Constantine: Divine Emperor or Christian Saint?

The Baptism of Constantine

ICON_PLACEHOLDEREstimated reading time: 22 minutes


The pulvinar was the consecrated bed, on which the images of the gods reposed. To this bed the early Roman Emperors only repaired in the long sleep of death, conscious of the fate which had befallen their progenitor Julius. Recognition by the Senate as divus was a posthumous honour, termed consecratio, following a good reign. Yet divine status was not a simple all or nothing, god or man situation as a ruler could be linked with aspects of divinity. Plutarch drew a direct connection between the actions of a good king and the divine Logos. In this way, though virtuous governance a ruler could become eikōn theou (the image of God on earth). Martial used a similar theme in noting that a statue of Hercules on the Appian Way had been sculpted to resemble Domitian (Imperator A.D. 81-96). So taken was he by the notion of his own divinity that Domitian started insisting formal letters begin with “our lord and god commands so and so” and it was not long, though perhaps driven more by fear than sycophancy, before this form of address became the custom in speech.

Read more