Janus' Home


One point that is particularly troubling to historians is the fact that Constantine continued to subsidize and reward pagans after his supposed conversion. Two examples that Barnes cites are that Constantine subsidized the travel of a priest of the Eleusian mysteries to the tombs of Egypt, and he honored a priest of Apollo because of his devotion to the imperial family. Barnes explains that such actions were taken in order to avoid rebellion or civil disobedience.63 However, while this argument may explain the lack of persecution of pagans, it does not fit well with these examples, for they are active rewards given by Constantine. In order to understand these examples, one can simply accept the fact that in some respects Constantine did not see Christianity as an exclusive religion.

Even if one accepts that Constantine continued to believe in certain pagan elements, one still must also explain why he did not openly proclaim himself to be a Christian after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. He allowed for a certain amount of ambiguity in the proclamation of his faith; for example, the inscription on the Arch of Constantine reads, instinctu divinitatis, or "by the prompting of the divinity," and does not name the Christian God specifically.64 Such passive acts on the part of Constantine seem to demonstrate that he saw himself as simply a philosophical monotheist, not as a full Christian. Alfoldi resolved this problem, as he wrote that Constantine omitted explicit references to the Christian God in order to appease the Senate. Due to its prestige and wealth, the Senate could still present a serious opposition against Constantine, who had only recently conquered Italy and needed support.65 According to Alfoldi, Constantine and the Senate of Rome had a certain mutual dependency upon each other.66 The Senate relied on Constantine to free them from Maxentius, who had treated them poorly and who was disliked by the Italian aristocracy.67 Constantine did free them from Maxentius, for when Constantine took power in Rome he was welcomed as the liberator of the city68 and he proceeded to treat the Senate with honor and respect.69 In return for this respect, Constantine required that the Senate recognize him as emperor - Alfoldi clearly states that it was the only body in the Roman Empire that could legitimately do so.70 The Senate also aided Constantine by declaring Maxentius a tyrant and condemning the memory of Maximian.71

63. Barnes, 211.
64. Stevenson, 286 ("The Inscription on the Arch of Constantine at Rome, 315").
65. Alfoldi, 61.
66. Ibid., 63.
67. Ibid., 61.
68. Stevenson, 286 ("The Inscription on the Arch of Constantine at Rome, 315"). The Arch of Constantine would later read, "To the liberator of the city. To the establisher of peace."
69. Alfoldi, 62.
70. Ibid., 63.
71. Ibid., 63.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18