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Chapter XLIII.—Constantine’s Liberality to the Poor.

He likewise distributed money largely to those who were in need, and besides these showing himself philanthropist and benefactor even to the heathen, who had no claim on him; 3140 and even for the beggars in the forum, miserable and shiftless, he provided, not with money only, or necessary food, but also decent clothing. But in the case of those who had once been prosperous, and had experienced a reverse of circumstances, his aid was still more lavishly bestowed. On such persons, in a truly royal spirit, he conferred magnificent benefactions; giving grants of land to some, and honoring others with various dignities. Orphans of the unfortunate he cared for as a father, while he relieved the destitution of widows, and cared for them with special solicitude. Nay, he even gave virgins, left unprotected by their parents’ death, in marriage to wealthy men with whom he was personally acquainted. But this he did after first bestowing on the brides such portions as it was fitting they should bring to the communion of marriage. 3141 In short, as the sun, when he rises upon the earth, liberally imparts his rays of light to all, so did Constantine, proceeding at early dawn from the imperial palace, and rising as it were with the heavenly luminary, impart the rays of his own beneficence to all who came into his presence. It was scarcely possible to be near him without receiving some benefit, nor did it ever happen that any who had expected to obtain his assistance were disappointed in their hope. 3142



So usually rendered literally, “to those who came to him from without,” but it might rather mean “foreigners.” His generosity included not only the worthy poor citizens, but foreigners and beggars.


The word used is the κοινωνία, familiar in the doctrine of the “communion” or “fellowship” of the saints. It has the notion of reciprocity and mutual sharing.


The popular proverb that at the end of his life he was a spendthrift, as given by Victor, represents the other side of this liberality. Compare Prolegomena, under Character.

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