paradigm shifting architectures of closely related imperials


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2006.05.05 12:57
Protonike on May 3rd
Last weekend I started reading John Curran's Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century from the beginning. I've owned the book for a few years now, but I've only read the ""Constantine and Rome: The Context of Innovation" until now. While reading "Conservator Urbis: Maxentius in Rome" I was constantly thinking of Eutropia, Maxentius' mother, and thinking how Maxentius seems to have learned much from her (except who his real father was). Then (on 2 May), while reading "The Christianization of the Topography of Rome, AD 337-384" I learned how Athanasius (St. Athanasius of Alexandria) is integral to the Pope Liberius / Antipope Felix II affair. [Yes, "Is there more "evidence" here of an imperial law of silence regarding Helena and the Cross?" is a question also now in my mind.] To be honest, all I really know about Athanasius comes from the five pages on Athanasius in Butler's Lives of the Saints, which I've read a few times over the last seven years.
On May 3rd I again go to read Butler's 'Athanasius' and I'm pleased to find 2 May is the feast of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (he died 2 May 373), but since it was 3 May I first checked to see what are the feasts 'today'. Aha, the quondam feast of The Finding of the Holy Cross, and a new passage of interest:
"Another apocryphal story which bears, though less directly, on the finding of the cross, is introduced, somewhat as a digression, into the document known as The Doctrine of Addai, of Syrian origin. What we are told here is that Protonike, the wife of the Emperor Claudius Caesar, less than ten years after our Lord's ascension, went to the Holy Land, compelled the Jews to reveal where the crosses were hidden, and distinguished that of our Saviour by a miracle wrought upon her own daughter. It is contended that this legend has suggested the story of St Helen and the discovery of the cross in the time of Constantine."
Immediately, I want to know more about Protonike, but there is nothing in Encyclopedia Britannica on her. Since it's already late at night my computer is off, so a web search will have to wait till 'tomorrow'. I'm nonetheless wondering if the Syrian-wife-of-an-emperor Eutropia knew about Protonike. Anyway, on to Athanasius, and another (re)new(ed) passage of interest:
"Upon his arrival [at Constantinople] he [Athanasius] accosted the emperor in the street in the attitude of a suppliant, and obtained an interview. So completely did he seem to have vindicated himself that Constantine, in reply to a letter from the Council of Tyre announcing that Athanasius had been condemned and deposed, wrote to the signatories a severe reply summoning them to Constantinople for a retrial of the case. Then, for some reason which has never been satisfactorily cleared up, the monarch suddenly changed his mind. Ecclesiastical writers naturally shrank from attaching blame to the first Christian emperor, but it would appear that he took umbrage at the outspoken language of Athanasius in a further interview. Before the first letter could reach its destination, a second one was dispatched which confirmed the sentences of the Council of Tyre and banished Athanasius to Trier in Belgian Gaul."
So, I wonder, did Athanasius trespass a law of silence actually face to face with an Imperial?
Alas, yesterday I quickly find out that Protonike is a fictitious character. I had no idea historical fiction had such an old history--it wouldn't surprise me though if Eutropia occasionally dabbled in writing some historical fiction herself. And now I see that there is also a thin line between historical fiction and imperial laws of silence.

Villa Hélène
The last time I was in Rome I was staying at the Villa Hélène, Via P. Stanislao Mancini, 20, near the Tiber just a few blocks outside the Popolo Gate.

AP wrote:
"all the obvious stuff...also, be sure not to miss St. John Lateran, if you're into the whole church thing...beautiful church, across the street are the Scala Santa - steps that once lead to Pontius Pilate's home in Jerusalem. History suggests that Jesus scaled these steps just before his judgement. St. Helena brought 'em back to Rome, along with other can only scale the steps on your knees, typically stopping at each for prayer..."
According to Hans A. Pohlsander, Helena: Empress and Saint (1995), p. 81:
"A short distance from the Basilica of St. John Lateran, in the Piazza San Giovanni, we find the Scala Santa, a building erected by Domenico Fontana under Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590). It is a place of pilgrimage, where the faithful ascend the central stairs of the building only on her knees. The 28 marble steps of these stairs were salvaged from the original Lateran Palace. According to tradition they were brought by Helena from the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. This tradition can be traced back no further than the 13th century."
You know, it really wasn't St. Helena that brought the steps to Rome because it was really Helena's granddaughter Helena, the youngest of Constantine and Fausta's children and the wife of (first cousin) Julian the Apostate. While Julian was busy rebuilding the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, Helena had the Pontius Pilate palace steps shipped to Rome for safekeeping at the Domus Fausta, her mother's quondam palace at the Lateran.

2006.06.27 16:27
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Eugene, can you clarify this sentence:
"In any case, it seems to me that Ambrose gave it so much prominence for ideological reasons: it clearly employed relics of the passion to insist upon the sovereignty of the church over imperial rule."
Can you point to where Ambrose "gave it so much prominence", and what exactly "employed relics of the passion to insist upon the sovereignty of the church over imperial rule"?

2006.06.27 17:02
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Borgehammar and Drijvers will only get you so far. Otherwise, there's lots more "legend" within [Quondam's] archives.
I'm now at the point where I believe there are two possibilities as to how the legend of the True Cross originated:
1. The event actually did occur 14 September 325, with Helena and Eutropia present at the destruction of the Temple of Venus at Calvary. Subsequent to Helena's death at/near Naples 24/25 July 326, however, an imperially decreed law of silence regarding Helena and the Cross was proclaimed. Ambrose broke the silence 25 February 395 with his obituary of Theodosius.
2. The event was fabricated and put into effect by Helena and Eutropia 14 September 325. Subsequent to the death of Crispus spring 326 and then the death of Helena 24/25 July 326 and the suicide of Fausta 25 July 326, chaos and threat to the imperial position ensued, thus a law of silence regarding the fabricated legend of the True Cross was quickly proclaimed by Constantine at Eutropia's suggestion. Ambrose then broke the silence 25 February 395 and the fabricated discovery of the True Cross became an article of the Christian faith.
[There's a great line in Mapp and Lucia: "It is ridiculous that we must break ourselves of the habit of something that we cannot even do."]
Anyway, that's where the latest legend of Helena and the True Cross presently ends.

2006.06.28 12:20
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Is there any truth to this:
Mgr Duchesne states that this Holy Cross day in September was a festival of Palestinian origin, "on the anniversary of the dedication of the basilicas erected under Constantine on the sites of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre", and he adds: "This dedication festival was celebrated in 335 by the bishops attending the Council of Tyre, who had pronounced upon Athanasius the sentence of deposition. There was associated with it also the commemoration of the discovery of the true cross", which was "exalted" before the people.
--September 14, Butler's Lives of the Saints
Averil, I am familiar with Averil Cameron and S.G. Hall, The Life of Constantine, in fact, I used your and an earlier translation of the Vita Constantini to see what would happen if the passages from Book III (24-53) were in chronological order, rather than the disorder that you and Hall suggest (and an abstract of this exercise is within the lt-antiq archives 2001).
24... But there may be an opportunity to assemble these [letters] in a special collection, so as not to disrupt the sequence of our present account.
--Eusebius, Cameron/Hall translation
25... Eusebius moves straight from the account of the Council of Nicaea and its aftermath to the excavation and discovery of the tomb of Jesus, without finishing his account of Constantine's Vicennalia, which ended 25 July 326. This is understandable.
--Cameron/Hall commentary
Understandable yes, but not necessarily correct. It could just as well be that "the excavation and discovery of the tomb of Jesus" occurred a few months after the Council of Nicaea, thus corresponding with Eusebius' "sequence of our present account".
43.4-47.3. The death of the Empress Helena
46.2 Having settled her affairs in this way, she finally came to the end of her life. So great a son was present and stood by her, ministering and holding her hands..."
--Eusebius, Cameron/Hall translation
46.2 "...she was buried in a porphyry sarcophagus in a mausoleum in a mausoleum on the Via Labicana in Rome..."
--Cameron/Hall commentary
After the Vicennalia 25 July 326, Constantine left Rome 3 August 326 and never returned to Rome.
47.4-49 Constantinople
52... The greatest single service to us by my most saintly mother-in-law has been to inform us through her letters to us of the mad folly of evil men [at Mamre], which has so far escaped attention among you, so that the neglected fault may receive appropriate corrective and restorative action from us, late perhaps but yet necessary.
--Constantine, Cameron/Hall translation
51-3... Constantine had been told of the pagan worship on the site in letters from Eutropia, the mother of Fausta, who evidently visited Palestine; Rubin, 'Church of the Holy Sepulchre', 90, places her visit between the defeat of Licinius and the Council of Nicaea (see also Walker, Holy City, Holy Places, 276), and the reference to her becomes more comfortable if the visit took place before the death of her daughter Fausta in 326. Rubin ingeniously argues that Eusebius deliberately includes the letter so as to expose his rival Marcarius, who, however, was soon to assume the role of guide to Constantine's own mother Helena ('Church of the Holy Sepulchre', 88-91, accepted by Walker, Holy City, Holy Places, 276n.); it seems more likely that he includes the letter in order to make his dossier of Constantinian documents as complete as possible. Marcarius is not named by Eusebius, but this is in accordance with his normal practice (see e.g. on IV.61.2-3). Constantine's letter is placed out of chronological order, which serves to reduce the importance of Eutropia.
--Cameron/Hall, commentary
So we have Constantine himself saying "late perhaps", yet Rubin says Eutropia was in Palestine before the Council of Nicaea, and this is somehow "ingenious"(?). I don't find any of this "comfortable" at all. For a start, isn't Rubin's date for Eutropia in Palestine one of his own design choice as opposed to based on any historical evidence? And, more importantly, there is no real indication that Eutropia was even writing from Palestine when she wrote to Constantine about Mamre.

2006.06.28 15:04
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Thank you, Eugene.
I'm (still) sitting in St. Ambrose Parish, Olney, Philadelphia, and if I stick my head out the window to my left I could see the old church/school (1923), which is now closed for good as of a week or two ago.
I too believe Ambrose played a pivotal role in placing the Helena and the True Cross "legend" firmly within the Christian faith, placed as a staple even.
Did the event really occur 14 September 325? Well, I already stated two possibilities, and now I'll add a third:
3. The event was fabricated by Constantine and put into effect by Helena and Eutropia 14 September 325. Subsequent to the death of Crispus spring 326 and then the death of Helena 24/25 July 326 and the suicide of Fausta 25 July 326, chaos and threat to the imperial position ensued, thus a law of silence regarding the fabricated legend of the True Cross was quickly proclaimed by Constantine at Eutropia's suggestion. Ambrose then broke the silence 25 February 395 and the fabricated discovery of the True Cross became an article of the Christian faith.
So where are all these people now?
The spirit of Ambrose and Helena is certainly present in Olney, Philadelphia, with St. Helena Parish being Ambrose's neighboring parish in Olney.
And where were these people 1700 years ago right now?
Constantius and Constantine in Britannia, for sure. Was Theodora there too?
Where were Maximius and Eutropia? Where was Helena?
And then where were these people in the month before 25 July 326?
Eugene, for your own mnemonic pleasure:
26 June 363 death of Julian the Apostate
27 June 1458 discovery of tombs (not Maria's the wife of Honorius, however) in the chapel of St. Petronella (at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome)
27 June 2006 Eugene Vance posts 'Helen and the True Cross' at lt-antiq

2006.06.29 11:21
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Jan Willem,
Are you suggesting then that the inventio crucis did occur prior to Cyril, but that only his attribution to Helena is false/fabricated?
What was the point then of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome (beginning circa 327)?
I see your Cyril of Jerusalem : bishop and city is presently being processed at my local university library. I look forward to reading it with the notion of a law of silence (326-395) in background.
Yesterday, 28 June, was the 429th birthday of Pieter Pauwel Rubens, whose first public commission was three paintings for the Helena Chapel at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
From a private response email to Eugene Vance today:
I do not necessarily believe that Helena and Ambrose are fakers. What I do believe is that a law of silence regarding Helena and the True Cross was proclaimed right after Helena's death, and, subsequently, Ambrose broke this law at the most advantageous time.
Did the event happen? Like everyone else I cannot answer with any absolute certainty. I do believe Helena was involved, as I believe Eutropia and Constantine were also involved. Beyond that, I am merely trying to demonstrate what the possible scenarios are when considering the involvement of these three people in tandem.



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