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The conversion of Constantine and the Christianisation of Europe

The conversion of Constantine and the Christianisation of Europe

Lecture by Peter Heather

Given at Kings College London on 23 October 2012

Historians have argued for centuries – in the face of contradictory primary sources – both about when and how the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and the nature and extent of his faith.

Was he a convinced believer, brought to a new understanding of God and the world by his own Damascene moment? And, if so, what exactly did he believe in?

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Or was he a pragmatist who saw his in new religious affiliation great opportunities for cementing both his own authority and the stability of the Empire he controlled?

This lecture will explore the nature of religious affiliation more generally in the world of the later Roman Empire, and use it to offer new perspectives both on the received narratives of Constantine’s conversion, and the broader process by which Christianity turned itself, as a result, from minority sect to world religion.

Peter Heather is a historian of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, currently Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London. He has written widely on the history of the late Roman Empire and the broader transformations within Europe let loose by its collapse.

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Constantine's conversion, as imagined by Rubens.
Constantine’s conversion, as imagined by Rubens.

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