Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums (Criminal History of Christianity)
Bust of Maxentius
War against Maxentius
To secure the flank, Constantine allied himself first with Licinius, one of the eastern Caesars. He waited for the death of Emperor Galerius and then fell by surprise—against the opinion of his advisers. Naturally, there are many historians who want to apologise to Constantine at this point, as do so with many others.
After arming himself to the teeth, Constantine unleashed a veritable deluge of propaganda against the ‘tyranny’ of the Roman emperor. The Church did not take long to set the tone and to paint Maxentius with all the colours of hell. Actually, Maxentius (emperor from 306 to 312) had suspended the persecutions against Christians, endorsed the edict of Galerius by which he had granted, in 311, the freedom of Christians under some conditions; and made it comply scrupulously by going, in Rome and in Africa, even beyond what the edict strictly required.
It would not be historic, then, to present the campaign of Constantine against Maxentius as a crusade, undertaken to rid the Church of the yoke of a fanatical tyrant. And although not even Constantine could claim that his rival had discriminated against Christians, and although Christian sources testify to the tolerance of Maxentius, the clergy soon turned that aggression into a kind of war of religion and Maxentius into a real monster.
The first to manipulate the story was Eusebius, who fails to specify his accusations about ‘the crimes that this man used to subdue his vassals of Rome through the rule of violence’. This fictitious image of an ‘impious tyrant’ was spread by the Christians as soon as the emperor fell, whose biography they falsified entirely. The sources do not cite a single concrete example of the cruelty that has been imputed to him.
However, the popularity that Maxentius justifiably enjoyed among the Roman people, vanished when food was lacking as Africa was lost and shortly after Spain. On the contrary, in the Constantinian aggression, Christians wanted to see the action of ‘God’ and even that of the ‘celestial hosts’.
On October 28 Constantine appeared at Ponte Milvio, today called Ponte Molle. Maxentius, and this is a subject that has been much discussed among historians, abandoned the protection of the walls and fought in the open field with the Tiber behind him. In addition, the bulk of his army fought with little ardour, except for the Praetorians, who did fight without giving ground until the last man fell. Maxentius was drowned in the river along with a good number of his soldiers, ‘fulfilling thus the divine prophecy’ (Eusebius). Or as Lactantius says: ‘The hand of God weighed on the battlefield.’
To this victory of Constantine, celebrated by all historians of the Church as the birth of the Christian empire, the Germanic troops contributed, especially the so-called auxilium (a contingent of mercenaries) of the cornuti (because they wore helmets with horns, whose symbol introduced the emperor, as a sign of gratitude, on the shield of the Roman armies).
In Rome, they took Maxentius out of the mud, cut off his head, which was stoned and covered with excrement during the triumphal walk and then taken to Africa. Finally, the son of the vanquished and all his political supporters were slain, and the whole family of Maxentius exterminated.
On October 29, the winner got by without the pagan sacrifice in honour of the Capitoline Jupiter and the Christian clergy was favoured immediately after the battle. In fact, there were more Christians in Italy and in Africa than in Gaul. In Rome, the Senate would build, in honour of Constantine, the triumphal arch that we can still see next to the Colosseum.