Saturday, 27 August 2011


The Roman Emperor Constantine is held up in the medieval period as an example of charitable behaviour. He was a leper, and was told by his doctors that to cure his leprosy he needed to bathe in the blood of children. Now all commentators stress that Constantine doesn't bathe in infants blood and having converted to Christianity he is cured of his leprosy. Based on this I always thought of Constantine as a good man, who was horrified at the mere thought of killing innocent children just to help himself. So this week I read the version of this story from Gower's Confessio Amantis and Constantine is quite happy to kill all the children, its only when he hears all the mmothers wailing that he reconsiders. He then goes into this quite hypocritical speech about right and wrong and the rights of the poor...but two minutes earlier he was quite happy to murder a load of poor children on order to cure himself! Its quite creepy to read and reminds me of Herod's slaughter of the innocents. So Constantine's great act of charity is simply scaring the hell out a group of kids and their mums and then really generously not murdering them for his own ends! Is that charity? Strange....

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