Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.08.52
Noel Lenski (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine. Revised edition (first published 2006). Cambridge companions to the ancient world. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xx, 471. ISBN 9781107601109. $39.99 (pb).
Reviewed by John Noël Dillon, University of Exeter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine has been revised and reissued five years after it first appeared in 2006. (The first edition was reviewed here: BMCR 2006.06.04.) The revised Companion thus accompanies a great number of publications on Constantine, especially in English and German, that have appeared since 2006 and coincide more or less with the 1,700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. The most significant publications are listed in the “Preface to the Revised Edition” (pp. xv-xvi), the most recent of which are T. D. Barnes’ Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire and R. Van Dam’s Remembering Constantine at the Milvian Bridge, both published in 2011.
Noel Lenski summarizes the revisions made to the Companion in the new Preface. The revisions are fairly light and primarily bibliographical. The main text, down to the page numbers, is nearly identical. Most changes are in response to the long review of the first edition by Barnes, who catalogued errors and mistakes and offered significant criticism on several points of interpretation.1 So, for example, Helena, the mother of Constantine, and Minvervina, his first wife, have been promoted from concubines to partners (p. 92ff.). Barnes argues that both were lawfully wedded wives.2
Other points of contention have resulted in new material and bibliography in the notes. Most of the discussions of the Edict of Milan to which Barnes objected still stand, but H. A. Drake, for example, has included new literature on this text in his discussion of Constantine’s impact on Christianity. Drake argues (p. 135n25) that “there is utterly no reason other than preconception to think [Constantine] did not participate or believe in the policy enunciated therein.” Among the new works cited by Drake that minimize Constantine’s role in formulating the policy of the Edict of Milan appears Barnes’ own review of the Companion.
A few stylistic infelicities noted by Barnes have also been corrected. Constantine now vaults over the Alps with a “compact strike force,” not a “compact crack force” (69); but “swampification” stands defiant on p. 250n2.. The rest of the emendations to the notes reflect the progress of scholarship in the years since the first edition. So, for instance, whereas the first edition (p. 31n58) noted the lack of an English translation of Philostorgius, readers are now directed to Amidon 2007.3 A delay of a year or so would have caught all the publications that are appearing on schedule for the anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, but perhaps a future, substantial revision will digest the academic fallout of the present activity on Constantine and his age.4
1. T. D. Barnes, “Constantine after Seventeen Hundred Years: The Cambridge Companion, the York Exhibition, and a Recent Biography,” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14 (2007): 185-220.
2. Barnes, 195; id., The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine (Cambridge, MA, 1982), 36, 42f.
3. P. R. Amidon, trans., Philostorgius: Church History (Atlanta, 2007).
4. 2012 has already seen the publication of e.g. J. Bardill, Constantine, Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age (Cambridge, 2012).