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Constantine the Great

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    Constantine is called “the Great” mainly due to his deeds rather than due to his intellectual and moral qualities. His claim to greatness is mainly based on the fact that he foresaw the future spread of Christianity and decided to profit from it for his empire, as well as completing the work of Aurelian and Diocletian transforming quasi-constitutional monarchy into a naked absolutism. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Constantine’s transition to Christianity, although he never displayed a passionate devotion.

    The moral principles of the new religion substantially influenced his life, and he gave his sons a Christian education. However, for reasons of political expediency Constantine put off the full recognition of Christianity as the state religion, until he became the sole ruler of the empire. After his victory over Maxentius, in a series of acts he freed the Catholic Church and clergy from taxes and gave them various privileges, generally proclaiming religious tolerance. Constantine gradually revealed his attitude to paganism, which could be called a contemptuous tolerance.

    From the height of recognition as a state religion, it has been reduced to mere superstitions. At the same time, Constantine continued to allow pagan rites to be exercised, except in the circumstances where they were viewed as undermining the moral fabric. And even in the last years of Constantine, we find the laws in favor of local pagan priests. Only after the final victory of Constantine over Licinius pagan symbols disappeared from coins, which acquired a distinct Christian monogram.

    Since that time, not only did the Emperor openly talked about his previous involvement in Christianity, but also showed the determination to establish his rule over the church. Even though, Constantine was not baptized until he was on his deathbed, he is considered the firs Christian Roman Emperor. He was responsible for rapid spread of Christianity in Europe and establishment of the Byzantium as a center of Christianity, alternative to Rome, thus shaping the first split in Christianity. The political system of Constantine.

    The political system of Constantine was the end result of a process that, although slowly shaped until a totalitarian empire was formed, had distinct roots in Aurelian’s reign. It was Aurelian who introduced eastern splendor to the Roman Emperor’s court. Aurelian styled himself deus et dominus natus (God and bourn ruler). Diocletian tried to defend a new form of despotism by creating a clever system of joint rule with four co-emperors ruling over provinces of the Empire, while the title were to be passed not by inheritance, but by adoption.

    This artificial system of preemption was destroyed by Constantine, who established dynastic absolutism in favor of his family – the Flavius, the evidence of the cult of which were found in Italy, and in Africa. In contradiction to his “Christian morality”, Constantine murdered his son Crispus and later his wife Fausta probably in an attempt to keep a firm grip on his heirs. Constantine established the new aristocracy by bringing various administrative positions to the senatorial status.

    Thus one could become a senator through election or by simply filling an administrative position. While the senatorial order remained without any significant power, and was banned from any significant military position, Constantine gained support from old nobility, in the process wiping out powerful bureaucracy inherited from his predecessors and consolidating the power for himself. The administrative structure of the Roman Empire under Constantine.

    Constantine completed administrative structural reforms, begun by Diocletian, by dividing the civil and military functions. During his rule praetorian prefects stopped performing any military duties and became the head of the civil administration. Since 331 in legislative cases prefects’ decisions became final, and could not be appealed to the emperor. Provincial civil rulers had no authority over the military forces. The division of power served to provide reliable protection against potential coups.

    Constantine hired “counts” which accounted for a significant part of the official aristocracy, to observe and report on the military, and the army of so-called agents, who under the pretense of inspection of the imperial postal service spied on the civil administration. Legislation Constantine. The organization of society on the basis of strict hereditary assignment to professional guilds, no doubt, has been completed before the coming to power of Constantine.

    But his laws continue to bound each person to the caste of his parents. Constantine levied increasing burdensome taxes over the period of his rule. He introduces taxes on the senatorial estates, known as collatio glebalis (land), and the gains from trade – collatio lustralis. At the same time Constantine’s Christianity can be traced in legislation that instructed to treat prisoners gently. Constantine banned the gladiator combats (though he was not successful at stopping the gladiator games from taking place).

    Constantine believed that the time has come to rebuild society by decrees of despotic power, and it is important to note that from that time on we find many examples of the emperor’s will as the sole source of law. In essence, Constantine embodies the spirit of absolute power, which was to dominate for centuries both in the Church and the State. Positive: Spread of Christianity. Creation of Byzantium Empire. Eastern Orthodox religions consider Constantine to be a Saint. Tolerant treatment of various religions Negative: Tyrant. Restructure of government and administration to create a dynastic absolute monarchy.

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