Roman People > Constantine I the Great

Constantine I the Great

Background

Early Years

Diocletian

See Diocletian

While in the kings court however, Constantine learned Greek and obtained an education as well as military training. Diocletian was a strict ruler who wanted to have his citizens conform to moral and ethical codes about how to become a better citizen. One of these was a tenant to continue the pagan practices of antiquity with animal sacrifices.

However, during this time the religion of Christianity was gaining prominence and Constantine was to become the first “Christian Emperor” even though he would not convert until on his deathbed. During this time the Christian church was gaining not only more followers but also material wealth such as owning buildings and more. Christians were increasingly becoming present in the army as well as the courts and in the political structure. Eventually Diocletian enacts a series of anti-Christian edicts before dying.

Following this Constantine returns to his father who is ruling as Emperor of Britain and Hispania and is reunited with him for a short period of time before inheriting rule himself. He is far more tolerant of Christians than his predecessors.

Battle of the Milvian Bridge

See Battle of the Milvian Bridge

During the Battle of the Milvian Bridge which occurred right on the Tiber River north of Rome, Constantine confronted his opponent Maxentius and was victorious. Prior to the battle Constantine prayed for victory and believed that the vision granted to him was from the Christian God. He would also later claim to see a Chi-Rho cross emblazoned on the sun leading into the battle which is the symbol of Jesus Christ.

This symbol formed the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek and the story was recounted to a Roman historian by Constantine himself. Following this he ordered his army change the symbol on their shields to the Chi-Rho not as a symbol of persecution but one of honor. In doing this he assumed a new God and upon conquering the Empire he would institute this as the state wide religion for all citizens, ending the era of pagan worship.

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

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