After analysis and interpretation, a new narrative. So far, however, this critique of ancient accounts of the battle at the Milvian Bridge has challenged the expectation of a new master narrative of the battle and its consequences in two related ways.
One is the emphasis on the constructed nature of the early accounts of the battle and its aftermath. The anonymous orator of 313, the designers and sculptors of the arch at Rome, the rhetorician Lactantius, the bishop Eusebius, the poet Porfyrius, the panegyrist Nazarius, and Constantine himself all had their own agendas, which they could promote through the medium of discussing the battle or the emperor's vision. For modern historians one important implication of this focus on the construction of ancient texts should not be simply a reverse emphasis on deconstruction, as if it were possible, through careful scrutiny, to find true details or an accurate basic framework behind the ancient authors' agendas. Too often positivism is hypercritical and hypercredulous at the same time. Instead, the lesson should be the realization that our modern narratives are likewise constructed. We historians need to acknowledge that we are both scholars, reading and interpreting ancient texts, and authors, writing and constructing new texts.
The second challenge to writing a new narrative is chronology, or rather, the direction of the chronology. So far the discussion in this book has proceeded essentially backward, starting with modern scholarship, withdrawing to medieval and Byzantine perspectives and then to historical accounts derived from some of the earlier accounts, retreating to very early accounts, and finally examining some of the immediate reactions.