The Story Of Religious Controversy
How Christianity “Triumphed”
IT was the year 312. All the blood of all the martyrs had converted only a small fraction of the Roman world, and a recent persecution had made apostates of ninety-nine in a hundred of those.
At that moment a fiery and unscrupulous, but very vigorous and ambitious man named Constantine, son of a rural barmaid who had dallied with a Roman officer, was leading a great army across Italy to meet his rival for the sovereignty of the world. Suddenly he saw, flaming on the heavens, the Greek monogram (the labarum) of Christ, and, as if to prevent any nonsense about an ocular illusion, the words: “In this sign thou shalt conquer.”
As is common in the case of these stupendous and unmistakable miracles, Constantine did not fall on his knees, but merely wondered. A second vision, during the night, informed him that this monogram referred to Christ; with whose religion and followers he had been familiar for ten years at least. After these two miracles he opined that Christianity was worth inquiring into. He inquired, was converted; and the real Christian Era opened. At Christ in a manger Greeks and Romans had mocked. By an emperor in the purple, with the police and soldiers behind him, their eyes were opened.
First of all let us make quite sure that the triumph had not been substantially won, as ordinary believers think, and religious writers encourage them to think, before the conversion of Constantine. How many Christians were there in the Roman Empire in the first decade of the fourth century? That means, remember, nearly three hundred years after the death of Jesus, two hundred and fifty years after the supposed “immense multitude” of Christians (fertilized by the blood of martyrs) at Rome, and two centuries after Pliny is believed to have said that the temples were deserted in Bithynia.
This point is of very great importance and interest, and we are going to study it for ourselves. One reason is that the estimate is difficult, and the figures vary from five millions to fifty millions! It is generally agreed that the population of the Roman Empire was at the time about one hundred millions, and I will set out here the estimates of the number of Christians among them that have been published by different historians who have made any sort of calculation:
Gibbon .................. 5,000,000 Friedlander ............. 5,000,000 Richter ................. 6,000,000 Zockler ................. 7,000,000 La Bastie ............... 8,000,000 Chastel ................. 8,000,000 Scbultze ................ 10,000,000 Keim .................... 16,000,000 Matter .................. 20,000,000 Staudlin ................ 50,000,000
It must be difficult, mustn’t it? As a matter of fact, it is not difficult to show that the larger estimates in this list, which are old and superficial guesses, are ludicrous, and even that the figure of five millions is too large.
Professor Bury, the most distinguished Roman historian in England and the very able editor of Gibbon’s great work, generally agrees with Gibbon, but would put the figure higher at one time. As, however, he has made no personal study of the matter, I turn rather to the most recent and most scientific (or least unscientific) of all the estimates, that given by Professor V. Schultze, a Protestant scholar, in his “Geschichte des Untergangs des griechisch-romischen Heidentums” (2 vols., 1892).
Schultze makes a lengthy and detailed estimate of the number of Christians in each province of the Roman Empire; and, if you will take the trouble to tabulate the results (as he fails to do) and add them together, you will find a curious and significant thing. Apart from a few provinces where it is impossible to estimate the number of Christians, but where he admits that they were very few, his figures amount to three million six hundred and fifty thousand. He would not ask us to add more than one hundred thousand for all the rest of the Roman world. Yet he concludes that there were “at least” ten million Christians in the Empire at the beginning of the fourth century, and he further says that Keim’s figure, sixteen million, is not too high! That is a nice sample of “religious statistics”; and Schultze was a distinguished professor and an expert.
But even the figure of three million, seven hundred and fifty thousand is too high. Having myself made a thorough study of the fourth century (see my “St. Augustine and His Age,” “Crises in the History of the Papacy,” “Empresses of Rome,” etc.), I can check Professor Schultze’s deductions, and we shall find that he is too optimistic, even in his lower figure.
For most provinces of the Roman Empire he finds the number of bishops, and from this he estimates the number of the faithful. It is a delicate and treacherous method unless you know well the conditions of church-life in the fourth century. In my “St. Augustine” (pp. 195-7) I have shown that as late as the year 391, when Christianity was established by law and all other religions bloodily suppressed, the bishop of Hippo had only one church, with a few hundred worshipers, in a town of thirty thousand inhabitants, and that Augustine, who succeeded him, had not a single priest under him; yet because Schultze finds two hundred bishops in Africa about the year 310, he roundly estimates that there must have been one hundred thousand Christians. There is no known ratio of bishops and the faithful.
Now let us take Rome, where Schultze again finds one hundred thousand Christians (in a city of one million). We know that about the year 250, when the Church had enjoyed a long peace, Pope Cornelius had forty-six priests, fourteen deacons and sub-deacons, ninety-four lesser clerics, and fifteen hundred widows and poor to support. From this Schultze and most other clerical writers (except Harnack) argue that there were fifty thousand Christians in Rome in 250.
It would not be a monumental triumph, but, in point of fact, I have shown from the official “Calendar of the Popes” that until the year 220 the Roman Christians had not a single chapel of any sort; and to imagine that they had chapels for fifty thousand worshipers thirty years later is, in view of the stern law against them, absurd. As far as I can discover, they had only two.
Further, we learn from the Christian historian Optatus that in the year 310, when Schultze estimates their number at one hundred thousand, they had only forty small — very small — chapels. It would thus be more reasonable to suppose that at the outbreak of the Diocletian persecution they numbered about twenty thousand, and the persecution scattered them like chaff. Schultze’s estimate of one hundred thousand Christians for the rest of Italy is even wilder. In the central and best educated part of the Roman Empire, Italy, which had a population of about ten million, the Christians numbered certainly not more than six hundred thousand and probably much less. Schultze admits that in the next best educated provinces — Greece, Spain, and southern Gaul — they were very few in number.
The Christians were mainly in the ignorant east, especially Asia Minor (which had a larger population then than now) and Armenia. Antioch was the greatest city of the east, and it had half a million inhabitants. Its famous bishop and orator, St. John Chrysostom, tells us that he had in it one hundred thousand followers about the year 385. This was after seventy years of imperial favor, under the fanatically Christian Emperor Theodosius and the greatest orator of the Christian world. I would add that the figure is (as religious writers forget to say) a mere guess. What John really says, in a sermon in which he has every reason to exaggerate, is: “I believe we reach the number of a hundred thousand.” In any case, we can safely assume that seventy years earlier even at Antioch, the heart of eastern Christendom, there were not more than fifty thousand Christians.
In short, it is liberal to grant, in the year 310, three million nominal Christians amongst the hundred millions of the Roman Empire; and the persecution had driven most of these back to the temples. Moreover, the vast majority were in rural Armenia (to which Schultze assigns no less than two million out of his three million seven hundred and fifty thousand), Syria, and Asia Minor. The gospel, after nearly three centuries of propaganda, was a failure.
Hence we will not linger over the many pretty and ingenious theories of “the spiritual triumph” of Christianity, but the reader will expect a word about the five causes assigned by Gibbon in the famous fifteenth chapter of his “Decline and Fall”:
- The inflexible zeal of the Christians.
- The definite Christian doctrine of a future life.
- The miracles claimed by the Church.
- The pure and austere morals of the faithful.
- The unity and discipline of the Christian Republic.
The reader may understand at once that Gibbon’s speculations are due entirely to the imperfect condition of scholarship in his time. “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is not only the most elegantly written historical work that ever appeared, but it is for its age a model of conscientious industry and critical insight. Parsons who now jibe at its “errors” would do well to compare it with clerical works of the eighteenth century.
But our knowledge of the ancient world was at the time a mere legacy from the Middle Ages. Even Egyptologists had not begun their revelations; and Babylon — nay, even ancient Rome itself — still lay under the rubbish which a thousand years of semi-barbarism had heaped upon them. Nothing was known about “the pure and austere morals” of half a dozen sects besides the Christian, or about the equally sure and certain hope of immortality which they offered to the pagan world. The vast library of lies and forgeries about the martyrs had as yet admitted only a few tremulous rays of truth; and Gibbon, in admiring the “inflexible zeal” of the Christians, was quite unaware that for every genuine martyr, voluntary or involuntary, a thousand Christians had offered incense to Zeus or bribed officials to certify that they had done so. The “miracles” were, we now see, not even known to the Christians themselves of the first three centuries. They are almost entirely the work of unscrupulous later ages.
This disposes of four of the five causes; and the fifth cannot have been taken seriously by the historian himself. He would, of course, not know that there was just as much “discipline” amongst the Mithraists and Manichaeans, the worshipers of Isis, and the devotees of the Greek mysteries. But he did know that instead of being “one,” the Church was bloodily rent by schisms and heresies; that, instead of being a republic, its constitution was intensely autocratic by the third century; and that what it had of unity and discipline was precisely what annoyed the Romans and moved good emperors to persecute it.
We understand Gibbon, but we can make only the excuse of culpable ignorance for religious writers who in our time find “causes” of the miraculous spread of Christianity. One of the most popular and most mendacious of these is the claim that it was unique in welcoming the slave and the woman on equal terms. This was done by the Mithraists, the Manichees, the Stoics, and the religious trade-organizations (or Colleges). And it is equally untrue that the Christian body attracted by its virtues — the sermons of the Fathers are one long indictment of its vices — or would be likely to attract the ignorant masses of the Roman world, who formed the great bulk of its adherents, by such an expensive advertisement.
There is no miracle or marvel to be explained. In three centuries the new religion may have won three million followers. The old Roman, Greek and Asiatic religions were in decay, discredited by their own thinkers. It was the easiest thing in the world to ridicule the old Polytheism. A very large number of people were ready for alternatives. From St. Augustine we gather that the Manichaeans were at least as numerous as the Christians. Modern experts on Mithraism say that it was even more prosperous. It was adopted by emperors before Christianity was. A period of evolution had been reached when new religions were bound to spread, and historical parallels are abundant. One instance will suffice: In the nineteenth century Spiritualism won three million people (out of forty millions) in the United States in ten years, whereas it took Christianity nearly three centuries to reach that number in a world of gross ignorance and superstition. The spread of the Albigensian heresy in the Middle Ages was even more rapid and complete.
The growth was chiefly in the third century, and there was a special reason for this. Incessant war had very greatly impoverished the empire, and the Christians of the cities, where they had a few rich adherents, made charity a very important part of their work. The church at Rome supported fifteen hundred widows and indigents in the middle of the third century. The Church at Antioch maintained three thousand in the fourth century. The Romans were accustomed to parasitism by their own vicious system, and they appreciated this gospel of charity.
On the whole, however, there was no growth that is historically unusual or puzzling. That is the main point. Friedlander, who was one of the most thoroughly informed writers on Rome, though his study of this point is slight, says that, before Constantine, the Church won one-twentieth of the empire. Schultze, who has made the least superficial estimate, says one-tenth; but his figures amount to less than one-twentieth. The only problem is: How was the four or five percent converted into one hundred percent?
Let us for a moment consider the dear old labarum: one of the most profitable miracles that the hand of God, or of his earthly representative, ever achieved.
It is Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea, who tells us of the miracle in his “Life of Constantine”; and you ought not to doubt it for a moment, because he says that he heard it from the Emperor’s own lips! We will not, however, waste time in psychoanalytic research. I do not think that any ecclesiastical historian today believes in the vision, or even suggests an ocular illusion. All other historians smile at it. The labarum is as discredited as Catherine’s wheel.
“The father of ecclesiastical history,” as Eusebius of Caesarea is unhappily called, wrote his famous Ecclesiastical History some years before the death of Constantine; and it does not contain this very important miracle. When the emperor died, however, the bishop wrote a most untruthful and eulogistic “Life of Constantine,” and in this he tells the story of the labarum. He tells us also that his chief business as a writer is to “edify”; which means, to advertise the Church. So modern historians are discreetly reticent about the zealous and courtly bishop. I will, as usual, supply the word which they leave unspoken. Eusebius was a liar. The other great Christian writer of the time, Lactantius, is by no means a model of veracity. But he merely says that Constantine saw the vision in a dream. The labarum appears on coins soon after the conversion of Constantine, but no one pretends that it was a reality except Eusebius.
This conversion of Constantine is one of the unsolved, or imperfectly solved, problems of history. Thousands have written on this event, which certainly changed the history of the world, yet there is no agreement whatever. The emperor was not baptized until the shadow of death fell upon his path. Years after his supposed conversion be used language (“the divinity in the heavens above”) which any educated pagan would use. No one knows his real beliefs; any more than we know the beliefs of Napoleon. But we will not attempt here to discover them. He adopted Christianity, and that was the beginning of its triumph.
Constantine was, as I said, the illegitimate son of a rural barmaid and a Roman officer. The educated Romans always hated and despised him, and they do not conceal his birth. St. Ambrose, in fact, tells it. His father Constantius was an officer of distinction in the Roman army, and a robust tavern-wench, afterwards dignified with the name of Helena, in an outlying rural province of the empire, caught his soldierly fancy. She was so fortunate as to become the mistress of one who was destined for the purple; and, as if Providence did not deem that enough, her purblind generosity to the clergy earned in time for the Bithynian barmaid — a profession next door to that of courtesan — the chaster halo of the saint.
In Constantine the blood of the peasant-girl counted for more than that of Constantine the Bloodless (as his name means), and the aged Emperor Diocletian regarded him with some anxiety. But the political circumstances here throw more light than miracles do on the course of events, and I will explain them as briefly as possible.
When that fine old Roman, Diocletian, had reorganized and pacified the empire he chose a colleague, Maximian Hercules, to assist him in ruling it, and he raised to the rank of Caesars (princes with some hope of succession) Galerius and Constantius. Galerius was a somber and zealous adherent of the old religion, and it is said that it was he who egged Diocletian on to persecution of the Christians; though Diocletian never urged the death-sentence for religion, in spite of revolt and insolence and even arson in his own palace.
Constantius, on the contrary, seems to have been an easy-going and more or less cultivated man. He believed, with the Greek and Roman philosophers, in one god whose reality was figured or caricatured in all the deities of the Roman religion; and there can be little doubt — indeed, it is clear — that he transmitted his mild philosophy to his son Constantine. But Diocletian sent Constantius to rule Gaul and Britain, and kept the son in the east. When, in 303, Diocletian began to persecute, Constantius evaded the application of the decrees in his provinces. There were few Christians in them, and he could see no menace whatever in their peculiar beliefs and practices. His leniency became known throughout the Church, and the Emperor Galering suspected that there was a political aim in his protection of the Christians. Diocletian and his colleague had abdicated in 304, and Galerius, now promoted to be emperor in the east, with Constantius as emperor in the west, prevented the young Constantine from obtaining the rank of Caesar.
I will not drag the reader through the details of the bloody civil wars that followed upon this multiplication of ambitions, but the question of sparing or favoring the Christians of the empire now became, to use modern language, a plank in the political platform. Religious writers affect to see in this a confirmation of their very large figures of the number of Christians. It proves nothing of the kind. In a contest which seems fairly even and uncertain the support of any fanatical minority is useful. Moreover, there was the air of political wisdom which a man might have in proposing to put an end to religious, dissensions in the hard-pressed empire. It would appeal to educated pagans.
Constantine escaped and joined his father in Britain; and very shortly afterwards the father died, and his troops acclaimed Constantine emperor. Ferrero, the latest student of the period, believes that the young Constantine engineered this coup, and it is the kind of thing be would do. Galerius, however, refused to recognize the election, and he made Constantine a Caesar. There was then a series of civil wars with which I need not complicate this sketch. In 310 Constantine beat and strangled the old Emperor Maximian, whose daughter Fausta he had married; and in 312 (the labarum year) he set out for Rome to try his strength against his brother-in-law Maxentius.
This complicated quarrel put an end to the persecution. Galerius had died of cancer in 311, but some months before he died he withdrew his persecuting decrees and addressed the Christians in quite amiable terms. We are told, of course, that as a last resort he was turning to Christ to heal his cancer. Moreover the Emperor Maxentius in Italy, against whom Constantine was advancing, also thought it prudent to disarm the Christians who were likely to do anything in their power to aid Constantine. He granted full liberty of conscience. These were the circumstances when, in 312, Constantine led his legions into Italy and was “converted” on the march. Maxentius was beaten. Constantine, now emperor, met his co- Emperor Licinius at Milan and together they issued a formal edict recognizing the freedom of the Christians.
This famous Edict of Milan was not, as is commonly said, the first chapter of liberty. The Christians were already free, except that the Emperor Maximian still persecuted in the east; though he in turn was killed in 313. Constantine, in the next year, attacked and beat Licinius, but he continued to share the empire with him for nine years, when, at the close of a fresh struggle, he had him treacherously murdered. Let me add here that three years later again, in 326, Constantine had his wife Fausta, his illegitimate son Crishus, and his nephew, murdered in his palace at Rome. Clerical writers try in vain to shift from him the guilt of these new crimes. The evidence is overwhelming. It is clear that the illegitimate son of the illegitimate Constantine was guilty of some outrage in regard to his beautiful and refined step-mother, and in a blaze of temper Constantine ended their lives.
It is in the light of these events that we have to judge, if we wish to do so, the character and “conversion” of Constantine. He remained the head — Pontifex Maximus, or Sovereign Pontiff — of the old Roman religion until he died. He in 321 ordered the auspices (or religious diviners) of the pagan religion, against whom he had issued a severe decree, to make their exploration of the entrails of birds as usual if the palace were struck by lightning. In the following year he instituted the Sarmatian Games, with the usual religious (pagan) accompaniments, to the scandal of the Christians. In 330 he ordered the closing of two of the gayest temples of Aphrodite in the east; and they were either not closed or were reopened at once. Some of his coins represent him in the robe of the Pontifex Maximus, and pagan orators addressed him as if he were one of themselves. He, in fine, deferred his baptism (by water — he was amply baptized in blood) until the approach of death recommended to him this easy method of obliterating his crimes; and after death, the pagans elevated him, as was customary, to the rank of a divinity.
On the other hand — and this is all that concerns us — he established the principle of persecution of the old religion, and his massive generosity to the Church lifted it in twenty years to a position of which it had never dreamed. Was he a Christian? Was he, as the pagan historian Zosimus says, an adherent of the old religion (in his father’s way) until the scorn of Rome for the murder of his wife and son drove him entirely into the arms of Christians? Or was it, until the end, merely a policy of creating a very powerful organization, intensely attached to himself, out of the Christian body? I choose the last alternative.
But it remains to tell what he did for the Church, for this is the real foundation of the triumph of Christianity. By the beginning of the year 311 the Church must have been smaller and more depressed than it had been since the first century. The few hundred who were prepared to die for the faith had been martyred. The great majority had concealed whatever faith they had under a profession of paganism. It was mainly in the rural districts of the east that any large number still clung to the religion of Jesus.
Constantine probably overestimated the number of Christians in Rome, Africa, and the east. He had lived six years in Britain and Gaul, and he knew the extent of the sect only from the exaggerated language of the pagans themselves. We must constantly bear in mind that in those days there were no statistics. Long afterwards, as I have said, St. John Chrysostom had no accurate knowledge of the number of the faithful in his own “parish,” which was the best organized in Christendom. Every writer of ancient times who speaks about the number of Christians merely gives us an impression of little or no value.
Upon this scattered and dejected Christian world of the year 311 there then came, in succession, the news that Galerius had suppressed persecution and was dying of cancer; that Constantine, whom rumor regarded as a patron and deliverer, was on his way to Rome to seize the throne; and that Maxentius, the actual ruler of Italy and Africa, had been forced to grant them full liberty. Certificates of pagan orthodoxy were cheerfully burned, and the faithful returned to the foot of the crucifix. Next year came the news of Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge; and in 313 the formal charter of liberty was signed by Constantine and Licinius at Milan.
But Constantine immediately went beyond this declaration of religious neutrality and evinced an attitude of what is now called benevolent neutrality. In the same year, 313, be exempted the Christian clergy from municipal offices. In the Roman administration these local functions, so far from being paid, were extremely costly and onerous to the citizens who were compelled to discharge them, and there was a very general attempt to evade them. Exemption was regarded as so valuable a privilege that the Christian clergy now discovered a remarkable number of “vocations” to their body, and great disorder ensued in the municipal administration, I leave it to the Catholic historian Count Beugnot (“Histoire de la destruction du paganismer” I, 78) to estimate the result:
The effect of this measure was soon felt. On all sides one saw crowds of people make for the churches who were moved not so much by conviction as by the hope of reward; and this first favor granted to Christianity admitted to its bosom guilty passions which had hitherto been foreign to it, passions which had speedy and pernicious consequences. The complaints of the municipal bodies and the disorder that followed in the administration of the provinces soon compelled Constantine to modify the privilege.
This, in fact, was Constantine’s invariable experience when he listened to clerical suggestions of legislation in their favor. The anger of his solidly pagan empire compelled him to withdraw it. In 319 be issued a savage decree that any auspex who entered the house of a citizen should be burned alive, though the auspices might continue to function in the temples. It is said that the aim of the decree was to prevent the fraudulent exploitation of the citizens by private fortune-telling for money, but, as Beugnot observes, the real aim was a deadly blow at the old religion by making impossible the assumption of its offices. Two years later Constantine was forced to modify, or virtually repeal, his law, and it was probably never applied.
In the same year, however, he tried to impose the Christian Sunday as a day of rest on his Empire. How stupid or ignorant is the idea that the Christian Church brought a great boon to the Roman worker with its one day’s rest out of seven. The Romans rested on the Thursday (Thor’s or Jupiter’s Day — Dies Jovis), and, as I said, they had more than a hundred holidays in addition in the year. Constantine’s aim was, as in his previous measures, to enforce Christianity. Again, however, he failed, and he had to modify his own decree.
Then came the dreadful year 326, when he, in the very heart of the empire, murdered his son and daughter. In my “Empresses of Rome” (1911) I have carefully analyzed all the original authorities in regard to the character of Helena, the illegitimacy of Constantine (which Gibbon chivalrously denied), and these murders. Constantius could not validly marry Helena in Roman law. As to the murders — of a son, wife, and a young nephew — the evidence is so clear that no one but a Roman Catholic historian now doubts it. There is further evidence of a respectable kind that Fausta was barren, that the three sons of Constantine were born of his mistress Minervina, and that she also was murdered at some time. Anyone who cares to consult my book, which is throughout based upon the Latin and Greek writers of the time, will see that the pagan empresses, up to the end of the fourth century, were as a rule reputable women; and that with the conversion of imperial ladies to the new religion we enter upon a story of intrigue, passion and vindictiveness which is far more picturesque. The contrast is even more marked in my “Empresses of Constantinople.”
The Greek historian Zosimus tells us that after the murders at Rome the emperor applied for purification in the temple of Jupiter, and, the pagan priests sternly refusing, he turned to the Christian priests, who consented. This is fable, but it embodies a fact. Rome, which was still overwhelmingly pagan, drove out the emperor with its scorn and indignation. He was a barbarian. Christianity received him, at least more intimately than before. He went to Asia Minor, and there be converted the old town of Byzantium into a new capital of the empire, Constantinople. H.G. Wells, whose treatment of the pagan nations is deplorable, expatiates on the profound strategical wisdom of forming a second capital in the east. It is true that the plan had been decided, and the work begun, before 326. But the chief motive was the scornful opposition of Italy to his religious designs, and the determination to create a new and wholly Christian Empire. When Constantine found pasted on the gate of his Roman palace an inscription which I may translate,
Of Nero’s bloody hue these jewels are,
be fled. Fausta was a very beautiful and, as Julian himself tells us, most refined and virtuous lady, and she was only thirty-four or thirty-five years old at the time her husband murdered her. It is clear from the historians that Helena, his Christian mother, stung him into committing the murder; and it is highly probable that Fausta had justly accused his son and so incurred the fierce anger of Helena.
From the first Constantine had, apart from his unsuccessful decrees, showered wealth and privileges upon the Church. A stream of gold flowed from the palace, and new churches, of a more attractive nature, began to rise. At court and in the army the best way, if not the only way, to secure promotion was to become convinced by the brilliant evidence of the religion. Even ordinary citizens were rewarded with a baptismal robe and a piece of gold. Villages were raised to the rank of cities if all their inhabitants exchanged Jupiter for Christ. In ten years imperial gold had done more than the blood of all the martyrs, the miracles of all the saints, and the arguments of all the apologists.
Except that wealth continued to reach the Roman clergy, the progress of the Church in the west was now suspended. The city of Constantinople was dedicated in 330. The world had at least a Christian metropolis; and it was a superb city. Already, as I said, more than three fourths of the Christians were in the ignorant east, and they were now encouraged to attack pagan temples and openly ventilate their scorn. Few pagans could get advancement in the east. Constantine had lost all his vigor and clear wit. Dressed in effeminate robes, laden with jewels, crowned by a mass of false hair, he sat amongst the women and priests who now “converted” the world by means of his money and favors. Only now and again did the old anger burst, when the quarrels which rent the Church, from Africa to Mesopotamia, showed him how futile was his dream of a spiritual empire or, as Napoleon would later say, a spiritual gendarmerie. But he had chosen: and he had opened a new chapter of the human chronicle. He was baptized, and died, in 337.