A man of visions: a new examination of the vision(s) of Constantine (Panegyric VI, Lactantius' De mortibus persecutorum, and Eusebius' De vita Constantini)

Rajiv Kumar Bhola

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This study seeks to address three main questions: How do Panegyric VI, Lactantius, and Eusebius characterise and utilise their respective visions in their narratives? In what ways are they similar and/or different? Are some or all of the accounts related and, if so, how do they contribute to the Christian Vision legend? In Chapter One the vision narrative in Panegyric VI is deconstructed to show that the panegyrist describes the vision as taking place on Constantine’s return march from Massalia and that he is describing a dream-vision that took place at the sanctuary of Apollo at Grand. In Chapter Two it is argued that: Lactantius never resided in Gaul; he places the vision incorrectly in 312 because he did not know the details of the tradition and used Licinius’ dream as a template; and the Christian character of the vision is part of his interpretation. In Chapter Three Eusebius’ account is deconstructed to show that: the vision story derives from Constantine ca. 336; there is evidence that Constantine was reconstructing his past experiences; Eusebius inserted parallels with St. Paul to give the appearance of a conversion narrative; and Constantine’s actual story shows little influence of Christian socialisation. In each chapter the core elements of the narratives are highlighted: each describes a dream-vision, in which a deity appears to Constantine with a promise of victory and a token representation of that promise. In Chapter Four it is argued that Lactantius and Eusebius are describing the same symbol, which is a tau-cross with a loop; and that the panegyrist and Eusebius describe the same vision: they give the same chronology, but the panegyrist avoids referencing a solar halo because it was an inopportune omen of civil war. In conclusion, all three sources describe the same experience from different perspectives: the vision of Apollo was being constantly adapted to incorporate new historical developments. Appended also is an argument for redating Panegyric VI to August 309 on the basis of the narratives of the panegyrist and Lactantius, as well as archaeological investigations at Cologne (Constantine’s bridge over the Rhine) and Deutz (Castellum Divitia).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Ottawa
  • Piovanelli, Pierluigi, Supervisor, External person
Award date17 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Constantine I
  • Eusebius of Caesarea
  • Lactantius
  • Latin Panegyric
  • Miracles
  • Religious Conversion
  • Late Antiquity
  • early Christian literature


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