In the present work it has been the author's design to describe the remarkable half century from the accession of Diocletian to the death of Constantine in its quality as a period of transition. What was intended was not a history of the life and reign of Constantine, nor yet an encyclopedia of all worth-while information pertaining to this period. Rather were the significant and essential characteristics of the contemporary world to be outlined and shaped into a perspicuous sketch of the whole.
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt (May 25, 1818 – August 8, 1897) was a historian of art and culture, and an influential figure in the historiography of both these fields.
"This is a book no thoughtful person can afford to miss. . . . Not only does it clarify the deeds and misdeeds of great men and the mystical impulses which spurred them, almost in the same breath, to incomparable acts of piety and dreadfulness, it is a touchstone to an art and literature which transmitted classical antiquity to Christian Europe." --Saturday Review "Here is something for one's bookcase that invites being taken down year after year and reread."--Christian Science Monitor "Written in the nineteenth century, it is now offered . . . in an admirable translation." --New York Times