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HIST1106 Emperor Constantine the Great: From Just Church to State Church

Module Overview

The emperor Constantine is recognized as the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. This commanding character laid the foundations of post-classical European civilization during an eventful and colourful reign. His crucial victory at Milvian Bridge proved one of the most decisive moments in world history, while his legalization and support of Christianity together with his foundation of a 'New Rome' at Byzantium can be seen as amongst the most momentous decisions made by a European ruler. Ten Byzantine emperors who succeeded him bore his name, testimony to his significance and the esteem in which he was held.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To gain a detailed appreciation of Constantine’s contribution to the role of emperor • To examine the historical and religious background to late antiquity • To outline the growth of the early Christian communities and their search for coherence and identity • To explore the developing relationship between state and church • To examine the documents of the Council of Nicea and the framework they provided for ‘orthodox’ Christian belief and practice • To analyse the nature of Constantine’s Christian confession and his motivations for embracing the Christian faith

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key events and contexts in history of the age of Constantine and the birth of ‘Christendom’..
  • The genre of early Christian literature.
  • The parting of the way between Jews and Christians in late antiquity.
  • The relationship between Christians and other religious groups in late antiquity.
  • Key primary sources and literature that provide evidence for relations between church, state and heretics.
  • The growing volume of research on the significance of Constantine in shaping the Roman empire and securing the success of the Christian church.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Organise and structure material to write and present concisely with confidence and clarity.
  • Collaborate effectively with others in organising a class presentation.
  • Manage to research specific material from a range of sources e.g. libraries, articles, books, reviews, and web based resources.
  • Analyse critically primary and secondary material.
  • Participate actively in class discussions and debate.
  • Engage in effective peer interaction through a virtual learning centre.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse early Christian literature addressing issues of orthodoxy.
  • Discuss the historical background for the emerging formalised relationship between church and state.
  • Explain the significance of the Councils of Arles and Nicea for the future of the Roman Empire, Christians, Jews, Pagans and other religious groups.
  • Evaluate critically the scholarly debate surrounding the significance of Constantine in relationship to the success of Christianity.
  • Interpret critically a variety of primary sources from the early Conciliar movement.
  • Explain your own views on debates within the fields of Constantinianism and church/state relationships.

Syllabus

The Emperor Constantine is recognized as the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. This commanding character laid the foundations of post-classical European civilization during an eventful and colourful reign. His crucial victory at Milvian Bridge proved one of the most decisive moments in world history, while his legalization and support of Christianity together with his foundation of a 'New Rome' at Byzantium can be seen as amongst the most momentous decisions made by a European ruler. Ten Byzantine emperors who succeeded him bore his name, testimony to his significance and the esteem in which he was held. The aim of this module is to explore the measure of Constantine’s influence in the political, social and religious context of his day, the emergence of the early Christian church from illegal sect to state religion, and the foundations of what came to be universally recognised as ‘Christendom’. The module will concentrate on the life and times of the Emperor Constantine (c272-337 C.E.) and the first ecumenical Christian Council at Nicea (325 C.E.). You will examine the early Christian communities’ relationships with the historic Jewish community within which they found their early converts, as well as with the Roman state apparatus. It will analyse the nature of the separation of the Christians from the Jews, the church’s journey of self definition as a unique faith based community as well as its search for orthodoxy, documented at the Council of Nicea. It will contrast the differences between the church in the West with the development of the early church in the East within the Persian Sassanian Empire in the east, the character and context of martyrdom, the nature and substance of the church’s mission, and its growing impact on society in Late Antiquity. The module will use a mixture of primary and secondary sources.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • A weekly two-hour class incorporating lecture, seminar & interactive elements • Lecturer-led examination and discussion of sources. Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and class discussion • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Short oral presentations on primary sources • Independent research of additional information and source materials Lecture elements will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

TypeHours
Teaching24
Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Peter Brown (1989). The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750. 

Hans A. Pohlsander (1996). The Emperor Constantine. 

J. Stevenson, Editor (1957). A New Eusebius. Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to A.D. 337. 

Web Based Resources.

Andrew Louth & G. A. Williamson (1990). Eusebius’ The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine. 

Paul Stephenson (2009). Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor. 

J. W. C. Wand (1990). A History of the Early Church to AD 500. 

Web Based Resources.

Web Based Resources.

Margaret M. Mitchell & Frances M. Young (editors) (2006). The Cambridge History Of Christianity Vol. I. Origins to Constantine. 

Web Based Resources.

Web Based Resources.

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal feedback: • You will engage in small group exercises, focusing on specific formative tasks, which will be reviewed in class • You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessment with your tutor • You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your work in progress from your tutor • Guidance and advice in class on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you The formal assessments will promote skills of analysis and critical thinking. They will also reinforce organizational, planning and writing skills.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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