Constantine the Great and Religious Tolerance

Constantine the Great is a well-known Roman emperor.

When you ask people about why Constantine was such a great emperor, they’ll probably say that because he was the first christian Roman emperor or because he made Christianity a state religion of the Roman empire.

But that’s not really correct. Constantine did not make Christianity a state religion.

Together with Licinius (a peer emperor of the East), he issued Edict of Milan. That ended the Christian persecutions and established religious tolerance in the empire. The last roman christian persecution (under Diocletian and Galerius, 303 – 311 AD) was very unpopular.

After the death of his father, Constantine becomes emperor. But there were 4 emperors at that time (2 seniors – rank of Augustus,  and 2 juniors – rank of Caesar). And Constantine got the rank of Augustus in 212 only after he won the Battle of Milvian bridge against emperor Maxentius.

Constantine helped Christianity. He paid for the construction of churches and protected christians. But, Christianity became a state religion in Roman empire 70 years later, in 280, under the emperor Theodosius.

The history and expansion of Christianity is fascinating. In order to understand the church rules and canons, it’s good to study its history. We can’t really have a one side view of any religion and it’s a good idea to look at everything in its historic context. By looking at the time of decline of Western Roman empire and expansion of Christianity (200 – 600), we can understand better this religion.

Many people are attacking right now various religions of the world (Christianity or Islam). They talk about religions as a source of intolerance, wars, extremism and historic mistakes. But they forget that religion means hope, help for our brothers and sisters, morality and many other good ideas. It’s too bad that some religious leaders exploited and still use religion to gain power by tricking true believers into committing murder and other crimes. I belive those religious leaders are the real sinners – they commit real sin by twisting religious values, greed and misguiding of their followers.

Again, let’s not forget that, no matter what we belive, we are all humans. We share the same world, we have the same dreams and we crave for a better life.

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