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Research - Ancient Rome - Emperor Constantine

The leaders of Rome faced many trials and deceptions especially as the empire grew larger and more power and the rise of Emperor Constantine was no exception.

Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, or Constantine, was born on February 27th 272 AD to Constantius Chlorus (an important military figure in Diocletian's army) and mother Helena (a Greek).

As a child he lived in the emperor Diocletian's household along with the other co-emperors' children. Life in the household was strict and emphasis was placed on citizenship. Diocletian persecuted Christians and forced the people to worship his Pagan gods; those who did not make sacrifices for the gods were put to death. In 303 AD, the "Great Persecution" took place where all known Christians were put to death, usually with a fake trial and public execution.

When Diocletian falls ill, Constantine finds himself shut out of the royal inheritance and returns to his father's side in Gaul. Together, they fight the Picts (in present-day Scotland), but Constantius falls ill and dies. Constantine takes over leadership of the troops and they continue to battle barbarians.

Maxentius, one of Diocletian's co-emperors, siezes power of Rome but becomes power-hungry and murders another co-emperor. He begins to choke the people of Rome and they eventually revolt.

Constantine takes advantage of the situation and arranges a partnership with a leader of the eastern territories, Licinious, and promises to split the empire with him if they get rid of Maxentius. As a guarantee of their partnership, Constantine arranges a marriage with his half-sister, Constantia, to Licinious.

They scare off the tyrant and divide the empire (east and west). But Maxentius is not ready to disappear completely and a battle between the three ensues eventually ending at the Milvian Bridge where Maxentius drowns.

Together, Constantine and Licinious issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the empire. This is the first time in Roman hisotry that the faith of the people is shared with the emperor. In 337 AD, Constantine is officially baptized.

Now, Licinious begins to feel hunger for more power (as most co-emperors do) and the two battle. Finally, after a long campaign, Licinious is imprisoned in Nicomedia, punished, exiled, and finally executed. The empire is now united. Constantine makes the new capital Constantinople.

Constantine also makes his heir, Crispus (son of his first wife), junior emperor of the west, much to the irritation of his new wife, Fausta (because she wants her own sons to be emperors). So Fausta tricks Constantine into thinking his son has sinned against him and exiles him (to be executed). When he learns she has tricked him, Constantine has her executed but, sadly, is too late to save his son.

He continues to pursue his newfound religion and builds many churches and the infamous Basilica of St Peter.

Constantine died May 22, 337 AD in Nicomedia.




Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire:

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