Family tree of Emperor Constantine I of the Roman Empire (2023)

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[edit] Sources

There are no surviving histories or biographies dealing with Constantine's life and rule.[3] The nearest replacement is Eusebius of Caesarea's Vita Constantini, a work that is a mixture of eulogy and hagiography. Written between 335 and circa 339,[4] the Vita extols the emperor's moral virtues and religious faith.[5] Written some time in the four years between 335 and circa 339, the work focuses on the religious and moral character of Constantine's life.[6] The fullest secular life of Constantine is the anonymous Origo Constantini.[7] A work of uncertain date,[8] the Origo focuses on military and political events, to the neglect of cultural and religious matters.[9]

Lactantius' De Mortibus Persecutorum, a polemical Christian pamphlet on the reigns of Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, provides valuable but tendentious detail on Constantine's predecessors and early life.[10] The ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret describe the ecclesiastic disputes of Constantine's later reign.[11] Written during the reign of Theodosius II (40850), a century after Constantine's reign, these ecclesiastic historians obscure the events and theologies of the Constantinian period through misdirection, misrepresentation and deliberate obscurity.[12] 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.[13]

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 pagan, the epitomes paint a favorable image of Constantine, but omit reference to Constantine's religious policies.[14] 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.[15] Contemporary architecture, like the Arch of Constantine in Rome and palaces in Gamzigrad and Córdoba,[16] epigraphic remains, and the coinage of the era complement the literary sources, preserving otherwise unattested details of chronology, hierarchy, and religious affairs within the Constantinian empire.[17] The codices of Theodosius and Justinian, because of their use of dated rescripts, can be used to reconstruct Constantine's itinerary.[18]

[edit] Early life
Constantine's parents and siblings. Dates in square brackets indicate the possession of minor titles, such as the Caesar
Constantine's parents and siblings. Dates in square brackets indicate the possession of minor titles, such as the Caesar

Constantine, named Flavius Valerius Constantinus, was born in the Moesian military city of Naissus (Nia, Serbia) on the 27th of February of an uncertain year,[19] probably near 272.[20] His father was Flavius Constantius, a native of Moesia Superior (later Dacia Ripensis).[21] Constantius was a tolerant and politically skilled man.[22] Constantius was an officer in the Roman army in 272, part of the Emperor Aurelian's imperial bodyguard. Constantius advanced through the ranks, earning the governorship of Dalmatia from Emperor Diocletian, another of Aurelian's Illyrian companions, in 284 or 285.[21] Constantine's mother was Helena, a Bithynian of humble origin. It is uncertain whether she was legally married to Constantius or merely his concubine.[23]

As emperor, Diocletian effected a series of administrative and fiscal reforms, systematizing the Empire's tax system, reforming the currency, and issuing new books of precedent.[24] In July 285, 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.[25] 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 (Izmit, Turkey). This division was pragmatic. The Empire remained "indivisible", a patrimonium indivisum, in official panegyric,[26] and both emperors could move freely throughout the Empire.[27] In 288, Maximian appointed Constantius to serve as his praetorian prefect in Gaul. Constantius left Helena and married Maximian's stepdaughter Flavia Maximiana Theodora ca. 28889.[28]

Diocletian divided the Empire again in 293, 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 (Gamzigrad, Serbia). 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.[29] On March 1, Constantius was promoted to the office of Caesar, and tasked with suppressing Carausius' rebellion in Britain and northwestern Gaul.[30] In spite of its meritocratic quasi-republican overtones, the tetrarchic system retained the vestiges of hereditary privilege,[31] and Constantine became the prime candidate for future appointment as Caesar after his father's appointment to the position. Constantine left the Balkans for the court of Diocletian, where he lived as his father's heir presumptive.[32]

[edit] In the East

[edit] Education and military service

Young Constantine benefited greatly from his father's position as Caesar. At the court of Diocletian, Constantine received a formidable education, gaining a skillful understanding of Latin literature, a capable proficiency in Greek, and an aptitude for philosophy.[33] The cultural environment in Nicomedia was open, fluid and socially mobile, and Constantine could mix with intellectuals both pagan and Christian. It is possible that he may have seen the lectures of Lactantius, then a Christian scholar of Latin in the city, and a man he would later make his son Crispus' tutor.[34]

Because Diocletian did not completely trust Constantiusnone of the tetrarchs fully trusted their colleaguesConstantine was held as something of a hostage at his court, kept under his thumb to ensure Constantius' best behavior. But Constantine was nonetheless a prominent member of the court, a full participant in the political life of the Empire: he fought for Diocletian and Galerius in Asia, serving in a variety of tribunates; he campaigned against barbarians on the Danube in 296, fought in the Persian wars under Diocletian in Syria (297) and Galerius in Mesopotamia (29899). There, on his own testimony, he saw the ruins of Babylon and Memphis.[35] Returning from his Egyptian voyage in 301 or 302, he met Eusebius, his later biographer, in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine.[36] By the spring of 303, Constantine had returned to Nicomedia.[37] In the following years, he continued to rise in rank, and reached the level of tribune of the first order, tribunus ordinis primi, by late 305.[38]
Head from a statue of Diocletian, Augustus of the East
Head from a statue of Diocletian, Augustus of the East

[edit] Great Persecution

Diocletian was conservative in matters of religion, a man faithful to the traditional Roman pantheon.[39] Galerius was even more so.[40] According to Lactantius, while wintering at Nicomedia in 302, Galerius, with the aid of the oracle of Apollo at Didyma, persuaded Diocletian to begin a universal persecution of the empire's Christians.[41] Years later, Constantine would recall his presence at the palace when the oracle's report came in.[42] On February 23, 303, Diocletian ordered the destruction of Nicomedia's new church, condemned its scriptures to the flame, and had its treasures seized. This event inaugurated the "Great Persecution", a series of severe persecutions of Christians that continued for eight years after the initial declaration. Across the empire, churches and scriptures were to be destroyed, and Christians to be deprived of official rank, imprisoned, and tortured.[43]

The persecutions were not applied consistently across the empire: neither Maximian nor Constantius would enforce the later, harsher edicts promulgated in the East. Of the persecution's policy stipulations, only the destruction of churches would be followed by Constantius. Demands of universal sacrifice, issued in early 304, the imprisonment of the clergy, issued in the spring or summer of 303, were ignored: west of the Balkans, they had no legal standing.[44] In his later writings Constantine would attempt to conceal the extent of his complicity in the events: he would describe himself in writing as a mere child when the persecutions began, when in fact he was nearer to thirty.[45] No contemporary Christian would challenge Constantine on any aspect of his role in the persecutions, but his silence would be a liability for the rest of his life.[46]

[edit] Diocletian's abdication

(Video) Byzantine Emperors Family Tree (Constantine the Great to 1453)

On May 1, 305, Diocletian, still weathering a debilitating sickness he had acquired over the winter of 3045, addressed an assembly of generals and his traditional companion troops, and informed them of his will to resign.[47] Diocletian ordered that Constantius succeeded Maximian as Augustus of the West, and that Severus and Maximin be made Caesars. Although two legitimate sons of emperors were available (Constantine, as the son of Constantius, and Maxentius, as the son of Maximian), both were ignored in the transition of power. This perceived slight created instability within the tetrarchy, and inspired jealousy in Constantine and Maxentius. These feelings were intensified in the case of Constantine by the fact that familial ties had helped to elevate Maximin, as Galerius' nephew, but had not helped Constantine at all.[48] Constantine's propagandists attest that Galerius, having recognized Constantine's discontent, sent him off to war in hopes of killing him. Constantine was sent to lead an advance unit in a cavalry charge through a swamp against the Sarmatians on the middle Danube. Against expectations, Constantine succeeded in leading his men to victory, and presented a Sarmatian captive to Galerius upon his return to Nicomedia.[49]

[edit] In the West

[edit] Flight from Galerius

Constantine's recognized the implicit danger in remaining at Galerius' 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.[50] In the late spring or early summer of 305, Constantius requested leave for his son for help in combat operations against the Picts in Britain. Galerius, then in the middle of a long evening of drinking, granted Constantius' request. Constantine's later propaganda describes how Constantine fled the court in the night, so as not to allow Galerius to change his mind in the morning. In the tale, Constantine rides his horses from post-house to post-house at high speed, mutilating them at each stop, so as to prevent their re-use by those following him. He takes the route north of the Alps to avoid Severus, then in Italy. The tale concludes with Galerius waking late the following morning, and attempting to revoke the order, only to find that Constantine had already fled. Regardless of the exact nature of his departure, Constantine joined his father in Gaul, at Bononia (Boulogne) before the summer of 305.[51]

[edit] In Britain
Bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed Augustus in 306
Bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed Augustus in 306

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.[52] Constantius' campaign, like that of Septimius Severus before it, probably advanced far into the north without achieving great success.[53] Constantius had become severely sick over the course of his tenure, and died on July 25, 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. Word quickly spread of Constantine's accession to power, and soon the whole of Gaul pledged him its allegiance.[54]

[edit] Galerius' acceptance

Constantine's succession was contrary to Diocletian's plans for his father's office, and liable to challenge. With Constantius' support and the backing of his armies, however, it mattered little. Nonetheless, since Constantine was now working directly beneath Galerius, he sent him an official notice of Constantius' death and his own acclamation. Along with the notice, he included a traditional portrait of himself robed in the outfit of Augustus of the West, wearing the imperial wreath.[55] 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".[56] Galerius was displeased with the message, and almost set the portrait on fire along with its messenger. Outright denial of Constantine's claims would have meant war,[57] and Galerius' advisers soon convinced him of the necessity of peace. It would be difficult to challenge such a popular man, they argued. Galerius was compelled to compromise.[58] Galerius nonetheless wished to make it clear that he remained the true source of the new emperor's power, and personally sent Constantine the purple robes of Empire.[59] Galerius gave Constantine only the office of Caesar; the office of Augustus went to Severus instead. Constantine accepted the decision, knowing that it would remove any lasting doubts as to his own legitimacy.[60] He began appearing on imperial coinage as Flavius Valerius Constantius the Noble Caesar.[61]

[edit] Early rule

Constantine's share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, Germania, and Hispania. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. During his years in Gaul, from 306 to 316, Constantine continued his father's efforts to secure the Rhine frontier and rebuild the Gallic provinces.[62] After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain for a brief period of time, securing his control in the northwestern dioceses. While there, he completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father's rule, and ordered the repair of the region's roadways. Like all new emperors, he had busts made of his face to be set in major cities and military camps, and began printing currency with his profile.[63] He soon returned to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in Gaul, the tetrarchic capital of the northwest. In the winter of 3067, he made his way to Gaul to quell an uprising by the Franks, who had begun raiding Roman towns in Constantius' absence. Constantine drove them back across the Rhine, slaughtered many of their number, and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and Merogaisus. In the victory celebrations that ensued in Trier, Constantine fed the kings and their warriors to beasts in the amphitheater.[64]
Public baths (thermae) built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were made to rival those of Rome.
Public baths (thermae) built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were made to rival those of Rome.[65]

After his victory, Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and erected the beginnings of a palace complex in the northeast of the city. Somewhat to the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. For the duration of his reign as emperor of the northwestern provinces, Constantine would sponsor many building projects, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles).[66] 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.[67] In his first years as one of the tetrarchs, Constantine's image transformed from "bloodthirsty son of a renowned father" into "august and fatherly emperor". He had outgrown the need for his father's support.[68]

[edit] Maxentius' rebellion

Following Galerius' recognition of Constantine as emperor, his 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.[69] Maxentius, jealous of Constantine's authority, would soon take the opportunity to seize an imperial throne for himself.[70] Taking advantage of Roman discontent at Galerius' new tax impositions, Maxentius persuaded a cohort of imperial guardsmen to declare him emperor on October 28, 306. Where Galerius had seen Constantine as a qualified individual who filled an empty position in the tetrarchy, Galerius saw in Maxentius an unworthy and disrespectful man who could destabilize the whole tetrarchic system, taking up more thrones than were available. Galerius refused to recognize Maxentius, and sent the armies of Severus against his illegitimate government. Faced with a charismatic leader with deep pockets, the bulk of Severus' armies defected to Maxentius. Severus was seized, and brought under guard to a public villa south of Rome, to be there imprisoned. Galerius led a second force against Maxentius in the autumn of 307, but his forces again failed to take Rome. He retreated north with his army mostly intact.[71]
Dresden bust of Maxentius. Maxentius' rule in Italy worsened political relations within the tetrarchy, and pushed its members towards open conflict. His ruling style and motivations have been likened to those of Constantine.
Dresden bust of Maxentius. Maxentius' rule in Italy worsened political relations within the tetrarchy, and pushed its members towards open conflict.[72] His ruling style and motivations have been likened to those of Constantine.[73]

Constantine decided to depart from Gaul and visit Britain during the spring and summer of 307, avoiding the turmoil in Italy. Constantine remained decidedly neutral in the conflict between Maxentius and Galerius.[74] Instead of sending his troops into a civil war, he used them against Germanic tribes along the Rhine. In 308, he raided the territory of the Bructeri, and made a bridge across the Rhine at Colonia Agrippinensium (Cologne). In 310, 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 built him a stable power base in his provinces.[75]

[edit] Conference at Carnuntum

While Maxentius built up Rome's defenses, Maximian, brought out of retirement by his son's rebellion, made his way to Gaul to confer with Constantine. He offered to espouse his younger daughter Fausta to him, and elevate him to Augustan rank. By way of recompense, 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. Despite his marriage into the alliance, Constantine offered little to Maximian in return: political recognition and military neutrality.[76] Maximian returned to Rome in the winter of 3078, but soon fell out with his son. He challenged Maxentius' right to rule in the spring of 308 before an assembly of Roman soldiers. The soldiers sided with Maxentius. Having failed to depose his son, Maximian left Italy in disgrace. In early 309 he returned to the court of Constantine in Gaul, the only court that would still accept him.[77]

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On November 11, 308, Galerius called a general council at the military city of Carnuntum on the upper Danube 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, a loyal military companion to Galerius, was appointed Augustus of the west. The new system was not amenable to its constituents. Constantine refused to accept his second 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 was frustrated that he had been turned over for promotion while the newcomer Licinius had been raised to the office of Augustus, and demanded that Galerius promote him. Galerius could not assuage the anger of either Maximinus or Constantine, and so offered to call them both "sons of the Augusti". Where once there had been two Augusti, there were now four.[78]

[edit] Maximian's rebellion
A gold multiple of Constantine with Sol Invictus, printed in 313. The use of Sol's image appealed to both the educated citizens of Gaul, who would recognize in it Apollo's patronage of Augustus and the arts; and to Christians, who found solar monotheism less objectionable than the traditional pagan pantheon.
A gold multiple of Constantine with Sol Invictus, printed in 313. The use of Sol's image appealed to both the educated citizens of Gaul, who would recognize in it Apollo's patronage of Augustus and the arts; and to Christians, who found solar monotheism less objectionable than the traditional pagan pantheon.[79]

In 310, a dispossessed and power-hungry 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 there 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. Constantine soon heard of the rebellion, abandoned his campaign against the Franks, marching his troops up the Rhine.[80] 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).[81] 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, Maximian hanged himself.[82]

In spite of the earlier rupture in their relations, Maxentius was eager to present himself as his father's devoted son after his death.[83] He began printing coins with his father's deified image, proclaiming his desire to avenge Maximian's death.[84] Constantine had initially presented Maximian's death as an unfortunate family tragedy. His death was voluntary, performed by his own hand in spite of Constantine's pardon. By 311, however, Constantine was promulgating another narrative of the events. In the tale, set in Massilia after Maximian's pardon, Maximian was planning to murder Constantine while the emperor slept. Fausta warned Constantine, and Constantine placed a eunuch in his bed in his own place. Maximian was apprehended when he killed the eunuch, and was then offered to hang himself in place of a public execution. Maximian complied.[85] In addition to the propaganda, Constantine instituted a damnatio memoriae on Maximian, destroying all inscriptions referring to him and eliminating any public work bearing his image.[86]

[edit] Panegyric of 310

The death of Maximian necessitated 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.[87] In a speech delivered in Gaul on July 25, 310, the orator reveals a previously unknown dynastic connection to Claudius II, a third-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.[88] 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.[89]

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",[90] as the poet Virgil had once foretold.[91] 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 on, Mars was replaced by Sol Invictus, a god conventionally identified with Apollo.[92] 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.[93]

[edit] Civil wars

[edit] Death of Galerius and Tetrarchic tensions

By the middle of 310 Galerius had become too ill to involve himself in imperial politics.[94] As his last political act, Galerius decided to rescind his failed policies of persecution. In a letter to his provincials posted in Nicomedia on April 30, 311, Galerius proclaimed an end to the persecutions, and a resumption of official religious toleration.[95] He died soon after.[96] In spite of the edict, Maximin resumed persecution in his territories within six months of the its proclamation.[97] Galerius' death destabilized what remained of the tetrarchic system.[98] On hearing the news, Maximinus mobilized against Licinius, and seized Asia Minor before meeting Licinius on the Bosphorus to arrange terms for peace.[99] At the time, Constantine was on tour in Britain and Gaul, providing tax concessions to his subjects, and ordering construction projects in selected urban areas.[100] Meanwhile, Maxentius in Italy was fortifying northern Italy against potential invasions. He also strengthened his support among the Christians of Italy by allowing them to elect a new Bishop of Rome, Eusebius.[101]

Maxentius was far from secure, however. His early support was dissolving into open protest;[102] by 312, he was a man barely tolerated, not one actively supported.[103] Without the revenues of the empire, Maxentius was forced to resume taxation in Italy to support his army and his building projects in Rome.[104] The election of a bishop did not aid much, either, as Diocletian's persecution had split the Italian church into competing factions over the issue of apostasy. The Christians of Italy could easily see that Constantine was more sympathetic to their plight than Maxentius.[105] In the summer of 311, 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".[106] Constantine, in an attempt to prevent Maxentius from forming a hostile alliance with Licinius,[107] forged his own alliance with the man over the winter of 31112 by offering to him his sister Constantia in marriage. Maximin 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.[108] Two alliances, Maximin and Maxentius, Constantine and Licinius, lined up against one another. The emperors prepared for war.[109]

[edit] War against Maxentius
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Battles of Constantine I
Turin Verona Milvian Bridge Cibalae Mardia Adrianople Hellespont Chrysopolis

Maxentius expected an attack along his eastern flank from Licinius, and stationed an army in Verona.[110] Constantine had smaller forces than his opponent: with his forces withdrawn from Africa, with the praetorian and Imperial Horse Guard, and with the troops he had taken from Severus, Maxentius had an army equal to approximately 100,000 soldiers to use against his opponents in the north. Many of these he used to garrison fortified towns across the region, keeping most stationed with him in Verona. Against this, Constantine could only bring a force of between twenty-five and forty thousand men. The bulk of his troops simply could not be withdrawn from the Rhine frontiers without negative consequences.[111] It was against the recommendations of his advisers and generals, against popular expectation, that Constantine anticipated Maxentius, and struck first.[112]

As early as weather permitted,[113] late in the spring of 312,[114] Constantine crossed the Alps with a quarter of his total army, a force equivalent to something less than forty thousand men.[115] Having crossed the Cottian Alps at the Mont Cenis pass,[116] he first came to Segusium (Susa, Italy), a heavily fortified town containing a military garrison, which shut its gates to him. Constantine ordered his forces set its gates on fire, scaled its walls, and took the town quickly. Constantine forbade the plunder of the town, and advanced into northern Italy.[117] At the approach to the west of the important city of Augusta Taurinorum (Turin, Italy), Constantine encountered a large force of heavily armed Maxentian cavalry,[118] labeled clibanarii or cataphracti in the ancient sources. In the ensuing battle Constantine spread his forces into a line, allowing Maxentius' cavalry to ride into the middle of his forces. As his forces broadly encircled the enemy cavalry, Constantine's own cavalry charged at the sides of the Maxentian cataphracts, beating them with iron-tipped clubs. Many Maxentian cavalrymen were dismounted, while most others were variously incapacitated by the blows. Constantine then commanded his foot soldiers to advance against the surviving Maxentian infantry, cutting them down as they fled.[119] Victory, the panegyrist who speaks of the events declares, came easily.[120] Turin refused to give refuge to the retreating forces of Maxentius. It opened its gates to Constantine instead. Other cities of the north Italian plain, recognizing Constantine's quick and clement victories, sent him embassies of congratulation for his victory. He moved on to Milan, where he was met with open gates and jubilant rejoicing. He resided there until the middle of the summer of 312 before moving on.[121]

He quickly conquered Northern Italy in the battle Verona and then moved on to Rome. There he defeated Maxentius in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which resulted in his becoming Western Augustus, or ruler of the entire Western Roman Empire. During this epic battle Constantine had his soldiers place on their shields what Christians believed was the labarum symbol, although there is a dispute between historians whether this design was of Christian or solar pagan origins, or whether it perhaps originated in the meteorological occurrences on the date thereof.[122] In a dream the night before the battle, wrote the Christian apologist Lactantius, Constantine was told by God to paint the labarum on his soldiers' shields. Eusebius attributes another vision to Constantine, although historians have tended to doubt its veracity more than that of Lactantius. When Constantine was praying about noon, a sign appeared in the heavens above the Sun: a cross of light with the message "In this sign, you will conquer". He and his whole army were struck with amazement at the sign.[123] Constantine was uncertain of the meaning of the sign, but in his sleep the Christian God came to him with the same sign, and commanded him to make a likeness of it, and use it as a safeguard.[124]
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Giulio Romano
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Giulio Romano

Some have argued for a meteorological explanation of the vision, explaining it as either a "solar halo"[125] or the tail of a meteor;[126] but most historians have disputed either the details of the events or their very existence, arguing for an earlier or later conversion date and thereby avoiding the historiographic problems of miracles altogether.[127] Some historians suggest that Lactantius' account, written from good sources soon after the battle, should be taken alone; that Constantine had the dream, but not the waking vision.[128] In any event, the visions were part of Christians' common eschatological expectations in the period: beginning with the Gospel of Matthew and continuing on through the Didache, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of Elijah, the appearance of the "Sign of the Son of Man" in the heavens was a common motif preceding the Second Coming of Christ in Christian writings on the End Times.[129] Lactantius and Constantine, in their other writings, show some awareness of this trend in eschatology.[130]

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[edit] Wars against Licinius

In 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 (which, in its surviving forms, was neither an edict nor issued in Milan), officially granting full tolerance to all religions in the Empire.[131] 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, accepting religious plurality and using only general terms"Divinity" and "Supreme Divinity", summa divinitasavoiding any exclusive specificity.[132] The conference was cut short, however, when news reached Licinius that his rival Maximinus Daia had crossed the Bosporus and invaded Licinian territory. Licinius departed and eventually defeated Maximinus, gaining control over the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire. Relations between the two remaining emperors deteriorated, though, and either in 314 or 316, Constantine and Licinius fought against one another in the war of Cibalae, with Constantine being victorious. They clashed again in the Battle of Campus Ardiensis in 317, and agreed to a settlement in which Constantine's sons Crispus and Constantine II, and Licinius' son Licinianus were made caesars.[133]

In the year 320, Licinius reneged on the religious freedom promised by the Edict of Milan in 313 and began another persecution of the Christians.[134] It 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 Christian standard of the labarum, and both sides saw the battle in religious terms. Supposedly outnumbered, but fired by their zeal, Constantine's army emerged victorious in the battles of Adrianople, the Hellespont, and at Chrysopolis.[135] With the defeat and death of Licinius a year later (he was accused of plotting against Constantine and executed), Constantine became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire.[136]

[edit] Later rule

[edit] Foundation of Constantinople
Coin struck by Constantine I to commemorate the founding of Constantinople
Coin struck by Constantine I to commemorate the founding of Constantinople

Licinius' defeat represented the passing of old Rome, and the beginning of the role of the Eastern Roman Empire as a center of learning, prosperity, and cultural preservation. Constantine rebuilt the city of Byzantium, and renamed it Nova Roma (New Rome) and issued special commemorative coins in 330 to honour the event. He provided Nova Roma with a Senate and civic offices similar to those of Rome. The new city was protected by the alleged 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.[137] The figures of old gods were replaced and often assimilated into Christian symbolism. On the site of a temple to Aphrodite was built the new Church of the Holy Apostles. 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. After his death, his capital was renamed Nova Roma Constantinopolitana (Constantinople in English, "Constantine's City").[136]

[edit] Religious policy

Further information: Constantine I and Christianity

Constantine the Great, mosaic in Hagia Sophia, c. 1000
Constantine the Great, mosaic in Hagia Sophia, c. 1000

Constantine is perhaps best known for being the first Christian Roman Emperor. His reign was a turning point for the Christian Church. In 313 Constantine announced toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity (under which many had been martyred in previous persecutions of Christians) and returned confiscated Church property. Though a similar edict had been issued in 311 by Galerius, then senior emperor of the tetrarchy,[138] Constantine's lengthy rule, conversion, and patronage of the Church redefined the status of Christianity in the empire.

Scholars 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.[139] Constantine was over 40 when he finally declared himself a Christian.[140] Constantine however still maintained the title of Pontifex Maximus, which emperors bore as heads of the pagan priesthood. Writing to Christians, Constantine made clear that he believed he owed his successes to the protection of the Christian High God alone.[141] Throughout his rule, Constantine supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges (e.g. exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high ranking offices, and returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian.[142] His most famous building projects include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Old Saint Peter's Basilica.

The reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor in the Church; Constantine considered himself responsible to God for the spiritual health of his subjects, and thus he had a duty to maintain orthodoxy.[143] [144] The emperor ensured that God was properly worshipped in his empire; what proper worship consisted of was for the Church to determine.[145] In 316, Constantine acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the heresy of Donatism. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea, effectively the first Ecumenical Council (unless the Council of Jerusalem is so classified), to deal mostly with the heresy of Arianism. Constantine also enforced the prohibition of the First Council of Nicaea against celebrating Easter on the day before the Jewish Passover (14 Nisan) (see Quartodecimanism and Easter controversy).[146]

Constantine instituted several legislative measures which had an impact on Jews. They were forbidden to own Christian slaves or to circumcise their slaves. Conversion of Christians to Judaism was outlawed. Congregations for religious services were restricted, but Jews were allowed to enter Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple.

[edit] Executions of Crispus and Fausta

On some date between May 15 and June 17, 326, Constantine had his eldest son Crispus seized and put to death by "cold poison" at Pola (Pula, Croatia).[147] In July, Constantine had his wife, the Empress Fausta, killed at the behest of his mother, Helena. Fausta was left to die in an over-heated bath.[148] 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.[149] 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 HippolytusPhaedra legend, with the suggestion that Constantine killed Crispus and Fausta for their immoralities.[150] One source, the largely fictional Passion of Artemius, probably penned in the eighth century by John of Damascus, makes the legendary connection explicit.[151] 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.[150]

[edit] Sickness and death

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Eusebius's account resumes following the abortive Persian campaign, with Constantine set about building a martyrion for the apostles in Constantinople, and, within it, a final resting-place for himself.[152] In the course of one Feast of Easter, Constantine fell seriously ill.[153] He left Constantinople for the hot baths near his mother's city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern shores of the Gulf of Izmit. 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.[154] 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".[155] He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia as his baptizer.[156] Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Easter, on May 22, 337.[157]
The Baptism of Constantine, as imagined by students of Raphael
The Baptism of Constantine, as imagined by students of Raphael

Although 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, 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".[158] Similar accounts are given in the Origo Constantini, an anonymous document composed while Constantine was still living, and which has Constantine dying in Nicomedia;[159] 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;[160] 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.[161] 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 campaign.[162]
The Constantinian dynasty down to Gratian (r. 367383)
The Constantinian dynasty down to Gratian (r. 367383)

In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until old age or death.[163] Following his death, his body was transferred to Constantinople and buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles there.[164] 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. He also had two daughters, Constantina and Helena, wife of Emperor Julian.[165]

[edit] Legacy
Contemporary bronze head of Constantine.
Contemporary bronze head of Constantine.

Although he earned his honorific of "The Great" ("???a?") from Christian historians long after he had died, he could have claimed the title on his military achievements and victories alone. In addition to reuniting the Empire under one emperor, Constantine won major victories over the Franks and Alamanni in 306308, the Franks again in 313314, the Visigoths in 332 and the Sarmatians in 334. In fact, by 336, Constantine had actually 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 put an end to raids on the eastern provinces from the Persian Empire.[166]

The 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 Byzantium, carried the name.[167] At the court of Charlemagne, the selected use of monumental Constantinian forms lent expression to conception of Charlemagne as Constantine's successor and equal. Constantine acquired a mythic role as a warrior against "heathens", a feature parodied in the fifteenth-century Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin. The motif of the Romanesque equestrian, the mounted figure in the posture of a triumphant Roman emperor, came to be used as 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.[168] Most Eastern Christian churches consider Constantine a saint (????? ???sta?t????, Saint Constantine).[169] In the Byzantine Church he was called isapostolos (?sap?st???? ???sta?t????)an equal of the Apostles.[170]

[edit] Donation of Constantine

Main article: Donation of Constantine

Latin Rite Catholics of the Middle Ages considered it inappropriate that Constantine was baptized only on his death-bed and by a bishop of questionable orthodoxy, viewing it as a snub to the authority of the Papacy. Hence, by the early fourth century, a legend had emerged that Pope Sylvester I (31435) 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.[171] In the eighth century, most likely during the pontificate of Stephen II (7527), 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 Stephen and his successors.[172] 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[173] 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 forgery.[174]

[edit] Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia

Because of his fame and his being proclaimed Emperor on the territory of Great Britain, Constantine was later also considered a British King. In the 11th century, the English writer Geoffrey of Monmouth published a fictional work called Historia Regum Britanniae, in which he narrates the supposed history of the Britons and their kings from the Trojan War, King Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon conquest. In this work, Geoffrey claimed that Constantine's mother Helena was actually the daughter of "King Cole", the mythical King of the Britons and eponymous founder of Colchester. A daughter for King Cole had not previously figured in the lore, at least not as it has survived in writing, and this pedigree is likely to reflect Geoffrey's desire to create a continuous line of regal descent. It was indecorous, Geoffrey considered, that a king might have less-than-noble ancestors. Geoffrey also said that Constantine was proclaimed "King of the Britons" at York, rather than Roman Emperor.[175]

[edit] Notes

Essays from The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine are marked with a "(CC)".

1. ^ a b Birth dates vary but most modern historians use "ca. 272". Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 59.
2. ^ In (Latin Constantine's official imperial title was IMPERATOR CAESAR FLAVIVS CONSTANTINVS PIVS FELIX INVICTVS AVGVSTVS, Imperator Caesar Flavius Constantine Augustus, the pious, the fortunate, the undefeated. After 312, he added MAXIMVS ("the greatest"), and after 325 replaced ("undefeated") with VICTOR, as invictus reminded of Sol Invictus, the Sun God.
3. ^ Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 14; Corcoran, Empire of the Tetrarchs, 1; Lenski, "Introduction" (CC), 23.
4. ^ Drake, "What Eusebius Knew," 21.
5. ^ Barnes detects in the work's panegyrical and hagiographic features trends two overlapping and distinct designs: "a formal panegyric" and "an account of Constantine's religious activities" (Barnes 1981, 265). The conflict between the two narratives were left unresolved at the author's death (Barnes 1981, 26768).
6. ^ An aim stated in the work's opening passages: Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.11; Odahl, 3. In the Vita, Eusebius creates an image of a pious, kind, and noble Constantine (Storch 1971, 145155); the positiveness of this image, however, has been so tendentious that the work has sometimes been called a "tissue of lies" (Lenski 2006a, 5). Through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, historians of a rationalist bent have placed a low value on Eusebius' work, and not infrequently labeled it a forgery. Modern historians are generally more positive in their judgments of the Vita's value (Cameron and Hall 1999, 46), although challenges remain to a number of the work's statements of fact (Elliott 1991, 162171). See also: Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 265271.
7. ^ Odahl, 3; Also named the Anonymus Valesianus, after its first modern compiler (1636) Henricus Valesius (Lieu 1996, 39).
8. ^ Traditionally assumed to have been composed soon after Constantine's death in 337 (Lieu 1996, 40), it could equally have been written as late as 390 (Bleckmann 2006, 26; Odahl 2004, 3).
9. ^ Lieu, From Constantine to Julian, 40; Odahl, 3.
10. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 1214; Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 24; Mackay, 207; Odahl, 910.
11. ^ Each is principally based on the lost histories of Gelasius of Caesarea, and each continues the work of Eusebius' ecclesiastic history. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 225; Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 2829; Odahl, 46.
12. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 225; Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 2629; Odahl, 56.
13. ^ Odahl, 6, 10.
14. ^ Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 2728; Lieu and Montserrat, 26; Odahl, 67; Warmington, 16667. The Christian Orosius, to counter the pagan trend in the breviaria, wrote his own Historiarum adversum Paganos to counter the trend, but his coverage of the Constantinian period provides little not available in earlier sources (Odahl 2004, 7).
15. ^ Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 24; Odahl, 8.
16. ^ Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 2021; Johnson, "Architecture of Empire" (CC), 288291; Odahl, 1112.
17. ^ Bleckmann, "Sources for the History of Constantine" (CC), 1721; Odahl, 1114.
18. ^ Barnes, New Empire, passim.
19. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3, 3942; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 17; Odahl, 15; Pohlsander, "Constantine I"; Southern, 169, 341.
20. ^ The relevant sources do not supply consistent dates; Eusebius' Vita alone provides inconsistent dates. In later years, Constantine would spread lies about his age, further confusing the issue (Barnes, New Empire, 3942; Elliott, "Constantine's Conversion," 4256; Elliott, "Eusebian Frauds," 163; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 17; Rodgers, 238; Wright, 495, 507). In any case, Constantine was born in an age in which births were not regularly registered; it is likely that Constantine himself did not know exactly when he was born (Jones, 12). Recent historians tend to prefer dates near 272 for Constantine's birth, following the lead of a handful of moderately reliable ancient sources (Eutropius 10.8; Jerome s.a. 337; and Socrates 1.39.1). Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 59. Barnes opts for a date "soon after...270", preferring 272 or 273 (1982, 3). Elliott, too, chooses 272 or 273 (1996, 17). Odahl suggests 273 (2004, 16). Modern historians have argued for dates as late as 288, but arguments for dates past 280 have been recently refuted (Pohlsander 2004a, 14).
21. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 5960; Odahl, 1617.
22. ^ Panegyrici Latini 8(5), 9(4); Lactantius, 8.7; Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.13.3; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 13, 290.
23. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 59. Lenski (2006, 83) calls her marriage claims "tenuous", and asserts that her earlier low status and doubts about the legalities of her relationship with Constantius were whitewashed by later Constantinian propaganda. According to Pohlsander (2004, 14), "most modern scholars do not think that Helena was legally married to Constantius". Odahl (2004, 16) disagrees with this assessment, preferring the sources describing Helena as a wife. Barnes (1981, 3) and Elliott (1996, 17) both assume a marriage took place.
24. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 911; Williams, passim.
25. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 814; Corcoran, "Before Constantine" (CC), 4154; Odahl, 4650; Treadgold, 1415.
26. ^ Bowman, 70; Potter, 283; Williams, 49, 65.
27. ^ Potter, 283; Williams, 49, 65.
28. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 20; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 5960; Odahl, 47, 299; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 14. Pohlsander (2004, 14) and Odahl (2004, 47, 299) favor a marriage date in 293, as the Origo Constantini explicitly links the marriage with Constantius' acclamation to Caesar. Barnes (1981, 3) and Elliott (1996, 20) favor a date in 288 or 289, based on a reading of the Panegyrici Latini dated 21 April 289 that seems to suggest that Constantius was already married to Theodora at the time. Lenski (2006, 5960) states that the marriage occurred soon after Constantius' appointment as praetorian prefect.
29. ^ Lactantius, 7.1; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 13, 290.
30. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine" (CC), 401; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3, 8; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 20; Odahl, 4647; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 89, 14; Treadgold, 17.
31. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 89; Corcoran, "Before Constantine" (CC), 4243, 54.
32. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 5960; Odahl, 567.
33. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7374; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 60; Odahl, 72. Modern commentators have nevertheless seen stylistic flaws in Constantine's written work: Jones wrote that "his involved and bombastic style betrays the muddled thinking of a semi-educated man", (Jones 1948, 58); and another scholar described Constantine's writing style as characteristically "turgid", suggesting "a certain lack of training in clarity and precision of expression." (Downey 1957, 51) Constantine was nonetheless literate, if not always eloquent (Odahl 2004, 301).
34. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 47, 7374; Fowden, "Between Pagans and Christians," 17576.
35. ^ Constantine, Oratio ad Sanctorum Coetum, 16.2; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 2930; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 60; Odahl, 7273.
36. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.19; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 2930; Odahl, 7273.
37. ^ As Constantine attests in the Oratio ad Sanctorum Coetum, 25. Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 30; Odahl, 73.
38. ^ Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 29; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 61; Odahl, 7274, 306; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 15. J. Moreau argues ("Lactance: "De la mort des persécuteurs"", Sources Chrétiennes 39 (1954): 313) that this appellation, which derives from Lactantius (18.10), is a conflation of his rank in the army, tribunus, and his title at court, comes primi ordinis (Barnes 1981, 297).
39. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20; Corcoran, "Before Constantine" (CC), 51; Odahl, 5456, 62.
40. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 19.
41. ^ Lactantius, 10.611; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 21; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 3536; Odahl, 67; Potter, 338. Lactantius' account is generally assumed to be an "imaginative reconstruction", (Barnes 1981, 297) a fiction that nonetheless conveys political truths (Mackay 1999, 200). That the conversation between the two emperors was purportedly "private" is not necessarily damning: "Conversations between important men...have a way of becoming public knowledge." (Potter 2004, 338).
42. ^ "Edict to the Provinces Concerning the Error of Polytheism" in Eusebius, Vita Constantini 2.4952; Odahl, 73, 304.
43. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2225; Odahl, 6769; Potter, 337. Most Christians escaped punishment through silence (Drake 1996, 15, 345; Treadgold 1997, 25).
44. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2324.
45. ^ "Edict to the Provinces Concerning the Error of Polytheism" in Eusebius, Vita Constantini 2.4952; Elliott, "Constantine's Conversion," 425.
46. ^ Drake, "The Impact of Constantine on Christianity" (CC), 126.
47. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2527; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 60; Odahl, 6972; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 15; Potter, 3412. There is dispute among scholars as to whether the abdication was planned or not (Potter 2004, 6623), and, following from that, how much influence Galerius had over the final decision. Barnes (1981, 25), Odahl (2004, 71), Potter (2004, 3401) and Treadgold (1997, 26) suspect a strong influence on the part of Galerius. The panegyrist of 307 attests to an abdication planned long in advance (7(6) 9.2), while Lactantius (18.17) and Aurelius Victor (40.48) have been read in support of an unplanned abdication encouraged by Galerius.
48. ^ Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6061; Odahl, 7274; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 15. Lactantius records (19.26) that the crowd gathered around Diocletian turned to Constantine during the ceremony, only to see him passed over. Barnes accepts the event as factual (Barnes 1981, 26); Potter rejects it as "Constantinian propaganda" (Potter 2004, 342).
49. ^ Origo 4; Lactantius 24.39; Praxagoras fr. 1.2; Aurelius Victor 40.23; Epitome de Caesaribus 41.2; Zosimus 2.8.3; Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.21; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 61; Odahl, 73.
50. ^ Odahl, 7576.
51. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 27; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 3940; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 61; Odahl, 77; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1516; Potter, 3445; Southern, 16970, 341. Barnes (1982, 27), Lenski (2006, 61), and Potter (2004, 3445) reject the narrative as propaganda or legend. Odahl (2004, 77, 3089) credits it as true, calling those who deny it "a few revisionists" (309). Later narratives of the event, such as Lactantius, Victor, the Epitome, and Zosimus, have Constantine arriving in Britain at the deathbed of his father. Such narratives are generally assumed to be contracted versions of earlier sources, such as the Origo and Panegyrici Latini 6(7).
52. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 27; Odahl, 7778; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1516.
53. ^ Mattingly, 23334. A number of modern accounts draw parallels the campaigns of Severus and Constantius. The Panegyrici Latini 6(7)7.1ff gives only the usual features of a British campaignmarshes and woods, Caledonians and Pictswithout providing any specifics (Southern 2001, 341). Little of Constantius' movement is visible in the archaeological evidence (Southern 2001, 170). Constantius and Galerius took a Britannici maximi II victory title by January 7, 306, indicating a campaign in the second half of 305 (L'Année Épigraphique 1961.240; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 298; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 39; Odahl, 309).
54. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2728; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6162; Odahl, 7879.
55. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2829; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 62; Odahl, 7980.
56. ^ Treadgold, 28.
57. ^ Rees, 160.
58. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 2829; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 62; Odahl, 7980.
59. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 29; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 41; Odahl, 7980.
60. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 29.
61. ^ Odahl, 80; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1415.
62. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1617.
63. ^ Odahl, 8081.
64. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 29; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 41; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 63; Odahl, 8183.
65. ^ Odahl, 8283.
66. ^ Odahl, 8283. See also: William E. Gwatkin, Jr. "Roman Trier." The Classical Journal 29 (1933): 312.
67. ^ Lactantius 24.9; Barnes, "Lactantius and Constantine," 4346; Odahl, 85, 31011.
68. ^ Rodgers, 2334.
69. ^ Zosimus, 2.9.2; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 62.
70. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 29; Odahl, 86; Potter, 346.
71. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3031; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 4142; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6263; Odahl, 8687; Potter, 34849.
72. ^ Odahl, 92.
73. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 37.
74. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 30; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6263; Odahl, 8687.
75. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 34; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6365; Odahl, 89; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1516.
76. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 31; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 64; Odahl, 8788; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 1516.
77. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 32; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 64; Odahl, 89, 93.
78. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3234; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 4243; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 65; Odahl, 9091; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 17; Potter, 34950; Treadgold, 29.
79. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3637.
80. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3435; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 43; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6566; Odahl, 93; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 17; Potter, 352.
81. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 34.
82. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3435; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 43; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6566; Odahl, 93; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 17; Potter, 352.
83. ^ Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 43; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68; Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 20.
84. ^ Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 45; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68.
85. ^ Lactantius, 30.1; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4041, 305.
86. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68.
87. ^ Potter, 352.
88. ^ Panegyrici Latini 6(7); Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3537; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 66; Odahl, 9495; Potter, 35253. No ancient sources attempted to refute Constantine's claim of Claudian ancestry (Odahl 2004, 315), and it recurs in literary accounts of the Constantinian family through the rest of the century. Nonetheless, "scholars agree" that it is a fabrication (Lenski 2006, 66). The precise nature of Constantine's relationship is never consistently identified (sometimes given as grandfather, sometimes as great-uncle (Barnes 1981, 35, 301)), and Constantine's situation in 310, with the dynastic link to Maximian devalued and Maxentius raising suspicions of Constantine's bastardy, favored the convenient discovery of long-lost imperial ancestry (Lenski 2006, 66). Odahl offers tentative arguments in favor of Constantine's relationship with Claudius. Were Constantius a grandnephew of Claudius, it would explain his rise to the elite Protectores at the beginning of his career, and it wouldn't have been opportune to claim dynastic succession in the non-dynastic tetrarchy. Odahl believes it "understandable" that Constantine would have forgotten the precise nature of the relationship (Odahl 2004, 31415).
89. ^ Panegyrici Latini 6(7)1. Qtd. in Potter, 353.
90. ^ Panegyrici Latini 6(7).21.5.
91. ^ Virgil, Ecologues 4.10.
92. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3637; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 67; Odahl, 95.
93. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3637; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 5053; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 6667; Odahl, 9495. It has traditionally been asserted, on the basis of this panegyric, that Constantine professed some variety of Apolline faith, or identified himself with Apollo. These views have recently been challenged (Elliott 1996, 51). The essentially political and impersonal nature of the panegyrics could preclude personal involvement on the part of Constantine. Barnes states that "It is not necessary to believe that Constantine ever saw such a vision" (Barnes 1981, 36). Lenski states, contrariwise, that Constantine indeed "believed he had seen a divine vision" (Lenski 2006, 67).
94. ^ The most detailed accounts of Galerius' illness are given in Lactantius 3135 and Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.16. Both describe a particularly painful disease, but are inconsistent in its details. Jones and Lenski identify it as a degenerative bowel disease, specifically cancer of the bowels in Jones' case (Jones 1948, 66; Lenski 2006, 68). Odahl identifies the disease as cancer of the penis (Odahl 2004, 9596, 316). Elliott suspects that the gruesome facts supplied by the Christian authors are greatly exaggerated (Elliott 1996, 43).
95. ^ Lactantius, 34; Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.17. Following Lactantius (35.1), the letter is sometimes called an "edict" (Barnes 1981, 304).
96. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 39; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 4344; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68; Odahl, 9596.
97. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 40; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68.
98. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 45; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 69; Odahl, 96.
99. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3940; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 44; Odahl, 96.
100. ^ Odahl, 96.
101. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 38; Odahl, 96.
102. ^ Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 68.
103. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 37.
104. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3637; Odahl, 99.
105. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 3839.
106. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 40.
107. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41.
108. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Elliott, Christianity of Constantine, 4445; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 69; Odahl, 96.
109. ^ Odahl, 96.
110. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Odahl, 99100.
111. ^ Odahl, 99100.
112. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41.
113. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41.
114. ^ Odahl, 101.
115. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41.
116. ^ Odahl, 101.
117. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Odahl, 101.
118. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41; Odahl, 10102.
119. ^ Panegyrici Latini 12(9)56; 4(10)2124; Odahl, 102, 31718.
120. ^ Panegyrici Latini 12(9).8.1; 4(10).25.1; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41, 305.
121. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4142; Odahl, 103.
122. ^ Digeser, 122.
123. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.28. Hoc Signo Victor Eris in Constantine's original Latin, becoming touto nika (t??t? ???a) in Eusebius's Greek. When Eusebius's Vita was translated into Latin at the end of the fourth century, the original phrasing had been forgotten, and the phrase was translated into variants like In Hoc Vince, or In Hoc Signo Vinces (Odahl 2004, 105, 31819).
124. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 1.29.
125. ^ Nicholson, 311.
126. ^ David Whitehouse, "Space impact 'saved Christianity'" BBC News 23 June 2003.
127. ^ Jordan, 85.
128. ^ Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 71.
129. ^ Nicholson, 3127.
130. ^ Nicholson, 31621.
131. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 24.
132. ^ Drake, "Impact," 1213.
133. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 3839.
134. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 4142.
135. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 4243.
136. ^ a b MacMullen, Constantine.
137. ^ Sardonyx cameo depicting constantine the great crowned by Constantinople, 4th century AD at "The Road to Byzantium: Luxury Arts of Antiquity". The Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House (March 30, 2006 September 3, 2006)
138. ^ The edict granted Christians the right to practice their religion but did not restore any property to them; see Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum ("On the Deaths of the Persecutors")ch. 35-34
139. ^ R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 55
140. ^ Peter Brown, The Rise of Christendom 2nd edition (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p. 61
141. ^ Peter Brown, The Rise of Christendom 2nd edition (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p. 60
142. ^ R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) pp. 55-56
143. ^ Richards, Jeffrey. The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages 476-752 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) pp. 14-15
144. ^ The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages 476-752 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) q. 15
145. ^ Richards, Jeffrey. The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages 476-752 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) p. 16
146. ^ Life of Constantine Vol. III Ch. XVIII by Eusebius; The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council, addressed to those Bishops who were not present
147. ^ Guthrie, 3256.
148. ^ Guthrie, 326; Woods, "Death of the Empress," 702.
149. ^ Guthrie, 326; Woods, "Death of the Empress," 72.
150. ^ a b Guthrie, 3267.
151. ^ Art. Pass 45; Woods, "Death of the Empress," 712.
152. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4.5860.
153. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4.61.
154. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4.62.
155. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4.62.4.
156. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 7576; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 82.
157. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 4.64; Fowden, "Last Days of Constantine," 147; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine" (CC), 82.
158. ^ Julian, Orations 1.18.b.
159. ^ Origo Constantini 35.
160. ^ Sextus Aurelius Victor, Historiae abbreviatae XLI.16.
161. ^ Eutropius, Breviarium X.8.2.
162. ^ Fowden, "Last Days of Constantine," 1489.
163. ^ In this period infant baptism, though practiced (usually in circumstances of emergency) had not yet become a matter of routine in the west. Thomas M. Finn, Early Christian Baptism and the Catechumenate: East and West Syria. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier (1992); Philip Rousseau, "Baptism". Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Post Classical World. Eds. G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press (1999).
164. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 7576.
165. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 71, figure 9.
166. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 72.
167. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 91.
168. ^ Seidel, 237239.
169. ^ Pohlsander, Emperor Constantine, 8387.
170. ^ Lieu, "Constantine in Legendary Literature" (CC), 305.
171. ^ Lieu, "Constantine in Legendary Literature" (CC), 298301.
172. ^ Constitutum Constantini 17. Qtd. in Lieu, "Constantine in Legendary Literature" (CC), 3013.
173. ^ Henry Charles Lea, "The 'Donation of Constantine'". The English Historical Review 10: 37 (1895), 867.
174. ^ Riccardo Fubini, "Humanism and Truth: Valla Writes against the Donation of Constantine". Journal of the History of Ideas 57: 1 (1996), 7986.
175. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, pp. 132133.

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(Video) Constantine The Great Explained in 10 minutes


Are there any descendants of Constantine? ›

Constantine did not have any children, but he did have surviving brothers, who represented the most prominent potential claimants to Byzantine imperial power. In the Peloponnese, Constantine's two brothers Demetrios (1407–1470) and Thomas Palaiologos (1409–1465) ruled as co-despots of the Morea.

Who was Constantine's family? ›


How is Constantine related to Rome? ›

Who was Constantine? Constantine made Christianity the main religion of Rome, and created Constantinople, which became the most powerful city in the world. Emperor Constantine (ca A.D. 280– 337) reigned over a major transition in the Roman Empire—and much more.

Did Constantine have any siblings? ›


What heritage is Constantine? ›

English (of Norman origin): habitational name from Cotentin (Coutances) in La Manche, France (see Constance 2).

Is Charlemagne descended from Constantine? ›

Charlemagne was a descendant of Constantine. Constantine was a Roman Emperor and in upholding his family line, Charlemagne was the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Is King Arthur related to Constantine? ›

Notably, Geoffrey's Constantine is King Arthur's kinsman and succeeds him as King of the Britons.

What happened to Constantine's wife and son? ›

According to Sidonius Apollinaris, Crispus was killed by "cold poison". Soon afterwards, Constantine had his wife Fausta killed also, according to several sources in a hot bath or bathroom. Both Crispus and Fausta suffered damnatio memoriae, their names being erased from inscriptions.

Did Constantine marry his mother? ›

AD 246/248– c. 330) was an Augusta and Empress of the Roman Empire and mother of Emperor Constantine the Great.
Helena, mother of Constantine I.
SpouseConstantius Chlorus
IssueConstantine I
Names Flavia Julia Helena Regnal name Flavia Julia Helena Augusta
8 more rows

What is Constantine called today? ›

Constantinople is an ancient city in modern-day Turkey that's now known as Istanbul.

Who are the sons of Constantine? ›


Where is Constantine today? ›

Constantine is regarded as the capital of eastern Algeria and the commercial center of its region, and it has a population of about 450,000 (938,475 with the agglomeration), making it the third largest city in the country after Algiers and Oran. There are several museums and historical sites located around the city.

Are there any descendants of the Roman emperors? ›

Probably not that many. The Roman Emperors were notorious for not having heirs. It's one reason why the idea of Commodus being passed over for another person to take the throne like in Gladiator is preposterous.


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