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CONSTANTINOPLE  

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Constantine and Christianity

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Page 2

Constantine was born at the city of Naissus (Nish at present). On the side of his father, Constantius Chlorus, Constantine belonged probably to an Illyrian family. His mother, Helena, was a Christian who later became St. Helena. She made a pilgrimage to Palestine where, according to tradition, she found the true cross on which Christ was crucified. In 305, after Diocletian and Maximian had renounced their imperial rank according to the established agreement and had retired into private life, Galerius became the Augustus in the East, and Constantius, father of Constantine, assumed the title of Augustus in the West. In the following year Constantius died in Britain, and his legions proclaimed his son Constantine Augustus.

At this time a revolt broke out in Rome. The mutinous population and the army rejected Galerius and proclaimed as emperor Maxentius, the son of the Maximian who had resigned his imperial power. The aged Maximian joined his son and again assumed the imperial title. A period of civil war followed, during which both Maximian and Galerius died. Constantine the GreatConstantine then formed an alliance with one of the new Augusti, Licinius, and defeated Maxentius in a decisive battle near Rome in 312. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber while trying to flee from the enemy (at Saxa Rubra near the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber).

The two victorious emperors, Constantine and Licinius, met at Milan where, according to historical tradition, they proclaimed the famous Edict of Milan. The peaceful relations between the two emperors did not last very long, however. A struggle soon broke out between them, which ended in a complete victory for Constantine. Licinius was killed in 324 AD, and Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire.

The two main events of Constantine's reign which were of paramount significance for the subsequent course of history were the official recognition of Christianity and the transfer of the capital from the shores of the Tiber to the shores of the Bosporus, from ancient Rome to Constantinople, the New Rome. In studying the position of Christianity in Constantine's time scholars have considered two problems in particular: the conversion of Constantine and the Edict of Milan


Cf. Ancient Greece and Christianity (text in Greek only) ||| Byzantium : heir to the Graeco-roman antiquity 

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