Papers of BAS. Humanities and Social Sciences
Vol. 7, 2020, No. 2
Emperor Constantine I the Great
between Byzantion and Constantinople
Abstract. The paper examines the religious, ideological, and political manifestations of Emperor Constantine I the Great during the consecration ceremonies of the city named after him, which have been the subject of heated discussions and contradictory interpretations. The focus is on the policy of tolerating and encouraging local cults in Byzantion, which Constantine clearly preferred and pursued.
Historical sources can be grouped into at least two groups organized around the events related to the consecration of Constantinople in May 330 AD, in which two remarkable ritual and cult centres stand out:
1) The Constantine Forum: the consecration of the solar statue of Emperor Constantine at the newly constructed Constantine Forum on the famous porphyry column the day before or on the first day of the 40-day celebrations, accompanied by numerous additional ceremonies and rituals;
2) The Hippodrome: The ceremony of the Hippodrome on the first day of the 40-day celebrations in which the gilded xoanon of Constantine, holding a small sculpture of Tyche on the city in his right hand, was carried in the “Helios Chariot”.
In the worship of the Emperor Constantine I the Great during the consecration ceremonies of the Constantinople two important religious ideas were intertwined as central:
- Reviving and incorporating the ancient mythological tradition of the founding Byzantion in the new context and traditions of Constantinople;
- The specific role of Zeuxippus, the central solar deity of the Thracian population in the city identified with Helios / Zeus Helios / Zeus Hippios, in this religious-political context.
With this public behaviour, perhaps the emperor sought a balance between the traditional urban religion and local cult practices, on the one hand, and those of the imperial cult of the ruler or even his personal cult, on the other.
Keywords: Emperor Constantine I the Great, Byzantion, Constantinople, Zeuxippus, Tyche of the city