Essay by sdibUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, October 2005

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The emperor Constantine has rightly been called the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. His powerful personality laid the foundations of post-classical European civilization -- his reign was eventful and highly dramatic. His victory at the Milvian Bridge counts among the most decisive moments in world history, while his legalization and support of Christianity and his foundation of a 'New Rome' at Byzantium rank among the most momentous decisions ever made by a European ruler. The fact that ten Byzantine emperors after him bore his name may be seen as a measure of his importance and of the esteem in which he was held. Flavius Valerius Constantinus, the future emperor Constantine, was born as Naissus in the province of Moesia Superior, the modern Nish in Servia, on February of 271, 272, or 273. His father was a military officer named Constantinus (later Constantinus Chlorus or Constantinus I), his mother a woman of humble background name Helena (later St.

Helena). There is good reason to think that Constantinus and Helena lived in concubinage rather than in legally recognized marriage. Constantinus was raised, on 1 March 293, to the rank of Caesar in the First Tetrarchy organized by Diocletian. On this occasion he was required to put aside Helena and to marry Theodora, the daughter of Maximian. Upon the retirement of Diocletian and Maximian on 1 May 305 Constantinus succeeded to the rank of Augustus.

Constantine, in the meanwhile, had served with distinction under both Diocletian and Galerius in the East. Kept initially at the court of Galerius as a pledge of good conduct on his father's part, he was later allowed to join his father in Britain and assisted him in a campaign against the Picts. When Constantinus died, on 25 July 306, at Eburacum (York), Constantine was at his...