What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Friday, November 13, 2009


Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Here's one reason why I believed the former president was a wanker when he created the Office of Religious Affairs and extended government charity grants to religious organizations.

What's the history? Well, here's the thing about church history. Most people "know" that with the conversion of Constantine lead to the acceptance of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire (or at least ended the practice of using them for sport in the circuses). What fewer people know is that this wasn't because of his seeing a mark on the sun before the battle of Milvian Bridge. See, Constantine's god was Apollo, a sun god, who's personal symbol (at that time) was close to an ankh. This was the sigil he had his troops paint on their shields. The revisionist history has changed this to a cross (although the cross was at one time Apollo's sign as well, although it was more like a plus sign) and that it was Christ who came to him in a dream.

But what I wanted to get at was at the time the Christians ran the hospitals and provided food for the poor and destitute, the widows, and the infirm. When Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople the early church saw it's meager influence about to be eclipsed. So they went to Constantine and gave him a choice, end the persecutions of the Christians or they would end their charity work. Constantine, new emperor of a nearly fallen state (the civil wars were continuing) looked at his coffers and realized if that happened he would either have to end his wars to reunite the empire, or face internal civil war and unrest. Ending the persecution of Christians was the much easier choice as it would only upset the Circus, and, well, there were plenty of wars to pad out the victim roles with captured and enslaved peoples.

See history repeating! Come to the circus!

Edited In comments Cassie asked for sources or as they say in wiki (citation needed).

Apollo as sun god (remember, Constantine was a Roman, not Greek, both have Apollo - by that name, one of the few - and they are roughly the same, but have differences)
UNRV list of major Roman Gods. "Apollo is the son of Jupiter and Leto, and the twin brother of Diana. He is the god of music, playing a golden lyre... The god of light... Apollo's more important daily tasks is to harness his chariot with four horses an drive the Sun across the sky."

About Go Greece entitled "Fast Facts on Apollo, Greek God of the Sun" (although he was not always associated with the Sun in Greek myth, he was at the end - my classics classes, I could probably find my text books and scan in that reference, Helios was the original sun god and was separate from Apollo, at the end of the Greek civilization they were equated)

FAQS.org "1. Apollo sun god; his chariot ride spanned morning to night. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 42]"

The Cross is a symbol of the tree of life, which is linked to Apollo. (the cross and the ankh, or "egyptian cross", are closely related symbols, sometimes used interchangeably, the ankh is also a symbol for tree of life).

symbols.com " Before the time of Jesus, represented, among other things, the staff of Apollo, the sun god, son of Zeus, and appeared for instance on ancient coins... Sometime during the first centuries... the Latin cross was adopted by the Christian ideology. Still being associated with heavenly, almighty lords, both and even more so, the sun god's staff."

Article on the Tree of Life from the Neil A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University "Greek literature is also replete with references to the sacred tree, or tree of life... the hero Odysseus speaks of seeing a palm growing by the altar of Apollo, different from any tree growing from the earth.12 In Homer's Hymn to Apollo, Apollo's mother grasps a palm tree during her son's birth." (Article then corrects that the tree was mistranslated and was actually an olive tree, which is also represented by a cross).

Sacredtexts.com"The list of the deathless mortals who suffered for man... Among those connected historically or allegorically with a crucifixion are Prometheus, Adonis, Apollo..."

Constantine and Apollo

Race and history.com article on the Arch of Constantine "Hadrianic Roundels: The second roundel depicts Constantine sacrificing to the god Apollo. Constantine was a follower of Apollo early in his career." While much of the arch was spoila (reused marbles, old monuments reused), "The arch was dedicated on the tenth anniversary of Constantine's rule on July 25, 315 AD." (Yeah, I know, but they had the picture. Google "Arch of Constantine" to show how they get it right).

Google Books, Constantine and the Christian Empire by Charles Matson Odahl
"... the emperor turned aside toward the most beautiful temple in the whole world - probably the temple of Apollo at Grand, and that he had experienced a revelation in this holy place. He proclaimed that Constantine saw Apollo, accompanied by Victory, offeringhim laurel wreaths indicating a life and reign of many years, and that in the likeness of Apollo he recognized himself as the saving figure."

AncientAssets.com article on Constantine coinage.
"From about 310 on, the reverse of Constantine coins show Apollo, often with the inscription, SOLO INVICTI COMITI - companion, the unconquered Sol... Other coins depict Constantine holding a shield on which Apollo is depicted guiding the sun chariot through the sky."

to be fair, they also say, "Many Constantine coins from that ear(a) also bear Christian symbols like the chi ro..."

But do I need to show the typographic lineage of "chi" (or "X") as the cross or will you accept that (the "T" was actually a different sigil)? Although "XR" is often used as shorthand for "Christ", it is also a mash of the two crosses (the plus and the ankh). It's getting late and doing more research on this (and finding "credible sources" instead of wiki's and "blogs") is running me down.

Early Christians and Charity During Constantine - Healthcare and taking care of the sick, not on the empire's payrolls.

Googlebooks, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 7, C. Hebermann, KoC
"Like the other works of Christian charity, the care of the sick was from the beginning a sacred duty for each of the faithful... especially the case during the epidemics that raged in different parts of the Roman Empire, such as that at Carthage in 252... Another characteristic of Christian charity was the obligation and practice of hsopitality... but like hospitality was extended to the pagan... Clement of Rome praises the Corinthians for their hospitality... Dionysius of Corinth for the same reason gives credit to the Romans... The sick were also cared for in the valetudinaria of the wealthier Christians who in the spirit of charity extended hospitality to those who could not be accommodated in the bishop's house. There was thus from the earliest times a well organized system of providing for the various forms of suffering, but it was necessarily limited and dependent on private endeavor (because of the persecutions, he then uses an argument that because of the persecution a "institution of public character" was not possible - later he talks about the founding of the first hospital is in dispute, with some saying during Constantine, but before 361). It is certain that after the conversion of Constantine, the Christians profited by their larger liberty to provide for the sick by means of hospitals."

Christianity Today article on early Christian health care (debunking the "illness caused by demons" philosophy) (page 2) Christians developed a robust system for caring for the poor, the ill, widows and orphans, and other members of society in need of care... As early as A.D. 251, according to letters from the time, the church in Rome cared for 1,500 widows and those who were distressed. A hundred years later, Antioch supported 3,000 widows, virgins, sick, poor, and travelers...The churches in major cities had significant resources at their disposal, and though their care was not professional, it is likely to have saved lives and aided the growth of the church... When the plague of Cyprian struck in 250 and lasted for years, this volunteer corps became the only organization in Roman cities that cared for the dying and buried the dead...Finally, when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, these services were formalized in a number of institutions, including the first hospitals. "

There are many contradictory and "history through inference" ("well of course he's christian because he reflects the values of christianity" kinds of arguments) references to Constantine's christianity. A quick break down on his "conversion" by religionfacts.com which shows the conflicting historical thoughts. Some christian writers revere him (for ending the persecution) and others vilify him (for "paganizing" christianity). It's getting late and getting into the schisms of thought, heresy, and the economics of the Roman Empire in the fourth century really will take too long (too many non-authoritative sources clogging my google-fu). Probably if I say I've read academic books on he subject which show the link between his "letter of Milan" and a meeting with bishops and the timing of the conversion of his daughter (first), wife (second), and his "supposed death bed baptism" you won't believe me, or at least call into question my memory. I'll live with that. Most of the good googled sources on this are either non-credible sources, or behind the wall of pay services.

Have I shown enough proof that Constantine probably wasn't a Christian as he took the Empire (and late into his rule, if ever)? If his conversion took place before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and that he was an ardent christian afterwards (as proposed by many through the "christian histories") it certainly doesn't show in actions (murder, blood extortion, continuing pagan practices, etc). I've shown how the early church was heavily involved in the care of the old, infirm, and poor. And then how they profited by the ending of the persecutions. Have I cast enough doubt at the "accepted"version of history?


Anonymous said...



Steve Buchheit said...

comment moved to post

Anonymous said...

I'm not looking for an argument. I've heard these kinds of comments many times, from both sides, and frankly, I think most of our "credible sources" are less credible than we'd like to think. Very little of what writers post-10th C had access to original sources - that's what I had hoped you'd had.

I'm still really curious about the Christian Church threatening Constantine (whom I don't believe legalized, just stopped the persecution of Christianity) with the closure of the social services they provide. That one was new to me.


Anonymous said...

When Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople the early church saw it's meager influence about to be eclipsed.

That's really what I'm curious about. From all accounts I've seen, Christianity was even stronger in the East (Asia Minor) than the West (Rome) at this point. (Evidence: more martyrs in Greece and Asia Minor at the time than in Rome, despite the arenas. I've read and cannot find the source again that said possibly one half of the Roman Empire was Christian by the time Constantine eliminated the public persecution of Christians, but that was that author's justification for Constantine's conversion.) Why do you think that it had meager influence in either location?


Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, yes, much of the sources post 10th century are tainted with a heavy Christian bent (considering Aristotle's influence and adoption by Christians as "one of them" even though he lived 4 centuries before Christ shows this revisionism). This is due mostly to the Church's control over the University and governance (also as the scribes of the times they wrote the histories, Egyptian scribes also did the same thing with pre-dynastic history).

And you're correct, Constantine's edicts were mostly about ending the prosecution of the Christians for not worshiping the Emperor (and state gods). He did, however, also charter churches and endowed them (again, it was cheaper than having to provide the social services himself).

The Christians had their heavy influence in Rome, even under persecution, as evidenced by their focus of charity work (also, the lesser rates of prosecution in Rome itself can show their influence in that realm). Plus, Rome was the center, so the early church focused their efforts there (influence of the Senate and Proconsuls by directives from Rome).

Constantine moved the capitol to Constantinople for two reasons. First, it was closer to center mass of the Empire. And second, to remove the seat of power from the lobbyists of the time (whom he felt had choked the empire and lead to the civil wars that brought him to power, again, another echo of history).

I remember reading a paper on the timing of events and a criticism of the view of "Constantine the Great, First Christian Emperor." It showed how the Church was concentrating in Rome to end the persecutions and gain power (through conversions and charity work - I believe the one quote I put up demonstrated they were the only social service to survive in a few cities following the plagues). It pulled in the economics of the empire Constantine found himself in charge of (nearly broke with wars on all it's borders and continuing internal warfare). If I remember it correctly there were also a few letters outlining the strategy between the churches.

This was back when the Papal Archives were open to all researchers (before the finding of the "same sex marriage rights" which closed the archives to only the very few).

There were plenty of books I had in college that I wish I still had (including a piece by Dostoevsky on the second coming of the Christ during the Spanish Inquisition, he's arrested and the Grand Inquisitor lays out much of the Church's medieval conquest strategy and how it differed from his teachings).

Anonymous said...

There were plenty of books I had in college that I wish I still had (including a piece by Dostoevsky on the second coming of the Christ during the Spanish Inquisition, he's arrested and the Grand Inquisitor lays out much of the Church's medieval conquest strategy and how it differed from his teachings).

The Brothers Karamazov. Still in print, I believe ;)