Constantine the Great

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Historians have over the years debated over the life of Constantine and his contribution to the Christian religion. However, the question that lingers is whether the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine was actually a Christian. He not only initiated the evolution of the Roman Empire as a Christian state but also, he oversaw a distinctively Christian culture that spread among the Romans and paved way for a new western medieval culture. Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was a political move aimed at ascribing political success through an influence of religion. This paper, therefore, seeks to discuss the great Roman emperor, Constantine.

            The history of the Roman Empire, under the rule of Constantine, dates back to the post-Roman republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. The Roman Empire was among the largest empires in history. According to research conducted by Opoku (2015) on early religions, at its peak, the Roman Empire comprised only 12% of the world’s population. Constantine ruled in A.D 312-337, where he came to power after the end of a Roman Civil war, therefore, considering himself as one of the good emperors that reigned in the second century (Opoku, 2015). He, however, ruled as a despot by making reforms and spending a lot of money on monuments and military campaigns. Constantine the great ended the endemic civil war that occurred in the later third century thereby founding the great city of Constantinople (Opoku, 2015). During his tenure as an emperor, he reunified the Roman Empire which was under Diocletian’s reign who divided the empire into four regions headed by disparate emperors. This however led to the collapse of the empire following the end of the Principate and the beginning of the Dominate.

During the tenure of Constantine, under his new rule in Constantinople as the Christian capital of eastern Rome, he divided the entire Roman Empire centering the dual power across the Valentinian and Constantine dynasties. The Constantine dynasty proclaimed a policy that tolerated Christians who had previously been suppressed by the foregoing emperors Galerius and Diocletian. In 305 A.D, Maximian and Diocletian abdicated to be succeeded by Constantius and Galerius, with the former ruling the East and the latter ruling the west. After Constantius death at Eboracum, a series of civil wars ensued an immediately the great Constantine was acclaimed as the emperor of the Roman Empire.

For the next two decades he waged war in Britain following his father’s death and in 312 A.D, he waged war in Italy to defeat one of his renowned rival Maxentius. Among the most decisive moments in history was his victory at the Melvian Bridge outside Rome. Moreover, following the arguments by Byzantine emperors on the legalization and support of Christianity, his decision to include Christianity as part of his political rule bore fruits and the Roman empire grew to most parts of Europe following the missionaries who spread Christianity to the remote areas of the world. Through a constant succession of victories following the series of civil wars and the war between the Romans and the Persians, Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire and his authority reunited the ever dividing east and west Rome. In A.D 324, the Senate and the Pretorian guard made allies with Constantine’s enemy Maxentius whom Constantine was always on the verge of conflict against his rule and reign. This opened hostilities and Constantine became the sole ruler of the western half while his brother in law, Maxentius became the ruler of the east.

            Constantine gained favor by supporting Christianity and therefore he ruled jointly with Linus whom together they laid the foundations of the post-classical European civilization (Newell, 2010). His experience as a member of the imperial court in the Eastern part of Rome had a lasting impact on his rule. It was through this experience that he learned Latin and Greek by forming a habit of edifying sermons and translate in Greek. In 306 A.D, Constantine discovered the ever looming enmity in the Church with some taking a rigorous position to support the lapsi due to lack of faith in the church. However, during the preceding years after being proclaimed the emperor, Constantine was presented with grievances against Caecilian who at that time was the bishop of Carnage. His renowned wisdom became evident when he summoned a synod of bishops so that he could hear the complaint. They gathered in Rome’s council and the synod ruled in favor of the bishop of carnage.  Following a second appeal by the Donatists  Constantine gathered thirty-three bishops where a considerable strength in numbers led to the achievement of Donatist church in North Africa.

            In conclusion, the great emperor Constantine’s not only renowned for the Christianization of the Roman Empire but also, the unification of Romans following open hostilities created by previous successors. He successfully attempted to suppress Maximian rule over the eastern part of Europe and this made him one of the greatest emperors at the time. Additionally, he omitted the Greek traditional sacrifices and introduced Greek culture to Christianity. It can, therefore, be concluded that Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was a political move to rule efficiently.


Newell, J. (2010, 10 2). Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor. Overlook Press Military Review, pp. 1-5.

Opoku, F. (2015). Constantine and Christianity: The Formation of Church/State Relations in the Roman Empire. Ilorin Journal of Religous Studies, 1-15.

November 24, 2023


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