Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Magnus
Constantine I was born 280 in Naissus, Rome to Constantius and Helena. When his father was declared Caesar, Constantine “was admitted to the court of Diocletian as one such hostage to guarantee his father’s loyalty”(Constantine I). Later in 305, Constantius became ruler of the Western Empire which consisted of Spain, Italy, Gaul, and Britain. The next year he died in York after declaring his son as his successor before dying and proclaimed emperor by the army.
In 308 the Roman Empire had six masters: Galerius, Licinius, and Maximin Daia in the East; and Maximian, Maxentius, and Constantine in the West. Constantine married the daughter of Maximian, Fausta, to establish a union between the Western Augusti. But in 310 Maximian started to plot against Constantine, and despite him being his father-in-law he had him killed. Maxentius, the other ruler of the West, was gathering forces to Italy with the intention of invading Gaul in 312. Constantine gathers an army too and came to an agreement with Licinius and marched to Italy. While preparing for the battle is believe that he had a dream where he saw Christ and told him to paint on the army’s shields an inverted “X”. Also that “at noon, before his battle, Constantine and his army, while he was praying to the god of his father, saw a cross over the sun with the inscription “In this sign, conquer” (Murphy). In the Battle of the Milvian Bridge Maxentius was defeated and drowned as he was driven off the bridge. Winning this battle made Constantine emperor of the West and added Africa and Italy to his territories. The next year the Edict of Milan was created, which ended the persecution of the Christians. Both leaders agreed to tolerate all religious sects and approve the reconstruction of church properties, but neither establish a state church. During the nine years of peace both empires had, Constantine reformed the administration of the Western Empire, developed the hierarchical system of state dignitaries, divided the military administration from civil administration, and appointed two supreme commanders: the Master of the Calvary and Master of the Infantry, reduced number of legions, increase size of army. He also created a central reserve of crack troops to act as a rapid-deployment force. However, the increase of the bureaucracy resulted in various taxes which were unequally assessed. In addition, the coinage was reformed with new gold and silver currencies to help reestablish a monetary economy. Afterward, he declared war against Licinius when he violated Licinius territory. First Licinius was forced to leave his camp near Adrianople. Then even after being aided by his son who commanded the navy, he was forced to find refuge again. Finally, he was defeated again and executed even when he was Constantine brother-in-law. Constantine became the only ruler of the Roman Empire, but the next year his wife Fausta and son Crispus along with son of the Emperor Licinius and wife were accused of treason, arrested, and sentenced to death. That same year he founded a new capital called Constantinople at Greek city of Byzantium. The capital had “a magnificent harbor, the site was easily defensible, and strategically it was more or less equidistant from dangerous Danubian and Persian frontiers.
He sponsored the Council of Nicaea in 325. This was a conference between 220 bishops that resulted in the creation of the Nicene Creed, which calm the problem between religious groups on the views of Christ. Constantine showed Christians and supported them in many ways. He built churches, established allowances of grain for the support of the clergy and the poor, legalized bequests to churches, gave bishops the right to free slaves, made sunday a civil holiday, and freed christian soldiers for religious services. He also allowed “a mild Christian influence in legislation affecting marriage, celibacy, and the protection of widows and orphans”(Murphy). And as an emperor he prohibited crucifixion, restricted the gladiatorial games, and in part humanized the code of penal law.
In 337 he traveled to Nicomedia to be baptized by Bishop Eusebius. Before dying he tried to live a piece of the empire to his three sons and two nephews, but it only complicated things after he died. He died on May 22, 337.