Constantine I (306 337 A.D.)

1000 words - 4 pages

The Emperor Constantine I was effectively the sole ruler of the Roman world between 324 and 337 A.D.; his reign was perhaps one of the most crucial of all the emperors in determining the future course of western civilization. By beginning the process of making Christianity the religious foundation of his realm, he set the religious course for the future of Europe, which remains in place to this very day. Because he replaced Rome with Constantinople as the center of imperial power, he made it clear that the city of Rome was no longer the center of power and he set the stage for the Middle Ages. His philosophical view of monarchy, largely spelled out in some of the works of Eusebius of Caesarea, became the foundation for the concept of the divine right of kings, which prevailed in Europe.Flavius Valerius Constantinus, the son of Constantius Chlorus and Helena, seems to have been born in Naissus in Serbia on 27 February ca. 272 or 273 A.D. When his father had become Caesar in 293 A.D., Constantius had sent his son to the Emperor Galerius as hostage for his own good behavior; Constantine, however, returned to his dying father's side in Britain on 25 July 306. Soon after his father's death, Constantine was raised to the purple by the army. The period between 306 and 324, when Constantine became sole imperator, was a period of unremitting civil war. Two sets of campaigns not only guaranteed Constantine a spot in Roman history, but also made him sole ruler of the Roman Empire. On 28 October 312 he defeated Maxentius, his opponent, at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge; in 314, 316, and 324, he repeatedly defeated his last remaining rival Licinius. Once he had overcome him, he was the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. In passing, it is worth noting that Maxentius and Licinius were both brothers-in-law of Constantine.Of the two campaigns, however, it was the first against Maxentius which guaranteed Constantine an important place in the history of western civilization because he attributed his victory to Jesus Christ; on the evening of 27 October 312, he had seen the Chi-Rho, the sign of Christ, in the heavens outside of the city of Rome. Starting in February, 313 with the promulgation of the so-called Edict of Milan, in which Constantine and Licinius granted Christians the freedom to practice their faith without any interference from the state, Constantine began the process of making Christianity the official state religion in place of paganism, a process only completed in 391 during the reign of Theodosius I. He did this by passing laws, which favored Christianity. His adoption of the celestial divine sign (caeleste signum dei) in October, 312 was probably initially an act of political expediency. Although Constantine himself seems to have been sympathetic to the Christian faith as early as 312, he only converted to Christianity when the Arian Eusebius Bishop of Nicomedia baptized him. Shortly after 3 April 337 because...

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