In the year 312 CE, in Rome; a period of anarchy was upon civilization. Two generals were in unswerving hostility, fighting for control of the immensely powerful empire. One of the generals, Constantine, was struggling to take his rightful spot as emperor. Almost on cue, a vision of a sun with a cross came to him. The sun was a significant figure to him, for he had a sense of captivation with the god Helios.
Though, the knowledge of the cross was an original image to him, it is like the insignia of the upcoming, religion, Christianity. He understood this to mean that he must fight by the cross to arise triumphant. He instantly directed all soldiers of his military to coat crosses on their shields and fight in the name of Christ. Once he grasped his crown and got the title of emperor, he appreciated his vision and it did in fact have divine significance. He attributed Christianity for his victory in combat and became a dedicated devotee. For many reasons, Constantine and his stately backing is unquestionably the cause as to why Christianity became the leading faith of the Roman Empire.
The major reasons why Constantine caused Christianity to become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire is because he passed the Edict of Milan, he contributed huge sums of money to the church, and he allowed the transcriptions of sacred scriptures and allowed the construction of religious buildings. The first of these reasons, the Edict of Milan, is a document approved by Constantine that completely accepted Christians in society. “In the next year, A.D. 313, Constantine declared an end to the oppression of Christians.
In the Edict of Milan, he declared Christianity to be one of the religions approved by the emperor” (McNally). This document was vital, because it ended the harassment, execution and banishment of numerous Christians and permitted them to worship and express themselves freely. Formerly, Christians were being gradually secluded, disconnected and eradicated. This not only permitted Christians to continue their everyday lives without fear, but it also made the religion free to develop. The second way in which Constantine contributed to Christian dominance is he donated large sums of money to the church.
“The bishops are terribly grateful for this kind of imperial attention” (Shaye). The charity that was given enabled the church in Rome to expand and endow certain plans and events that would later help the spread of the religion across the empire. The money provided also allowed large amounts of freedom and flexibility in terms of the further steps that the church leaders should take. This flexibility also upheld peace between the church and the opposing Empire. Finally, Constantine took large efforts to reproduce numerous religious texts and scriptures and support construction of certain religious locations. “They’re able to have bibles copied at public expense.
They are finally able to have public Christian architecture and big basilicas.” (Shaye) This ensured that the religion would spread rapidly as a larger number of people gained access to the ideas and beliefs of the religion. In addition, the further construction of monasteries allowed the structure of the church to expand and solidify and allowed implementation of priests, bishops etc. Most importantly, it provided locations that were safe and protected where religious practice was possible. These are the three most important reasons why Constantine’s actions led directly to Christianity becoming the dominant religion at the time. Without Constantine, the limitedly spread, minimally developed, badly structured, weakening Christianity would have eventually been destroyed and become inexistent.
The first of the issues with Christianity before Constantine was that although there were vast efforts from Jesus and Paul to spread the religion and separate it completely from Judaism, it still lacked support from a truly superior, influential and significant figure. Not only did Constantine help in spreading and transferring the ideas to the utmost outskirts of the empire, but he serves as an idol and as someone people look up to. By becoming a follower of Christianity, he guides many others with him and the common people of Rome abide by example.
Jesus was an influential speaker and so was Paul, however those individuals were unable to reach a position that held the sufficient power needed to sway an entire city. Roman religion and the idea of polytheism was integrated into life at home, life in the city and into the government itself. Only someone who overlooks all of society could manage to cause such a drastic change. The second issue that Constantine eliminated was that the church lacked structure and uniformity. Jesus and Paul managed to construct a poorly structured bundle of ideas with important significance. Although they established their beliefs, uniformity was a necessity to move forward as a concept followed and acknowledged worldwide.
As shown, many disputes between the religion existed and numerous sects were created. Constantine believed in a specific branch that utilized both the Old and New testament and invested time and money to ensure that his preferred branch would emerge on top. Eventually the religion was standardized according to the beliefs of his sect and disputes were diminished.
The ideas supplied by the founders of Christianity would have been enveloped with arguments and would’ve lost influence without standardization.Finally, the last issue that was occurring at the time was that Christians were being exiled, executed and persecuted. After people saw that being a Christian was considered a crime and the punishments for practicing it were harsh, many were scared out of becoming members. The tool of fear would cause no future members and the current members would be overcome one by one.
Eventually the religion would not exist, and no one would be alive today to spread the message of this upcoming religion. The few followers gained would be killed and the martyrs would only be influential until a certain point. Some would realize that the religion was worth dying for, but once they did die, there would be no one left to convey this message. Constantine put an immediate end to all this which allowed the religion to flourish under the power that they already held and increase their influence in society. These are the most significant reasons that explain why those who came before Constantine would have failed in maintaining the religion and would not have allowed Christianity to become the central religion in Rome.
In conclusion, there are multiple reasons as to why Constantine’s imperial support lead to Christianity becoming the dominant religion in all the Roman Empire. The edict of Milan, the substantial amounts of money donated, the copying of scriptures, the enabling and contribution to building construction, the adding uniformity to the religion and the offering of a superior role to follow all added up to the vast efforts of Constantine. Every single one of these actions made a large impact individually, when the support is summed, the outcome is colossal. Without the spiritual vision that Constantine received, Christianity would most likely not be here today.
By becoming a follower, he allowed Christians to prosper and showed the importance in believing in one sole god. This support is something that the religion couldn’t have received from none other which is why we still remember him today. Overall, this is significant because it opened the doors for the new, upcoming religion and numerous possibilities emerged which ultimately led Christianity to become something worshiped worldwide.