Civil wars and foreign crisis engulfed the Empire. This was only ended with the Tetrarchy and the Constatine dynasty. Diocletian (285-305) ruled as part of the Tetrarchy (rule of the four). One of the four was Constantine's father. With the death of his father and ten Diocletian, his father's soldiers proclaimed Constantine emperor. Diocletian's death led to civil war. Constantine met another contender, Maxentius, at the Milvian Bridge leading into Rome. Constanine had the smaller firce. He instructed his soldiers to paint a symbol composed of the Greek letters 'chi' and 'rho', telling them it was a symbol of divine support. It also meant Christ. Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge propelled him to gain control of the Empire. The victory is commemorated on the Arch of Constantine, the most famous of all Roman victory arches erected in the heart of Romevnext to the Colliseum and Forum. Constatine (306-337) became one of the greatest of all emperors. He was the first emper to convert to Christianity and began the rise of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. He did not, however, make Christianity the Empire's official religion or suppress the long-established pagan cults. Constantine may be the last of the great emperors, at least in the west. He also founded Constantiople which became the capital of the Eastern Empire or Byzantium.
Constantine's father was Flavius Constantius Chlorus, a native of Dardania province of Moesia (later Dacia Ripensis). Constantius was both tolerant and politically skilled man. He was an officer in the Roman army and through political skills rose in command. He was assigned as part of the Emperor Aurelian's imperial bodyguard. He caught Enmoeror Deoclitian's eye and was appointed governor of Dalmatia (about 285). Constantine's mother was
Helena, a Bithynian, woman and inn keeper's daughter. As such she was far below her husbabnd's rising social standing. It is not known is she was legally married to Constantius or just a concubine. If not, Constahtine would have been illigitimate. Helena was a Christian, aklthough it is not clear when she converted. Constantius divorced Helena (before 289). He then married Theodora, Maximian's daughter, giving him awife of suitable social status. Helena and Constantine at this time appear at the court of Diocletian in. Helena never remarried and lived in obscurity, although close to her only son, who was not influenced by social status and a deep affection for her througout her life.
Rome was in crisis durng the 3rd century. Rome is confronted with chaos during much of the mid-3rd century. There is an approximate 50 year period with 26 military rulers (235-284 AD). Rome is racked by civil war and foreign assaults and disaters. The chaos only ends when Diocletian seized control (284 BC). Diocletian reorganizes the Empire and begins the final era of imperial stability. He turns away from Rome and rules from Nicomedia in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Diocletian adopted the title dominus (lord) which was thde title of an Oriental potentate never befor used by a Roman leader. His sought to separate the Empire's military and civilian administration. He devided the administration of the Empire into two halves. The Western half of the Empire was entrusted to a personal friend Maximian. Diocletian also adopted new agricultural laws and an entirely new tax system. Diocletian ends the chaos, but the focus of the empire is shifted east. The reorganization as well redistributes wealth to the East and thereby weakens the Western Empire. Diocletian ruled as part of the Tetrarchy (rule of the four). One of the four was Constantine's father.
Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in the city of Naissus, Dardania province of Moesia (modern Niš, Serbia (about 272). Little is known about Constantine's childhood. He appears tio have sopent probably spent little time with his father. Constantine' childhood was spent preparing for military service and command, not political governance. Nor was he raised a Christian.
Constantius was elevated to the rank of Caesar (293). Constantine then became a member of Diocletian's court.
Diocletian did not want sons of commanders to suceed their fathers. He thus kept sons of the Tetrachs and otgher important military commanders close at hand as thinly disguised hostages to guarantee their fathers' loyalty.
Constantine proved a talented military officer. Heserved under Diocletian's Caesar Galerius against the Persians. As a young officer in Dioclitian's service, Constantine presumably participated in some of Emoeror's percecutions of Christians. At Nicomedia, Constantine rose to be a member od Dioclitian's inner circle.
With the death of his father and then Diocletian, his father's soldiers proclaimed Constantine emperor.
There was among Roman soldiers a well-established dybnastic instinct. Loyalty was all to often to their commader rather than the Roman state. Diocletian's death led to civil war. Constantine met another imperial contender, Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge leading into Rome (312). Constanine had the smaller force. He instructed his soldiers to paint a symbol composed of the Greek letters 'chi' and 'rho', telling them it was a symbol of divine support. It also meant Christ--Christos in Greek. It is unclear how many of his soldiers made this connection. [Potter] Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge propelled him to gain control of the Empire. The victory is commemorated on the Arch of Constantine, the most famous of all Roman victory arches erected in the heart of Romevnext to the Colliseum and Forum. Stories of Constabtuine seeing visions of Christ and a great cross in the sky appeared much later and only became widely publicized after Constantine's death. Some may have been actually described by Constine, but this is virtually impossible to prove.
Constatine (306-337) became one of the greatest of all Roman emperors. Constantine is the last of the great emperors, at least in the west. As emperor the most important destinguishing character of Constantine's rule seems to be pragmatism.
He was the first emperor to convert to Christianity and began the rise of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. Constantine did not, however, make Christianity the Empire's official religion or suppress the long-established pagan cults. Constantine's connection with Christianity is surely what he is best remember for in the public mind. Constantine was not, however, strongly motived by religion. His military campaigns were not motivared by religion. [Potter] Constantine was fighting for personal political power and he proved very good at it. After becoming emperor, especially in the later years, Constantuine became increasingly open about his adherence to Christianity. He built many churches, although he also commissiined pagan temples, albeit a snmaller number. Large numbers of pagans served in the military and state administrations. An despite some public pronouncements, there wee no actions taken against Jews. [Potter] Constantine notably intervened personally in resolving church disputes. He apparently believed that dissension in the Curch weakened the state. The Nicene Cread is one such intervention. And it is at the heart of mainstream Christianity to his day. The words are those of Constantine although influenced by contemprary scholars. Seemingly stangely after so many public afuirmatins of faith, Constantine was not baptised until late in life. This was, however, not that uncommion at the time because it helped ensure against sinning after the confession of faith.
Much of the information available on Constantine are facts with no nuanced explanation provided by contemporaris. This includes his family life. Minervina was either a concubine or a first wife to Constantine. Vuirtually niothing ekse is known about Minervina, eceotvthe name of her sons, Crispus and Constantine II. His son Crispus was a great assett to his father and played an importantv role in his father's military campaigns. Suddebnly he was arrested and quickly executed (326). The reason for this and role of his father are not known. Soon after his second wife Fausta, Crispus' step-mother, disappears from court and then dies. The circumstances of these evets, perhaps related because of close proximity remain murky. Many authors connect the dots, insisting that Fausta accued Crispus of rape and that he was executed before Fausta's lie was uncovered. Constantine's mother Helena appears to have played a role in bringing Fausta to justice, Constantine never remairred. One author see this as evidence of his enduring love for Fausta. [Potter]
Constantine founded Constantiople which became the capital of the Eastern Empire or Byzantium.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Constatine's life is thatv he ruled for 31 years and duied a natural death. This was in an era of brief reigns and violents end to many who wore the purple roads of Roman emperor. And for the final 13 years he ruled a reunited empire. This level of success was never repeated by another Roman emperor.
Potter, David. Constatine the Emperor (Oxford: 2013), 368p.
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