We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Helena Augusta

Mother of the Empire

Julia Hillner

23 December 2022

ISBN: 9780190875305

432 pages

In Stock

Price: £19.99



Helena Augusta traces the life story of Flavia Iulia Helena, Augusta of the Roman world and mother of the first Christian emperor Constantine. Her life generated literary outrage, beautiful imperial artwork, and entertaining legends, and offers a unique perspective on the roles of imperial women in fourth-century dynastic politics.

  • Offers a biography of a woman central to late Roman history and early Christianity
  • Provides a political and narrative history from the late third to the fifth century, through the lens of imperial women
  • Presents new and unique insights into Helena's life and her role at the Constantinian court

About the Author(s)

Julia Hillner, Professor of Ancient History at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Julia Hillner is Professor of Ancient History at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. She is the author of Prison, Punishment and Penance in Late Antiquity.

Table of Contents

    Timeline of the Constantinian, Valentinian and Theodosian Dynasties
    Dramatis Personae
    Family Tree
    Introduction: Writing Helena
    The Case for (Chronological) Biography
    Writing Helena's Life Forwards: Of Places, Gaps and Relationships
    Helena, Dynasty, and Power
    Part I: Extra (c. 248-c.289)
    Chapter 1: On the Frontiers
    Helena and the 'Crisis of the Third Century'
    Meeting Constantius
    Chapter 2: Weather Eye on the Horizon
    Helena at Naissus and Salona
    Helena's Tetrarchy
    Part II: Off-Stage (c. 289-c. 317)
    Chapter 3: Sister Act
    Lost Girl: Theodora
    Fausta's Nose
    Pruning the Tree
    Waiting in the Wings, Becoming Christian?
    Chapter 4: The Necklace Affair
    The Tomb at Šarkamen
    Divine Mothers
    The Augusta in the East
    Fair Game: Empresses as Prey
    Part III: Centre-Stage (c.317-c.329)
    Chapter 5: Keeping Up Appearances
    The Road to Thessalonica: A Wedding, a Conspiracy, and a War
    The Augusta-Double
    Fausta, Super Star
    Chapter 6: Roman Holiday
    Palace Life
    Helena and Constantine's Churches in Rome
    New Look
    Chapter 7: Four Deaths and an Anniversary
    Murders in the Family
    Becoming Genetrix
    Chapter 8: From Here to Eternity
    The Travelling Empress: Conflicting Portraits
    Helena, the Pilgrim?
    On the Road
    A New Jezebel
    Empresses in the Holy Land
    Part IV: Curtain and Encores (c.329-c. 600)
    Chapter 9: Burying an Empress
    Final Honours
    Rebranching the Tree
    Coming Through Slaughter
    Chapter 10: Silence of the Empress
    Extending Helena: Constantina
    Burying Empresses, One More Time
    Countering Helena: Justina
    Chapter 11: New Model Empress
    Ambrose's Helena
    Reviving Helena's Look: Flaccilla and Thermantia
    Reviving Helena in Action
    Emulating Helena: Galla Placidia and Eudocia
    A 'New Helena' in Name: Pulcheria
    Being Helena: Radegund
    Ancient Sources
    Modern Studies


"Using tools developed for feminist historiography, Hillner has retrieved the historical mother of Constantine the Great from the realm of legend. Her reconstruction is engaging, filled with shrewd insight, and well-grounded in ancient sources. She is especially good at using material culture to lead into deeper discussions. Instead of the saintly Helena who discovered the True Cross, we now have a living, breathing person who can teach us a great deal about the history of women in the fourth century." - H. A. Drake, author of A Century of Miracles: Christians, Pagans, Jews and the Supernatural, 312-410