|Index||2 reviews in total|
This episode focused on the achievements and person of Constantine gives a political interpretation of his religious choices and considers his adherence to Christianity as a political weapon to advance his rule and with it the interests of the Empire which he conceived as identical with those of his person.He eliminated through wars the rest of the imperial contenders, the pompous Maxentious in the battle of the Mulvian bridge where the above mentioned contenders military stratagem backfired as well as his former ally Licinious, who was also the husband of his sister. The latter, whom he had spared after defeat, he hired killers to kill as well as his son in his villa-there is a brilliant idea in the episode to show the assassination the same time with Constantine reciting to the bishops the articles of the Nicean Creed-a stark observation of the discrepancy between declaration of faith and actual practice. There is also the implication that he was behind the assassination of his wife. This laudable man who was made a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church was nevertheless very shrewd politically and the tone of the episode justifies his actions and legacy.The rather neutral actor that plays him is a good choice, since being poker-faced becomes an autocrat.
The best thing that can be said about these next two episodes is that
they recreate the props and sets superbly. There are very few movies
that take place in this time (I can't think of any except Agora and a
cheap peplum from the '60s) and so it's very nice to see these costumes
being lived in. The appearance of Rome and the army changed drastically
from the Republic and early Empire which what is always being shown on
screen. The clothing became more ornate and the armor just...
different. It actually looks a lot more medieval than Roman at times.
So if nothing else, it is wonderful to see this world recreated for
once. Pretty accurately too, although the budget means that some of the
ornate costumes look cheaper than they should. This episode has some
great battle scenes too. We get to see the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
on screen. Even though the number of extras is pretty low (and they
tend to reuse marching scenes from previous episodes, they get some
good use out of them.
This episode isn't too bad. Apart from the usual docudrama problems it works fairly well. It's about Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. As such it deals with a lot of religious issues that are of necessity simplified. Constantine often gets a bad rap nowadays. I think that it's probably more to do with what he represents than who he was. He wasn't really any better or worse than any of his fellow emperors but people expect men with Christian ideals to live up to them more and those who aren't religious dislike him for making Christianity the dominant religion in Europe. This episode falls into that trap too, giving a great deal of fuss over Constantine's killing of his rival emperors and their children. True, one of them was his nephew but plenty of Emperors felt the need to wipe out their close relatives due to the threat they posed. Constantine killed his own son for that matter, though they don't cover that in here. On the whole though, it's actually a fairly sympathetic portrayal of Constantine. He's portrayed as power-hungry and untrustworthy but that's emperors for you. You don't get to be the most powerful man in Rome by being a nice guy. He certainly comes off no worse than his rivals, only smarter. He is portrayed as being sincerely religious and generally moody and reserved. I'm not sure I'd consider that accurate in either particular, but it does give him some personality. This episode pays a lot of attention to the women in his life too. Not sure why they chose Constantine for that but it doesn't work too badly. I do wish that they'd chosen an actor who looked a little bit more like Constantine though. He has one of the most recognizable heads of all the Roman Emperors, but they didn't even match his haircut.
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