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Constantine and the Bishops

Paperback
, 632 pages

10 b&w illus.

ISBN:
9780801871047
August 2002
$35.00

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Constantine and the Bishops

The Politics of Intolerance

Historians who viewed imperial Rome in terms of a conflict between pagans and Christians have often regarded the emperor Constantine's conversion as the triumph of Christianity over paganism. But in Constantine and the Bishops, historian H. A. Drake offers a fresh and more nuanced understanding of Constantine's rule and, especially, of his relations with Christians.

Constantine, Drake suggests, was looking not only for a god in whom to believe but also a policy he could adopt. Uncovering the political motivations behind Constantine's policies, Drake shows how those policies were constructed to ensure the stability of the empire and fulfill Constantine's imperial duty in securing the favor of heaven.

Despite the emperor's conversion to Christianity, Drake concludes, Rome remained a world filled with gods and with men seeking to depose rivals from power. A book for students and scholars of ancient history and religion, Constantine and the Bishops shows how Christian belief motivated and gave shape to imperial rule.

H. A. Drake is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"A refreshingly original and powerfully argued re-conception of the issues and the forces at work in this period of the conversion not of Constantine, but of Christianity... With laser-keen insight, bold thinking, and also a large measure of wry humor, Drake has presented a plausible and powerful interpretation of this formative moment in Western history... A riveting story, and masterfully told. Anyone who rejoices in our Founding Fathers' constitutional conviction that church must be kept separate from state will read Constantine and the Bishops with deepest appreciation; and perhaps those who long for the opposite should read it, too. The lessons of late antiquity remain pertinent, alas, to the politics of religion in our own day."

"If you read one book on late antiquity this year, read this one. If you read one book on politics this year, read this one again... A work of visionary brilliance."

"The strength of this work is Drake's skillful use of a wide range of scholarship... This is a stimulating book, with a persuasive thesis."

"In its scholarship and size Constantine and the Bishops is clearly a work to benefit scholars, but the clarity of its explanations make it accessible to the enterprising undergraduate as well."

"Compelling... His overarching thesis provides a persuasive new paradigm."

"A well organized, well documented, and well written study."

"This is a learned, broadly based, and carefully elaborated argument. It is also racily written, interesting, and hard to put down."

"A thoughtful and erudite book that breaks the mold... A powerful study with a strong, coherent thesis, Constantine and the Bishops is animated by a fresh vision of the early fourth century. It skillfully incorporates major historical themes in unexpected and rewarding ways."

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