- Constantine I, first Roman emperor to profess Christianity. Militarily, he triumphed over foreign and domestic threats. He not only initiated the evolution of the empire into a Christian state but also provided the impulse for a distinctively Christian culture which grew into Byzantine and Western medieval culture.
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During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have often argued about which form of early Christianity he subscribed to.
- Constantine’s Rise to Power
- The Edict of Milan
- The Religious Background of Constantine
- A Committed Christian?
- The Donatist Schism
- The First Council of Nicaea
- Christian Art & Architecture
During the Crisis of the Third Century, the Roman Empire had suffered multiple difficulties: drought, famine, plagues, inflation, invading barbarians. Numerous Roman generals had fought over the rule of the empire, resulting in civil wars and the rule of the so-called barracks emperors who were chosen and often quickly replaced by the Roman army. When the dust cleared, Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) divided the empire into East and West and appointed co-emperors. Beneath the co-emperors, he appointed Caesars and Augusti to delegate Roman rule. Constantine’s father, Flavius Constantius, was one of the Caesars of the Western Roman Empire and was later elevated to Augustus. Diocletian then took the unprecedented step of retiring to his villa at Split (modern-day Croatia) in 306 CE. When Constantius and his son battled the Pictsin England, Constantius was killed near York in 306 CE, and the legions proclaimed Constantine Augustus on the field. With the retirement of Diocletian, the nex...
Although Constantine is acclaimed as the first emperor to embrace Christianity, he was not technically the first to legalize it. In the 3rd century CE, various generals issued local edicts of toleration in an effort to recruit Christians into the legions. These edicts then fell by the wayside when the contender was killed in battle. In the Eastern Empire, Galerius (r. 305-311 CE) initially had persecuted Christians but reversed it through the Edict of Toleration in Serdica in 311 CE. Licinius (r. 308-324 CE) had also persecuted Christians sporadically but took the edict of Galerius as a model and met with Constantine in Milan to unify positions. The Edict of Milan was issued in 313 CE, with the added stipulation that Christian property that had been confiscated or destroyed would be returned or compensated with funds. The word 'toleration' (Latin: tolerantia ("endurance") is often used to describe Rome’s position vis-à-vis the numerous native cults. However, there was no official po...
Scholars continue to debate and examine the rationale for Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. One element involves attempts to determine the demographics of the Roman Empire c. 300 CE. Christianity had grown steadily since the 1st century CE, and by 300 CE, there are estimates that out of a total population of 60 million, 3 million were Christians. (Jews still numbered 11 million). Some contend that Constantine was smart enough to foresee the winds of change. However, Constantine may have perhaps been pre-programmed for some of his beliefs. During the reign of Emperor Aurelian (r. 270-275 CE) the cult of Sol Invictus ("the invincible, unconquered sun") was promoted as his family cult. This cult also embodied concepts of Jupiter, Apollo, and Helios. Sol Invictus merged with another popular military cult, that of Mithras. At the same time, Aurelian also reorganized imperial finances and regulated imports and the price of food throughout the provinces. His ideals may be summarize...
Many books on Constantine continue to debate Constantine’s commitment as a Christian. Criticism of Constantine's conversion involves the following elements: 1. The Edict of Milan legalized Christians but left all the native cults in place. 2. The Arch of Constantine (erected in 315 CE near the Colosseum) lacks Christian symbols and contains sculptures of offerings to Apollo, Diana, and Hercules. 3. Constantine issued coins with himself in the figure of Sol Invictus and Helios. 4. Constantine was not baptized as a Christian until he was on his deathbed. Whether any of the above points can be interpreted as a lack of commitment is debated. Constantine inherited a vast empire, where he expected loyalty from all citizens. He could not abruptly eliminate the old Roman religion, the traditions of the ancestors which were incorporated into daily life. The native cults would not be outlawed until the edict of Theodosius I in 381 CE. The triumphal Arch of Constantine was commissioned by the...
During the persecution against Christians under Diocletian (302-306 CE), in addition to arrests, the emperor had ordered Christian clergy to hand over their sacred texts. To avoid imprisonment and the arenas, some, including bishops, had done so. Divisions had grown among the Christian communities, and one group, led by Bishop Donatus, was adamant that these bishops were now defiled. The bishops petitioned Constantine to act as a mediator in this problem. After so many civil wars, Constantine was determined to instill unity throughout the Roman Empire and ordered a policy of "forgive and forget." Bishop Donatus refused and his followers settled in North Africa where they clashed with Augustine of Hippoa hundred years later. By issuing the order, Constantine effectively became the official head of the Church. This mirrored Augustus (r. 27 BCE - 14 CE) when he combined the position of pontifex maximus, the head of Roman religion, with his role as first citizen. In 324 CE, Constantine...
After mediating the Donatist Schism, his next major challenge came in 325 CE. A presbyter in Alexandria, Arius, had been teaching that at some point, God had created Christ. Riots had broken out in several cities, and Constantine brought the bishops together at the city of Nicaea to resolve the issue. The Council of Nicaea resulted in the Christian doctrine known as the Trinity, which articulated the relationship between God and Christ. The Council voted to claim that Christ was of the identical essence of God, present at creation, and manifest (incarnated) on earth in Jesus of Nazareth. Until Christ returned, the now Christian emperor stands in for Christ, and so carries the identical power of God on earth as he rules. It was after this council that Christian emperors began to be portrayed with halos over their heads, and the trappings of divine worship. The concept of a creed (from the Latin credo, "I believe") was a Christian innovation. With multiple native cults, there was no c...
Originating as a sect of Judaism, Christians initially held to the ban on images. During the reign of Constantine, Christian art began to flourish, particularly with the craft of mosaics. As patron of the Church, Constantine provided funds for artists and artisans and allegedly had the imperial symbol of either the chi-rho or the cross painted on the legions’ shields. Christian tradition credits Constantine with creating the cross as a religious symbol, after outlawing crucifixion as a means of execution. No official edict has survived; it comes from the later Christian historian, Salminius Hermias Sozomenus (400-450 CE), who claimed: As emperor, Constantine continued the standard practice of building monuments and basilicas (public buildings). Their characteristic shapes helped form the standard of churches, with a nave and apses for side altars. In Rome, Constantine built the first basilicas of St. Peter and St. John in Lateran. His new imperial city, Constantinople, was famous fo...
- Rebecca Denova
Jun 05, 2006 · Constantine's reign as Roman emperor (A.D. 306-337) dramatically changed the direction of Christianity, though in ways far different from those portrayed in The Da Vinci Code. This grew out of his strategy for unifying his empire by creating a "catholic"—meaning universal —church that would blend elements from many religions into one.
Sep 21, 2016 · In this way Constantine made the city practically impregnable and the city withstand many siege for the next thousand years (until 1453 AD). Christianity during Constantine reign. Fourth century welcomed the final triumph of Christianity in the territory of the Roman Empire.
- Constantine's Vision
- The Battle of Milvian Bridge
- A Brief Stay in Rome
There are two accounts of Constantine's conversion to Christianity. The first is by Lactantius, a tutor to Constantine's son and a good authority. He states that in Gaul, before setting out towards Rome, Constantine and his army saw a great cross in the sky. Underneath were written the Greek words en toutoi nika, "In this sign, conquer." But the Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, a Roman historian who would later write a favorable biography of Constantine, tells that he and his army experienced this vision just before the battle outside of Rome began. Both accounts tell of Constantine not fully understanding the meaning of this vision and praying for an explanation. He dreams of a common Christian symbol, the Greek symbols chi and rho, an X with an R, which looks like a long P, drawn through the middle. The emperor explains the heavenly dream to his army and tells them to make the battle standard that is described, placing the symbol of the "Highest God" on their shields.
On October 28, 312 AD, the Battle of Milvian Bridge was fought outside of Rome against Maxentius. Constantine advanced to the forefront of the battle behind the initials of Christ interwoven with a cross. Maxentius displayed the banner of the Unconquerable Sun as his battle standard. Constantine's infantry, many of whom were Christians, decisively win the battle. His cavalry chased the remnants of the enemy's forces across the Tiber river. Maxentius himself was seen to fall from the bridge into the river as his army was retreating and drown due to his heavy armor. Eusebius says that Constantine doesn't know which god has given him this sign in the sky, but that he was so moved by his vision of the cross that he vowed to worship no other God than the one represented to him. So he begins to seek out others who might help him to learn more about what he has seen. It is known that Bishops regularly traveled with Constantine, Maternus from Cologne, Recticius from Autun, Marinus from Arle...
Constantine entered Rome as the welcomed and undisputed master of the West, but would not stay in the city for very long. He did not make any sacrifices to Roman gods during his time there. He ordered the restitution of property confiscated from Christians during their previous persecution. Constantine had previously met with Licinius in Milan in March 312 where they discussed the future of the empire. It was from these meetings that Licinius drafted the Edict of Milan, granting to all in the Roman Empire the freedom to worship any god they chose. This edict was passed in February 313 AD after Constantine left Rome. This represents a dramatic change in the attitudes of religious tolerance within the Roman empire. As Constantine contemplated his future, the purpose of his life may have gradually fallen into place, convincing him that he would cast away the old worshiping of Roman gods and lead a life of faith as taught by the Christian God. When Constantine declared himself a Christi...
Jul 02, 2013 · Constantine’s reign as Roman emperor (A.D. 306-337) dramatically changed the direction of Christianity.
- He was divorced and remarried. His first wife was Minervina, and he divorced her to marry his second wife was Fausta.
- Constantine killed his second wife. In AD 326, he had his first son Crispus (from his first marriage) killed. He also had his second wife Fausta killed.
- During his early life, the Roman Empire was divided into a Tetrarchy of four emperors: two senior emperors with the title “Augustus” and two junior emperors with the title “Caesar.”
- Constantine spent his early life held captive in the East (away from his father in the West) by the senior emperor Augustus Diocletian (a great persecutor of Christians).
Sep 26, 2019 · Constantine the Great is known in history as the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. However, legends and archaeological evidence suggest a different story– it seems that Constantine had a secret about his faith which was hidden for centuries. Constantine built many churches.
- Natalia Klimczak
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