Monday, January 16, 2006

Emperor Constantine

The Emperor Constantine, General Franco, George Bush and Tony Blair are among those leaders who have claimed to be Christians and friends of the church.

In The History of the Christian Church by Henry C. Sheldon, 1895, it is suggested that Constantine may not have been too serious about his Christianity :

The motives by which Constantine was actuated in siding with Christianity have been variously defined. Gibbon intimates his belief that he was moved at first almost entirely by considerations of policy...

Constantine had members of his own family put to death.

According to Sheldon: Licinius, the husband of Constantia, the sister of Constantine, was put to death, in violation of a solemn pledge that his life should be spared. To be sure, there was an accusation of treasonable designs on the part of Licinius; but unproved accusations cannot count for very much under the circumstances.

A few years later, Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, a youth of high promise, amiable, martial, and enterprising, was ordered to be executed by the jealous and suspicious father. At the same time, Licinius, the son of the emperor of the same name, was sacrificed, in spite of the tears and entreaties of his widowed mother. The innocence of both of these accomplished youths is commonly regarded as beyond question.

According to very full and confident testimony, the Empress Fausta, the stepmother of the murdered Crispus, was another victim. As the story goes, her machinations, in order that she might advance her own sons, had served as a chief instigation to the execution of the innocent and slandered youths; and Constantine, coming finally to understand the case, was filled with fury, and ordered her to be suffocated in an overheated bath.

Much valuable information on Constantine comes from the site:

The Council of Nicaea

Much to Constantine's annoyance, God's harmony continued to elude the Christian Church - as churchmen disagreed over the exact nature of Jesus. In 325, he called for the Church's first ecumenical (general) council, which was to meet in the city of Nicaea for the purpose of deciding by committee the nature of Jesus Christ and other issues.

Of Christianity's 1,800 or so bishops, 318 attended the conference - most of them from the eastern half of the empire. Constantine presided over the meeting.

One group of bishops, led by the bishop Arius, claimed that God and Jesus were separate beings, that because Jesus was God's son there must have been a time when Jesus did not exist.

Another group of bishops could not accept the notion that Jesus had been created from nothing and insisted that he had to be divine and therefore a part of God...

Constantine decided against Arius...

Constantine held that those bishops who refused to sign the settlement at Nicaea were to be exiled, and to those Christian sects that the Church considered heretical he sent a letter proclaiming that their places of meeting would be confiscated.

With the power of the state behind them, the bishops decided to make their authority law. Cutting off the possibility of common Christians choosing their own bishop, the bishops ruled that in no province of the empire was anyone to be made bishop except by other bishops within that province...


Constantine ordered the execution of Crispus and forced Fausta to commit suicide.

Constantine created severe penalties...

For a variety of... crimes, people were to have their eyes gouged out or their legs maimed...

Constantine passed a law allowing masters to beat their slaves to death.

Unlike Diocletian, he allowed infants born to slaves to be sold. Constantine allowed slaves who were caught seeking refuge among "barbarians" to have a foot amputated. Slaves in the public services caught attempting to leave town were to be beaten. Anyone caught sheltering a runaway slave was to be fined. With the agreement of bishops, slaves who sought refuge in Christian churches were to be returned to their masters...


Constantine revived the secret police, which was notorious for its corruption.

Under Constantine taxes remained oppressive, the great landowners often paying bribes to avoid taxes or passing the burden onto their tenants.

As under Diocletian, everyone was forced to follow their parent's occupation, including the sons of soldiers... Local government was becoming a hereditary duty rather than inspired by any kind of civic pride.

In Rome, Senate seats continued to pass from father to son, but the Senate remained without powers: a prestigious club for conversation. Only a few senators, mainly those who happened to live in Rome, attended Senate meetings.

The Church

The Church... left behind its original communal sharing and its sense of equality among members.

The bishops were growing in wealth and in the splendor of their dress...

Pagan habits were modified to fit Christianity...

Among the pagan practices adopted by Christians in bringing pagans into the fold were a devotion to relics, the kissing of holy objects as an act of reverence, genuflection, and the use of candles and incense...

Many peasants who had venerated a pagan female guardian of grain would transfer that veneration to a new guardian and creator of their grain: Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The Emperor Constantine died in 337.


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