Constantine: Early Life
You may have heard of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. Even if you have, you may not know everything about his life, which is what we'll be looking at today.
Flavius Valerius Constantinus, later to be known as Constantine I, was born about the year 280 CE in what is now the country of Serbia. His father was a military man who rose through the ranks and eventually became one of the leaders of the Western Roman Empire.
As a boy, young Constantine was sent to live with the Eastern Roman Emperor and learned Latin, Greek, and philosophy. He also became a warrior. It was during this time that Constantine probably saw a lot of persecution of Christians. This means that people who believed in and practiced the Christian faith were punished for those beliefs, sometimes violently.
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Constantine the Great
In 312 CE, Constantine battled for control of the Western Roman Empire. Legend says that he had a vision of a flaming cross and the words ''in this sign thou shalt conquer.'' Following that vision, Constantine ordered his soldiers to paint a cross on their shields to lead them into battle. Following an overwhelming victory, Constantine became the Western Roman Emperor.
Throughout the Western Roman Empire, including Britain, Gaul (including what is now France), and Spain, Constantine built roads, cities, public buildings, and defensive systems. In 324 A.D., Constantine conquered the Eastern Roman Empire making him the emperor of the entire Roman Empire, the largest empire in the world at the time. He established his capital in the city of Constantinople in what is now Istanbul, Turkey.
Constantine & Christianity
As emperor, Constantine made revolutionary changes. Crediting much of his success to his new Christian faith and likely remembering how he'd seen Christians persecuted as a young man, Constantine took action to stop the mistreatment of people based on their beliefs. Constantine was one of the leaders that issued the order known as the Edict of Milan, which legalized Christianity and allowed people to worship freely.
During his reign as Roman Emperor, Constantine called together the Council of Nicea. He wanted this council of Christian leaders to clarify several religious questions, including who Jesus was. Out of this council came the Nicene Creed (or statement of faith), which declared that Jesus was a divine (godly) being and the Son of God.
Constantine died at the age of 57 on May 22, 337 CE, just after he was baptized as a Christian. He was buried in Constantinople in the Church of the Apostles.
All right, let's review what we've learned about Constantine. Constantine the Great, also called Constantine I, was the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. With the signing of the Edict of Milan, he officially ended the persecution of Christians. In the Council of Nicea, Constantine organized Christian leaders to clarify basic ideas about the Christian faith, which still thrive today in the Catholic Church. This is why it makes sense that his name carries so much weight today.
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