In his last epistle Rob made some acute observations about Constantine.  I agree that Constantine the Great stands out as one of histories most fascinating, complex and confusing characters.   I remember learning about Roman history at primary school which was summed up in one sentence.

“…the emperors persecuted the Christians and then Constantine made Christianity legal and they stopped.”

Now before Robs head explodes this is an extremely simple summing up, to the point of childishness which of course is appropriate since I was a eight year old child at the time, and does not even approach the torment inflicted on Pagans by the Christian emperors but this is a well believed myth of history.  One get the feeling off oppression growing in intensity until it can no longer can be coped with until in the nick of time Constantine sweeps in and everyone can breath a sigh of relief.

In political histories vices and virtues can be exaggerated and diminished to fit a intellectual need, read a selection of Cecil Rhodes biographies to see this rule illustrated in neon lights,  it is only recently that Constantines faults have become apparent to me, let alone executing his sons and wife.  It is as if a person stops being a person when he becomes the property of history as completely as a person dies, is buried, dug up and exhibited in a museum.

Property is a powerful word intended to illustrate the movement of power from  a man to a historical character, a monster or saint reduced to a paper tiger to be pawed over by historians.  Constantine might have been Emperor, Hitler might have been a dictator and Rhodes an empire builder but for all their efforts they are now dependent on the most ghastly persons in society.

Historians do not work in a vacuum, since the 1960s the myth of scientific history has been exploded.  We do not see the past independantly but rather as a narative.  As a Christian myself I have a natural affection for Constantine, despite his faults.  Besides the fact who am I to judge another human creatures let alone imagine that I would do much better if I lived his life with the pressures and problems that he faced.

History is a construct making sense of the past according to the present metanaratives, the dreams and desires the present princes of mankind.  Yet this is the fate of the current princes, the tyrants of the present become pawns of the zeitgeist in the constructs of future historians.

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