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The Victory of Constantine

According to the legend surrounding the battle, Constantine and Maxentius both being Romans, no blood could be shed. Maxentius had devised a ruse by which Constantine’s army would be drowned in the Tiber. Part of Constantine’s revelation was that his victory was assured by the power of the Cross. He thus entered the fray with only the angelic gift, and he won.

Constantine and his Army
At the left margin of the tier a portion of a horse's head is represented. With this detail, Piero implies that there is more of the army yet to come out from behind the wall. Amid a forest of lances and thundering hoofs, the cavalry, surmounted by a glorious imperial eagle flag, calms as it moves left to right and stops at the figure of Constantine, erect on his white horse. He extends his arm to display the tiny [formerly gold] cross, the talisman of righteous power, faith, and victory. His profile head is aglow with masculine beauty. He wears a contemporary Byzantine pointed hat which, in Piero’s time, was believed to be in the style of the ancients. The imperial crown nestles there behind the brim, indicating that the battle is already won.

The Rout of Maxentius
The scene in the right half of the tier has suffered great losses of paint over the centuries. It takes place before a Tuscan landscape near the source of the Tiber. With its country houses and calm reflections in the water (notice the ducks floating on the surface), the battle has thus been relocated to the outskirts of Arezzo. The forces of Maxentius are in flight. An equestrian officer scrambles up the river bank. All that can be seen of Maxentius himself is the peak of his headgear, indicating that it was in the same Greek-style hat as Constantine’s but with the colors reversed. As the loser, he is identified as ignoble by his routed, naked slave, and by the venomous basilisk blazon on his flag.