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Most analyses of Constantine seem to consider him largely, and generally very disapprovingly at that, in relation to his religious policy. Here Raymond van Dam takes a somewhat wider view than most, albeit not a full and complete view, examining a few specific areas. His overall conclusion is of Constantine as an emperor motivated primarily by his intention of founding a dynasty, everything else, religious policy included, being secondary to that.

The first section of the book considers Constantine's abandonment of Rome and founding of New Rome, and the reaction of some in the West by reference to the rescript of Constantine to the town of Hispellum in Italy, preserved on a tablet there, plus his intentions of founding a Flavian dynasty.

The second section pictures Constantine as an emperor desiring to extend the use of Latin as the language of government in the East, and in particular examines the rescript on a pillar from the town of Orcistus in Asia Minor which, despite being in a Greek speaking area, is in Latin.

Only in the third part of the book does van Dam enter a detailed discussion of religion, presenting an intriguing but perhaps slightly fanciful idea, that what he considers to have been the natural and otherwise unavoidable theological trend towards Arianism instead changed course and became a Nicene Christology as a result of the church developing its theology to fit in with Constantine's political and dynastic vision and his conception of the role of emperor.

There are some slightly novel ideas here, to me at least, which may not be backed up by firm evidence, but in going beyond the narrow focus of most works on Constantine, this work is certainly well worth a look.
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on 12 January 2016
very pleased
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