§1. The Life of Constantine
The Life is found in the editions of Eusebius (compare list in Dr. McGiffert's Prolegomena) of 1544 (p. 117a-), 1612 (p. 301-), 1659, 1672, 1678, 1720 (p. 583-) and 1822 at least. The edition of Heinichen first published in 1830 (p. 1-332, 333-406, 407-500) and republished in 1869: Eusebius Pamphili Vita Contantini et Panegyricus atque Constantini ad sanctorum Coetum oratio. Recensuit cum annotatione critica atque indicibus denuo edidit ... Lipsiae, Hermann Mendellsohn, 1869. 80 is the latest and best.
The editions of Latin translations are very numerous. Basil. 1549, Portesius (V.C. 650-698, O.C. 698-715, no L.C.); Basil, 1557, Musculus (V.C. 158-215, O.C. 217-231, no L.C.); Basil, 1559 (V.C. 650-698, O.Co. 698-715); Par. 1562, Musculus (V.C. 160-218, O.C. 218-234); Antv. 1568 (?), Christophorson (V.C. 224-306a, O.C. 306b-326a, L.C. 326b-361); Basil, 1570, Portesius (V.C 862-914, O.C. 915-932) and Christophorson (L.C. 923-971); Paris, 1581 (V.C. p. 214-297, O.C. 27-317, L.C. 317-355); Colon. 1581, Christophorson (V.C. 195-268, O.C. 118-170, O.C. 171-184, no L.C.); Paris, 1677, Valesius (V.C. 164-232, O.C. 233-248; L.C. 249-275); Frf ad M. 1695, Valesius (328-465, 466-497, 498-549); Cambr. 1720 (Reading) Valesius; Cambr. 1746 (Reading) Valesius; 1822 (Zimmermann), Valesius (772-1046, 1047-1117, 118-1232); Par. 1842 (Cailleau). The editions of 1612, 1659, and 1672 at least also have been Latin translations. There is a French translation by J. Morin, Historie de lat dèliverance de l'Englise, &c., Par. 1630, fol., and another by Cousin, Par. 1675, 4º, and 1686, 4º. There is a German translation by Stroth, Quedlinb. 1799, v. 2, p. 141-468, and one by Molzberger. Kempten, 1880. For English translations, se the following paragraph.
The first English translation of Eusebius was by Merideth Hanmer (compare Prolegomena of Dr. McGiffert). The first editions of Hanmer did not contain the Life of Constantine. It is a little hard to distinguish the early editions, but there were at least three, and perhaps four, editions (1577 (76), 1585 (84), 1607, 1619 ?), before there was added in 16378 to the 1637 eidition ("fourth edition", not "fifth edition 1650," as Wood, Athenae Oxon.), a translation by Wye Saltonstall as follows:
Eusebius | His life of Constantine, | in foure | bookes. | With Constantine's Oration to the Clergie | ... | London. | Printed by Thomas Cotes, for Michael Sparke, and are to be | sold at the blue Bible in greene Arbour | 1637; fol. pp. (2) 1-106 (E), 107-132 (C), 133-163 (4) (L.C.). the dedication by the "translator" is signed Wye Saltonstall. This was reprinted: London. Printed by Abraham Miller, dwelling in Black Friers, 1649. fol., and is probably the same as that quoted often (e.g. Hofmann) as 1650. The Life occupies p. 1-74. It was again reprinted, London, 1656, fol., it is said, revised and enlarged. The former editions having become exhausted, it was proposed to re-edit and republish Hanmer's (Saltonstall's) version, but the editor found it "a work of far greater labor to bring Dr. Hanber's Translation to an agreement with the Greek Text of Valesius' Edition, thant to make a New One," which latter thing he accordinly did and did well. It was published in 1682, with the following title:The | Life | of | Constantine | in four books, | Written in Greek, by Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea in | Palestine; done into English from that edition set forth by | Valesius, and Printed at Paris in the Year 1659. | Together with | Valesius's Annotations on the said Life, which are made | English, and set at their proper places in the margin. | Hereto is also annext the Emperour Constantine's Oration to the | Convention of the Saints, and Eusebius Pamphilus's Speech concerning the praises of Constantine, | spoken at his tricennalia. | Cambridge, | Printed by Jon Hayes, Printer to the University, 1682, fol. this was published with teh 1683 edition of the History, and is so properly 1683 in spite of title-page. In 1692 this was reprinted with a general title-page, but otherwise identically the same edition with same sub-titles and same paging. In 1709 a new edition was published, also with the History, having substantially the same matter on the title-page but The second edition. London. Pronted for N. and J. Churchill, in the Year 1709. In this paging is the same (527-633), but there is preliminary matter added before the History. This version is said by Crusé (compare Dr. McGiffert's Prolegomena) to be by T. Shorting. Whoever it was by, it was well done and most interesting. In the course of time, however, it became antiquated in form, and there was added in 1845 to the Bagster edition of the ecclesiastical historians an anonymous translation:
The | Life | of | the Blessed Emperor | Constantine, | in four books. | from 306-337 a.d. | By | Eusebius Pamphilus | ... | London: | Samuel Bagster and Sons; | ... | MDCCCXLV. 8º p. xx, 380. This translation is in somewhat inflated style, wich perhaps represents Eusebius and Constantine better than a simpler one, but which sometimes out-Herods Herod, as, e.g. in the oration of Constantine, p. 279, where it takes fourteen English words to express seven Greek ones, "Far otherwise has it been during the corrupt and lawless period of human life" for "It was not thus in lawless times." A quotation from Matthew (xxvi. 52) on p. 267 takes eight words in the original, twelve in the 1881 Reviesd Version, sixteen in the phrase of Constantine, and twenty-two in this translation. The translation is made from the edition of Valesius, not the first of Heinichen, as appears from the division of Bk. I, chap. 10, and similar peculiarities. The present edition (1890) is a revision of the translation of 1845 founded on the edition of Henichen.
Almost no fact of history is unquestioned; therefore th unquestionable authorship of Eusebius has been questioned. Some have made the author Macarius (compare Vog. Hist. lit. p. 12), evidently on the ground of the letter (3. 52) which the author says was addressed to himslef, but which is to Marcarius and others, but there is no real dowubt of the Eusebian authorship. It was written after the deat of Constantine (337), and therefore between 337 and 340, when Eusebius died. The interesting hypothesis of Meyeer (p. 28) that it was perhaps written mainly in Constantine's lifetime, at the suggestion and under the direction of Constatine, to defend him against charges brought, or which might be brought, against him, is worth mentions, although is more ingenious than probably. The headings of the chapters are by another, though probably not much later, and a competent hand (cf. Lightfoot).
The value of a writer is determined by (1) His sources of knowledge, (2) His own intellectual and moral ability. Again, the criticism of a given work seeks whether the aim proposd for that work has been truly fulfilled. A man who attempts a treatise on Geometry is not to be criticised because he omits mention of sulphuric acid, or if he proposes a description of Wagner's music, because he does not produce a Hemholtz on Sound. The application of these principles to Eusebius' Life of Constantine requires brief examination of 1. The proposed scope of the work. 2. The character of the sources. 3. The intellectual and moral competency of Eusebius on the premises.
(1) The Scope of the Work. This is quite definately outlined (i. 11). In contrast with those who have recorded the evil deeds of other emperors and have thus "become to those who by some favor had been kept apart from evil, teachers not of good, but of what should be silenced in oblivion and darkness," he proposes to record the noble actions of this emperor. He proposes, however, to pass over many things,-his wars, personal bravery, victories, and successes, his legislative acts, and many other things, and confine himself to such things as have reference to his religious character. His aim, therefore, is distinctly limited to his religious acts, and it is not stretching his meaning too far to say, expressly limited to his virtuous actions.
(2) Character of the Sources. Respecting this there is endless controversy. The fullness of material is unquestionable, the intellectual competency of Eusebius is almost equally so, and the questionings regard mainly whether the author has made a proper use of material. Opinions are various, but this does not mean that they are equally well grounded and valuable. Some of the latest judgments are the most severe. Crivellucci (Livorno, 1888) calls it an historical novel, and Görres, in a review of Crivellucci, agrees that it is worth less than the Panegyrics of Eumenius and Nazarius, whcih is certainly milder than Manso's (p. 222) "more shameless and lying" than these. Right or wrong, this is a frequently repeated view. Some (Hely, p. 141) cannot speak too strongly of the "contempt" which he "deserves," and accuse of "pious fraud" or the next thing to it (Kestner, 1816, p. 67). for farther criticisms consult the works cited by Dr. McGiffert under Literature, and the special works on Eusibius cited in the Literature to Constantine above, passim. The criticisms group generally around 1. The suppression of the facts respecting the deaths of Crispus, &c., and various others derogatory to Constantine. 2. The eulogistic tone and coloring of the work, especially the very pietistic saintly sort of flavor given to Constantine.
As to the suppression of facts, note (1) That he geives entire worning of his plan. It would have been artistically and ethically improper, in a work which distinctly sets out with such purpose, to admit that class of facts. It takes more or less from the value of the work, but it does not reflect on the general trustworthiness of what is said. (2) No similar judgment is passed on Eutropius, the Victors, Anonymous Valesianus or Zosimus, for not mentioning his pious acts. (3) A comparison of most biographies of living and dead presidents, kings, and emperors will be greatly to the advantage, even, of this fourth century eulogist over those of our boasted critical age.
As tot he eulogistic and exaggerated tone, observe (1) That is was more or less justified. That is, the premises of the criticism which are substantially that Constantine was not saintly or pietistic and was non-committal toward Christianity, are false. His extreme testimony is backed by very general testimony in the election of Constantine to technical saintship. (2) That is compares well with modern eulogists and extremely well with the contemporary Pangyrists of Constantine. (3) That Eusebius takes care frequently to guard his statements by quoting his source, as in the matter of the vision of the cross, or by ascribing to hearsay.
In general, the work stands much on the same level as the biographies of generals in the late civil war, or of presidents, written by admiring members of their staffs or cabinets, incorporating authentic documents, intending to be truthful, and generally succeeding, but yet full of the enthusiasm of admiring friendship and inclined not to see, or to extenuate or even suppress, faults and mistakes. Nevertheless, they are valuable on the positive side as the real testimony to genuinely believed excellency by those in the position to know intimately. Eusebius is, substantially, genuine. Such supreme hypocrisy as would produce this work, without admiring respect and after its subject was dead, is inconceivable in him. All the unconscious turns o phrase show at least a consistent attitude of mind. The work is, in brief, by a comptetne author, from ample sources and without intentional falsification or misrepresentation. It probably represents the current Christian view of the man as accurately and honestly as any biography of Lincoln or the Emperor William written within a year or two of their deaths has done. As we now think of these two men whom doubtless inquisitive criticism might find to have faults, so the Christians in general and his friend Eusebius in particular thought of the Great Emperor. Compare discussion and literature of the trustworthiness of Eusebius as a historical writer in the Prolegomena of Dr. McGiffert in this volume.
That the work on any basis but the untenable one of out-and-out forgery shoudlb be characterized as "worhtless" or "a mere romance" or "of less value than the heathen pangyrists" is a curious bit of psychological performance, for it does precisely what it grounds its contempt for Eusebius on, -suppresses and exaggerates. Taking the minimum residuum of the most penetrating criticism, and the work is yet a soruce of primary value for understanding the man Constantine. This residuum includes (1) The documents which the work contains. These amount at the very least estimate to more than one-fourth of the whole matter, and the appended oration of Constantine is nearly as much more. (2) Many facts and details where there could be no possibility of motive for falsifying. (3) Much which critical care can draw out of the over-statements of eulogy.
§2. Oration of Constantine.
The Editions and Translations of this work are substantially identical with those of the Life. See above, under Life. The Authenticity of the work has been doubted, and its composition ascribed to Eusebius or some other Christian writer, but without sufficient reason. it was appended by Eusebius to his Life of Constantine as specimens of the latter's style (cf. V.C. 4. 32). As such it shows a man of some learning, though learling taken at second hand, it is thought, from Lactantius and others (cf. Wordsworth's Constantine I.). It was composed in Latin, and translated into Greek by the special officials appointed for such work (V.C. 4. 32). It was delivered on Good Friday, but in what year or where is not known. It has been placed before the year 324 (Ceiller, 130), but the mention of events and the character of the work itself suggest a considerably later date.
§3. Oration of Eusebius
The Editions and Translations of this work are substantially identical with those of the Life, above, but some of the earlier ones do not contain the work. It was delivered in the year 336 (or possibly 335) at Constantinople, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Constantine's acession, Constantine himself being present (cf. V.C. 4. 46 and O.C. 1). It gave the empreror lively satisfaction, from whcih one may safely infer a pecular taste for combined panegyric and philosophical theology unless the hypothesis of a double work be true. According to this hypothesis the work consists of two separate orations, spoken perhaps at different times, the first including chapters 1-10, which are panegyrical in character, and the other chapters 11-18, which are theological (compare Lightfoot, Eusebius, p. 343; also McGiffert, Prolegomena, p. 43). It is like the oration of Constantine, a proper part of the Life of Constantine being appended according to his promise in Bk. 4, ch. 46.
The special points relating to these works are treated in the notes.