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Constantine and the Church 1 – Politics of Rome

Posted: August 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Constantine | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I think that sometimes, when people think of the Roman Empire in general and Constantine in particular, they don’t have a grasp for the full complexity of the situation. For instance, people often think of Rome having a single emperor at any particular point in time. But that was not true for broad periods of time. As a youth, Constantine lived in Rome under Diocletian. Although Diocletian had conquered all other claimants to the throne and seemingly could have been the sole ruler of the empire, he declared Maximian his co-emperor. Diocletian ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from Nicomedia while Maximian ruled the Western Roman Empire from Rome. Later, Diocletian further divided the empire in the East and the West with portions ruled over by two “Caesars” (junior emperors) each serving under their “Augustus” (senior emperor). Galerius and Constantius (Constantine’s father) were the two Caesars appointed. This is more formally known as the Tetrarchy.

Constantine grew up in Nicomedia, perhaps as something of a hostage to his father’s good behavior, during a period of religious toleration. As such, he was exposed to the finest education from both pagan and Christian teachers. After his Father was appointed Caesar in the West under the Augustus Maximian, he divorced Constantine’s mother and married Maximian’s step-daughter. In 305 Diocletian and Maximian abdicated with Galerius and Constantius assuming their respective thrones. Constantine and Maxentius, their sons, did not replace them as Caesars, though. Constantine became a virtual prisoner of the Eastern court under Galerius. With some intervention from his father, he was able to escape to the West some two years later.

Constantine served with his father and after his father’s death, the armies declared him Augustus. The other rulers in the Tetrarchy did not agree, but did make him Caesar in the West. The ends and outs are not particularly relevant to my topic, but eventually Constantine defeated all others and reunited the Empire under himself as sole emperor. After doing so, he relocated the capital of the Empire to the East in the city he planned and named Constantinople. (That city is now called Istanbul.)

This has been an extremely brief overview and I’ve omitted a lot of facts and details. Nevertheless, it should provide some context and insight into the extremely complex political situation in the Empire during the time of Constantine.

One Comment on “Constantine and the Church 1 – Politics of Rome”

  1. 1 mike said at 4:36 pm on August 11th, 2009:

    constantine/constantinople..of course……i honestly didnt know that until now.