Gaius Flavius ​​Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (born February 27, 274, Naissus, Roman Empire, dated May 23, 337, Nicomedia, Roman Empire), known as Constantine the Great (Greek: Konstantin the Great) or Constantine I, was Roman Emperor between 306 and 337. From 324 he led as the only emperor.

Its reference names are: Imperator Caesar Flausus Valerius Aurelius Constantineus Pius Felix Inuictus Augustus, Germanicus Maximus, Maximus Sarmaticus, Maximus Maximus, Maximus Maximus, Maximus Maximus, Maximus Maximus, Maximus Maximus, Maximus Maximus, Carpicus Maximus.

It is considered in Orthodoxy as having an equivalent status to the apostles (in Greek, Isapostolic, "Isoapostolic," or "Apostles").


Constantine the Great

Statue of Constantin the Great

Youth and coming to power

Constantine I the Great was born in Naissus, in the Roman province of Moesia Superior, being the son of General Constantius Chlorus (the future Emperor Constantius I) and Helena.

His father, Constantius Chlorus, in 271-272, under Emperor Aurelian, was a member of the protectors (supreme military servants of the Emperor) in the East of the Roman Empire, and later became tribunal. In 284-285 he was praeses (provincial governor subordinated to a consular) of Dalmatia. He was Pretorian prefect of Emperor Maximian in 288-293. On 1 March 293, he was promoted to the rank of Caesar.

In 305, after the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, Constantin joins his father in the western part of the empire. At the death of Constantius I, at Eburacum, in Britannia (25 July 306), Constantine was proclaimed emperor by the army. Under these circumstances, Galerius, the dominant personality of the Second Tetrarchy, proclaims Flavius ​​Severus Augustus of the West and accepts Constantine the Caesar. For the moment, Constantine accepted, but peace and the third tetrarchy would not last long. In Rome, on Oct. 28, 306, Maxentius, son of Maximian, was proclaimed Emperor, and Maximian who had withdrawn, returned to claim power. Under the conditions of the dissolution of the Tetrarchy at the Carnuntum conference (11 November 308), Constantine is officially recognized as a Caesar in the West, and Maxentius is declared usurpatory.

In agreement with Licinius, the new Augustus of the West, Constantin occupies Spain (310), then enters with the army in Italy, defeats Maxentius forces in Torino, Verona, and in the decisive battle at Milvius Bridge near Rome where Maxentius finds his death (312). Thus, all the Western provinces of the empire are reunited under its authority.

Converting Constantine

Before he came to power, Emperor Galerius ended the persecution of Christians in his territories, and then Constantine imposed not only tolerance but also the return of the goods of Christians. But Constantine was not ready to become a Christian. The coins struck during this period prove their devotion to Mars, then more and more to Apollo, venerated as Sol Invictus. Shortly after the conquest of Rome, Constantine sent letters to the Bishop of Carthage and to the proconsul of Africa that he supported Christian religion, subsidized the Christian Church from public funds, scuttled the clergy of public obligations and considered himself the servant of God.

In 312, Constantine "went to the Christian faith," and continued to hold the Pontifex Maximus function, which allowed the religious leadership of all those who had been given the title of "Caesar," that is, the ruler of the Roman state and of religion, - of course pagan - a function held by all Caesars, including those before Christ.

Following the meeting between Constantine and Licinius of Mediolanum (February-March 313), the "Milan Edict" is promulgated. The text of this edict is given by Lactant in Latin and by Eusebius of Caesarea in Greek. In fact, it is a letter sent by Licinius to the provincial governors controlled by him, asking them to stop any persecution of Christians, and the confiscated property from them to be immediately returned. The letter did not sanction Christianity as a state religion, nor did it personally engage Licinius in the Christian faith.

Through the "Militaric Edict" (313) given by Emperor Constantine the Great and the "The Edict of Thessalonica" (380) of Emperor Theodosius (346-395), Christianity ended by becoming a reality first tolerated, and then constitutional of the Roman Empire. Tradition has even succeeded in earthy cultivation of the idea that the Milan edict, proclaimed by Constantine and Licinius, is the act of establishing tolerance for Christian cult, but historical monographs state that Galerius issued an edict of tolerance in 311:

"Even then, the situation of Christians in the Empire would change altogether, without any intervention by Constantin in this regard. The true edict of tolerance was issued in 311 by Galerius. He proclaimed Christianity as a religion and gave Christians the right to meet, provided they did not disturb public order; Christians, on the other hand, had the duty to pray to their god for the prosperity of the Emperor and the Roman state. The explanation of issuing this edict, surprising if we think that before 311, Galerius had severely persecuted Christians, it must perhaps be sought in the state of confusion in which he was at that time, being touched by a cruel, after which he would die shortly: it is also believed that the Romans had begun to suffer from so many persecutions, obviously vain, against Christians. However, the true edict of tolerance is that of Galerius, and the tradition that seeks to transfer its merit to the so-called - improperly, as we shall see - the "edict of Milan" is not in accordance with reality." -Paul Lemerle, History of Byzantium

The conflict with Licinius

The relations between the two emperors began to strain, thus, in 316, a first civil war broke out. Constantin gets a victory in the Battle of Cibalae (Pannonia). The understanding that ended between the two provided for Licinius to give Constantin all his East European provinces except Thrace, but retaining his position of Augustus. On March 1, 317, Constantin announced in Serdica (today, Sofia) the appointment of three caesaries: his son Crispus, 12 years old, his son Constantin, 6 months old, and Licinius son of Licinius, who had 1 year and 8 months. After 320, Licinius, supported by heathen circles in the Orient, initiated an anti-Christian policy, while Constantine approached increasingly the positions of the Christian church. In the new civil war that broke out in 324, Licinius is defeated in two great battles, Adrianople (July 3) and Chrysopolis in Asia Minor (September 26th), is captured and executed the following year in Thessalonica.

Governance of Constantine

The Roman Empire is thus reunified and subjected to the authority of a single emperor, an unprecedented political situation since 285. Constantine, who claims to be the chosen one on earth of the unique divinity, abandons the polytheism of tetrarchy in favor of Christian monotheism. The principle of adoption of future emperors is replaced by that of dynastic heredity. Constantine continued and perfected all the reforms initiated by Emperor Diocletian. The number of Roman provinces is raised to 117, grouped in 14 dioceses and 4 prefectures (Orient, Illyricum, Italy and Galia). By creating a new gold coin (solidus), the economic policy of the principality - which was based on silver - is in favor of gold, which becomes the basis of the Roman imperial monetary system.

The army is now finally divided into border troops and campaign troops (comitatenses). On the initiative of Constantine, a bridge over the Danube is inaugurated in 328 between Sucidava and Oescus, reflecting the importance acquired by the North-Danubian regions for the empire. Through its campaigns at the Danube border, it recovers some of the territories of Dacia (which had been abandoned by the legions of Emperor Aurelian). The territory reoccupied in Dacia is defended by the limes known today as Brazda of Novac, which started from the mouth of Topolniţa and passed under the hills near Drobeta, Drăgăşani, at the Roman Castrum at Pietroasele, near Buzău, continue then with the south of Moldova to Nistru (the earth wave sometimes called the Athanaric wave). On this occasion, Constantin added the title of Dacicus Maximus.

On a religious level, in Constantinus convened in Nicea the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, which laid down the dogmatic and canonical foundations of this religion, defining more precisely the Christian dogmas in response to the challenge represented by the Arian heresy. All the bishops present agreed to the major theological positions proposed by proto-orthodoxy, since at that time other forms of Christianity had been "already excluded, suppressed, reformed or destroyed." Although the proto-Orthodox had won previous disputes, following the more precise definition of Christian Orthodoxy, they were defeated in the 4th and 5th centuries by their successors with their own weapons, ultimately being hereticized, not because would have countered ideas regarded as correct, but because their position lacked the theological refinement and refinement required by the reconciliation of contradictory theses accepted simultaneously by the theologians.

Constantine is believed to have exiled those who have refused to accept the Creed of Nicaea - Arius, deacon Euzoios, the Libyan bishops Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais - and also the bishops who had signed the Creed but refused to join his conviction Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Theognis of Nicea. The Emperor ordered that the copies of Thalia be burned, the book in which Arius expressed his teachings. However, there is no evidence that the son and his final successor, Constantius II, who was an Aryan Christian, were exiled.

Although he was determined to keep what the church had defined in Nicaea, Constantin also wanted to pacify the situation, and later became more tolerant of those condemned and exiled by the council. He first allowed Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was the protector of the emperor and Theognis sister, to return after signing confessions of ambiguous faith. Arius' two friends, plus his other friends, have worked to rehabilitate Arius. At the First Council of Tire in 335, they brought charges against Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria, then Bishop of Alexandria, Arius' main opponent; after which Constantine exiled Athanasius because he considered it a barrier to reconciliation. In the same Council of Jerusalem, under Constantine's command, he re-read Arius in communion in 336. However, Arius died on his journey to Constantinople. Some historians have suggested that Arius would have been poisoned by his enemies. Eusebius and Theognis continued to enjoy the emperor's favors, and when Constantine, who was catechumen for most of his adult life, accepted baptism on his deathbed, he was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia.

Constantinople - the new capital, the new Rome

Constantine made the decision to restore the Byzantine Empire and to make it the capital of the empire. In November 324, he formally established the boundaries of his new city, moving them about 4 km apart and increasing about four times his surface. The new city became a center of Christianity, the residence of a patriarch, comparable in size to Rome, Alexandria, or Jerusalem. "New Rome" inherited the political institutions of ancient Rome, but also the cultural traditions of the Greek East.

The construction and popularization of the new city took place very quickly. The new walls were finished in 412. Like Rome, the city is built on 7 hills and divided into 14 administrative districts. There is also a Senate here; its members, however, ranked inferior to the senators in Rome, being called clear (not remarkable) and not clear-sighted (particularly remarkable). In the perimeter now occupied by Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Constantine built the imperial palace. The racetrack was increased to a capacity of 50,000 seats. Constantine also began the construction of two great churches, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) and Hagia Eirene (Holy Peace).

On May 11, 330 there is the official inauguration of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The celebrations last for 40 days and took place on the hippodrome. The coins beaten that year announced the event to the world.

Familly life

In September 307, at the Augusta Trevorum Colony, Trier today, Constantine married Maximian's daughter Fausta, giving up his beloved Minervina, who had given him his first son, Crispus. With Fausta Constantin had five children: Constantin, Constantius, Constant, Constantina and Helena.

Constantine's residence was the city of Trier, as it had been for his father, Constantius, and before him, for Emperor Maximian. Here, in Trier, Constantine brought her mother, Helena. At the end of 311 or the beginning of 312, his stepfather, Constantia marries Licinius.

On November 8, 324, Constantine called his son Constantius as Caesar, and it seems that on the same day he offered the rank of August to his wife Fausta and his mother, Helena.

In 326, Constantine murdered his older son, Crispus, who was unjustly charged with Faust's adultery. It must be stressed that Crispus, like Fausta, remained heathen, which could have created an enmity between him and his father. The execution was carried out at Pietas Iulia in Istria. In the same year, realizing the mistake made, shortly after Crispus's death, Constantin also killed his wife, Fausta, after a 19-year-old marriage. Both Crispus and Fausta have received damnatio memoriae, meaning that their names have been deleted from public inscriptions and writings. All his deeds were in line with Roman laws and practices in that era.

Constantin's last years

Between 325 and 337 Constantine continued to support the Church and use state resources to build churches. The little kingdom of Iberia (today Georgia) in the Caucasus adopted Christianity during the reign of Constantine. In Armenia, King Tiridate III was converted to Christianity, and his kingdom officially became a Christian at the beginning of the fourth century.

Shortly after Easter in 337 (April 3), Constantine began to feel sorry; was baptized by Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, and after baptism he wore only white garments like a Christian neophyte instead of imperial vestments.

On the day of Pentecost, May 22, in 337, Constantine died at Nicomedia, today Izmit, in Turkey. His body was taken with an escort to Constantinople and exposed on a cathedral of honor in the Imperial Palace.

Only on September 9, 337, Constantine II, Constantine II and Constant took the title Augustus, dividing the empire.

Constantine in Roman art

Starting with the year 324, a new image of his face is noticed on Constantin's coins. His gaze is now directed up and down; this reflects his claim not to divinity, but to his divine mission and inspiration. He also gives up the crown of laurels and adopts a tiara.

At Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, one can see a huge marble head of Constantine, three times the natural size. It was dated 325/326. The best known resemblance to Constantine is the huge marble head of Cortile in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitol Hill in Rome. It has a height of 2.55 m and weighs between 8 and 9 tons. A remarkable portrait of Constantine can be seen at the Belgrade National Museum. It is a natural-sized bronze head that comes from Naissus, the birthplace of the emperor. It was dated in about 330. It is worth mentioning two other statues of Constantine both dated in about 320, where the Emperor appears in military garments. At Constantin's death four different types of homage coins were struck.

Sanctification of Constantine the Great

By baptism, according to Christian religion, Constantine the Great was erased both by the ancestral sin, inherited from the people's protoparents, Adam and Eve, as well as the other sins committed until baptism.

For his special merits in legalizing, supporting and organizing the Christian Church, Constantine the Great is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Churches, in the Greek Catholic Church, on 21 May, with the Holy Elena, her mother, as well as in Eastern oriental churches (non-chalcedonian). The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Helena on August 18.

Constantine the Great is considered in the Orthodox Church as "equal to the Apostles", isapostolos (Isapostolos Constantine), and the Romanian Orthodox Church calls it "Holy Emperor, just with the Apostles".

Contemporary Contests

Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion, has a completely different assessment of Constantine's impact on Christianity:

"Indeed, laziness and corruption, along with the struggles for power and imposed conformism, have become the main features of the Christian movement of the fourth century, almost immediately after it became the official state church (Johnson 1976). Thus, for example, Christian bishops were no longer the leaders of a stigmatized, but growing fast, but were "quickly assimilated as quasi-worldly officials among the mandarins who administered the empire" (Fletcher, 1997, 22). Churches in people's homes have been replaced by splendid public buildings, maintained by imperial dedication. Contrary to what is generally believed, the conversion of Constantine did not produce the triumph of Christianity. Rather, it was the first and most important step that slowed down its progress, dragged it down, and altered its moral vision. Most of the evils associated with European Christianity since the middle of the fourth century can be identified as emerging from the formalization of Christianity." -Rodney Stark, Secularization, R.I.P.

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