Potter ( Constantine the Emperor , 95) asks what Constantine was doing during the great persecution. His answers are speculative; we don’t and can’t know for sure, since Constantine’s feelings and thoughts were never recorded. But it is a worthwhile speculation:

“He was a visible member of the court; many years later he would feel the need to reintroduce himself at length to the Christian community at Nicomedia. Did he have a guilty conscience, a memory of things that he had done, people he had not protected? He would also later say that he recognized in himself things that were in need of improvement; did some of these things involve a display of moral courage?”

Potter speculates that conscience was not so much of an issue to Constantine in 303: “He was a new father, a member of the court, and a loyal servant of the state. It was a good idea then to follow orders and go with the flow.” But, Potter thinks, “He would never forget, and there is no reason to think he was proud of the man he had been in 303.”

More on: History

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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