Constantine I was one of the famed emperors of Rome and the first to profess Christianity. But his work for the faith of Jesus was enduring. A mosaic image of Constantine the Great from the Hagia Sophia (Constantinople). For centuries, Catholic popes traced their power to a decree called the Donation of Constantine (later proved a forgery). Constantine the Great (27 Feb c. 272/273 – 22 May 337) Constantine was Roman Emperor (A.D. 306-337). Answer: Constantine the Great (AD 280—337) was one of Rome’s most powerful and successful emperors and the first to self-identify as a Christian. Constantine ruled the West, Licinius the East. While the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great reigned (306–337 AD), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. The story goes that Constantine had a vision of the words "in hoc signo vinces" upon the symbol of Christianity, a cross, that led him to promise to follow the Christian religion if victory were granted. Was the deathbed conversion of Constantine the act of a moral pragmatist? Why Did Constantine Wait Until He Was Dying to Be Baptized? Constantinople: Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota. He issued an edict that protected Christians in the empire and converted to Christianity on his deathbed in 337. University of … Constantine I (Latin: Flavius Valerius Constantinus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος, translit. He ended the persecutions of Christians and legalised Christianity. The Christianity of Constantine the Great. Constantine’s chief concern was that a divided church would offend the Christian God and so bring divine vengeance upon the Roman Empire and Constantine himself. Shows Constantine, warts and all, as a great man in a pivotal time in world history. Constantine built many churches. N.S. The original Gnostic Christianity that was imported from Britain was eventually suppressed by superior military means. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to profess Christianity. The story goes that Constantine had a vision of the words in hoc signo vinces ("in this sign you will conquer") upon a cross, and he swore that, should he triumph against great odds, he would pledge himself to Christianity. He remained a Christian as an emperor, although Christianity was still unknown when he converted. At the Council of Nicea, Constantine the Great settled Christian doctrine for the ages. Constantine's program was one of toleration only, and he continued to support both Christianity and paganism. Maxentius raised an army of 170,000 foot soldiers and 18,000 horsemen. Who Was Constantine the Great? Learn more about emperor worship in … In fact he was quite orthodox in his thought and to further this notion he is considered a saint in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Unable to complete his dream of being baptized in the Jordan River, as was Jesus, he was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia on his deathbed. To celebrate his victory, Constantine created Constantinople on the site of Byzantium, which had been Licinius' stronghold. Born in Naissus, Dacia Mediterranea (now Niš, Serbia), he was the son of Flavius Constantius, an Illyrian army officer who became one of the four emperors of the Tetrarchy. "The Christian Signs on the Coins of Constantine." Constantine wouldn't stand for this and marched against Licinius. Today, depending on which branch and denomination of Christianity you're following, Constantine might not count as a Christian without the baptism, but it's not an event that clear in the first few centuries of Christianity when Christian dogma had yet to be fixed. Constantine may have been Christian since before he became emperor. Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in Naissus, in the province of Moesia Superior, present-day Serbia. Much controversy exists over the relationship between Constantine and Christianity. Emperor Constantine (ca A.D. 280– 337) reigned over a major transition in the Roman Empire—and much more. Constantine was born at Naissus on February 27, 272 or 273, to Flavius Constantius and his wife Helena. Building in Rome Their argument is that after his vision that Constantine became totally committed to Christianity. On October 28, 312, Constantine marched on Rome and met Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. Constantine was also the first emperor to adhere to Christianity. Contrary to popular belief, however, Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. Please add your opinion to the forum thread. Constantine now considered himself a follower of the Christian faith. He ruled during the 4th century, and some of his important accomplishments include his support of Christianity, construction of the city of Constantinople, and the continuance of the reforms of Diocletian. He was a Roman Pagan. Constantine's was never a Christian. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. The two remained rivals over a decade of uneasy truces before their animosity culminated in the Battle of Chrysopolis, in 324. Constantine—also known as Emperor Constantine I or Constantine the Great—decreed tolerance for Christians in the Edict of Milan, convened an ecumenical council to discuss Christian dogma and heresy, and constructed Christian edifices in his new capital city (Byzantium/Constantinople, now Istanbul). He is known for his economic, political, and military achievements, as well as his religious reforms. Here are some responses from the Ancient / Classical History forum. Constantine's legacy was seismic: by the time of his death, an estimated 40% of the population were Christians. Early Life. It was the only way he would hold onto his position and anyway, the situation was now at a stage were a belief in any religion was vitally important in civilian and political life. BiblicalTraining.org | c.274/280-337. N.S. When Rome fell, Constantinople became the de facto seat of the empire. Constantine (27 February 272 - 22 May 337), known as Constantine the Great, were a Roman Emperor and agent of the Christianization of the Roman Empire:. Wearing a sign of a cross, Constantine won, and the following year he made Christianity legal throughout the Empire with the Edict of Milan. This video covers the life and reign of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. Many have seen this as proof that Constantine converted to Christianity before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Upon his father's death on July 25, 306 A.D., Constantine's troops proclaimed him Caesar. Borrow it Toggle Dropdown Albert D. Cohen Management Library; Architecture/Fine Arts Library; Archives and Special Collections; Bibliothèque Alfred-Monnin (Université de Saint-Boniface) The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea, Constantinople: Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Timelines and Chronologies of Roman Emperors, Roman Empire: Battle of the Milvian Bridge, M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota. After Maxentius' defeat, Constantine and his brother-in-law, Licinius, split the empire between them. Death of Constantine. 1 (Jan. 1975), pp. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. Ancient Historians on the Conversion of Constantine. Constantine the Great Constantine (February 27, 272 — May 22, 337), commonly known as Constantine I or Constantine the Great, was proclaimed Augustus by his troops on July 25, 306 and ruled an ever-growing portion of the Roman Empire until his death. Constantine the Great is known in history as the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. And by establishing a capital at Byzantium, which became Constantinople and then Istanbul, he set into motion events that would break the empire, split the Christian church, and influence European history for a millennium. He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and played a crucial role in the spread of the religion. Constantine's most powerful rivals for his father's position were Maximian and his son, Maxentius, who had assumed power in Italy, controlling Africa, Sardinia, and Corsica as well. His mother, Helena, was Greek and of low birth. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. The Journal of Religion, Vol. It is generally true that social and economic conditions are more important… Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. Constantine —also known as Emperor Constantine I or Constantine the Great—decreed tolerance for Christians in the Edict of Milan, convened an ecumenical council to discuss Christian dogma and heresy, and constructed Christian edifices in his new capital city (Byzantium/ Constantinople, now Istanbul) His convocation of the First Council at Nicea produced the Nicene Creed, an article of faith among Christians worldwide. He enlarged the city, adding fortifications, a vast hippodrome for chariot racing, and a number of temples. However, legends and archaeological evidence suggest a different story– it seems that Constantine had a secret about his faith which was hidden for centuries. He had ruled for 31 years, longer than any emperor since Augustus. Constantine the Great. His father would rise to become the Emperor Constantius I and Constantine's mother would be canonized as St. Helena, who was thought to have found a portion of Jesus' cross. Constantine's mother, Helena, was a barmaid and his father a military officer named Constantius. 420-438.] The next day the army of Constantine inflicted a great defeat on Maxentius and he marched into Rome, the first Christian emperor. Licinius was routed and Constantine became sole Emperor of Rome. However, his spiritual growth and eventual conversion did not happen at once with this one dramatic event. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have argued about which form of Early Christianity he subscribed to. He planned a great campaign against the Sassanid rulers of Persia but fell ill in 337. Constantine I, byname Constantine the Great, Latin in full Flavius Valerius Constantinus, (born February 27, after 280 ce?, Naissus, Moesia [now Niš, Serbia]—died May 22, 337, Ancyrona, near Nicomedia, Bithynia [now İzmit, Turkey]), first Roman emperor to profess Christianity. He supported the Church financially, built various basilicas , granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to some high offices, and returned confiscated property. Kōnstantînos; 27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was a Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Born at Naissus (now Niš in Serbia), the only son of Helena and Flavius Constantius,. By 336, Constantine the Great had reclaimed most of the province of Dacia, lost to Rome in 271. In many areas of the state, being a Christian was not only beneficial, but also essential to the membership. While the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306–337) ruled, Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. He paved the way for it to become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and ultimately of Europe. Constantine The Great was not an Arian at all. He did so after witnessing the sight of a cross in the sky along with his entire army. Constantine the Great (27 February 272 AD — 22 May 337 AD) is a towering figure in Roman, European and Western history. Roman Empire: Battle of the Milvian Bridge, The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans, and Byzantine Catholics venerate him as a saint. He also established a second Senate. First Christian emperor of Rome. See: "Religion and Politics at the Council at Nicaea," by Robert M. Grant. Constantine is the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By adopting Christianity as the religion of the vast Roman Empire, he elevated a once illegal cult to the law of the land. The Roman Emperor Constantine (c 280 - 337 A.D.) was one of the most influential personages in ancient history. [27] by T. G. Elliott; Phoenix, Vol. The Fall of Rome: How, When, and Why Did It Happen? The "Great Persecution" of the Persian Christian churches occurred in a later period, 340-363, after the Persian Wars that reopened upon Constantine's death. After several battles Constantine defeated Licinius and became ruler of a united Rome in 324. Son of Constantius Chlorus, the future Western emperor, Constantine spent the years 293-305 as an apprentice-cum- hostage under the Eastern emperors Diocletian and Galerius, the instigators of the Great Persecution, but at York in 306 was proclaimed emperor (Augustus) by his father's troops on his death. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have argued about which form of Early Christianity he subscribed to. The short answer is, "Yes, Constantine was Christian," or seems to have said he was, but it belies the complexity of the issue. This praise-filled biography came from the hand of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, and perhaps Constantine's greatest admirer. Constantine embraced Christianity and showed it publicly. Some historians argue that he was never a Christian, but rather an opportunist; others maintain that he was a Christian before the death of his father. In 313 AD he issued the edict of Milan banning the persecution of Christians and he continued a hands on approach in the expansion of the church throughout his reign. Regarding Eusebius of Nicomedia’s confession of faith prior to the baptism of Constantine and during the First Ecumenical Council of 325, John Karmiris writes: Constantine raised an army from Britain that included Germans and Celts, which the Byzantine historian Zosimus said included 90,000 foot soldiers and 8,000 cavalry. Most people consider Constantine a Christian from the Milvian Bridge in 312, but he wasn't baptized until a quarter century later. He may have been Christian since 312 when he won the Battle at the Milvian Bridge, although the accompanying medallion showing him with the Sol Invictus deity a year later raises questions. He converted Roman Paganism into his own version of Christianity. Schism, in Constantine’s … By the time Constantius became governor of Dalmatia, he required a wife of pedigree and found one in Theodora, a daughter of Emperor Maximian. A contemporary of Constantine and a Christian, who became bishop of Caesarea in 314, Eusebius describes the series of events: The fifth-century historian Zosimus writes about the pragmatic reasons for Constantine seeming to embrace the newish faith: Constantine may not have been a Christian until his deathbed baptism. This was accomplished by Emperor Theodosius in 380. 55, No. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our. In 344 came the martyrdom of Catholicos Shimun bar Sabbae, with five bishops and 100 priests. Emperor of All of Rome Seven years later, Licinius decided to renew the persecution of Christians. Arctos, Series 2, vol.3 (1962), pp.5-35. Constantine the Great. Gives insight into why, following in his father Constantius' footsteps, Constantine not only granted tolerance for Christianity but also brought Church and Empire together in a union that would last a thousand years. 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. Constantine sent him on exile at Thessalonica but killed him and his son a few months later for charges of treason. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was built on his orders and became the holiest site in Christendom. How Old Is 'the Dream of the Rood' and What Does It Mean? Constantine wasn't the only claimant. 1-12. Elliott, Thomas George. Constantine's Christian mother, St. Helena, may have converted him or he may have converted her. Constantine served with distinction under emperors Diocletian and Galeriuscampaigning in the … How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern, but his accession was a turning point for the Christian Church. The Fight to Become Emperor. Constantine and Helena were shuffled off to the eastern emperor, Diocletian, in Nicomedia. As the sole emperor of Rome, Constantine ruled for 13 years. With co-Emperor Licinius, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance of all religions throughout the empire. Three hundred years before Constantine, Christians believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, honoured Mary, had elaborate ceremonies, prayed for the dead, respected the Church hierarchy, baptized babies, recognized Peter as the Rock, built the Church upon him with successors and followed a rich tradition of Christianity. Flavius Constantius was an army officer, and in 289 he divorced Constantine's mother to marry Theodora, the daughter of his commanding officer. In 312AD Constantine defeated his rival for power Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge and went on to make Christianity legal. In 285, Emperor Diocletian had established the Tetrarchy, which gave four men rule over a quadrant each of the Roman Empire, with two senior emperors and two non-hereditary juniors. Upon his father's death on July 25, 306 A.D., Constantine's troops proclaimed him Caesar. Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in Naissus, in the province of Moesia Superior, present-day Serbia. [For this theory, read "Constantine's Conversion: Do We Really Need It?" (Constantine actually resisted baptism until he was on his deathbed.) 41, No. Constantius had been one of the senior emperors. On February 27, 272 or 273, to Flavius Constantius and his father 's death on 25! 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