Constantine I AE follis, Siscia.
Obv: IMP CONSTANTINVS AVG, Helmeted laureate, cuirassed
bust left, holding spear and shield.
Rev: VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP, Two Victories facing,
holding shield inscribed VOT PR on altar with design
Helvetica 7S (an X)
Urbs Roma AE Constantinople 330-335 AD.
Obverse: VRBS-ROMA, helmeted bust of
Roma left, wearing imperial mantle
Reverse: GLORI-A EXER-CITVS, two soldiers holding
spears and shields with one standard between them,
o on banner, mintmark CONS epsilon in exegue
Vrbs Roma AE Constantine I AD 306-337
Obverse: VRBS ROMA - Helmeted bust of Roma left, cuirassed.
Reverse: no legend - Wolf and twins Romulus and Remus,
above are two stars. Exegue SMTS (epsilon)
Thessalonica mint: AD 330-333 = RIC VII, 187, page
VRBS ROMA. 330-335 AD. AE Nicomedia mint
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted and draped bust of Roma
Reverse: She-wolf standing left, suckling twins; three
aligned vertically between two stars above; SMNS in
RIC VII 195
VRBS ROMA AE follis. Arles. AD 332-333
Obverse: VRBS-ROMA, Head of Roma left,
wearing plumed helmet and imperial cloak
Reverse: Wolf to left suckling Romulus and Remus,
two stars above
Mintmark: SCONST star
Arles RIC VII 351
City Commemorative, Antioch, AE follis, 335-337.
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted head of Roma left,
wearing imperial cloak and ornamental necklace
Reverse: She-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, helmet
neck piece on wolf's shoulder, two stars above.
Mintmark: SMAN theta
VRBS ROMA. 330-335 AD. AE Nicomedia mint
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted and draped bust of Roma
Reverse: She-wolf standing left, suckling twins; three
aligned vertically between two stars above; SMNS in
RIC VII 195
VRBS ROMA. 330-335 AD. AE
VRBS ROMA, head of Roma left, wearing plumed helmet
and imperial mantle
Reverse: she-wolf to left suckling Romulus and Remus,
two stars above
City Commemorative, Cyzicus. AE 330-334 AD.
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted bust of Roma left,
wearing imperial mantle and ornamental necklace.
Reverse: She-wolf standing left, head right, suckling
Romulus and Remus. Two stars above.
Mintmark SMKS dot
RIC VII Cyzicus 71
Vrbs Roma. 332/3 AD. AE Follis. Trier mint.
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted and cuirassed bust of
Reverse: She-wolf standing left, suckling twins, two
star on wolf's shoulder.
RIC VII Trier 542
City commemorative, Cyzicus, AD 330-334.
VRBS ROMA, helmeted bust of Roma left, (no plume),
imperial mantle and ornamental necklace.
She-wolf standing left, head right, suckling the twins
Romulus and Remus. Two stars above.
Mintmark SMK epsilon dot
City Commemorative, Siscia, AE follis, 335-337.
Obverse: VRBS ROMA, helmeted head of Roma left,
wearing imperial cloak and ornamental necklace
Reverse: She-wolf standing left, suckling Romulus
and Remus, two stars above.
Mintmark: Gamma SIS.
RIC VII Siscia 222
(Wikipedia's characterization of Constantine is balanced,
but it doesn't include everything. History from the first century
AD to the present has been overwhelmingly flavored with a christian agenda.
History has and it still today biased and political. Below is how
Wildwinds.com discribes Constantine. It has its own biased flavor.)
Constantine: Caesar 306-307 AD; Filius Augustorum 307-309 AD; Augustus
309-337 AD. A vain, effeminate man who loved to adorn his body and
the full length of his arms, with jewellery. He had his son Crispus
executed on trumped-up charges of incest and boiled his own wife, Fausta,
to death. He robbed Rome of most of its treasures and moved them
to his self-named new capital city of Constantinople where they were lost
or destroyed when that city fell to the Muslims. In AD 330 he erected
in the forum of Constantinople a huge, gilded statue of Sol which he had
stolen from the temple in Heliopolis, Syria. The head of Sol was
changed to resemble Constantine and inscribed "Constantino solis instar
fulgenti", and citizens were forced to worship him as the sun-god.
Located at: http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/constantine/i.html
Another perspective can be found at:
Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus;
27 February c. 272 AD – 22 May 337 AD), also known as Constantine I or
Saint Constantine (in the Orthodox Church as Saint Constantine the Great,
Equal-to-the-Apostles), was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. Constantine
was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer, and
his consort Helena. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor
in the west, in 293 AD. Constantine was sent east, where he rose
through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian
and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus,
senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under
his father in Britannia (Britain). Acclaimed as emperor by the army
at Eboracum (modern-day York) after his father's death in 306 AD, Constantine
emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius
and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324 AD.
As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social,
and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was
restructured and civil and military authority separated. A new gold
coin, the solidus, was introduced to combat inflation. It would become
the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand
years. The first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity,
Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict
of Milan in 313, which decreed tolerance for Christianity in the empire.
He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed
was adopted by Christians. In military matters, the Roman army was
reorganised to consist of mobile field units and garrison soldiers capable
of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine
pursued successful campaigns against the tribes on the Roman frontiers—the
Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatians—even resettling territories
abandoned by his predecessors during the Crisis of the Third Century.
The age of Constantine marked a distinct epoch in the history of the Roman
Empire. He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium and renamed
the city Constantinople after himself (the laudatory epithet of "New Rome"
came later, and was never an official title). It would later become
the capital of the Empire for over one thousand years; for which reason
the later Eastern Empire would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire.
His more immediate political legacy was that, in leaving the empire to
his sons, he replaced Diocletian's tetrarchy with the principle of dynastic
succession. His reputation flourished during the lifetime of his
children and centuries after his reign. The medieval church upheld
him as a paragon of virtue while secular rulers invoked him as a prototype,
a point of reference, and the symbol of imperial legitimacy and identity.
Beginning with the Renaissance, there were more critical appraisals of
his reign due to the rediscovery of anti-Constantinian sources. Critics
portrayed him as a tyrant. Trends in modern and recent scholarship
attempted to balance the extremes of previous scholarship.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on his orders at the purported
site of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem, became the holiest place in Christendom.
The Papal claim to temporal power in the High Middle Ages was based on
the supposed Donation of Constantine. He is venerated as a saint
by Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics. Though Constantine has
historically often been referred to as the "First Christian Emperor" (and
indeed he heavily promoted the Christian Church), scholars debate his actual
beliefs or even his actual comprehension of the Christian faith itself
(he was not even baptised until just before his death).
Constantine was a ruler of major importance, and he has always been a controversial
figure. The fluctuations in Constantine's reputation reflect the
nature of the ancient sources for his reign. These are abundant and
detailed, but have been strongly influenced by the official propaganda
of the period, and are often one-sided. There are no surviving histories
or biographies dealing with Constantine's life and rule. The nearest
replacement is Eusebius of Caesarea's Vita Constantini, a work that is
a mixture of eulogy and hagiography. Written between 335 AD and circa
339 AD, the Vita extols Constantine's moral and religious virtues.
The Vita creates a contentiously positive image of Constantine, and modern
historians have frequently challenged its reliability. The fullest
secular life of Constantine is the anonymous Origo Constantini. A
work of uncertain date, the Origo focuses on military and political events,
to the neglect of cultural and religious matters.
Lactantius' De Mortibus Persecutorum, a political Christian pamphlet on
the reigns of Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, provides valuable but tendentious
detail on Constantine's predecessors and early life. The ecclesiastical
histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret describe the ecclesiastic
disputes of Constantine's later reign. Written during the reign of
Theodosius II (408–50 AD), a century after Constantine's reign, these ecclesiastic
historians obscure the events and theologies of the Constantinian period
through misdirection, misrepresentation and deliberate obscurity.
The contemporary writings of the orthodox Christian Athanasius and the
ecclesiastical history of the Arian Philostorgius also survive, though
their biases are no less firm.
The epitomes of Aurelius Victor (De Caesaribus), Eutropius (Breviarium),
Festus (Breviarium), and the anonymous author of the Epitome de Caesaribus
offer compressed secular political and military histories of the period.
Although not Christian, the epitomes paint a favorable image of Constantine,
but omit reference to Constantine's religious policies. The Panegyrici
Latini, a collection of panegyrics from the late third and early fourth
centuries, provide valuable information on the politics and ideology of
the tetrarchic period and the early life of Constantine. Contemporary
architecture, such as the Arch of Constantine in Rome and palaces in Gamzigrad
and Córdoba, epigraphic remains, and the coinage of the era complement
the literary sources.
Flavius Valerius Constantinus, as he was originally named, was born in
the city of Naissus, (today Niš, Serbia) part of the Dardania province
of Moesia on 27 February, probably c. 272 AD. His father was Flavius
Constantius, an Illyrian, and a native of Dardania province of Moesia (later
Dacia Ripensis). Constantine probably spent little time with his
father who was an officer in the Roman army, part of the Emperor Aurelian's
imperial bodyguard. Being described as a tolerant and politically
skilled man, Constantius advanced through the ranks, earning the governorship
of Dalmatia from Emperor Diocletian, another of Aurelian's companions from
Illyricum, in 284 or 285. Constantine's mother was Helena, possibly
a Bithynian woman of low social standing. It is uncertain whether
she was legally married to Constantius or merely his concubine. His
main language was Latin, and during his public speeches he needed Greek
In July 285 AD, Diocletian declared Maximian, another colleague from Illyricum,
his co-emperor. Each emperor would have his own court, his own military
and administrative faculties, and each would rule with a separate praetorian
prefect as chief lieutenant. Maximian ruled in the West, from his
capitals at Mediolanum (Milan, Italy) or Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany),
while Diocletian ruled in the East, from Nicomedia (?zmit, Turkey).
The division was merely pragmatic: the Empire was called "indivisible"
in official panegyric, and both emperors could move freely throughout the
Empire. In 288, Maximian appointed Constantius to serve as his praetorian
prefect in Gaul. Constantius left Helena to marry Maximian's stepdaughter
Theodora in 288 or 289.
Diocletian divided the Empire again in 293 AD, appointing two Caesars (junior
emperors) to rule over further subdivisions of East and West. Each
would be subordinate to their respective Augustus (senior emperor) but
would act with supreme authority in his assigned lands. This system
would later be called the Tetrarchy. Diocletian's first appointee
for the office of Caesar was Constantius; his second was Galerius, a native
of Felix Romuliana. According to Lactantius, Galerius was a brutal,
animalistic man. Although he shared the paganism of Rome's aristocracy,
he seemed to them an alien figure, a semi-barbarian. On 1 March,
Constantius was promoted to the office of Caesar, and dispatched to Gaul
to fight the rebels Carausius and Allectus. In spite of meritocratic
overtones, the Tetrarchy retained vestiges of hereditary privilege, and
Constantine became the prime candidate for future appointment as Caesar
as soon as his father took the position. Constantine went to the
court of Diocletian, where he lived as his father's heir presumptive.
In the East:
Constantine received a formal education at Diocletian's court, where he
learned Latin literature, Greek, and philosophy. The cultural environment
in Nicomedia was open, fluid and socially mobile, and Constantine could
mix with intellectuals both pagan and Christian. He may have attended
the lectures of Lactantius, a Christian scholar of Latin in the city.
Because Diocletian did not completely trust Constantius—none of the Tetrarchs
fully trusted their colleagues—Constantine was held as something of a hostage,
a tool to ensure Constantius's best behavior. Constantine was nonetheless
a prominent member of the court: he fought for Diocletian and Galerius
in Asia, and served in a variety of tribunates; he campaigned against barbarians
on the Danube in 296 AD, and fought the Persians under Diocletian in Syria
(297 AD) and under Galerius in Mesopotamia (298–299 AD). By late
305 AD, he had become a tribune of the first order, a tribunus ordinis
Constantine had returned to Nicomedia from the eastern front by the spring
of 303 AD, in time to witness the beginnings of Diocletian's "Great Persecution",
the most severe persecution of Christians in Roman history. In late
302, Diocletian and Galerius sent a messenger to the oracle of Apollo at
Didyma with an inquiry about Christians. Constantine could recall
his presence at the palace when the messenger returned, when Diocletian
accepted his court's demands for universal persecution. On 23 February
303 AD, Diocletian ordered the destruction of Nicomedia's new church, condemned
its scriptures to the flames, and had its treasures seized. In the
months that followed, churches and scriptures were destroyed, Christians
were deprived of official ranks, and priests were imprisoned.
It is unlikely that Constantine played any role in the persecution.
In his later writings he would attempt to present himself as an opponent
of Diocletian's "sanguinary edicts" against the "worshippers of God", but
nothing indicates that he opposed it effectively at the time. Although
no contemporary Christian challenged Constantine for his inaction during
the persecutions, it remained a political liability throughout his life.
On 1 May 305 AD, Diocletian, as a result of a debilitating sickness taken
in the winter of 304–305 AD, announced his resignation. In a parallel
ceremony in Milan, Maximian did the same. Lactantius states that
Galerius manipulated the weakened Diocletian into resigning, and forced
him to accept Galerius' allies in the imperial succession. According
to Lactantius, the crowd listening to Diocletian's resignation speech believed,
until the very last moment, that Diocletian would choose Constantine and
Maxentius (Maximian's son) as his successors. It was not to be: Constantius
and Galerius were promoted to Augusti, while Severus and Maximinus Daia,
Galerius' nephew, were appointed their Caesars respectively. Constantine
and Maxentius were ignored.
Some of the ancient sources detail plots that Galerius made on Constantine's
life in the months following Diocletian's abdication. They assert
that Galerius assigned Constantine to lead an advance unit in a cavalry
charge through a swamp on the middle Danube, made him enter into single
combat with a lion, and attempted to kill him in hunts and wars.
Constantine always emerged victorious: the lion emerged from the contest
in a poorer condition than Constantine; Constantine returned to Nicomedia
from the Danube with a Sarmatian captive to drop at Galerius' feet.
It is uncertain how much these tales can be trusted.
In the West:
Constantine recognized the implicit danger in remaining at Galerius's court,
where he was held as a virtual hostage. His career depended on being
rescued by his father in the west. Constantius was quick to intervene.
In the late spring or early summer of 305 AD, Constantius requested leave
for his son to help him campaign in Britain. After a long evening
of drinking, Galerius granted the request. Constantine's later propaganda
describes how he fled the court in the night, before Galerius could change
his mind. He rode from post-house to post-house at high speed, hamstringing
every horse in his wake. By the time Galerius awoke the following
morning, Constantine had fled too far to be caught. Constantine joined
his father in Gaul, at Bononia (Boulogne) before the summer of 305 AD.
From Bononia they crossed the Channel to Britain and made their way to
Eboracum (York), capital of the province of Britannia Secunda and home
to a large military base. Constantine was able to spend a year in
northern Britain at his father's side, campaigning against the Picts beyond
Hadrian's Wall in the summer and autumn. Constantius's campaign,
like that of Septimius Severus before it, probably advanced far into the
north without achieving great success. Constantius had become severely
sick over the course of his reign, and died on 25 July 306 in Eboracum
(York). Before dying, he declared his support for raising Constantine
to the rank of full Augustus. The Alamannic king Chrocus, a barbarian
taken into service under Constantius, then proclaimed Constantine as Augustus.
The troops loyal to Constantius' memory followed him in acclamation. Gaul
and Britain quickly accepted his rule; Hispania, which had been in his
father's domain for less than a year, rejected it.
Constantine sent Galerius an official notice of Constantius's death and
his own acclamation. Along with the notice, he included a portrait
of himself in the robes of an Augustus. The portrait was wreathed
in bay. He requested recognition as heir to his father's throne,
and passed off responsibility for his unlawful ascension on his army, claiming
they had "forced it upon him". Galerius was put into a fury by the
message; he almost set the portrait on fire. His advisers calmed
him, and argued that outright denial of Constantine's claims would mean
certain war. Galerius was compelled to compromise: he granted Constantine
the title "Caesar" rather than "Augustus" (the latter office went to Severus
instead). Wishing to make it clear that he alone gave Constantine
legitimacy, Galerius personally sent Constantine the emperor's traditional
purple robes. Constantine accepted the decision, knowing that it
would remove doubts as to his legitimacy.
Constantine's share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain.
He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along
the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine
remained in Britain, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured his
control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction
of military bases begun under his father's rule, and ordered the repair
of the region's roadways. He soon left for Augusta Treverorum (Trier)
in Gaul, the Tetrarchic capital of the northwestern Roman Empire.
The Franks, after learning of Constantine's acclamation, invaded Gaul across
the lower Rhine over the winter of 306–307 AD. Constantine drove
them back beyond the Rhine and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and
Merogaisus. The kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of
Trier's amphitheater in the adventus (arrival) celebrations that followed.
Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the
circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates,
and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city.
To the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal
audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. Constantine sponsored
many building projects across Gaul during his tenure as emperor of the
West, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles). According
to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant
policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably
judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution, and a way to distinguish
himself from the "great persecutor", Galerius. Constantine decreed
a formal end to persecution, and returned to Christians all they had lost
during the persecutions.
Because Constantine was still largely untried and had a hint of illegitimacy
about him, he relied on his father's reputation in his early propaganda:
the earliest panegyrics to Constantine give as much coverage to his father's
deeds as to those of Constantine himself. Constantine's military
skill and building projects soon gave the panegyrist the opportunity to
comment favorably on the similarities between father and son, and Eusebius
remarked that Constantine was a "renewal, as it were, in his own person,
of his father's life and reign". Constantinian coinage, sculpture
and oratory also shows a new tendency for disdain towards the "barbarians"
beyond the frontiers. After Constantine's victory over the Alemanni,
he minted a coin issue depicting weeping and begging Alemannic tribesmen—"The
Alemanni conquered"—beneath the phrase "Romans' rejoicing". There
was little sympathy for these enemies. As his panegyrist declared:
"It is a stupid clemency that spares the conquered foe."
Following Galerius' recognition of Constantine as caesar, Constantine's
portrait was brought to Rome, as was customary. Maxentius mocked
the portrait's subject as the son of a harlot, and lamented his own powerlessness.
Maxentius, envious of Constantine's authority, seized the title of emperor
on 28 October 306 AD. Galerius refused to recognize him, but failed
to unseat him. Galerius sent Severus against Maxentius, but during
the campaign, Severus' armies, previously under command of Maxentius' father
Maximian, defected, and Severus was seized and imprisoned. Maximian,
brought out of retirement by his son's rebellion, left for Gaul to confer
with Constantine in late 307 AD. He offered to marry his daughter
Fausta to Constantine, and elevate him to Augustan rank. In return,
Constantine would reaffirm the old family alliance between Maximian and
Constantius, and offer support to Maxentius' cause in Italy. Constantine
accepted, and married Fausta in Trier in late summer 307 AD. Constantine
now gave Maxentius his meagre support, offering Maxentius political recognition.
Constantine remained aloof from the Italian conflict, however. Over
the spring and summer of 307 AD, he had left Gaul for Britain to avoid
any involvement in the Italian turmoil; now, instead of giving Maxentius
military aid, he sent his troops against Germanic tribes along the Rhine.
In 308 AD, he raided the territory of the Bructeri, and made a bridge across
the Rhine at Colonia Agrippinensium (Cologne). In 310 AD, he marched
to the northern Rhine and fought the Franks. When not campaigning,
he toured his lands advertising his benevolence, and supporting the economy
and the arts. His refusal to participate in the war increased his
popularity among his people, and strengthened his power base in the West.
Maximian returned to Rome in the winter of 307–308 AD, but soon fell out
with his son. In early 308 AD, after a failed attempt to usurp Maxentius'
title, Maximian returned to Constantine's court.
On 11 November 308 AD, Galerius called a general council at the military
city of Carnuntum (Petronell-Carnuntum, Austria) to resolve the instability
in the western provinces. In attendance were Diocletian, briefly
returned from retirement, Galerius, and Maximian. Maximian was forced
to abdicate again and Constantine was again demoted to Caesar. Licinius,
one of Galerius' old military companions, was appointed Augustus in the
western regions. The new system did not last long: Constantine refused
to accept the demotion, and continued to style himself as Augustus on his
coinage, even as other members of the Tetrarchy referred to him as a Caesar
on theirs. Maximinus Daia was frustrated that he had been passed
over for promotion while the newcomer Licinius had been raised to the office
of Augustus, and demanded that Galerius promote him. Galerius offered
to call both Maximinus and Constantine "sons of the Augusti", but neither
accepted the new title. By the spring of 310 AD, Galerius was referring
to both men as Augusti.
In 310 AD, a dispossessed Maximian rebelled against Constantine while Constantine
was away campaigning against the Franks. Maximian had been sent south
to Arles with a contingent of Constantine's army, in preparation for any
attacks by Maxentius in southern Gaul. He announced that Constantine
was dead, and took up the imperial purple. In spite of a large donative
pledge to any who would support him as emperor, most of Constantine's army
remained loyal to their emperor, and Maximian was soon compelled to leave.
Constantine soon heard of the rebellion, abandoned his campaign against
the Franks, and marched his army up the Rhine. At Cabillunum (Chalon-sur-Saône),
he moved his troops onto waiting boats to row down the slow waters of the
Saône to the quicker waters of the Rhone. He disembarked at
Lugdunum (Lyon). Maximian fled to Massilia (Marseille), a town better
able to withstand a long siege than Arles. It made little difference,
however, as loyal citizens opened the rear gates to Constantine.
Maximian was captured and reproved for his crimes. Constantine granted
some clemency, but strongly encouraged his suicide. In July 310 AD,
Maximian hanged himself.
In spite of the earlier rupture in their relations, Maxentius was eager
to present himself as his father's devoted son after his death. He
began minting coins with his father's deified image, proclaiming his desire
to avenge Maximian's death. Constantine initially presented the suicide
as an unfortunate family tragedy. By 311 AD, however, he was spreading
another version. According to this, after Constantine had pardoned
him, Maximian planned to murder Constantine in his sleep. Fausta
learned of the plot and warned Constantine, who put a eunuch in his own
place in bed. Maximian was apprehended when he killed the eunuch
and was offered suicide, which he accepted. Along with using propaganda,
Constantine instituted a damnatio memoriae on Maximian, destroying all
inscriptions referring to him and eliminating any public work bearing his
The death of Maximian required a shift in Constantine's public image.
He could no longer rely on his connection to the elder emperor Maximian,
and needed a new source of legitimacy. In a speech delivered in Gaul
on 25 July 310 AD, the anonymous orator reveals a previously unknown dynastic
connection to Claudius II, a 3rd Century emperor famed for defeating the
Goths and restoring order to the empire. Breaking away from tetrarchic
models, the speech emphasizes Constantine's ancestral prerogative to rule,
rather than principles of imperial equality. The new ideology expressed
in the speech made Galerius and Maximian irrelevant to Constantine's right
to rule. Indeed, the orator emphasizes ancestry to the exclusion
of all other factors: "No chance agreement of men, nor some unexpected
consequence of favor, made you emperor," the orator declares to Constantine.
The oration also moves away from the religious ideology of the Tetrarchy,
with its focus on twin dynasties of Jupiter and Hercules. Instead,
the orator proclaims that Constantine experienced a divine vision of Apollo
and Victory granting him laurel wreaths of health and a long reign.
In the likeness of Apollo Constantine recognized himself as the saving
figure to whom would be granted "rule of the whole world", as the poet
Virgil had once foretold. The oration's religious shift is paralleled
by a similar shift in Constantine's coinage. In his early reign,
the coinage of Constantine advertised Mars as his patron. From 310
AD on, Mars was replaced by Sol Invictus, a god conventionally identified
with Apollo. There is little reason to believe that either the dynastic
connection or the divine vision are anything other than fiction, but their
proclamation strengthened Constantine's claims to legitimacy and increased
his popularity among the citizens of Gaul.
the middle of 310 AD, Galerius had become too ill to involve himself in
imperial politics. His final act survives: a letter to provincials
posted in Nicomedia on 30 April 311 AD, proclaiming an end to the persecutions,
and the resumption of religious toleration. He died soon after the
edict's proclamation, destroying what little remained of the tetrarchy.
Maximinus mobilized against Licinius, and seized Asia Minor. A hasty
peace was signed on a boat in the middle of the Bosphorus. While
Constantine toured Britain and Gaul, Maxentius prepared for war.
He fortified northern Italy, and strengthened his support in the Christian
community by allowing it to elect a new Bishop of Rome, Eusebius.
rule was nevertheless insecure. His early support dissolved in the
wake of heightened tax rates and depressed trade; riots broke out in Rome
and Carthage; and Domitius Alexander was able to briefly usurp his authority
in Africa. By 312 AD, he was a man barely tolerated, not one actively
supported, even among Christian Italians. In the summer of 311 AD,
Maxentius mobilized against Constantine while Licinius was occupied with
affairs in the East. He declared war on Constantine, vowing to avenge
his father's "murder". To prevent Maxentius from forming an alliance
against him with Licinius, Constantine forged his own alliance with Licinius
over the winter of 311–312 AD, and offered him his sister Constantia in
marriage. Maximinus considered Constantine's arrangement with Licinius
an affront to his authority. In response, he sent ambassadors to
Rome, offering political recognition to Maxentius in exchange for a military
support. Maxentius accepted. According to Eusebius, inter-regional
travel became impossible, and there was military buildup everywhere.
There was "not a place where people were not expecting the onset of hostilities
advisers and generals cautioned against preemptive attack on Maxentius;
even his soothsayers recommended against it, stating that the sacrifices
had produced unfavorable omens. Constantine, with a spirit that left
a deep impression on his followers, inspiring some to believe that he had
some form of supernatural guidance, ignored all these cautions. Early
in the spring of 312 AD, Constantine crossed the Cottian Alps with a quarter
of his army, a force numbering about 40,000. The first town his army
encountered was Segusium (Susa, Italy), a heavily fortified town that shut
its gates to him. Constantine ordered his men to set fire to its
gates and scale its walls. He took the town quickly. Constantine
ordered his troops not to loot the town, and advanced with them into northern
the approach to the west of the important city of Augusta Taurinorum (Turin,
Italy), Constantine met a large force of heavily armed Maxentian cavalry.
In the ensuing battle Constantine's army encircled Maxentius' cavalry,
flanked them with his own cavalry, and dismounted them with blows from
his soldiers' iron-tipped clubs. Constantine's armies emerged victorious.
Turin refused to give refuge to Maxentius' retreating forces, opening its
gates to Constantine instead. Other cities of the north Italian plain
sent Constantine embassies of congratulation for his victory. He
moved on to Milan, where he was met with open gates and jubilant rejoicing.
Constantine rested his army in Milan until mid-summer 312 AD, when he moved
on to Brixia (Brescia).
army was easily dispersed, and Constantine quickly advanced to Verona,
where a large Maxentian force was camped. Ruricius Pompeianus, general
of the Veronese forces and Maxentius' praetorian prefect, was in a strong
defensive position, since the town was surrounded on three sides by the
Adige. Constantine sent a small force north of the town in an attempt
to cross the river unnoticed. Ruricius sent a large detachment to
counter Constantine's expeditionary force, but was defeated. Constantine's
forces successfully surrounded the town and laid siege. Ruricius
gave Constantine the slip and returned with a larger force to oppose Constantine.
Constantine refused to let up on the siege, and sent only a small force
to oppose him. In the desperately fought encounter that followed,
Ruricius was killed and his army destroyed. Verona surrendered soon
afterwards, followed by Aquileia, Mutina (Modena), and Ravenna. The
road to Rome was now wide open to Constantine.
prepared for the same type of war he had waged against Severus and Galerius:
he sat in Rome and prepared for a siege. He still controlled Rome's
praetorian guards, was well-stocked with African grain, and was surrounded
on all sides by the seemingly impregnable Aurelian Walls. He ordered
all bridges across the Tiber cut, reportedly on the counsel of the gods,
and left the rest of central Italy undefended; Constantine secured that
region's support without challenge. Constantine progressed slowly
along the Via Flaminia, allowing the weakness of Maxentius to draw his
regime further into turmoil. Maxentius' support continued to weaken:
at chariot races on 27 October, the crowd openly taunted Maxentius, shouting
that Constantine was invincible. Maxentius, no longer certain that
he would emerge from a siege victorious, built a temporary boat bridge
across the Tiber in preparation for a field battle against Constantine.
On 28 October 312 AD, the sixth anniversary of his reign, he approached
the keepers of the Sibylline Books for guidance. The keepers prophesied
that, on that very day, "the enemy of the Romans" would die. Maxentius
advanced north to meet Constantine in battle.
organized his forces—still twice the size of Constantine's—in long lines
facing the battle plain, with their backs to the river. Constantine's
army arrived at the field bearing unfamiliar symbols on either its standards
or its soldiers' shields. According to Lactantius, Constantine was
visited by a dream the night before the battle, wherein he was advised
"to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shields of his soldiers ... by
means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent round, he marked
Christ on their shields." Eusebius describes another version, where,
while marching at midday, "he saw with his own eyes in the heavens a trophy
of the cross arising from the light of the sun, carrying the message, In
Hoc Signo Vinces or "with this sign, you will conquer"; in Eusebius's account,
Constantine had a dream the following night, in which Christ appeared with
the same heavenly sign, and told him to make a standard, the labarum, for
his army in that form. Eusebius is vague about when and where these
events took place, but it enters his narrative before the war against Maxentius
begins. Eusebius describes the sign as Chi (?) traversed by Rho (?):
?, a symbol representing the first two letters of the Greek spelling of
the word Christos or Christ. In 315 AD a medallion was issued at
Ticinum showing Constantine wearing a helmet emblazoned with the Chi Rho,
and coins issued at Siscia in 317/318 AD repeat the image. The figure
was otherwise rare, however, and is uncommon in imperial iconography and
propaganda before the 320s.
deployed his own forces along the whole length of Maxentius' line.
He ordered his cavalry to charge, and they broke Maxentius' cavalry.
He then sent his infantry against Maxentius' infantry, pushing many into
the Tiber where they were slaughtered and drowned. The battle was
brief: Maxentius' troops were broken before the first charge. Maxentius'
horse guards and praetorians initially held their position, but broke under
the force of a Constantinian cavalry charge; they also broke ranks and
fled to the river. Maxentius rode with them, and attempted to cross
the bridge of boats, but he was pushed by the mass of his fleeing soldiers
into the Tiber, and drowned.
entered Rome on 29 October 312. He staged a grand adventus in the
city, and was met with popular jubilation. Maxentius' body was fished
out of the Tiber and decapitated. His head was paraded through the
streets for all to see. After the ceremonies, Maxentius' disembodied
head was sent to Carthage; at this, Carthage would offer no further resistance.
Unlike his predecessors, Constantine neglected to make the trip to the
Capitoline Hill and perform customary sacrifices at the Temple of Jupiter.
He did, however, choose to honor the Senatorial Curia with a visit, where
he promised to restore its ancestral privileges and give it a secure role
in his reformed government: there would be no revenge against Maxentius'
supporters. In response, the Senate decreed him "title of the first
name", which meant his name would be listed first in all official documents,
and acclaimed him as "the greatest Augustus". He issued decrees returning
property lost under Maxentius, recalling political exiles, and releasing
Maxentius' imprisoned opponents.
extensive propaganda campaign followed, during which Maxentius' image was
systematically purged from all public places. Maxentius was written
up as a "tyrant", and set against an idealized image of the "liberator",
Constantine. Eusebius, in his later works, is the best representative
of this strand of Constantinian propaganda. Maxentius' rescripts
were declared invalid, and the honors Maxentius had granted to leaders
of the Senate were invalidated. Constantine also attempted to remove
Maxentius' influence on Rome's urban landscape. All structures built
by Maxentius were re-dedicated to Constantine, including the Temple of
Romulus and the Basilica of Maxentius. At the focal point of the
basilica, a stone statue of Constantine holding the Christian labarum in
its hand was erected. Its inscription bore the message the statue
had already made clear: By this sign Constantine had freed Rome from the
yoke of the tyrant.
he did not overwrite Maxentius' achievements, Constantine upstaged them:
the Circus Maximus was redeveloped so that its total seating capacity was
twenty-five times larger than that of Maxentius' racing complex on the
Via Appia. Maxentius' strongest supporters in the military were neutralized
when the Praetorian Guard and Imperial Horse Guard (equites singulares)
were disbanded. The tombstones of the Imperial Horse Guard were ground
up and put to use in a basilica on the Via Labicana. On November
9, 312 AD, barely two weeks after Constantine captured the city, the former
base of the Imperial Horse Guard was chosen for redevelopment into the
Lateran Basilica. The Legio II Parthica was removed from Alba (Albano
Laziale), and the remainder of Maxentius' armies were sent to do frontier
duty on the Rhine.
Wars against Licinius:
the following years, Constantine gradually consolidated his military superiority
over his rivals in the crumbling Tetrarchy. In 313, he met Licinius
in Milan to secure their alliance by the marriage of Licinius and Constantine's
half-sister Constantia. During this meeting, the emperors agreed on the
so-called Edict of Milan, officially granting full tolerance to Christianity
and all religions in the Empire. The document had special benefits
for Christians, legalizing their religion and granting them restoration
for all property seized during Diocletian's persecution. It repudiates
past methods of religious coercion and used only general terms to refer
to the divine sphere—"Divinity" and "Supreme Divinity", summa divinitas.
The conference was cut short, however, when news reached Licinius that
his rival Maximin had crossed the Bosporus and invaded European territory.
Licinius departed and eventually defeated Maximin, gaining control over
the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire. Relations between the two
remaining emperors deteriorated, as Constantine suffered an assassination
attempt at the hands of a character that Licinius wanted elevated to the
rank of Caesar; Licinius, for his part, had Constantine's statues in Emona
destroyed. In either 314 or 316 the two Augusti fought against one
another at the Battle of Cibalae, with Constantine being victorious.
They clashed again at the Battle of Mardia in 317, and agreed to a settlement
in which Constantine's sons Crispus and Constantine II, and Licinius' son
Licinianus were made caesars. After this arrangement, Constantine
ruled the dioceses of Pannonia and Macedonia and took residence at Sirmium,
whence he could wage war on the Goths and Sarmatians in 322, and on the
Goths in 323.
the year 320, Licinius allegedly reneged on the religious freedom promised
by the Edict of Milan in 313 and began to oppress Christians anew, generally
without bloodshed, but resorting to confiscations and sacking of Christian
office-holders. Although this characterization of Licinius as anti-Christian
is somewhat doubtful, the fact is that he seems to have been far less open
in his support of Christianity than Constantine. Therefore, Licinius
was prone to see the Church as a force more loyal to Constantine than to
the Imperial system in general – the explanation offered by the Church
dubious arrangement eventually became a challenge to Constantine in the
West, climaxing in the great civil war of 324. Licinius, aided by
Goth mercenaries, represented the past and the ancient Pagan faiths.
Constantine and his Franks marched under the standard of the labarum, and
both sides saw the battle in religious terms. Outnumbered, but fired
by their zeal, Constantine's army emerged victorious in the Battle of Adrianople.
Licinius fled across the Bosphorus and appointed Martius Martinianus, the
commander of his bodyguard, as Caesar, but Constantine next won the Battle
of the Hellespont, and finally the Battle of Chrysopolis on 18 September
324. Licinius and Martinianus surrendered to Constantine at Nicomedia
on the promise their lives would be spared: they were sent to live as private
citizens in Thessalonica and Cappadocia respectively, but in 325 Constantine
accused Licinius of plotting against him and had them both arrested and
hanged; Licinius's son (the son of Constantine's half-sister) was also
killed. Thus Constantine became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire.[
defeat came to represent the defeat of a rival center of Pagan and Greek-speaking
political activity in the East, as opposed to the Christian and Latin-speaking
Rome, and it was proposed that a new Eastern capital should represent the
integration of the East into the Roman Empire as a whole, as a center of
learning, prosperity, and cultural preservation for the whole of the Eastern
Roman Empire. Among the various locations proposed for this alternative
capital, Constantine appears to have toyed earlier with Serdica (present-day
Sofia), as he was reported saying that "Serdica is my Rome". Sirmium
and Thessalonica were also considered. Eventually, however, Constantine
decided to work on the Greek city of Byzantium, which offered the advantage
of having already been extensively rebuilt on Roman patterns of urbanism,
during the preceding century, by Septimius Severus and Caracalla, who had
already acknowledged its strategic importance. The city was thus
founded in 324, dedicated on 11 May 330 and renamed Constantinopolis ("Constantine's
City" or Constantinople in English). Special commemorative coins
were issued in 330 to honor the event. The new city was protected
by the relics of the True Cross, the Rod of Moses and other holy relics,
though a cameo now at the Hermitage Museum also represented Constantine
crowned by the tyche of the new city. The figures of old gods were
either replaced or assimilated into a framework of Christian symbolism.
Constantine built the new Church of the Holy Apostles on the site of a
temple to Aphrodite. Generations later there was the story that a
divine vision led Constantine to this spot, and an angel no one else could
see, led him on a circuit of the new walls. The capital would often
be compared to the 'old' Rome as Nova Roma Constantinopolitana, the "New
Rome of Constantinople".
was the first emperor to stop Christian persecutions and to legalise Christianity
along with all other religions and cults in the Roman Empire.
February 313, Constantine met with Licinius in Milan, where they developed
the Edict of Milan. The edict stated that Christians should be allowed
to follow the faith without oppression. This removed penalties for
professing Christianity, under which many had been martyred previously,
and returned confiscated Church property. The edict protected from
religious persecution not only Christians but all religions, allowing anyone
to worship whichever deity they chose. A similar edict had been issued
in 311 by Galerius, then senior emperor of the Tetrarchy; Galerius' edict
granted Christians the right to practise their religion but did not restore
any property to them. The Edict of Milan included several clauses
which stated that all confiscated churches would be returned as well as
other provisions for previously persecuted Christians.
debate whether Constantine adopted his mother St. Helena's Christianity
in his youth, or whether he adopted it gradually over the course of his
life. Constantine possibly retained the title of pontifex maximus,
a title emperors bore as heads of the ancient Roman religion priesthood
until Gratian (r. 375–383) renounced the title. According to Christian
writers, Constantine was over 40 when he finally declared himself a Christian,
writing to Christians to make clear that he believed he owed his successes
to the protection of the Christian High God alone. Throughout his
rule, Constantine supported the Church financially, built basilicas, granted
privileges to clergy (e.g. exemption from certain taxes), promoted Christians
to high office, and returned property confiscated during the Diocletianic
persecution. His most famous building projects include the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, and Old Saint Peter's Basilica.
Constantine did not patronize Christianity alone. After gaining victory
in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312), a triumphal arch—the Arch of
Constantine—was built (315) to celebrate his triumph. The arch is
decorated with images of the goddess Victoria. At the time of its
dedication, sacrifices to gods like Apollo, Diana, and Hercules were made.
Absent from the Arch are any depictions of Christian symbolism. However,
as the Arch was commissioned by the Senate, the absence of Christian symbols
may reflect the role of the Curia at the time as a pagan redoubt.
321, he legislated that the venerable day of the sun should be a day of
rest for all citizens. In the year 323, he issued a decree banning
Christians from participating in state sacrifices Furthermore, Constantine's
coinage continued to carry the symbols of the sun. After the pagan
gods had disappeared from his coinage, Christian symbols appeared as Constantine's
attributes: the chi rho between his hands or on his labarum, as well on
the coin itself.
reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the emperor
as having great influence and ultimate regulatory authority within the
religious discussions involving the early Christian councils of that time,
e.g., most notably the dispute over Arianism. Constantine himself
disliked the risks to societal stability that religious disputes and controversies
brought with them, preferring where possible to establish an orthodoxy.
His influence over the early Church councils was to enforce doctrine, root
out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity; what proper worship and doctrines
and dogma consisted of was for the Church to determine, in the hands of
the participating bishops.
notably, from 313 to 316 bishops in North Africa struggled with other Christian
bishops who had been ordained by Donatus in opposition to Caecilian.
The African bishops could not come to terms and the Donatists asked Constantine
to act as a judge in the dispute. Three regional Church councils
and another trial before Constantine all ruled against Donatus and the
Donatism movement in North Africa. In 317 Constantine issued an edict
to confiscate Donatist church property and to send Donatist clergy into
exile. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea,
effectively the first Ecumenical Council (unless the Council of Jerusalem
is so classified), most known for its dealing with Arianism and for instituting
the Nicene Creed.
enforced the prohibition of the First Council of Nicaea against celebrating
the Lord's Supper on the day before the Jewish Passover (14 Nisan) (see
Quartodecimanism and Easter controversy). This marked a definite
break of Christianity from the Judaic tradition. From then on the
Roman Julian Calendar, a solar calendar, was given precedence over the
lunisolar Hebrew Calendar among the Christian churches of the Roman Empire.
made some new laws regarding the Jews, but while some of his edicts were
unfavorable towards Jews, they were not harsher than those of his predecessors.
It was made illegal for Jews to seek converts or to attack other Jews who
had converted to Christianity. They were forbidden to own Christian
slaves or to circumcise their slaves. On the other hand, Jewish clergy
were given the same exemptions as Christian clergy.
in the mid-3rd century the emperors began to favor members of the equestrian
order over senators, who had had a monopoly on the most important offices
of state. Senators were stripped of the command of legions and most
provincial governorships (as it was felt that they lacked the specialized
military upbringing needed in an age of acute defense needs), such posts
being given to equestrians by Diocletian and his colleagues—following a
practice enforced piecemeal by their predecessors. The emperors,
however, still needed the talents and the help of the very rich, who were
relied on to maintain social order and cohesion by means of a web of powerful
influence and contacts at all levels. Exclusion of the old senatorial
aristocracy threatened this arrangement.
326, Constantine reversed this pro-equestrian trend, raising many administrative
positions to senatorial rank and thus opening these offices to the old
aristocracy, and at the same time elevating the rank of already existing
equestrian office-holders to senator, degrading the equestrian order —at
least as a bureaucratic rank—in the process, so that by the end of the
4th century the title of perfectissimus was granted only to mid-low officials.
the new Constantinian arrangement, one could become a senator, either by
being elected praetor or (in most cases) by fulfilling a function of senatorial
rank: from then on, holding of actual power and social status were melded
together into a joint imperial hierarchy. At the same time, Constantine
gained with this the support of the old nobility, as the Senate was allowed
itself to elect praetors and quaestors, in place of the usual practice
of the emperors directly creating new magistrates (adlectio). In
one inscription in honor of city prefect (336–337) Ceionius Rufus Albinus,
it was written that Constantine had restored the Senate "the auctoritas
it had lost at Caesar's time".
Senate as a body remained devoid of any significant power; nevertheless,
the senators, who had been marginalized as potential holders of imperial
functions during the 3rd century, could now dispute such positions alongside
more upstart bureaucrats. Some modern historians see in those administrative
reforms an attempt by Constantine at reintegrating the senatorial order
into the imperial administrative elite to counter the possibility of alienating
pagan senators from a Christianized imperial rule; however, such an interpretation
remains conjectural, given the fact that we do not have the precise numbers
about pre-Constantine conversions to Christianity in the old senatorial
milieu—some historians suggesting that early conversions among the old
aristocracy were more numerous than previously supposed.
reforms had to do only with the civilian administration: the military chiefs,
who since the Crisis of the Third Century had risen from the ranks, remained
outside the senate, in which they were included only by Constantine's children.
the runaway inflation of the third century, associated with the production
of fiat money to pay for public expenses, Diocletian had tried unsuccessfully
to re establish trustworthy minting of silver and billon coins. The
failure of the various Diocletianic attempts at the restoration of a functioning
silver coin resided in the fact that the silver currency was overvalued
in terms of its actual metal content, and therefore could only circulate
at much discounted rates. Minting of the Diocletianic "pure" silver argenteus
ceased, therefore, soon after 305, while the billon currency continued
to be used until the 360s. From the early 300s on, Constantine forsook
any attempts at restoring the silver currency, preferring instead to concentrate
on minting large quantities of good standard gold pieces—the solidus, 72
of which made a pound of gold. New (and highly debased) silver pieces
would continue to be issued during Constantine's later reign and after
his death, in a continuous process of retariffing, until this bullion minting
eventually ceased, de jure, in 367, with the silver piece being de facto
continued by various denominations of bronze coins, the most important
being the centenionalis. These bronze pieces continued to be devalued,
assuring the possibility of keeping fiduciary minting alongside a gold
standard. The anonymous author of the possibly contemporary treatise
on military affairs De Rebus Bellicis held that, as a consequence of this
monetary policy, the rift between classes widened: the rich benefited from
the stability in purchasing power of the gold piece, while the poor had
to cope with ever-degrading bronze pieces. Later emperors like Julian
the Apostate tried to present themselves as advocates of the humiles by
insisting on trustworthy mintings of the bronze currency.
monetary policies were closely associated with his religious ones, in that
increased minting was associated with measures of confiscation—taken since
331 and closed in 336—of all gold, silver and bronze statues from pagan
temples, who were declared as imperial property and, as such, as monetary
assets. Two imperial commissioners for each province had the task
of getting hold of the statues and having them melted for immediate minting—with
the exception of a number of bronze statues who were used as public monuments
for the beautification of the new capital in Constantinople.
Executions of Crispus and Fausta:
some date between 15 May and 17 June 326, Constantine had his eldest son
Crispus, by Minervina, seized and put to death by "cold poison" at Pola
(Pula, Croatia). In July, Constantine had his wife, the Empress Fausta,
killed in an over-heated bath. Their names were wiped from the face
of many inscriptions, references to their lives in the literary record
were erased, and the memory of both was condemned. Eusebius, for
example, edited praise of Crispus out of later copies of his Historia Ecclesiastica,
and his Vita Constantini contains no mention of Fausta or Crispus at all.
Few ancient sources are willing to discuss possible motives for the events;
those few that do offer unconvincing rationales, are of later provenance,
and are generally unreliable. At the time of the executions, it was
commonly believed that the Empress Fausta was either in an illicit relationship
with Crispus, or was spreading rumors to that effect. A popular myth
arose, modified to allude to Hippolytus–Phaedra legend, with the suggestion
that Constantine killed Crispus and Fausta for their immoralities.
One source, the largely fictional Passion of Artemius, probably penned
in the eighth century by John of Damascus, makes the legendary connection
explicit. As an interpretation of the executions, the myth rests
on only "the slimmest of evidence": sources that allude to the relationship
between Crispus and Fausta are late and unreliable, and the modern suggestion
that Constantine's "godly" edicts of 326 and the irregularities of Crispus
are somehow connected rests on no evidence at all.
Constantine created his apparent heirs "Caesars", following a pattern established
by Diocletian, he gave his creations a hereditary character, alien to the
tetrarchic system: Constantine's Caesars were to be kept in the hope of
ascending to Empire, and entirely subordinated to their Augustus, as long
as he was alive. Therefore, an alternative explanation for the execution
of Crispus was, perhaps, Constantine's desire to keep a firm grip on his
prospective heirs, this—and Fausta's desire for having her sons inheriting
instead of their half-brother—being reason enough for killing Crispus;
the subsequent execution of Fausta, however, was probably meant as a reminder
to her children that Constantine would not hesitate in "killing his own
relatives when he felt this was necessary".
considered Constantinople his capital and permanent residence. He
lived there for a good portion of his later life. He rebuilt Trajan's
bridge across the Danube, in hopes of reconquering Dacia, a province that
had been abandoned under Aurelian. In the late winter of 332, Constantine
campaigned with the Sarmatians against the Goths. The weather and
lack of food cost the Goths dearly: reportedly, nearly one hundred thousand
died before they submitted to Rome. In 334, after Sarmatian commoners
had overthrown their leaders, Constantine led a campaign against the tribe.
He won a victory in the war and extended his control over the region, as
remains of camps and fortifications in the region indicate. Constantine
resettled some Sarmatian exiles as farmers in Illyrian and Roman districts,
and conscripted the rest into the army. Constantine took the title Dacicus
maximus in 336.
the last years of his life Constantine made plans for a campaign against
Persia. In a letter written to the king of Persia, Shapur, Constantine
had asserted his patronage over Persia's Christian subjects and urged Shapur
to treat them well. The letter is undatable. In response to border
raids, Constantine sent Constantius to guard the eastern frontier in 335.
In 336, prince Narseh invaded Armenia (a Christian kingdom since 301) and
installed a Persian client on the throne. Constantine then resolved
to campaign against Persia himself. He treated the war as a Christian
crusade, calling for bishops to accompany the army and commissioning a
tent in the shape of a church to follow him everywhere. Constantine
planned to be baptized in the Jordan River before crossing into Persia.
Persian diplomats came to Constantinople over the winter of 336–337, seeking
peace, but Constantine turned them away. The campaign was called
off, however, when Constantine became sick in the spring of 337.
Sickness and death:
had known death would soon come. Within the Church of the Holy Apostles,
Constantine had secretly prepared a final resting-place for himself.
It came sooner than he had expected. Soon after the Feast of Easter
337, Constantine fell seriously ill. He left Constantinople for the
hot baths near his mother's city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern
shores of the Gulf of Nicomedia (present-day Gulf of ?zmit). There,
in a church his mother built in honor of Lucian the Apostle, he prayed,
and there he realized that he was dying. Seeking purification, he
became a catechumen, and attempted a return to Constantinople, making it
only as far as a suburb of Nicomedia. He summoned the bishops, and
told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ
was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right
away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his
illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, "performed the sacred ceremonies
according to custom". He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of
Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.
In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed
baptism until after infancy. It has been thought that Constantine
put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of
his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa
called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost
directly following Pascha (or Easter), on 22 May 337.
The Constantinian dynasty down to Gratian (r. 367–383):
Constantine's death follows the conclusion of the Persian campaign in Eusebius's
account, most other sources report his death as occurring in its middle.
Emperor Julian (a nephew of Constantine), writing in the mid-350s, observes
that the Sassanians escaped punishment for their ill-deeds, because Constantine
died "in the middle of his preparations for war". Similar accounts
are given in the Origo Constantini, an anonymous document composed while
Constantine was still living, and which has Constantine dying in Nicomedia;
the Historiae abbreviatae of Sextus Aurelius Victor, written in 361, which
has Constantine dying at an estate near Nicomedia called Achyrona while
marching against the Persians; and the Breviarium of Eutropius, a handbook
compiled in 369 for the Emperor Valens, which has Constantine dying in
a nameless state villa in Nicomedia. From these and other accounts,
some have concluded that Eusebius's Vita was edited to defend Constantine's
reputation against what Eusebius saw as a less congenial version of the
his death, his body was transferred to Constantinople and buried in the
Church of the Holy Apostles there. He was succeeded by his three
sons born of Fausta, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.
A number of relatives were killed by followers of Constantius, notably
Constantine's nephews Dalmatius (who held the rank of Caesar) and Hannibalianus,
presumably to eliminate possible contenders to an already complicated succession.
He also had two daughters, Constantina and Helena, wife of Emperor Julian.
he earned his honorific of "The Great" from Christian historians long after
he had died, he could have claimed the title on his military achievements
and victories alone. Besides reuniting the Empire under one emperor,
Constantine won major victories over the Franks and Alamanni in 306–308,
the Franks again in 313–314, the Goths in 332 and the Sarmatians in 334.
By 336, Constantine had reoccupied most of the long-lost province of Dacia,
which Aurelian had been forced to abandon in 271. At the time of
his death, he was planning a great expedition to end raids on the eastern
provinces from the Persian Empire. Serving for a total of almost
31 years (combining his years as co-ruler and sole ruler), he was also
the longest serving emperor since Augustus and the second longest serving
emperor in Roman history.
the cultural sphere Constantine contributed to the revival of the clean
shaven face fashion of the Roman emperors from Augustus to Trajan, which
was originally introduced among the Romans by Scipio Africanus. This
new Roman imperial fashion lasted until the reign of Phocas.
Byzantine Empire considered Constantine its founder and the Holy Roman
Empire reckoned him among the venerable figures of its tradition.
In the later Byzantine state, it had become a great honor for an emperor
to be hailed as a "new Constantine". Ten emperors, including the
last emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, carried the name. Monumental
Constantinian forms were used at the court of Charlemagne to suggest that
he was Constantine's successor and equal. Constantine acquired a
mythic role as a warrior against "heathens". The motif of the Romanesque
equestrian, the mounted figure in the posture of a triumphant Roman emperor,
became a visual metaphor in statuary in praise of local benefactors.
The name "Constantine" itself enjoyed renewed popularity in western France
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Orthodox Church considers
Constantine a saint, having a feast day on 3 September, and calls him isapostolos—an
equal of the Apostles.
Niš Airport is named "Constantine the Great" in honor of him. A large
Cross was planned to be built on a hill overlooking Niš, but the project
was cancelled. In 2012, a memorial was erected in Niš in his honor.
The Commemoration of the Edict of Milan was held in Niš in 2013.
his life and those of his sons, Constantine was presented as a paragon
of virtue. Pagans such as Praxagoras of Athens and Libanius showered
him with praise. When the last of his sons died in 361, however,
his nephew (and son-in-law) Julian the Apostate wrote the satire Symposium,
or the Saturnalia, which denigrated Constantine, calling him inferior to
the great pagan emperors, and given over to luxury and greed. Following
Julian, Eunapius began—and Zosimus continued—a historiographic tradition
that blamed Constantine for weakening the Empire through his indulgence
to the Christians.
both medieval East and West, Constantine was presented as an ideal ruler,
the standard against which any king or emperor could be measured.
The Renaissance rediscovery of anti-Constantinian sources prompted a re-evaluation
of Constantine's career. The German humanist Johann Löwenklau,
discoverer of Zosimus' writings, published a Latin translation thereof
in 1576. In its preface, he argued that Zosimus' picture of Constantine
was superior to that offered by Eusebius and the Church historians, offered
a more balanced view. Cardinal Caesar Baronius, a man of the Counter-Reformation,
criticized Zosimus, favoring Eusebius' account of the Constantinian era.
Baronius' Life of Constantine (1588) presents Constantine as the model
of a Christian prince. For his History of the Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire (1776–89), Edward Gibbon, aiming to unite the two extremes
of Constantinian scholarship, offered a portrait of Constantine built on
the contrasted narratives of Eusebius and Zosimus. In a form that
parallels his account of the empire's decline, Gibbon presents a noble
war hero corrupted by Christian influences, who transforms into an Oriental
despot in his old age: "a hero ... degenerating into a cruel and dissolute
interpretations of Constantine's rule begin with Jacob Burckhardt's The
Age of Constantine the Great (1853, rev. 1880). Burckhardt's Constantine
is a scheming secularist, a politician who manipulates all parties in a
quest to secure his own power. Henri Grégoire, writing in
the 1930s, followed Burckhardt's evaluation of Constantine. For Grégoire,
Constantine developed an interest in Christianity only after witnessing
its political usefulness. Grégoire was skeptical of the authenticity
of Eusebius' Vita, and postulated a pseudo-Eusebius to assume responsibility
for the vision and conversion narratives of that work. Otto Seeck,
in Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (1920–23), and André
Piganiol, in L'empereur Constantin (1932), wrote against this historiographic
tradition. Seeck presented Constantine as a sincere war hero, whose
ambiguities were the product of his own naïve inconsistency.
Piganiol's Constantine is a philosophical monotheist, a child of his era's
religious syncretism. Related histories by A.H.M. Jones (Constantine
and the Conversion of Europe, 1949) and Ramsay MacMullen (Constantine,
1969) gave portraits of a less visionary, and more impulsive, Constantine.
later accounts were more willing to present Constantine as a genuine convert
to Christianity. Beginning with Norman H. Baynes' Constantine the
Great and the Christian Church (1929) and reinforced by Andreas Alföldi's
The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome (1948), a historiographic
tradition developed which presented Constantine as a committed Christian.
T. D. Barnes's seminal Constantine and Eusebius (1981) represents the culmination
of this trend. Barnes' Constantine experienced a radical conversion,
which drove him on a personal crusade to convert his empire. Charles
Matson Odahl's recent Constantine and the Christian Empire (2004) takes
much the same tack. In spite of Barnes' work, arguments over the
strength and depth of Constantine's religious conversion continue.
Certain themes in this school reached new extremes in T.G. Elliott's The
Christianity of Constantine the Great (1996), which presented Constantine
as a committed Christian from early childhood. A similar view of
Constantine is held in Paul Veyne's recent (2007) work, Quand notre monde
est devenu chrétien, which does not speculate on the origins of
Constantine's Christian motivation, but presents him, in his role as Emperor,
as a religious revolutionary who fervently believed himself meant "to play
a providential role in the millenary economy of the salvation of humanity".
Donation of Constantine:
Rite Catholics considered it inappropriate that Constantine was baptized
only on his death-bed and by an unorthodox bishop, as it undermined the
authority of the Papacy. Hence, by the early fourth century, a legend
had emerged that Pope Sylvester I (314–335) had cured the pagan emperor
from leprosy. According to this legend, Constantine was soon baptized,
and began the construction of a church in the Lateran Palace. In
the eighth century, most likely during the pontificate of Stephen II (752–757),
a document called the Donation of Constantine first appeared, in which
the freshly converted Constantine hands the temporal rule over "the city
of Rome and all the provinces, districts, and cities of Italy and the Western
regions" to Sylvester and his successors. In the High Middle Ages,
this document was used and accepted as the basis for the Pope's temporal
power, though it was denounced as a forgery by Emperor Otto III and lamented
as the root of papal worldliness by the poet Dante Alighieri. The
15th century philologist Lorenzo Valla proved the document was indeed a
Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia:
the medieval period, Britons regarded Constantine as a king of their own
people, particularly associating him with Caernarfon in Gwynedd.
While some of this is owed to his fame and his proclamation as Emperor
in Britain, there was also confusion of his family with Magnus Maximus's
supposed wife Saint Elen and her son, another Constantine (Welsh: Custennin).
In the 12th century Henry of Huntingdon included a passage in his Historia
Anglorum that the emperor Constantine's mother was a Briton, making her
the daughter of King Cole of Colchester. Geoffrey of Monmouth expanded
this story in his highly fictionalized Historia Regum Britanniae, an account
of the supposed Kings of Britain from their Trojan origins to the Anglo-Saxon
invasion. According to Geoffrey, Cole was King of the Britons when
Constantius, here a senator, came to Britain. Afraid of the Romans,
Cole submitted to Roman law so long as he retained his kingship.
However, he died only a month later, and Constantius took the throne himself,
marrying Cole's daughter Helena. They had their son Constantine,
who succeeded his father as King of Britain before becoming Roman Emperor.
this series of events is extremely improbable. Constantius had already
left Helena by the time he left for Britain. Additionally, no earlier
source mentions that Helena was born in Britain, let alone that she was
a princess. Henry's source for the story is unknown, though it may
have been a lost hagiography of Helena.
of Constantine include: PBS' "From Jesus To Christ: The First Christians"
Chapter 12 and Hector Galan's "Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine"
Episode 6 Constantine.
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