Constantine (282-337) is a pivotal figure in the history of Christianity and the modern world, and as such, his legacy has been co-opted by historians and others to lend credence to their own versions of history. Potter (Greek & Roman history & classical studies, Univ. of Michigan; The Victor's Crown) carefully analyzes the historical record to help readers understand exactly what Constantine represented as an emperor in his own context. The focus of the first half of the book drifts somewhat in examining the characteristics of the emperors leading up to Constantine. With a commonsense reading of the contemporary sources, the second half examines specifically Constantine's actions and those of the individuals close to him. In particular, Potter seeks clarity about Constantine's motivations for converting to Christianity. The popular account has the emperor converting after a vision, but Potter argues that this process way underway for many years, and that Constantine's visions came out of a much older tradition of imperial dream interpretation. VERDICT Appropriate for students and general readers interested in Roman history and early Christianity.--Margaret Heller, Dominican Univ. Lib., River Forest, IL[Page 89]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Seventeen centuries ago, Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 282-337 C.E.) converted to Christianity, changing that religion's course from a minority sect into the West's dominant religion. Drawing on many primary sources, Potter efficiently narrates Constantine's youth in Emperor Diocletian's court, his succession to the throne after Diocletian's abdication, his conversion in 312, his reuniting of the Eastern and Western empires, and his participation in 325 C.E. in the Council of Nicaea and the writing of one of Christianity's defining documents, the Nicene Creed. He was not by nature a merciful man--swiftly punishing those he believed guilty of crimes against the empire--and the qualities he valued most were loyalty, efficiency, and hard work. Constantine believed the Roman people knew what was fair and tried to abide by that even as he established elaborate rituals to keep his subjects at arm's length, so he could reach out like a god to correct the wrongs he perceived. Yet as Potter, a classical historian at the University of Michigan, reminds us in this vividly detailed and energetically told biography, Constantine was also one of Rome's greatest emperors and one of history's greatest leaders, with savvy leadership skills, great passion, and desire for an ordered society. (Dec.)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC