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Byzantine Empire /
Constantine 1
Full name: Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus


(272-337) Roman emperor 306-337, ruling also over all of the Roman Empire since 324.
To him, the beginning of the Byzantine Empire is attributed. This is illogical in the sense that he was the ruler of a united Roman Empire, but it is logical from two facts: He had former Bysants constructed into a great imperial capital named Constantinople, and it was rulers of his dynasty that gradually would form the dynasty ruling from here.
Constantine's rise to power came in a period of confusing politics. Emperors came ans went in the Roman Empire in the early 300's, and at one time, the empire had 4 contesting emperors. Constantine spent most of his reign to secure full control of the entire empire.
With him, Christianity is transformed into the preferred religion of the state. Whether Constantine himself was a Christian, or if he used the popularity of Christianity to aid his political goals, is a matter of understanding the sources. He is reported to have stated that he was aided by the Christian God, and is believed by many that the story of him being baptized shortly before his death, is a true story.
Yet, Constantine appears to have been closely linked to traditional Roman religions throughout his life, and the story of the above-mentioned baptizim have clear legendary elements, clearly making it questionable. Also, even after Christianity was made state religion, support for Roman religions continued. It may actually appear that Constantine adhered to some aspects of Christianity without having embraced the full Christian faith, or at least that the full conversion happened only first at the end of his life. Early on, he linked the Christian God with the sun god of Roman religion, yet, letters from him clearly indicate that at least he was not without some form of conviction.
Constantine played an important role in the development of Christian theology and its universal structure when convening the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Constantine regulated the laws to fit Christian interests, fx. was the penalty of crucifixion abolished, Sunday was made the holy day of the week and many privileges were introduced in favour of the clergy. In some cases, Roman sacred sites were turned into churches.
Constantine ordered the building of several churches, of which the original Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and St. Peter in Rome are among the most famous in Christian history.
Constantine imposed numerous regulations on the Jews; among which conversion from Christianity to Judaism was outlawed and Jewish entry to Jerusalem was strictly limited.
Constantine changed the organization of the rural areas, changing the free tenant farmers of the coloni into serfs, in which rights of the inidividual peasant were reduced.
On the home ground, Constantine's reign was one of great brutality, he was especially hard on all his political enemies.
The national administration rested with the emperor and his council. The senate had restored privilleges that had been taken away from it in the previous century.
Constantine won a long series of military victories. He had the Franks, Sarmatians and Goths defeated. He saw to the reorganization of the army, and completed the separation of civil and military authority.
Constantine is declared a saint with most Catholic and Orthodox churches, and eastern churches even call him the "13th apostle".

Biography
Between 272 and 280: Born in Naissus (modern Serbia, Europe) as the son of Constantius Chlorus (later Constantius I), an army officer and Helena (later Saint Helena).
289: His father, Constantius, moves to Nicomedia (modern Izmit, Turkey).
293 His father, Constantius, becomes one of two deputy emperors, serving under Maximian, ruling over the eastern part of the Roman Empire.
303: The great persecution of Christians begins in the Roman Empire.
305: Emperor Maximian abdicates, Constantine becomes deputy emperor in the east, under Galerius. Severus becomes emperor in the west.
306: Constantine has joined his father, fighing competing claimants for emperor in Britain.
July 25: When Constantius dies, Constantine has himself declared new emperor. His territory was the one of Britain, Gaul, the Germanic provinces and Spain.
307: Constantine marries former emperor Maximian's daughter, who also seeks his assistance in his struggle with Severus and Galerius.
308: Maximian is again forced to abicate, thereby making Constantine only deputy emperor.
310: Constantine is declared full emperor by Galerius, with the result that the Roman Empire at this point had 4 emperors.
312: Defeats his brother-in-law, Maxentius in a battle in Italy. An agreement he had with Emperor Licinius was materialized, making Constantine emperor in the west, Licinius sharing the control of the east with Maximinus. Licinius would soon defeat Maximinus.
313: With the Edict of Milan, Constantine makes Christianity a favoured religion in the Roman Empire, with large financial donations. Still, tolerance is granted upon all religions.
316: Constantine wins important territory in the Balkans from Licinius.
320: Licinius departs from the Edict of Milan, beginning persecutions of Christians.
324: Constantine attacks Licinius, defeating him, and makes himself sole ruler of a united Roman Empire.
325: Licinium is executed, after accusations of having plotted against Constantine.
325: The Council of Nicaea opens with a speech by Constantine.
326: For reasons uncertain, Constantine has his eldest son, deputy emperor Crispus, and his wife, Fausta, killed. He refuses to participate in a traditional Roman religious procession, causing much anger in Rome.
— Constantine begins rebuilding of Byzantium, renaming it Nova Roma.
Late 320's: The grave of Jesus is claimed to be located in Jerusalem. Constantine commands that a basilica be built above the spot, the Holy Sepulchre.
330: As the new structures of Nova Roma are completed, the city is renamed Constantinople.
337 May 22: Dies from illness at Nicomedia, shortly after having been baptized by the Arian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. He was succeeded by three of his sons, Constantius 2, Constantine 2 and Constans.




By Tore Kjeilen