His legions triumphed beneath it: Constantine I, the first Roman emperor who was a Christian, was engaged in a great holy war.
According to major anthropologists who report to us from the future, our rather imperfect human brains were always wired for that.
Let's be more precise! Constantine I wasn't emperor yet at the start of our story. That's what his holy war was about. Nor was he yet a Christian.
We're apparently speaking of The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which occurred on March 28 in the year 312 and doesn't get taught in the schools any more. The leading authority on the battle sets the scene like this:
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle.As every child would have known at one time, it was "Tetrarchy, goodbye!"
According to oral tradition, Maxentius, who had already drowned, was decapitated "just in case." According to disconsolate experts, our human brains were always wired for overkill at such glorious times.
Postponing assessment of such slanders, let's return to our story. As the leading authority on the topic continues, we learn about the way Constantine I was given a mighty sign:
According to chroniclers such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine's conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God. This was interpreted as a promise of victory if the sign of the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, was painted on the soldiers' shields. The Arch of Constantine, erected in celebration of the victory, certainly attributes Constantine's success to divine intervention; however, the monument does not display any overtly Christian symbolism.Constantine, and his soldiers, were provided a mighty vision, apparently by the Christian God. They realized that they must march to war under a mighty sign:
The first two letters of Christ's name, in Greek, should adorn their shields.
In a separate rendering, the leading authority provides a bit more detail. This passage describes the fuller emergence of that mighty sign:
The historian bishop Eusebius of Caesaria states that Constantine was marching with his army...when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "(ἐν) τούτῳ νίκα" ("In this, conquer"), a phrase often rendered into Latin as in hoc signo vinces ("in this sign, you will conquer").In a move which might seem out of character, Christ "explained to [Constantine] that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies." Christ was explaining Constantine's vision from the day before, in which he'd seen the Greek words meaning, "In this, conquer."
At first, Constantine did not know the meaning of the apparition, but on the following night, he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. Eusebius then continues to describe the Labarum, the military standard used by Constantine in his later wars against Licinius, showing the Chi-Rho sign.
Eventually, the various messagings fell into place. Constantine realized that he should march his soldiers to battle under the so-called Chi-Rho sign.
When he did, Maxentius expired. Thus arose a great, famous battle cry:
"In hoc signo vinces!"Top anthropologists, late at night, have raised an intriguing point about this story. They've noted that this famous story tends to evoke the meaning of the word "fiction" as used by Professor Harari in his gigantic best-seller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
According to Harari, our species, through some chance mutations, developed the ability to march into war in very large groups, thanks to our ability to display group allegiance to some mighty "myth," story or sign.
This gave our species the ability to cooperate in large numbers. Other human species lacked this ability. They were driven into extinction by our vastly more numerous legions.
The future anthropologists to whom we refer cite The Battle of the Milvian Bridge for a typically gloomy reason. At present, they despairingly say, our own American liberal tribe is gathering forces to march to war under our own mighty sign.
Just yesterday morning, Professor Glaude explicitly called for such a war, saying this of Donald J. Trump:
"He wants to have this fight, Joe. We need to have it. We need to have it once and for all!"
We soon experienced Mister's Trump War, these future experts despondently say, displaying the confusion of tenses natural to communications from the future. For the record, they communicate with us through the peculiar nocturnal transmissions the haters deride as mere dreams.
Under which particular sign is our tribe preparing to march off to war? Most important, just because this approach worked for Constantine I, will it work for us?
That second question is being ignored, as is normal at junctures like this. "Did you learn nothing from Gone With the Wind?" several top experts have asked us.
Tomorrow: The emerging shape of our sign