People - Ancient Rome
: Constantine I
Constantīnus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Claudius, known as The Great, son of the emperor Constantius Chlorus and Helena (q.v.), was born A.D.
272, at Naïsus, a city of Dacia Mediterranea. When Constantine's father was associated in the government by Diocletian, the son
was retained at court as a kind of hostage, but was treated with great kindness at first, and was allowed several opportunities
of distinguishing himself. After the abdication of Diocletian, Constantius and Galerius were elevated to the rank of Augusti,
while two new Caesars, Severus and Maximin, were appointed to second them. Constantine was not called to the succession.
Diocletian, partial to Galerius, his son-in-law, had left the nomination of the two new Caesars to the latter; and the son of
Constantius, whose popularity and talents had excited the jealousy of Galerius, and whose departure, although earnestly solicited
by his father, was delayed from time to time under the most frivolous pretences, with difficulty at length obtained permission to
join his parent in the West, and only escaped the machinations of the emperor by travelling with his utmost speed until he
reached the western coast of Gaul. He came just in time to join the Roman legions, which were about to sail under his father's
command to Britain, in order to make war upon the Caledonians. Having subdued the northern barbarians, Constantius returned to
York (Eboracum), where he died in the month of July, in the year 306. Galerius, sure of the support of his two creatures, the
Caesars, had waited impatiently for the death of his colleague, to unite the whole Roman Empire under his individual sway. But
the moderation and justice of Constantius had rendered him the more dear to his soldiers from the contrast of these qualities
with the ferocity of his rival. At the moment of his death, the legions stationed at York, as a tribute of gratitude and
affection to his memory, and, according to some, at his dying request, saluted his son Constantine with the title of Caesar and
decorated him with the purple. Whatever resentment Galerius felt at this, he soon perceived the danger of engaging in a civil
war. As the eldest of the emperors, and the representative of Diocletian, he recognized the authority of the colleague imposed
upon him by the legions. He assigned to him the administration of Gaul and Britain, but gave him only the fourth rank among the
rulers of the Empire with the title of Caesar.
Under this official appellation Constantine administered the prefecture of Gaul for six years (A.D. 306-312), perhaps the most
glorious, and certainly the most virtuous, period of his life. The title and rank of Augustus, which his soldiers had conferred
upon Constantine, but which Galerius had not allowed him to retain, the latter gave to Severus, one of his own Caesars. This
dignity had been expected by Maxentius, son of the abdicated emperor Maximian, the former colleague of Diocletian. Indignant at
his disappointment, Maxentius caused himself to be proclaimed emperor by his army; and, to strengthen his usurpation, he induced
his father to leave his retreat and resume the imperial title. A scene of contention followed, scarcely paralleled in the annals
of Rome. Severus marched against the two usurpers; but was abandoned by his own troops, surrendered, and was slain. Galerius
levied a great army, and marched into Italy against Maximian and Maxentius, who, dreading his power, retired to Gaul and
endeavoured to procure the support of Constantine. This politic chief did not consider it expedient to provoke a war at that time
and for no better cause; and, Galerius having withdrawn from Italy and returned to the East, Maximian and Maxentius returned to
Rome. To aid him in the struggle, Galerius conferred the title of emperor on his friend Licinius; and thus there were at once six
pretenders to the sovereignty of the Empire-namely, Galerius and Licinius; Maximian and his son Maxentius; Maximin, who had been
nominated Caesar by Galerius; and Constantine, the son and successor of Constantius. Among these rivals Constantine possessed a
decided superiority in prudence and abilities, both military and political. The harsh temper of Maximian soon led to a quarrel
between him and his son Maxentius. Leaving Rome, he went to Gaul, to Constantine, who had become his son-in-law when he and his
son were endeavouring to make head against Galerius. Here also Maximian found himself disappointed of that power which he so
greatly longed to possess; and having plotted against Constantine, was detected and put to death. Galerius died not long after
(311 A.D.), leaving his power to be divided between his Caesars, Maximin and Licinius; so that there were now four competitors
for the Empire: Constantine, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius. Maxentius speedily provoked open hostilities with Constantine, who
marched at the head of a powerful army towards Rome.
It was while Constantine was proceeding on this momentous expedition that he made an open and public declaration in favour of
Christianity. Before that time, the persecuting edicts of Diocletian had been much mitigated by the forbearance and leniency of
Constantius; and Constantine not only followed his father's example in being merciful to the persecuted Christians, but even
showed them some marks of positive favour. Very considerable numbers of them, in consequence, flocked to his standard and swelled
the ranks of his army.
Constantine and Fausta.
Their peaceful, orderly, and faithful conduct, contrasting most favourably with the turbulent and dissolute behaviour of those
who formed the mass of common armies, won his entire confidence. To what extent this led Constantine to form a favourable opinion
of Christianity, or inclined him to view with esteem and respect the tenets which had produced such results, cannot be
ascertained. How far, also, his avowed reception of Christianity was influenced by the prudence of the politician, how far by the
conviction of the convert, it is impossible to determine. The accounts of his dream and his vision (see Labarum), which united to
enforce his trust in Christianity, bear too much the aspect of fiction, or of having been the illusive consequences of mental
anxiety, brooding intensely on the possible results of a great religious revolution, to be woven into the narrative of sober
history. The story goes, however, that on his march to Rome, either at Autun in Gaul, or near the Rhine, or at Verona in Italy,
Constantine beheld in the sky a brilliant cross with the inscription Ἐν τούτῳ νίκα, "By this conquer!" and that on the night
before his decisive battle with Maxentius a vision appeared to him in his sleep, bidding him inscribe the shields of his soldiers
with the sacred monogram of the name of Christ. This, at least, is certain, that Constantine caused the Cross to be employed as
the imperial standard, and advanced with it to promised victory. After the armies of Maxentius, led by his generals, had
sustained two successive defeats, that emperor himself, awakening from his sensual and inactive life at Rome, advanced against
his formidable assailant, and met him near the little river Cremera, about nine miles from the city. Maxentius lost the day,
after a bloody conflict, and, in endeavouring to enter the city by the Milvian bridge, was precipitated into the Tiber, where he
perished (October 27th, 312).
Constantine was received at Rome with acclamations; Africa acknowledged him, as well as Italy; and an edict of religious
toleration, issued at Milan, extended the advantages, hitherto enjoyed by Gaul alone, to this prefecture also. After a brief stay
at Rome, during which he restored to the Senate their authority, disbanded the Praetorian Guard, and destroyed their fortified
camp, from which they had so long awed the city and given rulers to the Empire, Constantine proceeded to Illyricum to meet
Licinius, with whom he had formed a secret league before marching against Maxentius. The two emperors met at Milan, where their
alliance was ratified by the marriage of Licinius to Constantine's sister. During this calm interview, Constantine prevailed upon
Licinius to repeal the persecuting edicts of Diocletian, and to issue a new one, by which Christianity was encouraged, its
teachers were honoured, and its adherents advanced to places of trust and influence in the State. After the overthrow of Maximin
by Licinius, and his death at Nicomedia, Constantine and his brother-in-law were now the only two that remained of the six
competitors for the Empire; and the peace between them, which had seemed to be established on so firm a basis, was soon
interrupted by a strife for sole supremacy. In the first war (A.D. 315) Constantine wrested Illyricum from his competitor. After
an interval of eight years the contest was renewed. Licinius was beaten before Adrianople, the 3d of July, 323, and Constantine
the Great was recognized as sole master of the Roman world.
The seat of empire was now transferred to Byzantium (q.v.), which took from him the name of Constantinople. Several edicts were
issued for the suppression of idolatry; and the churches and property restored to the Christians, of which they had been deprived
during the last persecution. A reconstruction of the Empire was effected upon a plan entirely new, and this renovated Empire was
pervaded by the worship and the institutions of Christianity. That much of the policy of the statesman was mixed up with this
patronage of the new religion can easily be imagined. But still, it would be wrong to make him, as some have done, a mere
hypocrite and dissembler. The state of his religious knowledge, so far as we have any means of judging, was certainly very
inadequate and imperfect; but he was well aware of the characters of the two conflicting religions, Christianity and Paganism,
and the purity of the former could not but have made some impression upon his mind.
The private character of Constantine has suffered, in the eyes of posterity, from his stern treatment of Crispus, his son by his
first wife, whom he had made the partner of his Empire and the commander of his armies. Crispus was at the head of the
administration in Gaul, where he gained the hearts of the people. In the wars against Licinius he had displayed singular talents,
and had secured victory to the arms of his father. But from that moment a strong and unnatural jealousy stifled every paternal
feeling in the bosom of the monarch. He detained Crispus in his palace, surrounded him with spies and informers, and at length,
in the month of July, 324, ordered him to be arrested in the midst of a grand festival, to be carried off to Pola in Istria, and
there put to death. A cousin of Crispus, the son of Licinius and Constantine's sister, was at the same time sent, without trial,
without even an accusation, to the block. His mother implored in vain, and died of grief. It is fair, however, to say that
Niebuhr found evidence to support the view that Crispus aimed at supplanting his father. Fausta, the daughter of Maximian, the
wife of Constantine, and the mother of the three princes who succeeded him, was shortly after stifled in the bath by order of her
husband for infidelity.
In the following year the celebrated Council of Nicaea was held, at which he opposed the Arians, probably on political grounds
only, as being the weaker party; for just before his death he received baptism from an Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Constantine died at the age of sixty-three, at Nicomedia, July 22d, 337, after a reign of thirtyone years from the death of his
father, and of fourteen from the conquest of the Empire. He left three sons, Constantine, Constans, and Constantius, among whom
he divided his Empire. The first, who had Gaul, Spain, and Britain for his portion, was conquered by the armies of his brother
Constans, and killed in the twenty-fifth year of his age, A.D. 340. Magnentius, the governor of the provinces of Rhaetia,
murdered Constans in his bed, after a reign of thirteen years; and Constantius, the only surviving brother, now become the sole
emperor, A.D. 353, punished his brother's murderer, and gave way to cruelty and oppression. He visited Rome, where he enjoyed a
triumph, and died (361 A.D.) in his march against Julian , who had been proclaimed emperor by his soldiers at Paris.
Constantine I in Roman Biography
Con'stan-tine, [Lat. Constanti'nus ; Gr. Kuvaruvtwoc
; Fr. Constantin, k6N'st6.N'taN' ; Ger. Constantin,
kon-stan-teen'; It. Constantino, kon-stan-tee'no;
Dutch, Konstantijn, kon-stan-tin',] (Flavius Valerius
Aurelius,) surnamed the Great, the first Christian
emperor of Rome, born in 272 A.D., was the son of
the emperor Constantius Chlorus and his wife Helena.
Before his accession, his talents, courage, and martial services
had rendered him a favourite of the army, and an
object of jealousy to Galerius, one of the two emperors
then reigning. He was at York when his father died
there, in July, 306, and was proclaimed emperor by the
legions under his command. Galerius accorded to him
only the title of Caesar, and conferred the rank of Augustus
on his own son, Severus. At Rome, Maxentius
and his father Maximim, in the absence of Galerius,
raised a successful revolt, (307,) after which six emperors
and Caesars at one time ruled the provinces of Rome.
About 307 Constantine married Fausta, daughter of
Maximian ; but a war soon ensued between these emperors,
and Maximian, having been defeated, was put to
death in 309. Galerius died in 311, after which Licinius
and Maximin remained masters of the provinces east of
Italv. In 312, Constantine, who reigned in Gaul, marched
against Maxentius, who was defeated and killed near
Rome in that year. About this time, according to tradition,
he was converted to Christianity by a miraculous
vision, in which he saw in the heavens the sign of a cross,
with this inscription, "Thou shalt conquer by *.his sign,"
(" In hoc signo vinces.")
Having obtained undisputed supremacy over the West,
including Italy and Africa, he began to favour more
openly the Christians, and displayed wisdom in the
promotion of order and prosperity among his subjects.
In 314 he fought in Thrace an indecisive battle against
Licinius, his only remaining rival, and then made a
peace, which lasted nine years. During this period he
was employed in political reforms, and adopted a more
humane code of laws, by which Christianity was recognized
as the religion of the state, but the pagan worship
was still tolerated.
In 323 he gained a complete victory over Licinius
near Adrianople, and another opposite Byzantium, after
which he was the sole emperor. He assembled at Nicaea
in 325 the first general council, in which Arianism was
condemned and a famous Catholic creed was adopted.
In the next year he was guilty of an act which has left
a deep stain on his memory, the execution of his eldest
son, Crispus, falsely accused of a crime by Fausta, who
was his step-mother. About 328 he transferred his court
to Byzantium, which he enlarged, and the name of which
he changed to Constantinople,-"City of Constantine."
The duration of the Eastern Empire so many centuries
after the fall of the Western seems to approve the wisdom
of his policy in this affair. A few years before hi* death
he favoured the Arians, and recalled some banished
bishops of that party. He died at Nicomedia 111337 A.D.,
having divided the empire between his three sons, Constantine,
Constantius, and Constans. His character is
variously estimated ; but it is admitted that he had many
of the qualities of a great statesman and general. He
was far from being a saint, and in the opinion of Niebuhr
was not even a Christian, though he permitted himself
to be baptized just before his death.
See Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ;" Euse-
BIUS, "Vita Constantini ;" Vogt, "Historia Constantini Magni,"
1720; Tii.i.k.mont, "Histoire des Empereurs ;" Joseph Fletcher,
"Life of Constantine the Great," 1S52 ; J. C. F. Manso,
Constantin's des Grossen," 1817; Jakob Burckhardt, "Die Zeit
Constantin's des Grossen," 1853.
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Constantine I in Wikipedia
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (c. 27 February
272 – 22 May 337), commonly known as Constantine I,
Constantine the Great, or Saint Constantine, was Roman
Emperor from 306 to 337. Best known for being the first
Christian Roman emperor,[notes 1] Constantine reversed the
persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian, and issued the
Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of
Christians throughout the empire.
The foremost general of his time, Constantine defeated the
emperors Maxentius and Licinius during civil wars. He also
fought successfully against the Franks, Alamanni, Visigoths,
and Sarmatians during his reign – even resettling parts of
Dacia which had been abandoned during the previous century.
Constantine also transformed the ancient Greek colony of
Byzantium into a new imperial residence, Constantinople, which
would be the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over one