Proctor Essay 2

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Alain Boulet-Gercourt
Essay 2
“Beginning with the reign of Constantine I and the establishment of the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Christian church became a tool of the Emperors. Byzantine Emperors and Empresses played a dominant role in the Eastern church and used the Christian religion to strengthen the Empire internally, to spread Byzantine cultural and political influence, and at times, to fortify their own power”

The development of christianity under the empire undoubtedly changed the relation between the political and spiritual spheres in following centuries. In fact, this transpires in how often emperors and empresses played dominant roles in the Eastern church after Constantine I's reign. In many instances, the Christian religion turned out to be a valuable political tool, and overall it was a major factor in spreading Byzantine cultural influence. The respective reigns of Emperors Constantine I, Theodosius I, Justinian/Theodora, Heraclius, Leo III, Irene, Basil I and Basil II illustrate this idea. Constantine I was the first Christian emperor of the Byzantine empire, and transformed Christianity from a small cult-like religion into a much more mainstream phenomenon. In retrospect, the spread of Christianity under his reign turned out to be somewhat successful in unifying the empire and it the extent to which Constantine realized that is debatable. However, it is arguable that Christianity was also a useful tool in reinforcing Constantine's authority as emperor. Indeed, Christianity's monotheistic values opened possibilities in asserting the emperor and future emperors as God's representatives on earth. Moreover, the council of Nicea in 325 illustrates the emperor's direct power over the spiritual sphere. Similarly, Theodosius I's reign also exemplifies the political importance of Christianity, as a unifying tool and a reminder of the emperor's power. Indeed, he made Christianity the official religion of the...
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