Professor Timothy D Barnes (MA, DPhil, FRSC, FBA)

Honorary Professorial Fellow


After attending a grammar school in Yorkshire and four years reading ‘Greats’ as an undergraduate in Oxford, I began research in 1964 under the supervision of Sir Ronald Syme, who had recently discovered an interest in the Historia Augusta and who believed that a historical and literary study of Tertullian was sorely needed.

Immersion in the more than one thousand pages of Tertullian’s often difficult Latin revealed to me the realities of Christianity in Roman Carthage in the early third century, which were very different from what I found in standard accounts of the history of Christianity in the Roman Empire before Constantine. Since these were all based on the interpretative framework laid down in his Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius of Caesarea, I then turned to investigating Eusebius.

In 1970 I moved to Toronto, where I spent the whole of my teaching career apart from research leaves until I retired on 31 December 2007 and came to Edinburgh. As soon as my teaching duties permitted, I began to read Eusebius and soon made the remarkable discovery that none of the great names who had written books about Constantine had taken the precaution of reading the whole of Eusebius.

Since then the manifold aspects of Christianity in the Later Roman Empire have been the main focus of my research, especially the reign of Constantine and the immediate and long-term effects of his conversion to Christianity. Investigation of Eusebius and other authors of the third and fourth centuries, both Christian such as Athanasius and non-Christian such as Ammianus Marcellinus has now led me to formulate three basic propositions which transform our understanding of the third and fourth centuries.

First, Christians gained social respectability and acceptance in Roman provincial society and even admission to the imperial administration in the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211). Second, Christianity was formally legalized by the emperor Gallienus in 260, more than a dozen years before Constantine was born, not during the ‘Great Persecution’ of 303-313. Third, Constantine, who had been groomed as a prospective emperor since 293, supported Christianity politically as soon as he came to power in 306, began to lavish privileges on the Christian church and clergy from 312 onwards, and took aggressive, even repressive measures against traditional religions in the East of the Roman Empire when he became its ruler by conquest in 324.

Although I do not do any formal teaching either at New College or elsewhere in the University of Edinburgh, I am always ready to talk to any students who wish to seek my advice informally and I enjoy acting as the secondary supervisor for doctoral theses which fall within any of my areas of academic interest, which embrace all aspects of the Roman Empire and its religions from Augustus to Justinian and beyond.

Research summary

On the Death of John Chrysostom. A Funerary Speech. Translated with Introdction and Brief Commentary, in collaboration with George A. Bevan. Liverpool Translated Texts for Historians (ms. to be delivered in spring 2011)

Roman Emperors (284-602). Dates, Titles, Journeys, Jurisdictions (I compiled a preliminary draft of about 300 pages of lists and tables in 2000-2002; I am now waiting for the critical edition of the Late Roman Chronicles being prepared by Richard Burgess and Michael Kulikowski)

A study of the Theodosian Code and Imperial Policy (305-383). I composed a draft of some 40/50% of the whole between 2002 and 2005, but then laid it to concentrate on teaching and then on my two most recent books.