Constantine I and Christianity
During the reign of the Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 Constantine the Great, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Constantine, also known as Constantine I, had a significant religious experience following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge
Battle of Milvian Bridge
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the...

 in 312. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have argued about which form of Christianity he converted to, a question that bears on the legitimation of religious persecution
Religious persecution
Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or lack thereof....

. He is revered as a saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and Oriental Orthodox Church for his example as a "Christian monarch."

Though Constantine had been exposed to Christianity by his mother, Helena, there is no consensus among scholars as to whether he adopted his mother's Christianity in his youth, or gradually over the course of his life, and he did not receive baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 until shortly before his death. Whatever the case, Constantine's endorsement of the tradition was a turning point for Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 legalizing Christian worship. The Emperor became a great patron of the Church, and set a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

, Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

, and ecumenical councils that would be followed for centuries as the State church of the Roman Empire
State church of the Roman Empire
The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...


Christianity in the Empire before Constantine

The first recorded official persecution of Christians on behalf of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 was that of the year 64 AD, when, as reported by the Roman historian
Roman historiography
Roman Historiography is indebted to the Greeks, who invented the form. The Romans had great models to base their works upon, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are different from the Greek ones however, and voice very Roman concerns. Unlike the Greeks, Roman...

Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, the Emperor Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

. According to Church tradition, it was during the reign of Nero that Peter and Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 were each martyred in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. However, modern historians debate whether the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva
Nerva , was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65...

's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus
Fiscus Judaicus
The Fiscus Iudaicus or Fiscus Judaicus was a tax collecting agency instituted to collect the tax imposed on Jews in the Roman Empire after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE in favor of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome.-Imposition:The tax was initially imposed by Roman...

in 96, from which point practicing Jews paid the tax and Christians did not.

Christians suffered from sporadic and localized persecutions
Persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians as a consequence of professing their faith can be traced both historically and in the current era. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith, at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose, and the Roman Empire which controlled much of the land...

 over a period of two and a half centuries. Their refusal to participate in Imperial cult
Imperial cult (Ancient Rome)
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State...

 was considered an act of treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 and was thus punishable by execution. The most widespread official persecution was carried out by Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

. During the Great Persecution (303–11), the Emperor ordered Christian buildings and the homes of Christians torn down, and their sacred books collected and burned. Christians were arrested, tortured, mutilated, burned, starved, and condemned to gladiatorial contests to amuse spectators. The Great Persecution officially ended in April of 311, when Galerius
Galerius , was Roman Emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300...

, then senior emperor of the Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

, issued an edict of toleration, which granted Christians the right to practice their religion, though it did not restore any property to them.


The Emperor Constantine I was exposed to Christianity by his mother, Helena, but he was over 42 when he finally declared himself a Christian. Writing to Christians, Constantine made clear that he believed his successes were owed to the protection of that High God alone.

The Battle of Milvian Bridge

Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 and other Christian sources record that Constantine experienced a dramatic event in 312 at the Battle of Milvian Bridge
Battle of Milvian Bridge
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the...

, after which Constantine would claim the emperorship in the West. According to these sources, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "" ("by this, win!", often rendered in the Latin "in hoc signo vinces
In hoc signo vinces
In hoc signo vinces is a Latin rendering of the Greek phrase "" en touto nika, and means "in this sign you will conquer"....

"). Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho
The labarum was a vexillum that displayed the "Chi-Rho" symbol ☧, formed from the first two Greek letters of the word "Christ" — Chi and Rho . It was used by the Roman emperor Constantine I...

), and thereafter they were victorious.

Following the battle, the new emperor ignored the altars to the gods prepared on the Capitoline
Capitoline Hill
The Capitoline Hill , between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the seven hills of Rome. It was the citadel of the earliest Romans. By the 16th century, Capitolinus had become Capitolino in Italian, with the alternative Campidoglio stemming from Capitolium. The English word capitol...

, and did not carry out the customary sacrifices to celebrate a general's victorious entry into Rome, instead heading directly to the imperial palace. Most influential people in the Empire, however, especially high military officials, had not converted to Christianity and still participated in the traditional religions of Rome
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

; Constantine's rule exhibited at least a willingness to appease these factions. The Roman coins
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

 minted up to eight years after the battle still bore the images of Roman gods. The monuments he first commissioned, such as the Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312...

, contained no reference to Christianity.

Edict of Milan

In 313 Constantine and Licinius
Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...

 announced "that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best", thereby granting tolerance to all religions, including Christianity. The Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 went a step further than the earlier Edict of Toleration by Galerius
Edict of Toleration by Galerius
The Edict of Toleration by Galerius was issued in 311 by the Roman Tetrarchy of Galerius, Constantine and Licinius, officially ending the Diocletian persecution of Christianity....

 in 311, returning confiscated Church property. This edict made the Empire officially neutral with regard to religious worship; it neither made the traditional religions illegal nor made Christianity the state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, as occurred later with the Edict of Thessalonica
Edict of Thessalonica
The Edict of Thessalonica, also known as Cunctos populos, was delivered on 27 February 380 by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II in order that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria...


Patronage of the Church

The accession of Constantine was a turning point for Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

, generally considered the beginning of Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

. After his victory, Constantine took over the role of the patron for the Christian faith. He supported the Church financially, had an extraordinary number of basilicas built, granted privileges (e.g. exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high-ranking offices, returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian, and endowed the church with land and other wealth. Between 324 and 330, Constantine built, virtually from scratch, a new imperial capital at Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 on the Bosphorus, which would be named Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 for him. Unlike "old" Rome, the city employed overtly Christian architecture and contained churches within the city walls, and had no pre-existing temples from other religions to contend with.

In doing this, however, Constantine required those who had not converted to Christianity "to foot the bill". Christian chroniclers tell that it appeared necessary to Constantine "to teach his subjects to give up their rites (...) and to accustom them to despise their temples and the images contained therein," This led to the closure of temples due to a lack of support, their wealth flowing to the imperial treasure; Constantine did not need to use force to implement this, although his subjects are said to simply have obeyed him out of fear. Only the chronicler Theophanes
Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

 has added that temples "were annihilated", but this was considered "not true" by contemporary historians.

Public office

Many times imperial favor was granted to Christianity by the Edict, new avenues were opened to Christians, including the right to compete with other Romans in the traditional cursus honorum
Cursus honorum
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

for high government positions, and greater acceptance into general civil society. Constantine respected cultivation, and his court was composed of older, respected, and honored men. Men from leading Roman families who declined to convert to Christianity were denied positions of power, yet still received appointments, even up to the end of his life, and two-thirds of his top government was non-Christian. In 313 he issued the Edict of Milan, which allowed Christians to practice their religion in the Roman Empire.

Legal reforms

Constantine's laws enforced and reflected his Christian reforms. Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

 was abolished for reasons of Christian piety, but was replaced with hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

, to show there was Roman law and justice. On March 7, 321, Sunday was declared the official day of rest, on which markets were banned and public offices were closed (CJ
Corpus Juris Civilis
The Corpus Juris Civilis is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Eastern Roman Emperor...

 3.12.2), except for the purpose of freeing slaves. There were no restrictions on farming work, which was the work of the great majority of the population. Some laws were even humane in the modern sense, possibly originating in his Christianity: a prisoner was no longer to be kept in total darkness, but must be given the outdoors and daylight; a condemned man was allowed to die in the arena, but he could not be branded on his "heavenly beautified" face, since God was supposed to have made man in his image, but only on the feet. Gladiatorial games
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

 were ordered to be eliminated in 325, although this had little real effect, and a slave master's rights were limited, but a slave could still be beaten to death.

Early Christian Bibles

In 331, Constantine commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

s for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans
Constans , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 350. He defeated his brother Constantine II in 340, but anger in the army over his personal life and preference for his barbarian bodyguards saw the general Magnentius rebel, resulting in Constans’ assassination in 350.-Career:Constans was the third and...

. Little else is known. It has been speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists
Development of the Christian Biblical canon
The Christian Biblical canon is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the Christian Bible. Books included in the Christian Biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament were decided at the Council of Trent , by the Thirty-Nine Articles , the Westminster...

, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

 are examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

 and Codex Alexandrinus
Codex Alexandrinus
The Codex Alexandrinus is a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible,The Greek Bible in this context refers to the Bible used by Greek-speaking Christians who lived in Egypt and elsewhere during the early history of Christianity...

, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.

Enforcement of Church policy

The reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor in the Church. Emperors considered themselves responsible to God for the spiritual health of their subjects, and thus they had a duty to maintain orthodoxy. The emperor did not decide doctrine — that was the responsibility of the bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s — rather his role was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. The emperor ensured that God was properly worshiped in his empire; what proper worship (orthodoxy) and doctrines and dogma consisted of was for the Church to determine.

In 316, Constantine acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the First Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

, effectively the first Ecumenical Council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

 (unless the Council of Jerusalem
Council of Jerusalem
The Council of Jerusalem is a name applied by historians and theologians to an Early Christian council that was held in Jerusalem and dated to around the year 50. It is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later Ecumenical Councils...

 is so classified). Nicaea however was to deal mostly with the Arian
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 controversy. Constantine himself was torn between both the Arian and Trinitarian
The word trinitarian is used in several senses:*Ideas or things pertaining to the Holy Trinity.*A person or group adhering to the doctrine of Trinitarianism, which holds God to subsist in the form of the Holy Trinity....

 camps. After the Nicene council and against its conclusions, he eventually recalled Arius
Arius was a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt of Libyan origins. His teachings about the nature of the Godhead, which emphasized the Father's divinity over the Son , and his opposition to the Athanasian or Trinitarian Christology, made him a controversial figure in the First Council of...

 from exile and banished Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria [b. ca. – d. 2 May 373] is also given the titles St. Athanasius the Great, St. Athanasius I of Alexandria, St Athanasius the Confessor and St Athanasius the Apostolic. He was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. His long episcopate lasted 45 years Athanasius of Alexandria [b....

 to Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....


Constantine himself was baptised into Christianity just before his death in May 337 by his distant relative Arianian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia
Eusebius of Nicomedia
Eusebius of Nicomedia was the man who baptised Constantine. He was a bishop of Berytus in Phoenicia, then of Nicomedia where the imperial court resided in Bithynia, and finally of Constantinople from 338 up to his death....

. During Eusebius of Nicomedia's time in the Imperial court, the Eastern court and the major positions in the Eastern Church were held by Arians or Arian sympathizers. With the exception of a short period of eclipse, Eusebius enjoyed the complete confidence both of Constantine and Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 and was the tutor of the later Emperor Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

. After Constantine's death, his son and successor Constantius II was an Arian, as was the later Emperor Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...


Suppression of other religions

Constantine's position on the religions traditionally practiced in Rome evolved during his reign. At first he prohibited the construction of new temples and tolerated traditional sacrifices; by the end of his reign, he had begun to order the pillaging and tearing down of Roman temple
Roman temple
Ancient Roman temples are among the most visible archaeological remains of Roman culture, and are a significant source for Roman architecture. Their construction and maintenance was a major part of ancient Roman religion. The main room housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was...


Relationship with the bishops of Rome

Constantine's relationship with the four Bishops of Rome during his reign is an important component of the History of the Papacy
History of the Papacy
The history of the papacy, the office held by the Pope as head of the Catholic Church, spans from the time of Saint Peter to present day.During the Early Church, the bishops of Rome enjoyed no temporal power until the time of Constantine...

, and more generally the History of the Catholic Church.

Persian relations

Beyond the limes
A limes was a border defense or delimiting system of Ancient Rome. It marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire.The Latin noun limes had a number of different meanings: a path or balk delimiting fields, a boundary line or marker, any road or path, any channel, such as a stream channel, or any...

, east of the Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, the Sassanid rulers of the Persian Empire, perennially at war with Rome
Roman-Persian Wars
The Roman–Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world and two successive Iranic empires: the Parthian and the Sassanid. Contact between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic began in 92 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued...

, had usually tolerated Christianity (see also Sassanid Church). Constantine is said to have written to Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

, in 324, and urged him to protect Christians under his rule.(Eusebius, vita Constantini IV, 8-13) With the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, Christians in Persia would now be regarded as allies of Persia's ancient enemy. According to an anonymous Christian account, Shapur II wrote to his generals:
The "Great Persecution" of the Persian Christian churches occurred between 340-363 CE, after the Persian Wars that reopened upon Constantine's death. In 344 Catholicos
Catholicos, plural Catholicoi, is a title used for the head of certain churches in some Eastern Christian traditions. The title implies autocephaly and in some cases is borne by the designated head of an autonomous church, in which case the holder might have other titles such as Patriarch...

 Shimun bar Sabbae, five bishops and 100 priests were martyred by the Sassanids.


Constantine, together with his mother Helena
Helena of Constantinople
Saint Helena also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I...

, is celebrated as a major saint of Eastern Orthodoxy; their joint feast day is both 21 May. The emperor is not only considered an example of a "Christian monarch" and bestowed with the distinction of isapostolos or "equal to the Apostles", he is associated, albeit in retrospect, with the idea of a "Second Rome" – the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. The Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 in its Eastern rites also venerates Constantine, but is not venerated in the Latin Rite. He is not venerated by any Protestant community.

Constantinian shift

Constantinian shift is a term used by Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

 and Post-Christendom theologians to describe the political and theological aspects of Constantine's legalization of Christianity
Constantine I and Christianity
During the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine, also known as Constantine I, had a significant religious experience following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312...

 in the 4th century. The term was popularized by the Mennonite
The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons , who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders...

 theologian John H. Yoder.

See also

  • Constantinianism
    Constantinianism refers to those policies said to be enacted, encouraged, or personally favored by Constantine the Great, a 4th century Roman Emperor...

  • Early Christianity and pacifism
    Early Christianity and pacifism
    Early Christianity and pacifism discusses the early Christian attitude to violence and war. Christian scholar Roland Bainton, who was a conscientious objector in World War I, asserted that prior to Constantine all Christians renounced war....

  • Philip the Arab and Christianity
    Philip the Arab and Christianity
    Philip the Arab was one of the few 3rd-century Roman emperors sympathetic to Christians, although his relationship with Christianity is obscure and controversial. Philip was born in Auranitis, an Arab district east of the Sea of Galilee...

  • List of rulers who converted to Christianity

Selected bibliography

  • Ramsay MacMullen
    Ramsay MacMullen
    Ramsay MacMullen is an Emeritus Professor of history at Yale University, where he taught from 1967 to his retirement in 1993 as Dunham Professor of History and Classics...

    , "Christianizing The Roman Empire A.D. 100-400, Yale University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-300-03642-6

External links

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