The Justice of Constantine

Law, Communication, and Control
John Noël Dillon

An examination of Constantine the Great's legislation and government


As the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great has long interested those studying the establishment of Christianity. But Constantine is also notable for his ability to control a sprawling empire and effect major changes. The Justice of Constantine examines Constantine's judicial and administrative legislation and his efforts to maintain control over the imperial bureaucracy, to guarantee the working of Roman justice, and to keep the will of his subjects throughout the Roman Empire.

John Dillon first analyzes the record of Constantine's legislation and its relationship to prior legislation. His initial chapters also serve as an introduction to Roman law and administration in later antiquity. Dillon then considers Constantine's public edicts and internal communications about access to law, trials and procedure, corruption, and punishment for administrative abuses. How imperial officials relied on correspondence with Constantine to resolve legal questions is also considered. A study of Constantine's expedited appellate system, to ensure provincial justice, concludes the book.

Constantine's constitutions reveal much about the Theodosian Code and the laws included in it. Constantine consistently seeks direct sources of reliable information in order to enforce his will. In official correspondence, meanwhile, Constantine strives to maintain control over his officials through punishment; trusted agents; and the cultivation of accountability, rivalry, and suspicion among them.

Jacket photo: Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, ©

John Dillon is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter.

Praise / Awards

  • "Dillon suggests that Constantine transformed the office of emperor "into a relatively proactive popularizing autocracy that would persist long after his reign". Dillon proves his arguments brilliantly. His book presents a nuanced reading of Roman law and a provocative portrait of Constantine's reign."
    —Charles N. Aull, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 310pp.
Available for sale worldwide

Due to the current global health event, shipping of print books may be delayed. Actual status will show in the shopping cart.

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11829-8

Add to Cart
  • $80.00 U.S.

Related Products



  • Constantine the Great, Roman Empire, Codex Theodosianus, imperial beaurocracy