Friday, 24 May 2019

Rajiv Bhola: Spiritual Echoes: Some Parallels in Eusebius’ Portrayals of Constantine and Judeo-Christian Figures of the Past

It has long been acknowledged that, in his works on Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea incorporates his own ideology into his portrayal of the reign of the ‘first Christian emperor’. This is observable in the De vita Constantini where, in offering an overview of the emperor’s character, activities, and policies, one of Eusebius’ aims is to present Constantine as the model of the ideal Christian monarch. As has been discussed in several dedicated studies and noted frequently in passing, this is accomplished in part by framing the emperor according to an established model, namely, that of Moses, through both scriptural references and Eusebius’ own commentary.This paper considers a further feature of Eusebius’ ideology at work in the text and a different aspect of his modelling strategy. Taking as a case study the similarities between Eusebius’ account of Constantine’s religious awakening and Christian conversion in the Vita and his portrayal of the ideal race of the Hebrews in the Praeparatio evangelica, this paper examines another way in which Eusebius attempted to align the emperor with the Christian past, but one of his own construction and import. Reading Eusebius’ attempt at fashioning a preferred memory of the emperor with a view to his corpus results in a nuanced understanding of Constantine’s Christian status in the Vita.

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