Christianity’s history is filled with division, controversy, and conflict. One of the most important people who contributed to the lasting success of this diverse religion was Constantine. While legalizing Christianity in Roman society, he founded the capital of the eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople. Because of this and other great accomplishments, Constantine appropriately earned the name Constantine the Great.
After his father’s death in 306, the Gaul army hailed Constantine as their ruler. After five years as the emperor of Gaul, Constantine invaded Italy. After defeating the Roman army, Constantine entered Rome as the ruler of the western half of the empire. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting freedom of worship to all persons in the western Roman Empire. The edict also guaranteed legal rights to Christians and the return of property taken from Christians in the past.
By the year 323, Constantine had brought the entire Roman Empire under his rule. At this time, a quarrel threatened the division of Christianity into two separate churches. Arius, a priest in Alexandria, Egypt, insisted that Christ was not equal to the Father, because he was created by him. On the other hand, Athanasius, the leader of the bishops in the west, claimed that the Father and Son were equal and of the same substance. In 325, as a mediator, Constantine called together a council of bishops at Nicaea in Asia Minor. While condemning Arius and his teachings, the council declared the complete equality of God the Father and the Son. The teaching that Father and Son were made up "of one substance" became part of the Nicene Creed, the statement that helped to unite Christianity. The council addressed other issues as well, including the method for consecrating bishops.
Next, Constantine moved the capital from Rome to the east. He chose the Greek city of Byzantium. In 330, after expanding and enriching the city, it was dedicated as New Rome, but it was called Constantinople, meaning “the city of Constantine.” Constantinople became the capital of Christianity in the east, while Rome dominated the religion in the west.
Constantine’s continuous support for Christianity is one of the reasons that it is still a major religion today. I believe that Constantine was a great ruler because of his dedication to the unity of Christianity. Regardless of the different schisms in the religion, Constantine was determined to make Christianity unified. The Edict of Milan shows that Constantine had respect for other religions and allowed them, but preferred Christianity. It also shows that, even though he wasn’t a Christian, he felt compassion for them when their property was taken and one of his first actions, after taking over Rome, was to reinstate all property taken from the Christians.
The Council of Nicaea is also an example of the determination that Constantine had for the unity of Christianity. Constantine organized this council, and I believe that even though it didn’t unify Christianity it was a prime example of Constantine’s power and strength. I have much respect for Constantine because of his endless faith in the unity of Christianity. No matter how many diverse schisms there were, he was constantly determined to keep the religion united and strong.
Furthermore, he wasn’t a ‘true’ Christian until his deathbed when he was finally baptized, and I think that this shows his tremendous commitment and belief in the religion. As a result, his faith and worship in Christianity was unique because his actions were all based on his belief as a person, not on his role as a Christian.
I have much respect for Constantine. I believe that he was a great ruler and he cared about his people and Christianity. His accomplishments are respectable and honorable, which is why I am convinced that he was one of the greatest rulers in history.
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