Constantine and the Christian Empire

Constantine and the Christian Empire

Constantine and the Christian Empire

Constantine and the Christian Empire


This biographical narrative is a detailed portrayal of the life and career of the first Christian emperor Constantine the Great (273 - 337). Combining vivid narrative and historical analysis, Charles Odahl relates the rise of Constantine amid the crises of the late Roman world, his dramatic conversion to and public patronage of Christianity, and his church building programs in Rome, Jerusalem and Constantinople which transformed the pagan state of Roman antiquity into the Christian empire medieval Byzantium.

The author's comprehensive knowledge of the literary sources and his extensive research into the material remains of the period mean that this volume provides a more rounded and accurate portrait of Constantine than previously available.

This revised second edition includes:

  • An expanded and revised final chapter
  • A new Genealogy and an expanded Chronology
  • New illustrations
  • Revised and updated Notes and Bibliography

A landmark publication in Roman Imperial, early Christian, and Byzantine history, Constantine and the Christian Empire will remain the standard account of the subject for years to come.


During a summer vacation at Yellowstone National Park after the completion of my minor fields in ancient history and before the start of my major field in medieval history for a doctorate from the University of California, I spent the evenings reading the classic work of Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and became fascinated with the person and legacy of the first Christian emperor of the late Roman world, Constantine the Great (AD 306–37). Over the next few years, I did some extensive reading in the Greek and Latin texts of the fourth- and fifth-century Church Fathers with my mentors at UCSD, and some intensive field work in Constantinian numismatics with museum curators in Europe. While teaching ancient and medieval history and classical and patristic Latin at Boise State University, and offering conference papers and publishing articles on Constantine in subsequent years, I noticed that many scholars in the field seemed to be arguing from the same old texts without having much knowledge of the geographic locations and the material culture of the Constantinian Era. As Constantine was a man who was constantly traveling across the roads of the Roman Empire from Britain to Syria, fighting significant battles at important sites along those routes, meeting with Catholic bishops for Church councils at key sites, filling the great cities of the empire with Christian basilicas, and minting coins which circulated throughout and beyond the empire, I came to the conclusion that the only authentic way to truly understand Constantine and his times was to travel with him. Therefore, I have spent the last thirty years following his itineraries across Europe and the Near East – reconnoitering the sites of his key battles at Turin, Verona, the Mulvian Bridge, Hadrianople, Byzantium, and Chrysopolis; examining the remains of his building projects in York, Trier, Autun, Arles, Rome, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Mamre, and, of course, Constantinople; and analyzing coins and artifacts from his period in the great museum collections from Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum below the Bosporus. I have utilized two sabbaticals, have taken leaves of absence to teach at European universities, have employed private vacations, and served as a tour guide in Britain, France, Italy, Greece . . .

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