The Emperor Constantine I
I think that the emperor Constantine is the most important emperor of the late antiquity. The many great events of his reign laid foundations that would affect the future of Europe and Western Civilization for centuries to come. His recognition and support of Christianity was one of the most important moments in world history. Moving the government of the Roman Empire to Constantinople and founding New Rome was one of the most significant decisions ever made by a Roman ruler. Ten emperors who reigned after Constantine took his name. This is just one more indication of his importance in history and the honor in which his people held him.
I found that emperor Constantine was born Flavius Valerius Constantinus in Naissus, a town in Serbia, on February 27 sometime in the 270 s CE. His mother was a woman of humble background named Helena who would later become a Christian. Because of her good works, she was made a Christian saint after her death. Constantine s father was a career military officer named Constantius. Constantine was married at least twice and had four sons: Crispus, Constantine II, Constantius, and Constans.
Constantius, his father, was in charge of the Roman Province of Britannia. When Constantius died Constantine he was immediately proclaimed emperor by the army. However, it took many years of political struggle and actual civil war before he could consolidate his power. Constantine finally became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 323 CE when he defeated the eastern Emperor Licinius.
Of Constantine s major accomplishments I feel that the most important was his recognition of the Christianity. In 311 CE, he ordered the end of the persecution of Christians. On October 28, 312 CE, Constantine faced one of his greatest battles as he tried to consolidate his power. He was greatly outnumbered by the forces of Maxentius, who also wanted to be emperor. In a dream the night before the battle, Constantine saw the initials for the name of Christ as well as the cross and was told, By this sign you will conquer. The next morning, he had the initials painted on his helmet and ordered them to be painted on the shields of all his soldiers. Constantine s forces won the day and he credited the Christian God with the victory. He was closer to his goal of absolute power as sole emperor of Rome was now, for all practical purposes, a Christian.
Constantine not only recognized Christianity but also made many contributions and enacted laws that helped it spread. He also became involved in Christianity. He felt that, as emperor, he had a responsibility to help and protect the faith. He also believed that all Christians should have the same beliefs.
I think that Constantine s most important political accomplishment was moving the permanent capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium. He said that God had told him to move the capital which he renamed in his own honor as Constantinople. He also ordered the city to be rebuilt so it would be a worthy capital for the empire. The new city provided Constantine with a better location for ruling the empire. The new capital gave him easy access to the Balkan provinces.. Constantine also believed the move to Constantinople would help economic development in the Empire. The move left Rome as one of the wealthiest and greatest cities of the world and the capital of the Western Empire.
I believe Constantine was a conqueror who was very popular with the army because he had been an officer and worked his way up through the ranks. The soldiers knew that their emperor understood them and what they went through. Constantine used the army to win many great victories over the Franks, the Samaritans, and the Goths. His victories show that he was a master of military strategy.
Constantine died on May 22, 337 CE and was buried at Constantinople in the Church of the Apostles. Statues of the twelve Apostles stood around his tomb, six on each side. Constantine felt that he was an Apostle because he had used his life and his office as emperor to spread the Christian faith.
Overall I think Constantine was a successful emperor who did many good things. I believe the most important was his relationship to Christianity. He made many gifts of land and money to build churches and support the leaders of the church. Because of Constantine, Christianity became the major religion of the Roman Empire and of western civilization. Constantine was one of the greatest of all the Roman emperors. His work, his decisions and his laws changed the Roman Empire and western civilization. Even today, the effects of his reign are felt since Christianity is still the major religion of the western world. There are very few people in history who did as much as he did and had such a major impact on the world.
Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity, pp. 67-79 ff. New York: Atheneum, 1980.
The Throne of the Caesars: Emperor Constantine I (The Great). 15 November 1999.