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In a Garden in Milan

Adam Phillips: Augustine’s Confessions, 25 October 2018

Confessions: A New Translation 
by Augustine, translated by Peter Constantine.
Liveright, 329 pp., £22.99, February 2018, 978 0 87140 714 6
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... to want, by the powers that be (the society, the body). ‘In over one and a half millennia,’ Peter Constantine writes in the introduction to his compelling new translation, ‘Confessions has maintained a persistent and intense relevance for readers throughout the world.’ And part of this relevance is that it is as much a book for unbelievers as ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... only the West that goes Wah! – than from the helpful introduction to Fresco by the panglossian Peter Constantine, who supplies some historical and cultural background. Lleshanaku’s poems have a flavour and a feeling and a world, but they’re not such that you would back yourself to make her life story out of them. So it is from ...

Don’t blame him

Peter Brown: Constantine, 23 April 2015

Constantine the Emperor 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 368 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 975586 8
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... Few rulers​ have set in motion developments of such momentous consequence as the emperor Constantine, with his conversion to Christianity in 312 and subsequent halting of the persecution of Christians, ratified a year later in the Edict of Milan. Over the 17 centuries since then, theologians, historians and even novelists, including Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, have claimed that a change for the worse in the quality of Christianity (the kind of change an earlier age would have ascribed to supra-natural agents like the Devil or the Antichrist) can be personified in this rather flashy Roman emperor ...

Invented Antiquities

Anthony Grafton, 27 July 2017

Baroque Antiquity: Archaeological Imagination in Early Modern Europe 
by Victor Plahte Tschudi.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £64.99, September 2016, 978 1 107 14986 1
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... holy place where St Eustachius was converted to Christianity.’ It also identified the Emperor Constantine as the builder of the church, which Pope Sylvester had consecrated early in the fourth century. Local priests confirmed that the church had been dedicated to St Eustachius, originally a Roman general called Placidus, who while hunting saw a stag with ...

Enemy of the Enemies of Truth

Frank Kermode: The history of the footnote, 19 March 1998

The Footnote: A Curious History 
by Anthony Grafton.
Faber, 241 pp., £12.99, December 1997, 0 571 17668 2
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... for example, the celebrated demonstration by Lorenzo Valla, who died in 1457, that the Donation of Constantine was spurious. The Donation was an eighth or ninth-century fabrication that purported to be the instrument by which the Emperor Constantine had in the fourth century ceded to Pope Sylvester I dominion over Rome, all ...


Peter Parsons: Rooting around Oxyrhyncus, 4 June 2015

... The victor’s crown in every various art.We are in the fourth century ad. Far away, the Emperor Constantine cosies up to a new saviour, but in the schoolroom the old patrons, Muses and Graces and Hermes son of Maia, still rule the benches, where another generation will learn the grammatical Greek and sophisticated style that admit it to the Hellenised ...

A Visit to Reichenau

John Barton, 14 June 1990

The Formation of Christendom 
by Judith Herrin.
Fontana, 533 pp., £9.99, September 1989, 0 00 686182 2
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... as the guardian of religious orthodoxy, and even (through forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine) as the true inheritor of Roman authority. To understand ‘the formation of Christendom’, then, we must learn to see Carolingian Europe as it saw itself, with all the shortened perspective, the historical falsifications and illusions of ...
By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in 18th-Century Russia 
by Anthony Cross.
Cambridge, 496 pp., £60, November 1996, 0 521 55293 1
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... account of ‘Russians in 18th-century Britain’. Their profile was modest. Cross started with Peter I’s celebrated visit of 1698. Of around four hundred compatriots who followed in his footsteps, most enrolled as students, although there were also naval recruits, apprentices to shipbuilders and instrument-makers, and others (like British businessmen in ...

Rome’s New Mission

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Early Christianity, 2 June 2011

Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede 
by Malcolm Lambert.
Yale, 329 pp., £30, September 2010, 978 0 300 11908 4
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... from the martyr stories, and the presence of three bishops from Britannia’s cities at one of Constantine I’s empire-wide councils in 314, all the evidence we have is from the era after Constantine’s successors began to favour the Church rather than traditional religion, and thrust the older cults aside. The ...

Only a Hop and a Skip to Money

James Buchan: Gold, 16 November 2000

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession 
by Peter Bernstein.
Wiley, 432 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 471 25210 7
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... add: ‘Why did gold become money in the first place?’ Or: ‘Will gold ever be money again?’ Peter Bernstein’s history of gold as money is very much better at answering the first question than the other two. Pecuniary anthropology is very, very perilous. In the absence of evidence, both Aristotle and Adam Smith made implausible conjectures about the ...

Some Sort of a Solution

Charles Simic: Cavafy, 20 March 2008

The Collected Poems 
by C.P. Cavafy, translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou.
Oxford, 238 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 921292 7
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The Canon 
by C.P. Cavafy, translated by Stratis Haviaras.
Harvard, 465 pp., £16.95, January 2008, 978 0 674 02586 8
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... in his family, the many places they had lived and how strange their lives had turned out to be. Constantine Cavafy was born on 29 April 1863 in Alexandria, the last of the nine children of Petros Cavafy and Charikleia Photiades, both of whom came from well-to-do families in Constantinople. Petros had travelled to England in 1836 to join his older ...

Knife, Stone, Paper

Stephen Sedley: Law Lords, 1 July 2021

English Law under Two Elizabeths: The Late Tudor Legal World and the Present 
by John Baker.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £22.99, January, 978 1 108 94732 9
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The Constitutional Balance 
by John Laws.
Hart, 144 pp., £30, January, 978 1 5099 3545 1
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... the worst possible choice), whose report was published in March. Separately, a panel headed by Sir Peter Gross, a former commercial lawyer and appeal judge, is reporting on the future of the Human Rights Act, despite the fact that the sustained political assaults on the act and the convention, which were designed to get the UK excluded from the EU, became an ...


Jon Halliday, 2 June 1983

In the Service of the Peacock Throne: The Diaries of the Shah’s Last Ambassador to London 
by Parviz Radji.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 241 10960 4
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... Tory MPs like Julian Amery (originally seen helping Zog in Albania), Winston Churchill and Peter Temple-Morris deliver themselves of staggeringly banal pronouncements. In spite of some of them going on ‘fact-finding’ missions to the Middle East, they are as ill-informed and full of poor advice on their return as they were before. Even worse, when ...

Silks and Bright Scarlet

Christopher Kelly: Wealth and the Romans, 3 December 2015

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD 
by Peter Brown.
Princeton, 759 pp., £16.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16177 8
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The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Harvard, 262 pp., £18.95, April 2015, 978 0 674 96758 8
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... centuries. The working out of these various, often divergent points of view is the concern of Peter Brown’s Through the Eye of a Needle. One of the great strengths of this humane and thoughtful discussion is Brown’s refusal to rush to its conclusion: the nexus of wealth, charitable giving and salvation that marks a faultline between the ancient and ...


Mary Beard: Set in Tunisia, 14 December 2006

... have had a lurid hold on the popular imagination for at least two millennia. The idea that St Peter was crucified upside down was no sooner taken as a sign of his self-proclaimed unworthiness to share the fate of Jesus, than it was reinterpreted as a mark of his common sense. Even a poor fisherman knew that hanging head down brought the oblivion of ...

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