or insignificant persons, but insolently to those who held the highest positions in the Roman Senate. So he misused disgracefully innumerable freeborn women, yet found no way to satisfy his unrestrained and insatiable appetite. (2) But when he turned his hand also to Christian women, he was no longer able to devise convenient means for his adulteries. They would sooner yield their life to him for execution than their body for immoral use. 34 One woman, the wife of one of the senators with the office of prefect, when she learned that those who procured such things for the tyrant had arrived—she was a Christian—and knew that her own husband out of fear had ordered them to seize her and take her away, having requested a little time to put on her customary attire, went into her room and once alone plunged a dagger into her breast. Dying at once, she left her body to the procurers, but by her actions, which spoke louder than any words, she showed to all mankind, both present and future, that the only thing that is invincible and indestructible is the chastity acclaimed among Christians. Such then did she prove to be.
35 (1) Before the one who committed such outrages all men cowered, peoples and princes, high and low, and were worn down by savage tyranny. Even if they kept quiet and endured the harsh servitude, there was still no respite from the tyrant's murderous cruelty. On one occasion on a slight pretext he gave the people over to slaughter by his escorting guards, and there were killed countless multitudes of the people of Rome right in the middle of the city, by the weapons and arms, not of Goths or barbarians, but of their own countrymen. (2) The number of senators whose murder was encompassed as a means to acquire each one's property it would not be possible to calculate, since thousands were put to death, sometimes on one fictitious charge, sometimes on another. 36 (1) At their peak the tyrant's crimes extended to witchcraft, as for magical purposes he split open pregnant women, sometimes searched the entrails of newborn babies, slaughtered lions, and composed secret spells to conjure demons and to ward off hostilities. By these means he hoped he would gain the victory. (2) Ruling by these dictatorial methods in Rome, he imposed on his subjects unspeakable oppression, so that he brought them finally to the utmost scarcity and want of necessary food, such as our generation never remembers happening in Rome at any other time.
37 (1) Constantine meanwhile was moved to pity by all these things and began making every armed preparation against the tyranny. So taking as his patron God who is over all, and invoking his Christ as savior and succor, and having set the victorious trophy, the truly salutary sign, at the head of his escorting soldiers and guards, he led them in full force, claiming for the Romans their ancestral liberties. (2) Maxentius put his confidence more in the devices of sorcery than in the loyalty of his subjects and did not even dare to go beyond the gates of the city, but fortified every place and territory and city that was under his dominion with an immense number of soldiers and countless military units. But the emperor who relied upon the support of God attacked the first, second, and third formations of the tyrant, overcame them all quite easily at the very first onslaught, and advanced to occupy most of the land of Italy.
38 (1) He was now very near to Rome itself. Then, so that he should not be forced because of the tyrant to fight against the people of Rome, God himself drew the tyrant out, as if with chains, far away from the gates, and those ancient words against the wicked, widely disbelieved as mere legend, though in sacred books believably recorded for believers, by his divine actions he proved to be true for every single eye that saw his marvels, believing and unbelieving alike. (2) Accordingly, just as once in the time of Moses and the devout Hebrew tribe "Pharaoh's chariots and his force he cast into the sea, and picked rider-captains he overwhelmed in the Red Sea" (Exod 15:4), in the very same way Maxentius and the armed men and guards about him "sank to the bottom like a stone" (Exod 15:5), when, fleeing before the force that came from God with Constantine, he went to cross the river lying in his path. When he himself joined its banks with boats and bridged it perfectly well, he had built an engine of destruction for himself, intending thus to catch the friend of God. (3) But the latter had his God present at his right hand, while Maxentius constructed in his cowardice the secret engines of his own destruction. Of him it could also be said that "he dug a hole and excavated it, and will fall into the pit he made. His labor will return on his head, and on his pate will his wickedness fall" (Ps 7:15-16). (4) Thus then by God's will the mechanism in the link and the device concealed in it gave way at a time that was not intended, the crossing parted, and the boats sank at once to the bottom with all their men, the coward himself first of all, and then the infantry and guards about him, just as the divine oracles had previously proclaimed: "They sank like lead in much water" (Exod 15:10). (5) So even if not in words, yet surely in deeds, in the same way as those who accompanied the great Servant Moses, these who won this victory from God might be thought thus to have raised the same hymn against the ancient wicked tyrant and said: "Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously glorified; horse and rider he threw into the sea; he became a succor and shelter for my salvation" (Exod 15:1-2); and, "Who is like you among the gods, Lord, who is like you? Glorified among the saints, wonderful, gloriously doing miracles" (Exod 15:11).
39 (1) These and other praises akin to them Con-stantine expressed in deeds to the universal Captain, the timely Giver of his victory, in the same way as the great Servant, and then rode in triumph into the imperial city. (2) Immediately all the members of the Senate and the other persons there of fame and distinction, as if released from a cage, and all the people of Rome, gave him a bright-eyed welcome with spontaneous acclamations and unbounded joy. Men with their wives and children and countless numbers of slaves with unrestrained cheers pronounced him their redeemer, savior, and benefactor. (3) He, however, being possessed of inward fear of God, was not inflated by their cries nor overexuberant at their praises, but was conscious of the help of God; so he immediately offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to the Giver of his victory. 40 (1) He announced to all people in large lettering and inscriptions the sign of the Savior, setting this up in the middle of the imperial city as a great trophy of victory over his enemies, explicitly inscribing this in indelible letters as the salvific sign of the authority of Rome and the protection of the whole empire. (2) He therefore immediately ordered a tall pole to be erected in the shape of a cross in the hand of a statue made to represent-himself, and this text to be inscribed upon it word for word in Latin: "By this salutary sign, the true proof of valor, I liberated your city, saved from the tyrant's yoke; moreover the Senate and People of Rome I liberated and restored to their ancient splendor and brilliance."
41 (1) The Godbeloved emperor, proudly confessing in this way the victory-bringing cross, was entirely open in making the Son of God known to the Romans. (2) All the city's population together, in-eluding the Senate and all the people, as they recovered from bitter tyrannical repression, seemed to be enjoying beams of purer light and to be participating in rebirth to a fresh new life. All the nations that bordered on the Ocean where the sun sets, set free from the evils that formerly oppressed them, kept rejoicing in happy gatherings as they hymned the mighty Vic -tor, the Godfearing, the general Benefactor, and with one single voice they all acknowledged the common good of mankind, which by God's grace had dawned in Constantine.
(3) An imperial letter was also published everywhere, granting the enjoyment of their goods to those whose property had been confiscated and recalling to their own homes those who had suffered unjust exile. It also released from imprisonment and every kind of liability or threat at law those subjected to them by the tyrant's savagery.
42 (1) The emperor personally called together the ministers of God, regarding them honorably and cherishing them with highest consideration, since he favored those men by deed and word as consecrated to his God. Thus he had as his table companions men whose appearance was modest as to style of dress, but by no means modest in the consideration he gave them, because he thought he should have regard not to the man as most people see him but to the God honored in each. He took them with him also wherever he set out on campaign, trusting that in this, too, the one they worshipped would be present at his right hand. (2) Indeed he also supplied rich help from his own resources to the churches of God, enlarging and elevating the places of worship, while beautifying the grander ecclesiastical sacred buildings with many dedications.
43 (1) He made all sorts of distributions to the poor, and apart from them showed himself compassionate and beneficent to those outside who approached him. For some poor desperate wretches who publicly solicited alms he would provide not only money or necessary food, but decent clothing for the body. For those who were originally of higher birth but had run onhard times, he made more generous provision, with imperial magnanimity providing munificent benefactions to such persons: to some he made grants of land, others he promoted to various offices. (2) Those unfortunate enough to be orphaned he cared for in the father's stead and repaired the vulnerability of widowhood for women by personal concern, so far as to find them husbands from his acquaintance, and rich men for orphaned girls deprived of parents. He managed this by supplementing the dowry needed for the brides to bring to those who were receiving them in the bond of marriage. (3) Just as the sun rises and spreads the beams of its light over all, so also Constantine shone forth with the rising sun from the imperial palace, as though ascending with the heavenly luminary, and shed upon all who came before his face the sunbeams of his own generous goodness. It was not possible to come near him without receiving some benefit, nor would the good hopes of those who looked to him for support ever be disappointed.
44 (1) Toward all people in general he was such a man. But to the Church of God he paid particular personal attention. When some were at variance with each other in various places, like a universal bishop appointed by God he convoked councils of the ministers of God. (2) He did not disdain to be present and attend during their proceedings, and he participated in the subjects reviewed, by arbitration promoting the peace of God among all, and he took his seat among them as if he were one voice among many, dismissing his praetorians and soldiers and bodyguards of every kind, clad only in the fear of God and sur rounded by the most loyal of his faithful companions. (3) Then such as he saw able to be prevailed upon by argument and adopting a calm and conciliatory attitude, he commended most warmly, showing how he favored general unanimity, but the obstinate he rejected. 45 (1) There were even some who spoke harshly against him, and he tolerated them without resentment, with a gentle voice bidding them to behave reasonably and not be contentious. Some of them respected his rebukes and desisted, while those who were past curing and could not be brought to a sound mind he left in the hands of God, being unwilling himself to devise anything whatever to any person's hurt.
(2) For this reason it came about that those in Africa reached such a pitch of dissension that crimes were committed, some evil demon apparently resenting the unstinted present prosperity and driving those men on to criminal actions, in order to provoke the emperor's fury against them. (3) His envy however did not prosper: the emperor treated what was being done as ridiculous and said he understood the provocation of the Evil One; the crimes were not done by sane men, but by those either out of their minds or goaded to frenzy by the evil demon; they ought to be pitied rather than punished; he was in no way harmed by their lunatic folly, except in so far as he felt pain for them out of extreme kindness of heart.
46 Thus then the emperor, serving God the overseer of all with his every action, took untiring care of his churches. God repaid him by putting all the barbarian nations beneath his feet, so that always and everywhere he raised trophies over his foes, and by proclaiming him Victor among them all and making him a terror to foes and enemies, though he was not naturally such, but the gentlest, mildest, and kindest man there ever was.
47 (1) While he was thus engaged, the second of those who had retired from power was caught organizing an assassination plot and met a shameful death. He was the first whose honorific inscriptions and statues and whatever else of the kind had been accorded him anywhere in the world to acknowledge his rank were removed because of his profane impiety. (2) After him others of the same family were
Was this article helpful?
Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.