Reviews for Constantine the Emperor
Choice Reviews 2013 July
The title of this book is significant. Potter's Constantine is one whose "first and foremost aim was to wield more power than anyone else in the world." In the first half of the book, Potter (Michigan) contextualizes Constantine's rise to power. He begins with the "imperial renewal" of the late third century, follows his career through the reign of Diocletian and the chaotic aftermath of this emperor's abdication, and depicts a shrewd young Constantine successfully wielding the power his father's army bestowed on him. The book's second half details Constantine's reign as Western emperor and then sole emperor until 337. Even veterans of Constantine studies will find much here worth pondering. Potter unravels the political implications of Constantine's youthful marriage to Minerva and her untimely death; he argues that the so-called "Edict of Milan" had more to do with Licinius than Constantine and ultimately originated with the persecuting emperor, Gallienus; finally, Potter situates the Council of Nicea in the context of Constantine's unsuccessful attempt to peacefully address the Donatist schism in North Africa. With this title, Potter demonstrates that there is always room for another book on Constantine. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty. R. E. Winn Northwestern College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #2
Scholarly biography of the legendary Roman emperor "best known as the [man] who converted to Christianity and in so doing made it possible for Christianity to become a world religion." With Diocletian's abdication in A.D. 305, Constantine's troops acclaimed him as caesar. He preserved the idea of territorial caesars who spoke and acted in his name, but only he was supreme emperor. Here, halfway into the book, Potter (Greek and Roman History/Univ. of Michigan; The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium, 2011, etc.) finally begins the history of the man and his great governing successes. Constantine protected Romans in their concerns for fairness, marriage stability and personal standing, and he promoted efficiency throughout the empire. He had no use for patronage and abuse of the poor by the wealthy, and his decision to move the capital to Byzantium was as much a military decision as it was a reflection of his desire to establish his own eponymous shrine. It's unclear when Constantine converted from Roman deities to one God, but it's certain he ruled as a Christian emperor even though he was not baptized until he was on his deathbed. His First Council of bishops at Nicea cleverly united Christians through an administrative, not theological, process. That council's accomplishments are still felt today; it addressed the controversy over consubstantiation, defined the date for Easter and provided the Nicene Creed, which is still in use today. A good fit for academics and students of Roman history. General readers will need to work to keep the players and locations straight and patiently wait for the main attraction. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #2
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.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #2
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