Constantine the Great

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Constantine I

Constantine I (name in Greek: Μέγας Κωνσταντίνoς) (27 February 272 – 22 May 337 AD) was a Roman emperor from 306 until he died. He controlled the empire for longer than any other emperor since Augustus, the first emperor. He was the first ruler of the Roman Empire to be a Christian. He made the old city Byzantium into a new, larger city: Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). The city's name means "City of Constantine" in Greek. He was the son of the emperor Constantius I, and members of their Constantinian dynasty controlled the empire until 364.

Before Constantine became Emperor, he was fighting for the throne at the Battle of Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River. When he saw a cross in the sky with the words in hoc signo vinces (Latin for "in this sign you shall conquer"), he changed his deity from Apollo to Jesus and won the battle.

Religious rules[change | change source]

Constantine the Great, mosaic in Hagia Sophia, c. 1000

Constantine is perhaps best known for being the first Christian Roman emperor. His rule changed the Church greatly. In February 313, Constantine met with Licinius in Milan where they made the Edict of Milan. The edict said that Christians could believe what they wanted.[1] This stopped people from punishing Christians, who had often been martyred, or killed for their faith. It also returned the property which had been taken away from them. In 311, Galerius had made a similar edict, though it did not return any property to them.[2] In pagan Rome before this, it had been against the law to practise Christianity, and Christians had often been tortured or killed. Constantine protected them. He went on to organize the whole Christian Church at the First Council of Nicea, even though he himself did not get baptized until near the end of his life.

Constantine did not support Christianity alone. After winning the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, he built the Arch of Constantine) to celebrate, but the arch was decorated with pictures of sacrifices to gods like Apollo, Diana, or Hercules. It had no Christian symbolism. In 321, Constantine said that Christians and non-Christians should all join the "day of the sun" (the eastern sun-worship which Aurelian had helped him introduce). His coins also had symbols of the sun-cult until 324. Even after pagan gods disappeared from the coins, Christians symbols never appeared on the coin, either.[3] Even when Constantine dedicated the new city of Constantinople, he was wearing the Apollonian sun-rayed Diadem.

References[change | change source]

  1. Bowder, Diana. The Age of Constantine and Julian. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978
  2. See Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 34–35.
  3. Cf. Paul Veyne, Quand notre monde est devenu chrétien, 163.

Other websites[change | change source]

  • Media related to Constantine the Great at Wikimedia Commons
  • Firth, John B. "Constantine the Great, the Reorganisation of the Empire and the Triumph of the Church". Archived from the original (BTM) on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
  • Letters of Constantine: Book 1, Book 2, & Book 3
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Constantine I
  • 12 Byzantine Rulers by Lars Brownworth of Stony Brook School (grades 7–12). 40 minute audio lecture on Constantine.
  • Constantine I in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Constantine the Great A site about Constantine the Great and his bronze coins emphasizing history using coins, with many resources including reverse types issued and reverse translations.
  • House of Constantine bronze coins Illustrations and descriptions of coins of Constantine the Great and his relatives.
  • BBC North Yorkshire's site on Roman York, Yorkshire and Constantine the Great
  • This list of Roman laws of the fourth century shows laws passed by Constantine I relating to Christianity.
  • Professor Edwin Judge discusses Constantine's legacy for a Centre for Public Christianity vodcast Archived 2012-04-21 at the Wayback Machine
  • Constantine's time in York on the 'History of York'