To celebrate his victory, Constantine created Constantinople on the site of Byzantium, which had been Licinius' stronghold. A mosaic image of Constantine the Great from the Hagia Sophia (Constantinople). However, his spiritual growth and eventual conversion did not happen at once with this one dramatic event. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to profess Christianity. The Fight to Become Emperor. 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 was also the first emperor to adhere to Christianity. 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. Was the deathbed conversion of Constantine the act of a moral pragmatist? Constantine I (Latin: Flavius Valerius Constantinus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος, translit. Learn more about emperor worship in … Constantine wouldn't stand for this and marched against Licinius. See: "Religion and Politics at the Council at Nicaea," by Robert M. Grant. His mother, Helena, was Greek and of low birth. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our. 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. Constantine is the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. 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). First Christian emperor of Rome. Constantine the Great. His convocation of the First Council at Nicea produced the Nicene Creed, an article of faith among Christians worldwide. Upon his father's death on July 25, 306 A.D., Constantine's troops proclaimed him Caesar. He also established a second Senate. Ancient Historians on the Conversion of Constantine. By the time Constantius became governor of Dalmatia, he required a wife of pedigree and found one in Theodora, a daughter of Emperor Maximian. 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: Why Did Constantine Wait Until He Was Dying to Be Baptized? As the sole emperor of Rome, Constantine ruled for 13 years. How Old Is 'the Dream of the Rood' and What Does It Mean? Constantine the Great. Constantine may have been Christian since before he became emperor. Constantine built many churches. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans, and Byzantine Catholics venerate him as a saint. The two remained rivals over a decade of uneasy truces before their animosity culminated in the Battle of Chrysopolis, in 324. Maxentius raised an army of 170,000 foot soldiers and 18,000 horsemen. He remained a Christian as an emperor, although Christianity was still unknown when he converted. He planned a great campaign against the Sassanid rulers of Persia but fell ill in 337. The short answer is, "Yes, Constantine was Christian," or seems to have said he was, but it belies the complexity of the issue. Contrary to popular belief, however, Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. Death of Constantine. Early Life. By 336, Constantine the Great had reclaimed most of the province of Dacia, lost to Rome in 271. Who Was Constantine the Great? Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in Naissus, in the province of Moesia Superior, present-day Serbia. Constantine served with distinction under emperors Diocletian and Galeriuscampaigning in the … Constantine's mother, Helena, was a barmaid and his father a military officer named Constantius. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. 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. How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern, but his accession was a turning point for the Christian Church. After Maxentius' defeat, Constantine and his brother-in-law, Licinius, split the empire between them. This praise-filled biography came from the hand of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, and perhaps Constantine's greatest admirer. Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in Naissus, in the province of Moesia Superior, present-day Serbia. 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. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. Please add your opinion to the forum thread. In 312AD Constantine defeated his rival for power Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge and went on to make Christianity legal. 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. Emperor of All of Rome Seven years later, Licinius decided to renew the persecution of Christians. 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 paved the way for it to become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and ultimately of Europe. At the Council of Nicea, Constantine the Great settled Christian doctrine for the ages. Building in Rome However, legends and archaeological evidence suggest a different story– it seems that Constantine had a secret about his faith which was hidden for centuries. Schism, in Constantine’s … This was accomplished by Emperor Theodosius in 380. He is known for his economic, political, and military achievements, as well as his religious reforms. Constantine the Great is known in history as the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. by T. G. Elliott; Phoenix, Vol. Constantius had been one of the senior emperors. When Rome fell, Constantinople became the de facto seat of the empire. 41, No. He was a Roman Pagan. 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. Most people consider Constantine a Christian from the Milvian Bridge in 312, but he wasn't baptized until a quarter century later. Shows Constantine, warts and all, as a great man in a pivotal time in world history. Licinius was routed and Constantine became sole Emperor of Rome. Elliott, Thomas George. BiblicalTraining.org | c.274/280-337. [27] 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. Wearing a sign of a cross, Constantine won, and the following year he made Christianity legal throughout the Empire with the Edict of Milan. Constantine sent him on exile at Thessalonica but killed him and his son a few months later for charges of treason. 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. Kōnstantînos; 27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was a Roman emperor from 306 to 337. 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. 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. Constantine the Great (27 Feb c. 272/273 – 22 May 337) Constantine was Roman Emperor (A.D. 306-337). The original Gnostic Christianity that was imported from Britain was eventually suppressed by superior military means. This video covers the life and reign of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. 1 (Jan. 1975), pp. Constantine's was never a Christian. While the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great reigned (306–337 AD), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. 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 embraced Christianity and showed it publicly. 1-12. With co-Emperor Licinius, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance of all religions throughout the empire. 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. Constantine's Christian mother, St. Helena, may have converted him or he may have converted her. Much controversy exists over the relationship between Constantine and Christianity. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. After several battles Constantine defeated Licinius and became ruler of a united Rome in 324. 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. He enlarged the city, adding fortifications, a vast hippodrome for chariot racing, and a number of temples. Constantine The Great was not an Arian at all. 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. 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