Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Constantine/Prolegomena/The Mythical Constantine/Dream concerning the Founding of Constantinople

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5. Dream concerning the Founding of Constantinople.

“As Constantine was sleeping in this city [Byzantium], he imagined that there stood before him an old woman whose forehead was furrowed with age; but that presently, clad in an imperial robe, she became transformed into a beautiful girl, and so fascinated his eyes by the elegance of her youthful charms that he could not refrain from kissing her; that Helena, his mother, being present, then said, ‘She shall be yours forever; nor shall she die till the end of time.’ The solution of this dream, when he awoke, the emperor extorted from heaven, by fasting and alms-giving. And behold, within eight days, being cast again into a deep sleep, he thought he saw Pope Silvester, who died some little time before, regarding his convert with complacency, and saying, ‘You have acted with your customary prudence in waiting for a solution from God of that enigma which was beyond the comprehension of man. The old woman you saw is this city, worn down by age, whose time-struck walls, menacing approaching ruin, require a restorer. But you, renewing its walls, and its affluence, shall signalize it also with your name; and here shall the imperial progeny reign forever’” (William of Malmesbury, Chronicle, tr. English. Lond. 1847, p. 372–3. The final section, which instructs Constantine how to lay out the city, is omitted). This is taken by the Chronicler from Aldhelm’s (d. 709) de laudibus virginitatis (c. 52, ed. Giles, 1844, p. 28–29), where, however, instead of kissing her, he much more appropriately “clothes her with his mantle, and puts his diadem adorned with pure gold and brilliant gems on her head.” It is given also by Ralph de Diceto (ed. Stubbs, Lond. 1876), 74–75, and probably by many others.