Constantine I was one of the most important of the later Roman Emperors and made himself remembered throughout subsequent history by making Christianity the official religion of the entire Roman Empire. Constantine I was given the title of ‘Great’, and have been known as Constantine The Great down to present times because of his active and vital role in the promoting of the Christian religion.
The future Constantine I was born around 274 AD, and his claim to be a prospective Roman Emperor was greatly assisted by the fact that in 292 AD his own father Constantius Chlorus was declared emperor in the outward Roman run provinces of Britain, Gaul (modern day France), and Spain. Constantius Chlorus was never able to gain complete control of the Roman Empire in the West yet the legions inside Britain, Gaul, and Spain were all loyal to him.
These legions loyal to Constantius Chlorus later transferred their allegiance to Constantine I after his father’s death in 306 AD, declaring him emperor in the British city of York. In many respects Constantine I was in exactly the same position as his father had been, claiming to be Caesar yet not holding power in the entire Roman Empire in the West. His rival for power was Maxentius. Their contest for sole control of the Roman Empire in the West lasted for several years until 312 AD.
Becoming Emperor And A Christian
However it was in 312 AD during the Battle of Milvian Ridge that Constantine I saw the sign of the Christian cross in the sky. After his victory Constantine I allowed Christianity to become an official religion throughout the Roman Empire. For the Christian church Constantine I decision was a major improvement in its position after centuries of persecution at the hands of the Roman authorities.
Constantine I went on to become Emperor in both the Eastern and the Western halves of the Roman Empire. He attempted to revive the economy and the military strength of the Roman Empire. Aside from restoring imperial Constantine I took a keen interest in the Christian church and convened the Council of Nicea to re-organize the structure and formulate the doctrines of the church.
Splitting the Empire in Two
Perhaps after establishing the Christian religion as the sole religious faith of the Roman Empire, his main achievement was the building of Constantinople, on the ruins of the old Greek city of Byzantium. Ironically the Byzantine Empire would last for a thousand whilst the Western Empire lasted until 471 AD.