Helena of Constantinople

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Saint Helena (Latin: Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta) also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople (ca. 246/50 – 18 August 330) was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I. She is traditionally credited with finding the relics of the True Cross, with which she is invariably represented in Christian iconography.

Contents

Family life

Helena's birthplace is not known with certainty. The sixth-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city "Helenopolis" after her death in 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.[2] Although he might have done so in her honor, Constantine probably had other reasons for doing so. The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace.[3] There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine (modern Daburiyya)[4] and a Helenopolis in Lydia.[5] These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine's mother.[2]

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine.[6] Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.[7] Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius' "Breviarium," record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as "stable-maid" or "inn-keeper". He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a "good stable-maid".[8] Other sources, especially those written after Constantine's proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.[7]

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