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  • Der Kaiser als Sieger. Metamophosen triumphaler Herrschaft unter Constantin I by Johannes Wienand
  • Noel Lenski
Der Kaiser als Sieger. Metamophosen triumphaler Herrschaft unter Constantin I Johannes Wienand Klio Beihefte 19. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2012. Pp. 646. ISBN 978–3-05–005903–7

This monumental volume takes its place as an important contribution to the vast and continuously expanding literature on Constantine the Great. Although it represents a revised University of Konstanz dissertation, the work shows a complexity and comprehensiveness characteristic of mature scholarship. Wienand has wisely chosen to avoid producing yet another biographical narrative, a genre vastly overpopulated with characters and caricatures of Constantine cut to outlines favored by their authors. Instead he focuses on the figure of Constantine as victor and particularly the manner in which this aspect of Constantine’s public persona—arguably the most salient—was portrayed in panegyrics (including poetry) and coins.

The book is divided into an introduction, three sections of two chapters each, and a conclusion. Wienand has done the reader the service of providing an extensive set of Quellen- and Stellenregister that will help to navigate a work whose sheer heft might discourage cover-to-cover reading. Even better, he has outfitted the book with some 25 pages of color plates gorgeously illustrated with 150 images, including 109 coins produced in color at a ratio of 1:1, 29 of which are then reproduced at 1.5:1, and nine color illustrations of manuscript pages of the poems of Optatianus Porphyrius. Of itself this part of the book can be “read” as a testament both to the [End Page 235] glorious complexity of the Constantinian symbolic repertoire and to the diligence and discrimination of Wienand.

The first chapter examines the first extant panegyric in honor of Constantine (Pan. Lat. 7[6]) delivered on the occasion of his wedding to the empress Fausta, daughter of his co-ruler Maximianus Herculius, who had just promoted the young emperor to the rank of Augustus. Wienand shows the peculiarity of the situation in the extant panegyrical corpus and the manner in which the orator defuses the tension created by Constantine’s unauthorized promotion with recourse to three themes: his dynastic connection to the tetrarchy through his father; his youthfulness; and, above all, his early claims to military victory, all themes found not just in this panegyric but also in contemporary coins. In the second chapter, Wienand examines Latin Panegyric 6(7), an oration famous for its mention of Constantine’s “pagan vision” of Apollo in 310. Wienand reaches two important new conclusions. First, the panegyrist is able to justify Constantine’s recent civil war against Maximianus by juxtaposing it with his victories over the Franks and Bructeri. He nevertheless distinguishes these events by treating the two foreign victories under the heading of martial valor (virtus) but the defeat of Maximianus as evidence of the emperor’s clemency (humanitas). Second, Wienand deploys his skill as numismatist to pinpoint the introduction of Sol Invictus on the coinage precisely to 310 when, he demonstrates, the god’s images first occur after a weight reduction in the bronze occasioned by the civil war with Maximianus.

The third chapter continues with the panegyric of 313 (Pan. Lat. 12[9]), our first extant source to recount Constantine’s victory over Maxentius. Wienand emphasizes how unique this oration is in the tradition of Roman oratory for its unabashed reconstruction of Roman civil war as a proper subject for praise. He nevertheless demonstrates that it fits into the broader scheme of Constantinian propaganda (alongside Constantine’s Arch) and that it arose out of the efforts of an emperor who had under-performed in battle against barbarians but desperately needed military kudos as he began striving for political supremacy. Constantine counterbalanced this jarring turn toward the glorification of civil war with the rhetoric of restitutio, libertas, and quies. The latter part of the chapter grapples with the eternal Constaninian question of conversion and attempts to reconcile the testimony of Christian sources about a sudden religious shift with the ongoing retention of traditional pagan symbolism using, once again, the hermeneutic of victory—Christ’s chi-rho was, after all, a victory symbol; and...


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