The Classical Quarterly (New Series)


Libanius on Constantine1

Hans-Ulrich Wiemera1

a1 Queen's College, Oxford/Seminar für Alte Geschichte der Philipps-Universität, Wilhelm-Röpke-Str.6C, 35032 Marburg-Lahn

It is well known that the emperor Julian plays a central role in the life and writings of the Antiochene sophist Libanius. As a commentator on the life and reign of the emperor Constantine, he is seldom taken into account, and if he is, he usually gets short shrift as being verbose and unreliable. This neglect is, I believe, hardly justified. Even if it were true that Libanius could not teach us anything about the historical Constantine, his testimony still deserves attention as an example of the attitude of eastern pagans to Constantine. Moreover, although much of what Libanius has to say about Constantine was written down half a century after the events, Libanius himself, born in 314, was a contemporary of the latter part of Constantine's reign. Unlike Julian, born in 331/2,2 and Eunapius, born in 347/8,3 he was able to form a judgement on Constantine based on first-hand knowledge.


1 This article is a slightly revised version of a paper given at the Later Roman Empire Seminar held in Queen's College, Oxford on 11 March 1993. I would like to thank Professor John Matthews and Dr Roger Tomlin for the invitation to deliver the paper and Professor Malcolm Errington and Mr Benet Salway for having read and corrected the manuscript.