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date: 25 August 2019

Constantine the Great [Flavius Valerius Constantinus]locked

(b Naïssus [now Nish, Serbia], c. ad 285; reg 306–37; d Constantinople, 337).
  • Charles Murray

Extract

[Flavius Valerius Constantinus]

(b Naïssus [now Nish, Serbia], c.ad 285; reg 306–37; d Constantinople, 337).

Roman emperor and patron. He was the son of Constantius Chlorus (reg 293–306) and Helena (c. 248/9–328/9) and succeeded his father as Co-Emperor in ad 306. Six years later he defeated his rival Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome and became sole ruler in the West. In 313, with Licinius (reg 307–24), the Eastern Emperor, he published the Edict of Milan, which openly favoured Christianity. He defeated Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis in 324 and united the Empire under his control. Artistic and literary sources during his reign show an imperial policy dominated by the newly authorized religion, and new artistic values gradually transformed public art into a more fully recognizable Christian form. He believed that his military successes were attributable to the Christian God, whose sign of the Cross had appeared to him, superimposed on the sun, at the Milvian Bridge. In the final battle he ordered the monogram of Christ to be painted on his soldiers’ shields, thus establishing the cross and the chi-rho in later iconography. His victory was commemorated in 315 with the construction of a triumphal arch in the Roman Forum....

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