Constantine the Great Biography

(Roman Emperor)

Birthday: February 27, 272 (Pisces)

Born In: Naissus, Moesia, Roman Empire

Constantine the Great was a Roman Emperor of Illyrian ancestry who ruled from 306 to 337 AD. He was a popular emperor, famous for the numerous administrative, financial, social, and military reforms he implemented to strengthen the empire. Under his rule the civil and military authorities were separated and the government was restructured—in fact, the concept of praetorian prefecture originated during his reign. Most importantly, Constantine is remembered for being the first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity and is regarded a significant figure in the history of Christianity. Born as the son of a Roman army officer, he was destined to reach great heights of fame. His father was eventually elevated to the dignity of Caesar, the deputy emperor and Constantine soon got the opportunity to rise through the military ranks himself. Valiant, intelligent, and ambitious, he proved himself to be a skilled military man, and when his father was made Augustus, senior western emperor, Constantine campaigned under his father in Britannia. He succeeded his father as the emperor upon his death and led a series of successful civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius and vastly expanded his empire. As a devout Christian who made Christianity the religion of the state, he is venerated as a saint by Eastern Orthodox Christians, Byzantine Catholics, and Anglicans.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Constantine I of the Roman Empire, Constantine I, Saint Constantine, Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus

Died At Age: 65


Spouse/Ex-: Fausta, Minervina

father: Constantius Chlorus

mother: Helena

siblings: Eutropia, Flavia Julia Constantia, Julius Constantius

children: Constans, Constantina, Constantine II, Constantius II, Crispus, Helena

Born Country: Roman Empire

Emperors & Kings Military Leaders

Died on: May 22, 337

place of death: Achyron, Nicomedia, Bithynia, Roman Empire

Founder/Co-Founder: First Council of Nicaea, Scholae Palatinae

Childhood & Early Life
The details regarding Constantine’s early life are obscure. He was born c. 272 AD to Flavius Constantius, a native of Dardania who was an officer in the Roman army, and an woman named Helena who was either Constantius’ wife or concubine.
His father was a politically skilled man and quickly rose through the military ranks. In 293, he was raised to the rank of Caesar (deputy emperor) as Constantius I Chlorus, and was sent to serve under Augustus (emperor) Maximian in the West.
Constantine’s parents eventually separated and he was brought up in the Eastern Empire at the court of the senior emperor Diocletian at Nicomedia. He received education of the highest literary standards and learned Latin and Greek among other subjects. During this time he may have attended the lectures of Lactantius, a Christian scholar of Latin in the city.
In 305, Maximian abdicated the throne and Constantine's father became Emperor Constantius I. Constantine then joined his father and fought alongside him on a military campaign in Britian.
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Accession & Reign
Constantius I died in 306 and Constantine was declared emperor by his troops. Almost immediately, he became involved in a series of civil wars and defended his position against various Roman factions, including Maxentius, Maximian's son.
Eventually Constantine became Western emperor while the East was shared between Licinius and his rival Maximinus. Licinius went on to defeat Maximinus and became the sole Eastern Emperor.
In 316, Constantine acquired territory in the Balkans after a battle with Licinius. The conflicts between the two rulers continued and Constantine attacked Licinius again in 324, emerging successful from the war. Thus Constantine became the sole emperor of the East and West.
After the victory over Licinius, it was decided that a new Eastern capital should represent the integration of the East into the Roman Empire as a whole. The city of Constantinople on the site of Byzantium was thus founded in 324 and dedicated in 330. Special commemorative coins were issued in 330 to honor the event.
As emperor he brought about several administrative, monetary, and religious reforms that greatly strengthened his empire. In fact he was so devoted to Christianity that even his monetary policies were closely related to the religious ones.
Along with his military campaigns, Constantine the Great was well-known for his contributions to Christianity. He was the first emperor to legalize Christianity along with all other religions and cults in the Roman Empire, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the purported site of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem, was built on his orders. He is venerated as a saint by Eastern Orthodox Christians, Byzantine Catholics, and Anglicans in honor of his efforts to propagate the Christian religion.
Major Battles
Constantine became involved in a series of battles soon after succeeding his father. These conflicts, known as the Civil wars of the Tetrarchy, were a series of battles between the co-emperors of the Roman Empire, which ultimately led to Constantine becoming the sole emperor of the Roman Empire in 324.
Personal Life & Legacy
He either took Minervina as a concubine or married her in 303. This union resulted in the birth of a son, Crispus. Not much is known about Minervina except for the fact that her father served as a hostage in the court of Eastern Roman Emperor Diocletian in Nicomedia.
Constantine kept aside Minervina and married Fausta, daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximian in 307. This marriage was a political alliance.
During the 320s he had his eldest son Crispus and wife Fausta executed. Then he had their names wiped from the face of many inscriptions and the memory of both was condemned. A popular myth suggests that they were both killed for their immoralities.
Soon after the Feast of Easter in 337, Constantine fell seriously ill and died on 22 May 337. He was succeeded by his three sons born of Fausta, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.
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