Life of Constantine

Life of Constantine

Life of Constantine

Life of Constantine

Synopsis

Eusebius' Life of Constantine is the most important single record of Constantine, the emperor who turned the Roman Empire from prosecuting the Church to supporting it, with huge and lasting consequences for Europe and Christianity. The only English version previously available is based on a seventeenth-century Greek edition, but two new critical editions produced this century make a new English version necessary. The authors of this edition present the results of the recent scholarly debate, as well as their own researches so as to clarify the significance of Eusebius' work and introduce the student to the text and its interpretation, thus opening up the contentious issues. At face value much of what Eusebius wrote is false. This book shows how, once his partisan interpretations and rhetoric are properly understood, both Eusebius' text and the documents it contains give vital historical insights.

Excerpt

The work known as the Life of Constantine is the most important source for the reign of Constantine the Great and particularly for his support of Christianity. It is, however, controversial. Its author, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, often, though mistakenly, regarded on the strength of it as Constantine's official propagandist; in contrast some have thought the work so distorted and unfair that they have denied that Eusebius could have written it. Surprisingly, however, while there is a long bibliography of studies devoted to the question of its authenticity, no English commentary exists, and no English translation has been attempted for over a century. It is the aim of the present work to make the Life accessible to students and scholars alike, and to make use of the large amount of recent work on Constantine's reign and especially on the particular aspects described there. We are fortunate in that there is an excellent recent critical edition of the Greek text by Friedhelm Winkelmann, and this is the basis of our translation and commentary, with only a few variations, all of which are discussed in the appropriate places. Eusebius' Greek is often obscure and equally often pretentious; we have not tried to gild the lily but to stay close to the original in the hope of conveying its very characteristic tone. The commentary seeks to explain and elucidate the content; it could of course have been very much more detailed.

The present work is the result of a collaboration between two scholars with somewhat differing approaches, drawn from the history of late antiquity and the history of the early Church respectively. We consider this to be a great advantage in understanding Eusebius' manner of writing, and while some parts of what follows may owe more to one of the authors than to the other, we have--perhaps surprisingly--succeeded in reaching agreement on all matters of substance. Perhaps the most striking result of working on the project has been the full realization of the complex relation between Eusebius' own writings, and between the Life and the ecclesiastical and theological context in which it was written.

Thanks and acknowledgements are due to colleagues and . . .

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