Constantine I in Roman Biography

Con'stan-tine, [Lat. Constanti'nus ; Gr. Kuvaruvtwoc ; Fr. Constantin, k6N'st6.N'taN' ; Ger. Constantin, kon-stan-teen'; It. Constantino, kon-stan-tee'no; Dutch, Konstantijn, kon-stan-tin',] (Flavius Valerius Aurelius,) surnamed the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, born in 272 A.D., was the son of the emperor Constantius Chlorus and his wife Helena. Before his accession, his talents, courage, and martial services had rendered him a favourite of the army, and an object of jealousy to Galerius, one of the two emperors then reigning. He was at York when his father died there, in July, 306, and was proclaimed emperor by the legions under his command. Galerius accorded to him only the title of Caesar, and conferred the rank of Augustus on his own son, Severus. At Rome, Maxentius and his father Maximim, in the absence of Galerius, raised a successful revolt, (307,) after which six emperors and Caesars at one time ruled the provinces of Rome. About 307 Constantine married Fausta, daughter of Maximian ; but a war soon ensued between these emperors, and Maximian, having been defeated, was put to death in 309. Galerius died in 311, after which Licinius and Maximin remained masters of the provinces east of Italv. In 312, Constantine, who reigned in Gaul, marched against Maxentius, who was defeated and killed near Rome in that year. About this time, according to tradition, he was converted to Christianity by a miraculous vision, in which he saw in the heavens the sign of a cross, with this inscription, "Thou shalt conquer by *.his sign," (" In hoc signo vinces.") Having obtained undisputed supremacy over the West, including Italy and Africa, he began to favour more openly the Christians, and displayed wisdom in the promotion of order and prosperity among his subjects. In 314 he fought in Thrace an indecisive battle against Licinius, his only remaining rival, and then made a peace, which lasted nine years. During this period he was employed in political reforms, and adopted a more humane code of laws, by which Christianity was recognized as the religion of the state, but the pagan worship was still tolerated. In 323 he gained a complete victory over Licinius near Adrianople, and another opposite Byzantium, after which he was the sole emperor. He assembled at Nicaea in 325 the first general council, in which Arianism was condemned and a famous Catholic creed was adopted. In the next year he was guilty of an act which has left a deep stain on his memory, the execution of his eldest son, Crispus, falsely accused of a crime by Fausta, who was his step-mother. About 328 he transferred his court to Byzantium, which he enlarged, and the name of which he changed to Constantinople,-"City of Constantine." The duration of the Eastern Empire so many centuries after the fall of the Western seems to approve the wisdom of his policy in this affair. A few years before hi* death he favoured the Arians, and recalled some banished bishops of that party. He died at Nicomedia 111337 A.D., having divided the empire between his three sons, Constantine, Constantius, and Constans. His character is variously estimated ; but it is admitted that he had many of the qualities of a great statesman and general. He was far from being a saint, and in the opinion of Niebuhr was not even a Christian, though he permitted himself to be baptized just before his death. See Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ;" Euse- BIUS, "Vita Constantini ;" Vogt, "Historia Constantini Magni," 1720; Tii.i.k.mont, "Histoire des Empereurs ;" Joseph Fletcher, "Life of Constantine the Great," 1S52 ; J. C. F. Manso, " Leben Constantin's des Grossen," 1817; Jakob Burckhardt, "Die Zeit Constantin's des Grossen," 1853.

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