Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Constantine the Emperor” as Want to Read:
Constantine the Emperor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Constantine the Emperor

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  117 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
No Roman emperor had a greater impact on the modern world than did Constantine. The reason is not simply that he converted to Christianity, but that he did so in a way that brought his subjects along after him. Indeed, this major new biography argues that Constantine's conversion is but one feature of a unique administrative style that enabled him to take control of an emp ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published December 11th 2012 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Constantine the Emperor, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Constantine the Emperor

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Faith Justice
Sep 27, 2012 Faith Justice rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-early-reader
I received this uncorrected proof copy through an Early Reader's program. It contained the usual number of typos and omissions (plain cover and no index.) I was a little worried from the introduction that this would be "Christian" oriented version where Constantine sees the cross and immediately converts (a much-loved myth) then leads the empire into holy bliss by making Christianity the official religion (he didn't.) I was pleasantly surprised to find Potter does a good job of putting Constanti ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Rindis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, rome
David Potter's book on Constantine is at first a little hard to pin down. It's not really a biography, and despite the title, only about half the book is about the reign of Emperor Constantine, with the first half being a grounding in the crisis of the third century, and Diocletian's reign (and depicts the Tetrarchy as being far less a far-sighted idea than I've seen elsewhere), and then shows what Constantine's place in the Imperial court was before his self-appointment to the rank of Augustus. ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Jessi rated it really liked it
David Potter's biography of Constantine begins prior to his conversion to Christianity and follows his life as he ruthlessly ruled the Roman empire and converted it to Christianity. Although dry, it is certainly a well-written, well researched and very thorough account of his life and the events that changed Rome, and made the religion of Christianity what it is today. If I had not received this book for free in exchange for a review through, I probably would not have read it, a ...more
A biography of the Roman emperor Constantine, who is often called "the first Christian emperor" (or at least the first to offer full religious equality and tolerance for Christianity). This biography does address Constantine's problematic relationship with Christianity, but not in a very effective way. Potter seems to take the view that Constantine was in fact a Christian, but one who did . . . waver, a bit . . . in his relationships with pagan cults (particularly that of Sol Invictus). On the ...more
Aug 16, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
A good introduction to the life and reign of Constantine, arguably history's most influential Roman emperor (second, perhaps, only to Augustus Caesar himself). Recommended for undergraduate level readers, and contains useful endnotes without overwhelming the text with documentation. Potter's 'Constantine' portrait is highly influenced by Gibbon and Burckhardt and emphasises primary source material within the Theodosian Code and Latin Panegyrics in order to draw attention to Constantine's way of ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Ashley rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
For a book about Constantine, I found it frustrating that there was no in-depth discussion of him until the halfway mark. While background info is important, there is a point at which there is too much to the deprivation of the rest of the book.
Dec 10, 2012 Jack rated it did not like it
Meandering. No focus. No story line. I am sure it was well researched but totally boring.
Gerry Cragun
Very informative about Constantine and his acceptance of Christianity.
Mar 14, 2016 Carl rated it liked it
A decent book, but irritating in spots. Like some history writers, Professor Potter seems to think that the reader is fairly well acquainted with some topics, and all Professor Potter has to do is add a few little-known tidbits and a couple of insightful observations in these areas. Well, I read the book because I knew nothing about these topics, and wished the author would have started at square one. Professor Potter also has a habit of listing the names of zillions of Roman officials who never ...more
Dec 08, 2012 Scott rated it liked it
With 2012 being the 1700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, our congregation spent some time exploring that event and its influences on Christian history. Shortly afterwards, I saw this book reviewed well in The Christian Century and decided to improve my understanding of Constantine, with whom I share a birthday. So, it was probably fitting that I read this biography over my birthday week.

This biography took the time to set Constantine within the larger context of his era of the
Dec 08, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
An interesting read about the Roman emperor who is inextricably linked in the popular mind to Christianity. How committed a Christian Constantine actually was is an open question, but he certainly was able to exploit the religion question rather deftly. The author brings up a point not often raised in biographies of such ancient figures: the scant surviving primary sources often have their own agenda, and must be evaluated in that light. Many sources on Constantine are Christian, therefore the m ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Thomas rated it really liked it
I knew very little of Constantine before beginning the biography. But, I found it to be a complex story and much of it has to be deduced from the primary documents. Moreover,those documents are not found in abundance so much of it be interpreted. I was struck by the politics and the infighting in the Roman leadership. At first I was confused by the quick succession of leaders, assassinations, and marriages. Ultimately, we get to Constantine as he consolidates the Empire and rebuilds the city of ...more
Kim Heimbuch
Apr 07, 2013 Kim Heimbuch rated it really liked it
This is a must have book for any history junky or as a companion book for any classical history major. Written by Professor of Greek and Roman History, David Potter, aka Francis W. Kelsey, he meticulously lays out the superior reign of one of history’s most notable emperors as he not only converted to Christianity and willingly got his subjects to follow as well, but he single-handedly seized control of a vast empire while being raged against by the Goths and Persians.
“Whatever people saw when t
Matt Andrew
Jun 04, 2013 Matt Andrew rated it did not like it
This books doesn't get into detail on Constantine until after the hundredth page. While historical back story is necessary in any biography of a leader of this magnitude, the book gets into way too much depth. If you are interested in a detailed history of the 3rd-4th century Roman Empire, you may get a little more out of it, but if you are looking for a detailed biography on Constantine without too much fluff, look elsewhere. It's not often that I don't soldier through and finish a sub-par book ...more
Joel Zartman
Mar 06, 2014 Joel Zartman rated it really liked it
A bit of a scholarly rejoinder to the Dan Brown portrayal. For Potter, Constantine was a henotheist: his chief God was the Christians' but he did not think it any dishonor to Christ to honor the pagan gods as well. I haven't read enough to judge, but I did not find what he said implausible.

The book is a bit light on the theology of the controversies and there is not enough of Eusebius of Nicomedia in there, it seems to me, to make sense of the Arian controversy. But there is not much of any sub
Donnelly Wright
Fascinating story, well documented and a good research tool. It's kind of pedantic, sometimes I felt like I was studying for a test. The names are confusing, a geneology chart would be useful. there is a map but the print is so small one needs a magnifier to read it, and some of the places that are important in the book are not on it. The author clearly admires Constantine and the book is written in his defense, to counter some academics who have disparaged the man.
Apr 20, 2013 Naftoli rated it really liked it
This book brought to light the complexity of Constantine. At times savage and clearly divided in his religious convictions, he sought always to balance the needs of his subjects. The best that can be said of him is that he was an improvement upon Diocletian, a man with whom he would contend even after the man's death.
Apr 22, 2013 Kaye rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
This clearly was a carefully researched work. It resembled a paper submitted for a doctoral dissertation. For me, it was dreadfully boring to read. The most interesting fact, for me, was Constantine's role in the development of the Nicene creed. I would recommend the book only to the most ardent fan of historical facts.
To be honest, I don't know if I will revisit this book at a later date. I would not recommend this biography of Constantine to the light of heart. It is very much an academic book, not a general biography for those just wanting to know a bit more about Constantine. If, however, you are very learned in this period, I would recommend it.
Frank Kelly
Apr 07, 2014 Frank Kelly rated it liked it
Well researched and highly detailed. But a bit dry - more. Scholarly time than a basic introduction to the great man who brought is the Nocene Creed, the expansion of Christianity throughout the entire Roman Empire and establishment of Constantinople as a great metropolis.
Andy Smith
Apr 08, 2016 Andy Smith rated it really liked it
One of the best introductions to Constantine that I've read. Scholarly but accessible. Highly recommended.
Margaret Heller
Sep 18, 2012 Margaret Heller rated it liked it
Reviewed this for Library Journal. I feel it could have been arranged much better but seems like a decent addition to Constantine lit.
Nick Rogers
Nick Rogers rated it did not like it
Jan 08, 2013
Anthony Bergen
Anthony Bergen rated it liked it
Feb 06, 2013
Ted Anderson
Ted Anderson rated it it was ok
Dec 12, 2012
Joel Yager MD
Joel Yager MD rated it really liked it
Aug 07, 2016
Steve rated it did not like it
May 25, 2014
Adam rated it liked it
May 29, 2014
Bob Lamberti
Bob Lamberti rated it liked it
Dec 01, 2013
Aniket rated it liked it
Jan 03, 2013
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Queen: A Life in Brief
  • Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File
  • Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier
  • The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders
  • Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion
  • Always Right
  • Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome
  • Julius Caesar
  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama (Politically Incorrect Guides (Paperback))
  • Marcus Aurelius: A Life
  • The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Pursuit of Italy
  • Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice
  • When General Grant Expelled the Jews
  • The Life and Times of Grigorii Rasputin
  • Caligula: The Corruption of Power
  • The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome

Share This Book