Constantine as a Christian Hero
Christianity’s history is filled with division, controversy, and conflict. One of the most important people who contributed to the lasting success of this diverse religion was Constantine. While legalizing Christianity in Roman society, he founded the capital of the eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople. Because of this and other great accomplishments, Constantine appropriately earned the name Constantine the Great.
After his father’s death in 306, the Gaul army hailed Constantine as their ruler. After five years as the emperor of Gaul, Constantine invaded Italy. After defeating the Roman army, Constantine entered Rome as the ruler of the western half of the empire. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting freedom of worship to all persons in the western Roman Empire. The edict also guaranteed legal rights to Christians and the return of property taken from Christians in the past.
By the year 323, Constantine had brought the entire Roman Empire under his rule. At this time, a quarrel threatened the division of Christianity into two separate churches. Arius, a priest in Alexandria, Egypt, insisted that Christ was not equal to the Father, because he was created by him. On the other hand, Athanasius, the leader of the bishops in the west, claimed that the Father and Son were equal and of the same substance. In 325, as a mediator, Constantine called together a council of bishops at Nicaea in Asia Minor. While condemning Arius and his teachings, the council declared the complete equality of God the Father and the Son. The teaching that Father and Son were made up "of one substance" became part of the Nicene Creed, the statement that helped to unite Christianity. The council addressed other issues as well, including the method for consecrating bishops.
Next, Constantine moved the capital from Rome to the east. He chose the Greek city of Byzantium. In 330, after expanding and...