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[[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 Nicea]] (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]].
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:
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.
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.
[[Troparion]] (Tone 8)
This article is partially based on [[wikipedia:Constantine I
== External links ==
Ss. Constantine and Helen ] ([[GOARCH] ])
*[http://www.comeandseeicons.com/c/phn38.htm Icon of St. Constantine]
*[http://www.comeandseeicons.com/c/phn21.htm Icon of Ss. Constantine and Helen]