Constantine the Great – mini biography
by Justin Woodson
Throughout history there are pivotal men and women whose actions are so significant that looking back history may have been unrecognizably different without them. These men and women can be tremendously virtuous or tremendously evil (or somewhere in between). yet their mark on history is indelible. Names of such people include Attila the Hun, Adol-ph Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, and many more. For this article I’ll focus on Con-stantine the Great (ruled 307-337 AD), or more for-mally, Imperator Caesar Flavius Constantinus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus (whew. a mouthful).
One of Constantine’s better known accomplishments is that he made Christianity the official religion of the empire and founded the new imperial capital at the city of Constantinople (today called Istanbul). Con-stantinople. and later Byzantium. was the heart of the Byzantine empire. The Byzantines were able to ward off repeated invasions by the Muslims from the south. This literally protected Europe from being overrun.
Although Constantine has been portrayed as a man of sincere conviction, it is also true that he was an ex-ceptionally gifted propagandist, general. as well as an unscrupulous manipulator. Clearly his maneuverings to unite the Roman world in creating an excuse to fight (and defeat) his co-ruler, Licinius. might be considered Machiavellian at the least. Later, he broke an oath to spare Licinius life and had Licinius and his son hanged. Constantine’s role in the death of his wife and son also cast a shadow on the man. Constantine’s “innovative” tax on city dwellers. the chrysargyron. was harsh beyond any tax (in penalty) than we can conceive of in modern times.
By expanding Rome’s frontiers almost back to the glory days of Trajan, Constantine definitely eased the pressures on the Roman Empire. The new capital, new military structure (frontier troops and central command troops), the integration of Christianity as the official religion of the empire, and his choice of successors (poor) all mark Constantine as a focal point in history.