Philosophical Europe ||| The Political Progress ||| European Witness ||| EU News
European Forum ||| Special Homages: Meister Eckhart / David Copperfield
From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VII. THE LATER EMPIRE: CHRISTIANITY IN THE ROMAN WORLD, 180-395 A.D.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 19
TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY
CHRISTIANITY BECOMES A TOLERATED RELIGION
Diocletian's persecution, which continued for several years after his abdication, came to an end in 311 A.D. In that year Galerius, the ruler in the East, published an edict which permitted the Christians to rebuild their churches and worship undisturbed. It remained for the emperor Constantine to take the next significant step. In 313 A.D. Constantine and his colleague, Licinius, issued the Edict of Milan, which proclaimed for the first time in history the noble principle of religious toleration. It gave absolute freedom to every man to choose and follow the religion which he deemed best suited to his needs. This edict placed the Christian faith on an equality with paganism.
The conversion of Constantine is one of the most important events in ancient history. A Roman emperor, himself a god to the subjects of Rome, became the worshiper of a crucified provincial of his empire. Constantine favored the Christians throughput his reign. He surrounded himself with Christian bishops, freed the clergy from taxation, and spent large sums in building churches. One of his laws abolished the use of the cross as an instrument of punishment. Another enactment required that magistrates, city people, and artisans were to rest on Sunday. This was the first "Sunday law." 
 It is highly doubtful, however, whether this legislation had any reference to Christianity. More probably, Constantine was only adding the day of the Sun, the worship of which was then firmly established in the empire (see page 229, note 1) to the other holy days of the Roman calendar.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy