Notes – Early Medieval Age 3

Conversion of Constantine

Permanent change

Hard to explain on strategic grounds

Starts the Christianisation of Roman Empire

Been illegal for 250 years

Romans killed Jesus
Polytheism and its ceremony was rife
First becomes tolerant

Then favoured

Then official and almost only religion
Paganism – polytheistic

Local variation

Eclectic – different gods in places times and times of life

Emotional vacuum

Denied longing of more to life 
Innerness – important
Other religions – mystery

Eg Mithraism 
Promise of afterlife

Appeal to elite and common
But it was alien

Romans did not always persecute 

Didn’t like intolerance
Judaism recognised Roman Leader

Rejected pleasures

Emperor worship

Killjoy religion

Persecution was not that intense


Third century

Enough persecution to give it backbone but not enough to crush it
Constantine son of one of the Caesars – helpers

Of the west
Sent east to serve Galerius eastern 

Not chosen next
306 Constantine rebelled

Raised empire in England
Maxentius rebelled in Rome 
Milvian Bridge 312 battle
2 stories of conversion

One had a dream – Angel spoke to him and told him to make symbol

Chi and rho
Other story later


Marching with army

Saw a cross in the sky 

On the sun

In this sign you will conquer
Chi rho 
No reason to doubt Constantine’s sincerity – hard to imagine any emperor thinking Christianity was good for empire 
Christianity was pacifist

Commands not to fight hit back
Saw himself favoured by fortune

Need to placate 
Quite clever

Latin literature

Some Greek
Doesn’t become totally committed Christian
Coins kept invincible son 
Only later – just the cross
Edict of toleration

Constantine and Licinius

Christianity legalised

Returned property confiscated from Diocletian 

No tax for church
Left pagan centre for moment

Built St Peters

Laterin Basilica
At his death about half of the empire had converted
What did it mean to the church?
Establishes the problem of the

Church in the world
St Augustine dealt with some of this
At start very successful
390 about 90% Christian (nominal)
Held out

Peasants – weather God


Intellectual elite – Greek Roman philosophy
Battle of Chrysopolis

Found importance of



 Bosporus – narrow canal or river
Can get to Danube and Persian border quite easily

The Difficult borders

City in richest part of empire
Like Brazil and Portugal

Brazil bigger and more important now
Facilitated division by addition of new capital like Rome


Sporting stadiums

Victory column 

Gets more devout and less tolerant

Gets more involved with doctrine

Taught that priests were not legitimate if had sinned 
People appealed to emperor 317
Involved in Arian heresy

Christ subordinate to God the father
Harsher crimes for sexual sins

Rape, concubines
Nicea 32

Dealt with Arian

Appears as head of the church

But not a bishop
Vs Diocletian


Military and Admin structure

Heavy taxes
Diocletian persecuted church but Constantine strengthened it
Ended tetrarchy but division strengthened with new capital
Constantine more successful economically 
476 fall