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April 03, 2011


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Kind of a weak episode. (not going to lie) But, can't wait til next week, and this podcast is the best ever. (just to clarify)


It was all setup during this episode, but it DID include the phrase "a-conquering for Jesus" which made me laugh out loud. I also can't wait for next week.


I know it was setup and I also understand that Constantine's progression is difficult to describe or even put your finger on. But, any clarity or insight into why was a bit lacking.

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I understood Constantine's motive, from Micheal Duncan's interpretation, as ambition. It's also clear that Diocletian is mostly to blame for saving the empire from disintegration without providing an institutional bulwark that would unify but stll serve the executive. Instead Diocletian tamed the symptom and split the executive in four. Constantine rose to prominence when there was simultaneously a power vaccuum and four rivals. And, there doesn't seem to be any kind of geographical cohesion. The empire was just too big for its institutions. It doesn't matter if Constantine was Christian or not, or when. It's clear Christianity is not the reason why Constantine won.


As Mike mentioned - that's a far too simple explanation. Rarely is any individual, let alone someone as dynamic as Constantine, ruled by a single charactersistic. Furthermore, Mike hasn't even gotten to the part where Constantine won yet, so check yourself. Religion, belief systems, supernatural propganda, Contantine's own religious ideology, the transforming beliefs of the populus all played a part in this chapter of Roman history, as did the Christian movement.

So, it's not that your wrong, just you didn't say anything right.

I'm just saying this episode focused on one of the most interesting buildups in the ancient world and it was more jumble than clarifying, which may be a product of compromised sources and changed history, but still . . .

Jared Roberts

I think this episode may mark the first time that Diocletian was ever compared to Stuart Smalley. The world is further in your debt, Mike.

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@Nate: It's not just Constantine. It's the problems I see with Diocletian's institutional reforms, Duncan talks about this, but not enough. I don't diagree with all the factors you mentioned in Constantine's career. I don't think it's as important as the institutional problems. What shortcomings Constantine might have had just don't matter as much to me. The problem with the biographical approach is, that it doesn't address the structural problems, and it rarely is scientific.

Jeff Larsen

Thanks Mike for another excellent podcast. Could you do an episode at some point on religion in the Roman Empire? Something along the lines of the progression from ancient Etruscan/Latin practices to Greek derived deities to eastern religions to Christianity or something along those lines.


Awesome idea Jeff, that would be awesome.

Good point Rad, the institutional issues are easier to link to effects in an objective way. And you're right, each of us will have our own individual focus when looking at history. Some things may matter far more to you than to me and vice versa, hence method history, which I abhor. But, at least it keeps everyone looking at things from different perspectives.

Can't wait until next week . . .

Mike in Rome

Galerius has received a bad press in the pro-Constantine propaganda (Lactantius, Eusebius). I suspect he was more of a soldier than a politician: stodgy and unimaginative but loyal to the Diocletian conception of non-dynastic Tetrarchic succession. Constantine came along and wrecked this - and once Constantine made his move Maxentius could hardly be blamed for doing so as well.
More than a conqueror for Jesus I suspect Constantine felt the need to replace the polytheistic ideology underpinning the Tetrarchy with a monotheistic one as befitting his aspiration to be sole emperor - Sol, Apollo, Jesus at least at first didn't matter all that much, as long as it was a matter of only One.

Joey D

Hey Mike- You certainly keep us wanting more- taking it to the brink of the great battle and then leaving us for more.

I was reading up on Diocletian and I found a few sources (of course not backed up) that say that after he was gravely ill, his retirement was influenced by a strong Galerius. Could the choices for the new emperors who clearly were his friends be more of a result of Galerius taking advantage of a weak Diocletian? A kind of 'listen old man- either you make me senior right now, or I'll kill you and go out there and say this illness has finished you off. Oh yeah- and make these people my new jr emperors.'

You mentioned he may have had something to do with it, but not as threatening as I've read elsewhere. Is there anything to support it?


The tetrachy can be seen as the first (or at least an early) experiment in seperation of powers. The initial concept of a counsel had two checks, your fellow consel, but also that you had to return to civilian life after a year. Once those were removed, well we all know what happened.

Anonymous Flavius

I'm just going to leave this here. http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=304

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@Jeff: Second that idea!

@Nate: Thanks!

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