The conversion of Constantine and the Christianisation of Europe
Lecture by Peter Heather
Given at Kings College London, on 23 October 2012
Historians have argued for centuries – in the face of contradictory primary sources – both about when and how the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and the nature and extent of his faith. Was he a convinced believer, brought to a new understanding of God and the world by his own Damascene moment? And, if so, what exactly did he believe in? Or was he a pragmatist who saw his in new religious affiliation great opportunities for cementing both his own authority and the stability of the Empire he controlled? This lecture will explore the nature of religious affiliation more generally in the world of the later Roman Empire, and use it to offer new perspectives both on the received narratives of Constantine’s conversion, and the broader process by which Christianity turned itself, as a result, from minority sect to world religion.
Peter Heather is currently Professor of European Medieval History at Kings College London. He was born in Northern Ireland, and subsequently educated at Maidstone Grammar School and New College, Oxford. Prior to coming to King’s, he was lecturer and then reader at UCL between 1991 and 2002, and then Fellow in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford. He has written widely on the history of the late Roman Empire and the broader transformations within Europe let loose by its collapse.