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A Tale of the Days of Constantine the Great.
VICAR OF HAVEN STREET, 1.W.;
FELLOW OF THE ROYAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY;
EMILIUS, 'CAMP ON THE SEVERN,' 'THE CHRONICLES
10 MAY 88
To the memory
REV. JOSEPH GIBBS,
VICAR OF CLIFTON-HAMPDEN,
THIS LITTLE TALE IS
BY A GRATEFUL MEMBER OF HIS
HE object of the Author in this and his other historical tales, has been to
describe the aspect of our island, both in its ecclesiastical and secular aspects, at the great epochs of its existence; thus in this tale, and in The Camp on the Severn, the RomanoBritish period is treated: in The First Chronicle of Escendune, and in Alfgar the Dane, the Anglo-Saxon: in the Andredsweald and The Rival Heirs, the Norman Conquest.
The object of this present tale has been to describe the leading events which made Christianity the national religion of the Roman Empire, and put a period to the various persecutions the Church had endured from the Pagans, the crisis of the tale being that battle near the Milvian Bridge, which sealed the fate of Paganism.
The Author is perfectly aware that the character given to Constantine by Gibbon, and
other writers of his school, differs widely from that with which he has endeavoured to invest him in the pages of the tale, but he pleads in defence, that since all the Pagan writers of the period naturally invest Constantine with the blackest hues, and the Christian authors in the brightest, he is quite justified in ranging himself in union with the latter.
Thus Dean Stanley writes: 'It is unnecessary to do more than enumerate the acts of Constantine's ecclesiastical legislation, in order to see the vastness of the revolution of which he was the leader.
'In the year 313 was issued the edict of toleration; then followed in rapid succession, the decree for the observance of Sunday in the towns of the empire; the use of prayers for the army; the abolition of the punishment of crucifixion; the encouragement of emancipation of slaves; the discouragement of infanticide; the prohibition of licentious and cruel rites; the prohibition of gladiatorial games. Every one of these steps was a gain to the Roman Empire and to mankind, such as not even the Antonines had ventured to attempt, and of these benefits none has been altogether lost. Undoubtedly, if Constantine is to be judged by the place which he occupies among the benefactors of humanity, he would rank, not amongst the secondary characters of history, but amongst the very first.'