Constantine the Great

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  • Topic: Christianity, Constantine I, Roman Empire
  • Pages : 5 (1737 words )
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  • Published : November 12, 2005
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Constantine the Great:
More than an Emperor
Akbar the Great, Suleyman the Magnificent, and Tzar Ivan the Terrible all have one thing in common; they each were given a title by their people because of the ways that they ruled. Flavius Valerius Constantinus was no different, he became known as Constantine the Great by instituting unprecedented policies which would come to affect the entire future of the Western Civilization. Constantine did many amazing things for his empire: he was the first ruler to acknowledge and allow Christianity as a religion, he created many laws to benefit Christianity and the people, he created a very active capital, and he acknowledged religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter. The products of Constantine's rule made a huge impact during his time and are still felt to this day. Constantine's appreciation for Christianity began at the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Before the battle he saw a cross appear in the sky, accompanied by the words "in signus, vinctus," which translates to "in this sign, conquer" (Stone 104). Following this apparition, Constantine defeated Mexentius-the ruler of the western half of the Roman Empire-in a battle for the throne. In return for the apparition, Constantine felt obliged to spread Christianity in all possible ways (Boak and Sinnigen 435). He knew that this meant Christianity should eventually become the official religion of the empire. About a year later, Constantine met with his co-emperor, Licinius, and issued the Edict of Milan. The Edict of Milan allowed Christians, as well as other religions, the freedom of worship without punishment (Stone 104). This was a huge step for the Christian religion, as this would be the first time they could worship without being persecuted by the government. The Edict of Milan not only allowed free worship, it also gave the Christians back the land and churches that the government confiscated (Firth 108). Although Christianity was not yet declared the official religion, many people converted to Christianity because they were now able to do so without persecution. Furthermore, the Edict of Milan established Sunday as a day of worship for all religions. Pagans eventually were required to go out in the fields on Sunday and raise their hands in observance to the Lord (Herbermann). This was the first law that truly showed the future of the empire, a Christian empire. With the legality of the religion, some of the Christian priests at this time thought it was becoming too fashionable because it was easier to practice. These priests moved to remote places, like the deserts of Egypt, to remind themselves that god's kingdom wasn't of this world; these were the first Christian monks (Stone 104). While the Edict of Milan didn't make Christianity the "official religion," it was the first step in spreading Christianity throughout the empire and creating components of Christianity which are still seen today. Around 320, in an attempt to win over his people, Lucinius decided to excuse them from the Edict of Milan. The Pagans took advantage of this and drove all of the Christians out of the East Empire (Boak and Sinnigen 433). Constantine wasn't happy about this and defeated Lucinius in 324, becoming sole emperor of the Roman Empire. Constantine quickly relocated the capital to Constantinople-previously Byzantine. The old capital at Rome was too susceptible to attack and far from the armies in the West, while Constantinople was more easily defendable (Firth 258). Constantinople was close to the Black Sea, which led to the Mediterranean, giving the city great trading opportunities. Constantine quickly beautified Constantinople by building many churches and monuments (Vogt 107). Constantine ruined the old temples of Byzantine to make way for the new churches, which could be seen as Constantine's first real move to expel Paganism. Constantine moved many of the Greek art-works to Constantinople to help beautify the...
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