The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic - from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300

The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic - from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300

The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic - from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300

The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic - from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300

Excerpt

In the year 335 the Emperor Constantine, feeling the nearness of death, called his sons and nephews to his side, and divided among them, with the folly of fondness, the government of the immense Empire that he had won. To his eldest son, Constantine II, he assigned the West--Britain, Gaul, and Spain; to his son Constantius, the East--Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt; to his youngest son, Constans, North Africa, Italy, Illyricum, and Thrace, including the new and old capitals--Constantinople and Rome; and to two nephews Armenia, Macedonia, and Greece. The first Christian Emperor had spent his life, and many another, in restoring the monarchy, and unifying the faith, of the Roman Empire; his death (337) risked all. He had a hard choice: his rule had not acquired the sanctity of time, and could not ensure the peaceable succession of a sole heir; divided government seemed a lesser evil than civil war.

Civil war came none the less, and assassination simplified the scene. The army rejected the authority of any but Constantine's sons; all other male relatives of the dead Emperor were murdered, except his nephews Gallus and Julian; Gallus was ill, and gave promise of an early death; Julian was five, and perhaps the charm of his age softened the heart of Constantius, whom tradition and Ammianus credited with these crimes. Constantius renewed with Persia that ancient war between East and West which had never really ceased since Marathon, and allowed his brothers to eliminate one another in fraternal strife. Left sole Emperor (353), he returned to Constantinople, and governed the reunified realm with dour integrity and devoted incompetence, too suspicious to be happy, too cruel to be loved, too vain to be great.

The city that Constantine had called Nova Roma, but which even in his lifetime had taken his name, had been founded on the Bosporus by Greek colonists about 657 B.C. For almost a thousand years it had been known as Byzantium; and Byzantine would persist as a label for its civilization and its art. No site on earth could have surpassed it for a capital; at Tilsit, in 1807, Napoleon would call it the empire of the world, and would refuse to yield it to a Russia fated by the direction of her rivers to long for its control. Here . . .

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