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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Section 1

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter II


§1. Introduction

A man’s character consists of an inherited personality enlarged, modified, or disfigured by his own repeated voluntary acts. A sufficiently exhaustive survey of such character may be made under the rubrics of: 1. Inherited characteristics. 2. Physical characteristics. 3. Mental characteristics. 4. Moral characteristics. 5. Religious characteristics.

The character of Constantine has been so endlessly treated, with such utter lack of agreement, that it seems hopeless to try to reach any clear results in a study of it. “Who shall decide when doctors disagree?” “How shall I go about it to find what sort of a man Constantine really was?” Certainly nothing can be gained by that method which chooses a few acts or characteristics to which shifting tests of various philosophies are applied. Nor can any haphazard selection and stringing together of traits give what is by its nature a synthesis of them all. Like any other scientific study, the first condition of method is that it be systematic. Then, a character generalization is worth just so much, no more, as the grounds on which it is based. To get a man’s character from secondary sources, from other men’s generalizations, is a hopelessly will-of-the-wisp effort. Again, another vice of characterization as usually practised is the interpretation of the whole by a part rather than the part by the whole. The individual act is thus made the standard of character. To get at what this personality called Constantine was therefore requires a systematic survey of the primary sources with a view to getting the ensemble that the eccentric may be judged by the normal. In such survey the main thing is the body of analyzed and grouped facts. The editor’s summary, like any summary, is worth only what the facts are worth. This method, however imperfectly carried out, is at least better than rambling observations of incoherent phenomena; and has therefore been adopted in this attempt to find out what sort of a man this Constantine was; Physically, Mentally, Morally, Spiritually.

Next: Section 2

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