Lactantius as Architect of a Constantinian and Christian ‘Victory over the Empire’

Bibliographic information:

Shelton, W. Brian. “Lactantius as Architect of a Constantinian and Christian ‘Victory over the Empire.’” In Rethinking Constantine: History, Theology, and Legacy. Edited by Edward Smither. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014.



The historic events leading to the accession of Constantine irrevocably rely on a crucial but obscure rhetorician who taught in Nicomedia. The writings of Lactantius (d. 320) offer both a philosophical and historical report on the pursuits of the Roman leader who came to champion Christianity in an empire of resistance to the new religion. In particular, Lactantius’ writings shaped Constantine’s understanding of the faith and influenced the later religious policies that he would enact. Scholars have established Lactantius as a contributor to the genius of a new religious empire and an inescapable historical voice of that evolution, but they are only beginning to scrutinize his exact influence. This chapter seeks to identify and disaggregate the contribution of Lactantius in his fourth century influence and in his twenty-first century legacy.


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