A Brief History
On October 18, 2021, we take the time to offer our review of another historical account by Stephen Dando-Collins, an Australian writer who has written extensively on the subject of Ancient Rome (at least 44 books of all types so far). Obviously, with publishers willing to print such a huge volume of work, there must be some kind of quality and talent at work in Dando-Collins’ writing, and we find this to be true. Previously we reviewed Conquering Jerusalem (2021) by the same author and found the book to be particularly engaging. Constantine at the Bridge is likewise an informative, fact filled, and easy reading book that casual and professional history students alike can profit from reading. (Constantine at the Bridge will be available as of November 9, 2021.)
Constantine does not read quite like a novel, as there is less conjecture and interpolated dialog than in Conquering Jerusalem, though when the author makes assumptions or deductions, he clearly lets the reader know the difference between his inferences and raw data, often if not always providing an explanation of why he thinks this or that event happened a certain way or with certain motives, while carefully describing contrary views and the rationale for those views. Incredibly, such care with historical fact does not slow down the reading or disrupt the pace of the story telling. We love this writer’s style! Where assumptions and opinions are offered, the reader is clearly advised and the arguments are well supported by sources cited in the text.
Although the cover of the book offers the subtitle “How the Battle of Milvian Bridge Created Christian Rome,” the author points out that the title battle did not really take place at Milvian Bridge, but in a plain nearby. Also, the subject of whether or not Constantine was really the person responsible for the Christianization of Rome is discussed at length, examining various reason why this may or may not be so, including “what ifs” if things had gone differently in the life of Constantine. In spite of the assertion in the subtitle, the book concludes that Rome would have eventually become Christian anyway, with or without Constantine’s contribution. Additionally, the contributions of other historical Roman characters toward the acceptance of Christianity in Rome is also discussed. Otherwise, the title battle was instrumental in securing the place of Constantine in Roman history as a great Emperor, though the book gives this pivotal event far less coverage than the title implies.
Constantine at the Bridge is an excellent read for college students and anyone interested in the Roman Empire or in Western Civilization in general. Those readers interested in the origins and formation of the Christian Church are well advised to read this account of a critical period in Christian history. Plenty of discussion about the interaction of the Roman Empire with surrounding cultures is made that provides context for the place of the Roman Empire in the Western and Near Eastern World. The place and roles of women are discussed, including how those social norms changed with the times covered by the book. Religious issues are addressed without any value judgements made, and no implied opinion as to whether or not the gradual Roman acceptance of Christianity was a “good” or “bad” thing is there to taint the account. Far from a dry recitation of facts and excerpts from historical documents, Constantine at the Bridge is an entertaining, informative, and educational read appropriate for high school through graduate school students and casual readers alike. We give the book a hearty thumbs up and our highest recommendation!
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite Roman Emperor? Why? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Dando-Collins, Stephen. Conquering Jerusalem. Turner, 2021.
Dando-Collins, Stephen. Constantine at the Bridge. Turner, 2021.
The featured image in this article, a fresco by Raphael (1483–1520), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.