[[Image:Constantine the Great.jpg|right|frame|St. Constantine]]
Equal to the Apostles Emperor Saint '''Constantine the Great''' ([[February 27]], 272-[[May 22]], 337) was proclaimed Augustus by his troops on [[July 25]], 306 and ruled an ever-growing portion of the Roman Empire to his death. Constantine is famed for his
refounding of Byzantium as "New Rome," which was always called "Constantine's City"—Constantinople. With the [[Edict of Milan]] in 313, Constantine and his co-Emperor removed all onus from Christianity. By taking the personal step of convoking the [[First Ecumenical Council|Council of Nicaea]] (325) Constantine began the Roman Empire's unofficial sponsorship of Christianity, which was a major factor in the faith's spread. His reputation as the "first Christian Emperor" was promulgated by [[Lactantius]] and [[Eusebius of Caesarea|Eusebius]] and gained ground in the succeeding generations. The [[Orthodox Church]] keeps his feast on [[May 21]], along with his mother, Empress Saint [[Helen]].
He was born at Naissus, today's city of Niš in Upper Moesia (modern Serbia and Montenegro), to Constantius I Chlorus and an innkeeper's daughter, [[Helen]]. Constantine was well educated and served at the court of [[Diocletian]] in Nicomedia as a kind of hostage after the appointment of his father Constantius, a general, as one of the two Caesars (at that time a junior emperor), in the Tetrarchy in 293. In 305, the Augustus, Maximian, abdicated, and Constantius succeeded to the position. However, he died in 306. Constantine managed to be at his deathbed in Eboracum (York, England), where troops loyal to his father's memory proclaimed him Emperor. For the next 18 years, he fought a series of battles and wars that left him first as emperor of the west, and then as supreme ruler of the Roman Empire.
==Constantine and Christianity==
By the end of the 3rd century, Christian communities and their bishops had become a force to contend with, in urban centers especially. Christians were preferred for high government positions; the Church was granted various special privileges; and churches like the [[Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem)|Church of the Nativity]] in Bethlehem and the [[Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem)|Church of the Holy Sepulchre]] in Jerusalem were constructed. Christian bishops took aggressive public stances that were unknown among other cult leaders, even among the Jews. Proselytism had had to be publicly outlawed, simply to maintain public decorum. In the essential legions, however, Christianity was despised as womanish, and the soldiers followed pagan cults of Mithras and Isis. Since the Roman Emperors ruled by "divine right" and stayed in power through the support of the legions, it was important for them to be seen to support a strong state religion. The contumely of the Christians consisted in their public refusal to participate in official rites that no one deeply believed in, but which were an equivalent of an oath of allegiance. Refusal might easily bring upon all the Roman people the loss of the gods' support; such were the usual justifications for occasional lynchings of Christians by Roman soldiers, the fare of many [[martyrology|martyrologies]].
Constantine and Licinius' Edict of Milan (313) neither made paganism illegal nor made Christianity a state-sponsored religion. What it did was legalize Christianity, return confiscated Church property, and establish [[Sunday]] as a day of worship. Though the church prospered under Constantine's patronage, it also fell into the first of many public schisms. He called the [[First Ecumenical Council]] to settle the problem of [[Arianism]], a dispute about the personhood and Godhood of [[Jesus Christ]]. It produced the [[Nicene Creed]], which
favoured the position of [[Athanasius of Alexandria|Athanasius]], Arius's opponent, and became official doctrine.
When the Altar of Victory was desecrated and removed from its place of honor in the Senate, the Senate deputized Symmachus to appeal to the emperor for its return. Symmachus publicly characterized the late Emperor Constantine's policy, in a plea for freedom of religion:
:He diminished none of the privileges of the sacred virgins, he filled the priestly offices with nobles, he did not refuse the cost of the Roman ceremonies, and following the rejoicing Senate through all the streets of the eternal city, he contentedly beheld the shrines ''with unmoved countenance'', he read the names of the gods inscribed on the pediments, he enquired about the origin of the temples, and expressed admiration for their builders. Although he himself followed another religion, he maintained its own for the empire, for everyone has his own customs, everyone his own rites. The divine mind has distributed different guardians and different cults to different cities. As souls are separately given to infants as they are born, so to peoples the genius of their destiny. (''Possible Christian insertion in italics.'')
*[http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/ambrose-sym.html Medieval sourcebook:] The Memorial of Symmachus, prefect of the City. (The Memorial has been emended to address three emperors, [[Valentinian II]] (died 392), [[Theodosius I]], and [[Arcadius]] (began to rule 395), a historical impossibility. Thus there may be other Christian adulterations of the text. The reply of [[Ambrose of Milan|Ambrose]], bishop of Milan is appended, which is highly revealing in the character of his argument in rebuttal.)
[[Image:Constantine.jpg|left|thumb|A mosaic image of Constantine the Great from the [[Hagia Sophia (Constantinople)]].]]
= ==Controversies surrounding Constantine's
The religion of Constantine the Great, while generally assumed to be Christian in view of his pro-Christian policies, is disputed by some secular historians, however the Church from the earliest times has considered him to be a devout Orthodox Christian.
One aspect of Constantine's life that secular historians use to indicate Constantine's incomplete acceptance of Christianity (from a modern view) was his notorious cruelty: he executed his own wife and eldest son in 326. He also had [[Licinius]], the East Roman emperor, strangled after his defeat, something he had publicly promised not to do. It should be noted, however, that Constantine's wife attempted to seduce Constantine's son (her step-son) and when he refused her advances, she accused him of raping her. The penalty for doing this to an Empress was death, as was any act considered to be treason. Later, St. Constantine discovered the truth and had his wife executed. Licinius, in his bitter hatred of Constantine and of Christianity, began to persecute the Church in the Eastern half of the Empire. Constantine eventually could not stand Licinius' cruelty and relieved him of his co-rulership of the Empire.
There is much controversy surrounding Constantine's baptism . Secular historians and also some modern Orthodox teachers teach that St. Constantine received baptism on his deathbed by Eusebius of Nicomedia, which is inaccurate. The Orthodox Church teaches that St. Constantine , becoming ill with leprosy, received a vision of Sts. Peter and Paul, who told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester of Rome who would cure him. St. Sylvester instructed Constantine in the Orthodox faith and baptized him, which also cured him of his leprosy.
died at age 65, in Nicomedia, in the year 337.
==Other achievements== His victory in 312 AD over [[ Maxentius]] at the Battle of Milvian Bridge resulted in his becoming Western Augustus, or ruler of the entire western half of the empire. He gradually consolidated his military superiority over his rivals in the crumbling Tetrarchy until 324, when he defeated the eastern ruler, [[ Licinius]], and became sole emperor.
rebuilt the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, naming it '' Nea Roma'', providing it with a Senate and civic offices similar to the older Rome. After his death it was renamed Constantinople, and gradually became the capital of the empire.
He was succeeded by his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans, who secured their hold on the empire with the murder of a number of relatives and supporters of Constantine. The last member of his dynasty was his grandson, [[ Julian the Apostate]], who attempted to restore paganism.
Sources== This article is partially based on [[ wikipedia:Constantine I ( emperor)]].
External Links ==* [http:// www. goarch. org/ en/ chapel/ saints. asp? contentid=62& lang= EN Ss. Constantine and Helen at goarch. org]
Emperors and Kings]]
[[ro:Constantin cel Mare]]