The Age of Constantine the Great

The Age of Constantine the Great

by Jacob Burckhardt

Translator's ForewordPreface to 1st EditionPreface to 2nd EditionThe Imperial Power in the 3rd CenturyDiocletian: His System of Adoptions & His ReignIndividual Provinces & Neighboring Countries: The WestIndividual Provinces & Neighboring Countries: The EastPaganism: Intermingling of GodsImmortality & Its Mysteries: The Daimonization of PaganismSenescence of Ancient Life & Its CultureThe Persecution of Christians: Constantine & the SuccessionConstantine & the ChurchCourt, Administration & Army: Contantinople, Rome, Athens & JerusalemAddenda et CorrigendaOn the Ancient SourcesChronology of the EmperorsIndex

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.08
  • Pages: 400
  • Publish Date: March 25th 1983 by University of California Press (Berkeley/LA)
  • Isbn10: 0520046803
  • Isbn13: 9780520046801

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Constantine the Great The Roman Empire and its neighbors during the third and fourth centuries of our era, with an emphasis on the half century from the rise of Diocletian to the death of Constantine - such is the general topic of Die Zeit Constantins des Grossen (1853), which was the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt's (1818-1897) first major work and one of the relatively few books he published before renouncing the writing of books for publication altogether.(*) Early though the book was in his career, his inimitable prose style is already present, as is the (then) idiosyncratic view of history Burckhardt had already developed. Unlike most historians at that time,(**) Burckhardt did not focus on "great men" and "important events," which he saw as exceptional one-offs no science of history could incorporate (only record), but rather on the matters he viewed as amenable to a science of history - culture in the broadest sense, including social and economic relations. Indeed, Diocletian and Constantine the "Great" come in for a lot of attention in this text, though Burckhardt's primary interest in Diocletian is his unique attempt to solve the recurring problem of how to replace an emperor without an empire-convulsing period of warfare between rival pretendants to the throne and musing on how Diocletian was able to keep his co-rulers in line, even convincing his co-emperor Maximian to retire with him after their 20 year co-rule. Burckhardt's real focus is on which structural aspects of third century Roman politics/power centers made this chain of emperor/generals possible. Alongside this focus on political/social/cultural structures instead of on individuals/events, Burckhardt's discursive style admits extended passages revealing what was then known about social, political, economic and cultural life in the major Roman provinces in the third and fourth centuries (Burckhardt holds that the city of Rome's political, economic and cultural significance was minimal at this time, when the rulers had their residences in York, Trier, Split, Antioch, etc., the Senate was toothless, and the armies were no longer raised on the Italian peninsula but in the provinces, often among the newly re-settled "barbarians"), and even a little of the same about the Empire's neighbors. Christianity was just one of these, but Burckhardt argues that it had the advantage of promising a very simple way to eternal bliss, whereas its competitors required more complicated exertions to attain their heavens.(***) A particularly striking example of this syncretism was provided by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (now better known as Heliogabalus), who was a priest of Elagabalus, an aspect of the Semitic god Baal. Apparently, this was a bit too syncretic for some - the priestly emperor was murdered and the stone shipped back to Syria.(5*) But to return to the promise of immortality, Burckhardt argues at length that the Greco-Roman view of an afterlife as joyless shadows in Hades with a few heroic exceptions on the Isle of the Blessed had changed during the crises of the third century into an obsession with "the other side." Increasingly, "real life" was moved from the here and now to a blissful afterlife that was not part of the traditional religion but was an important component of the Eastern religions pouring into Rome. There is so much else packed into this book, including an insightful overview of all aspects of late imperial art and literature and an examination of what could have brought Diocletian in the eighteenth year of his reign to let loose a terrible scourge against the Christians, but I must try to end this review. (***) Burckhardt makes the case that the Romans viewed the monotheisms like Christianity and Judaism or dualisms like Zoroastrianism as too foreign to readily incorporate into their syncretism.

Ich gebe es auf, weil ich zum wiederholten Mal auf Stellen wie die folgende stoße (in meiner Ausgabe S.119): "Unter ihnen selbst =den Bischöfen zeigte sich aber schon im dritten Jahrhundert schwere Ausartung; wir finden manche von ihnen in Pomp versunken, als römische Beamte, als Kaufleute, ja als Wucherer; das sehr grelle Beispiel des Paul von Samosate wird mit Recht als keineswegs vereinzeltes betrachtet." Es folgt kein Wort mehr zu Paul, sondern Fußnote Nr. 260 (zweihundertsechzig!