Who Was Constanitine the Great?:
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantine (c. 272 - 337), better known as Constantine the Great, was perhaps the most important person in the development of the early Christian Church (after Jesus and Paul, naturally). He ultimately gave Christianity political and social legitimacy in the Roman Empire, thus allowing the young religion to establish itself, obtain powerful patrons, and ultimately dominate the Western world.
Constantines Vision and Conversion:
According to tradition, the night before he was to launch an attack on his rival just outside of Rome, Constantine received an omen. Eusebius records that Constantine saw a vision in the sky while Lactantius says that it was a dream. Both agree that the omen informed Constantine that he would conquer under the sign of Christ (Greek: en touto nika; Latin: in hoc signo vinces). Because he did indeed defeat Maxentius, he was convinced of the truth of Christianity.
Constantine and the Edict of Toleration:
The first important thing Constantine did after his victory over Maxentius was issue the Edict of Toleration in 313. Also known as the Edict of Milan because it was created in that city, it instituted religious toleration as the law of the land and ended the persecution of Christians. The Edict was issued jointly with Licinius, but Christians in the East under Maximin Daia continued to suffer severe persecutions. Most citizens of the Roman empire continued to be pagan.
Victory Arch of Constantine:
The Arch of Constantine was dedicated in 315 by the senate and people of Rome along the triumphal route after Constantines defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312. It was also designed to commemorate Constantines tenth anniversary of rule. The current state of conservation of the arch is particularly good and provides people with an excellent way to experience what Roman monumental architecture is like. Read More...
Constantine and the Political Uses of Christianity:
Constantines chief goal was always creating and maintaining unity, be it political, economic or, eventually, religious. For Constantine, one of the greatest threats to Roman domination and peace was disunity. Christianity filled Constantines need for a basis of religious unity quite well. Christians may have been a minority, but they were a well-organized minority. In addition, no one had yet tried to claim their political allegiance, leaving Constantine no competitors for their loyalty.
Constantine & Christian Orthodoxy:
Constantine ruthlessly enforced his brand of orthodoxy among various Christian groups he would not allow them to be weakened as a political force through internal strife or dissent. Constantine appropriated religious authority for himself by declaring he was a bishop, ordained by God. First, Constantine moved to eliminate external challenges posed by paganism, destroying temples and books. He then sought to eliminate Christian groups deemed unorthodox, thus removing internal challenges.