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2012 Annual Public Lecture

Constantine Augustus 1700: Power, Faith and the Re-formation of Christianity

Speaker: Professor Jill Harries, Professor of Ancient History, University of St. Andrews


Time: Wednesday, 14 November 2012, 5.10pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre 2.01, Humanities Building, Colum Drive


On the speaker: Jill Harries is Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews and the author of books on Late Antiquity (Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome, 1994;  Law and Empire in Late Antiquity, 1998) and on Roman  Legal Culture (Cicero and the Jurists, 2006;  Law and Crime in the Roman World, 2007). Her latest book, Imperial Rome, AD 284-363: the New Empire, (2012) discusses Constantine in the context of the development of imperial rule in the early fourth century, and his contribution to the rise of Christianity as the dominant religion of the Roman world.

On the lecture: On November 14, 1700 years and a few weeks will have passed since the emperor Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome marked the symbolic start of the mass conversion of the Roman world to the Christian faith. The  significance of the victory, however, and of Constantine as emperor and as Christian remain controversial. Was Constantine a Christian?  If so, what kind of a Christian was he? How did he and others conceptualise his role as emperor in the context of his adherence to, and material support of, Christianity? Was there a conflict, for Constantine, between power and faith? This lecture will argue that Constantine, like Augustus, was able to effect radical change by gradualist means, because he lived a long time. Yet, even at the end of his reign, court Christianity was the product of a complex negotiation between old and new.

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