Constantine the Emperor

David Potter. Oxford Univ, $34.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-19-975586-8
Seventeen centuries ago, Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 282–337 C.E.) converted to Christianity, changing that religion’s course from a minority sect into the West’s dominant religion. Drawing on many primary sources, Potter efficiently narrates Constantine’s youth in Emperor Diocletian’s court, his succession to the throne after Diocletian’s abdication, his conversion in 312, his reuniting of the Eastern and Western empires, and his participation in 325 C.E. in the Council of Nicaea and the writing of one of Christianity’s defining documents, the Nicene Creed. He was not by nature a merciful man—swiftly punishing those he believed guilty of crimes against the empire—and the qualities he valued most were loyalty, efficiency, and hard work. Constantine believed the Roman people knew what was fair and tried to abide by that even as he established elaborate rituals to keep his subjects at arm’s length, so he could reach out like a god to correct the wrongs he perceived. Yet as Potter, a classical historian at the University of Michigan, reminds us in this vividly detailed and energetically told biography, Constantine was also one of Rome’s greatest emperors and one of history’s greatest leaders, with savvy leadership skills, great passion, and desire for an ordered society. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 12/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 385 pages - 978-0-19-998597-5
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