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Review: When Our World Became Christian: 312 – 394

Paul Veyne

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

When Our World Became Christian: 312 - 394

In his not-very large book, entitled “When Our World Became Christian: 312 – 394”, the French historian Mr. Paul Veyne told his readers the story of the takeover of power in the Roman state by the then-new Christian religion. The topic itself raised in the discussed study is extremely interesting and it is good that the author did his work diligently and expertly analyzed the historical sources available to him, telling us about incredibly turbulent times from Constantine to Theodosius – both called “The Great” by posterity.

Throughout this small but informative book, there are very, in my opinion, very inappropriate comparisons between the breakthrough made by Emperor Constantine in the Roman world with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, which was carried out by unreal thugs with a lot of German help, given them by German intelligence, in order to the closure of the Eastern Front, which the Germans very quickly regretted. I understand that the author may have his own beliefs that express his inclination to political “red”, which is no exception among French intellectuals, but at the same time, I believe that they should not have such a strong impact on his analysis presented in scientific studies. The problem I see is that in the situation described, the author’s political sympathies strongly bias some of his interpretations of past facts, which causes the scientific side of his work to suffer.

Contrary to Professor Aleksander Krawczuk, who has a bit more doubts in this matter, Mr. Paul Veyne assumes the sincerity of Emperor Constantine’s conversion to the religion professed by people known at that time collectively as Galileans. By the well-known Polish researcher of antiquity mentioned above, Emperor Constantine is described as a follower of the Invincible Sun, for which Professor Krawczuk, analyzing the preserved sources from the era, gives a handful of strong arguments. In this interpretation, the victorious Constantine appears as a good politician who wanted to maintain balance in his country and eventually turned to a new religion for extremely pragmatic reasons.

To sum up, I can say that the work in question is rich in information, skillfully obtained from preserved sources, which is a plus, but it also contains information that is heavily contaminated with the worldview of its author. Therefore, when reading it, I would recommend a great deal of caution. Mr. Paul Veyne can envy the objectivity that can be found in the works of Professor Aleksander Krawczuk, which, unfortunately, have not yet been translated into foreign languages.

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Author: Antypater (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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