Constantine I Jackie Legutko

Ancient Coin - Constantine

Growing Up As Constantine

Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine) was born the son of Helena and Constantius during the time of Diocletian’s rule (280 CE). His father eventually succeeded to become the Caesar of western Rome, under the Augustus, Maximian, in the tetrarchy. While in power, Constantius did not strongly persecute the Christian community, but rather left them to their own devices which may have affected young Constantine’s perspective on persecuting the religion as well. As a young man, Constantine worked under Diocletian as an officer, and was deeply angry when he couldn’t get his place in the tetrarchy after his father died. After a series of civil wars, Constantine successfully demolished the tetrarchy and became the one and only emperor of Rome in 324. Constantine also married twice: with his first wife, Minervina, he had a son, Crispus. Later, he married Fausta, and had several children, including his eventual successors Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans. However, Fausta and Crispus were arrested and put to death as part of a palace conspiracy. But despite this, Emperor Constantine reigned instituting many benefits into the Roman Empire.

The Hall of Fame

Despite the controversies of Constantine’s family life, the Emperor Constantine belongs in the Hall of Fame because of his advances in both unifying and stabilizing Roman government, economy, and religion.

Stabilizing the Government

During a great part of Constantine’s lifetime, the Roman government was controlled by the tetrarchy, which was established by the Emperor Diocletian. In this form of government, both the west and the east sides of the empire were ruled by an emperor or an Augustus, and a deputy emperor, known as a Caesar. After the abdication of the Augusti, it was the duty of both Caesars to take their place and appoint a new Caesar to replace themselves. Although the establishment of the tetrarchy prevented Emperors from having too much land to rule at once, the several people in authority stirred many political disagreements. During the tetrarchy, Constantine’s father, Constantius, happened to be the Caesar of the western side of Rome, under the Augustus, Maximian. Eventually, it was Constantius’ time to take Maximian’s place. However, the unexpected death of Constantine’s father took place in 306 CE, bringing chaos to imperial authority. The organized arrangement of the tetrarchy was thrown into disarray: half a dozen individuals claimed to be an emperor at the same time, thus returning the empire to the political chaos of the Third Century. Constantine, seeking his turn was declared Augustus by the army of his father, but the rest of the tetrarchy did not approve (Frassetto). It was this form of government that Constantine abolished after taking part and being victorious in several battles fighting the remaining leaders by his side including the battle of the Milvian Bridge. After his success, Constantine ended the years of disputes among the separate leaders of Rome. Constantine, as he gained political power, introduced a stability that Rome had not seen in a long time due to the instable government.

Improving Rome’s Economy and Defense

In 330 CE, Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the Eastern Mediterranean, building a city which he considered the Nova Roma, or ‘New Rome,’ (Davis and Sandals) which was later named Constantinople. It was a new, Christian capital replacing the old, pagan capital. By doing this, he made improvements in the infrastructure along with the geographical advantages the capital held, having been “surrounded on three sides by water" which easily made the city "a natural gateway for trade between Europe and Asia... as a center for diplomacy and strategy.” (Haber). The topography of Constantinople also made it conducive to military defense: during a siege it could be supplied by sea and could only be attacked by land from a single direction. Constantinople was closer to the main population centers in the East. The new capital also allowed for Constantine to create the waterway between the Mediterranean and Black Sea for trade with other surrounding countries. Trade was important to Rome so they could import products such as silk from foreign countries. By moving the empire’s capital, Rome had great advances in both trade and protection from outside forces. This action was beneficial to the empire and its people as they were protected and gained an advance in the economy as well.

Unifying the Christian Religion

During the spread of Christianity, many of the persecutions towards the religion were due to Christians refusing to make sacrifices when told to do so. After persecutions ended, partly because of Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313 CE), many Christians began to question those who had engaged in the sacrifice when asked to by the government at the time of the persecutions. This unfortunately divided the religion into many opposing sides. Thus, along with his other improvements in the Christian religion, Constantine was also responsible for bringing together the Roman church councils, forming the Council of Nicea where they disputed "major issues of Christianity" such as "the equality of God the Father and God the Son.” (Frassetto). With the meeting also came an establishment of the one Roman Catholic, or ‘universal’ church and the idea of the Holy Trinity, a subject that was very controversial beforehand. It was because of Constantine that the religion of Christianity was able to be united into one, holy, Apostolic church, with its own Creed, definitions of orthodoxy, and canonical scripture, all backed by the authority of the Emperor himself. Not only did this end the arguing between several sides of the religion, but it also brought together the many ideas of different groups in society and established Christianity.

Constantine and the Hall of Fame

Constantine, despite some of the hate that faced him during his reign, made many positive changes to the Roman Empire. By unifying different groups, Constantine was able to make Rome a stronger Empire government wise, along with socially and economically. Constantine I deserves to be in the hall of Fame for his works in making vast improvements in the empire. His advances in stabilizing Rome's overall issues allowed for Rome to have over 30 years of glory in the Empire during his reign and without his work in the Christian religion, Christianity would not be in the same condition as it is today.

Works Cited

Davis, Paul K., and Stanley Sandle. “Battle of Milvian Bridge.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. Translated by J. E. L. Oulton, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, 1994.

Frassetto, Michael. “Constantine I.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

Grant, Michael. Constantine the Great: The Man and His Times. New York, Barnes & Nobles, 1998.

Haber, Katharine. “Constantinople.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Hutchinson, Jennifer. “Rise of Christianity.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

Scarre, Chris. The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome. New York, Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Sizgorich, Tom. “Constanius I Chlorus.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Saint Helena - Mother of Constantine

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