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Constantine And Christianity Essay

1779 words - 7 pages

Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, or Constantine, is commonly referred to as the fist Christian emperor of the Roman Empire and as the defender of Christianity. Such grand titles are not necessarily due for the reasons that people commonly think of them today.
The first clear instance where Christianity is seen in Constantine's life is during his campaign against Maxentius. In the spring of 311, when Constantine was marching to Rome to battle against Maxentius, he saw a vision in the sky, a bright cross along with the words "by this sign conquer." Later that night, he had a dream in which God told him to use that sign as a safeguard to use in all of his future battles. Constantine awoke and immediately ordered his troops to inscribe the chi-rho, the sign he saw – a combination of the Greek letters chi and rho, onto their shields (Constantine Converts to Christianity 312). Some historians have deemed it more appropriate to consider Constantine a patron of Christianity at this point rather than a convert as it appears that he is using it as a means to conquer and attributes his success to it rather being convicted and committed to Jesus Christ as a true Christian should (Legitimization Under Constantine). Meanwhile, at the same time that Constantine is having holy visions and dreams, Maxentius sought guidance and confirmation from pagan oracles and found a prophecy declaring the "the enemy of the Romans would parish." Emboldened by this prophecy, he left the defensive position of Rome and met Constantine at Milvian Bridge. Constantine was victorious despite having an army about a third of the size of Maxentius'. It is said that Maxentius' army became confused and scattered during the battle. Maxentius was driven off of the wooden bridge spanning the Tiber by his own army and subsequently drowned under the weight of his own armor (Christian History – Constantine – 131).
Once Constantine became the ruler of the entire Western Roman Empire, he met with Licinius, the co-emperor of the eastern empire, in Milan in 313. The intended purpose of this visit was to secure an alliance between the two rulers by the marriage of Constantine's half-sister Constantia to Lucinius. It was at this time that the emperors established what is now known as the Edict of Milan. It granted the freedom to pursue any religion within the empire, not just Christianity. Christianity was merely made legal at this point, not the state-sponsored religion. The edict also granted the return of properties seized from Christians by governors. Maximinus Daia, who was the co-ruler of the eastern empire invaded Lucinian territory in the Balkans and was defeated by Lucinius' army. After a time, relations soured between Constantine and Lucinius. Lucinius eventually went back on the agreement made during the Edict of Milan and in 322 and began persecuting Christians once again (Constantine I). This led to the conflict between him and Constantine in 324, which...

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