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Constantine's heavenly vision before the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312
as found in Lactantius Liber de Mortibus Persecutorum, XLIV
Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from the ANF series.
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John R. Curran
D. George Kousoulas
Jeremy M. Schott
Raymond Van Dam
Geoffrey de Ste Croix
G. W. Bowersock
Robin Lane Fox
And now a civil war broke out between Constantine and
Maxentius. Although Maxentius kept himself within Rome, because the soothsayers
had foretold that if he went out of it he should perish, yet he conducted the
military operations by able generals. In forces he exceeded his adversary; for
he had not only his father’s army, which deserted from Severus, but also his
own, which he had lately drawn together out of Mauritania and Italy. They
fought, and the troops of Maxentius prevailed. At length Constantine, with
steady courage and a mind prepared for every event, led his whole forces to the
neighbourhood of Rome, and encamped them opposite to the Milvian bridge. The
anniversary of the reign of Maxentius approached, that is, the sixth of the
kalends of November, and the fifth year of his reign was drawing to an end.
Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the heavenly sign to be delineated
on the shields of his soldiers, and so to proceed to battle. He did as he had
been commanded, and he marked on their shields the letter Χ, with a
perpendicular line drawn through it and turned round thus at the top, being the
cipher of CHRIST. Having this sign (ΧР ), his troops stood to arms. The enemies
advanced, but without their emperor, and they crossed the bridge. The armies
met, and fought with the utmost exertions of valour, and firmly maintained their
ground. In the meantime a sedition arose at Rome, and Maxentius was reviled as
one who had abandoned all concern for the safety of the commonweal; and
suddenly, while he exhibited the Circensian games on the anniversary of his
reign, the people cried with one voice, “Constantine cannot be overcome!”
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sign of the cross
in this sign conquer
in hoc signo vinces
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