A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 5, 2007

Cultural War Against Easter: Part VI That Crazy Constantine

Take yourself back in time to about 400 AD.  Your civilization, whichever it is, is going through major changes, because there’s a new sherriff in town and his name is Constantine.  Constantine is one of the most understudied characters in the history of the world, and in proportion to his influence, he is by far the most understudied.  While historians love to talk about Alexander the Great, who was probably the greatest military mind in history, and Julius Caesar, in my class I refer to him as the original Dr. J, and others, by the sheer impact upon history.  Some have said that Constantine’s influence came close or matched that of Augustus, but they really got the order wrong.  Constantine outdid them all.  As a matter of fact, his legacy results in about one-half of the way the world believes.  Because the spread of Christianity has another trinity other than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is Jesus who started the movement, St. Paul who spread it beyond its borders, and Constantine who established and codified it as a part of world culture.  Now, this  essay is not just about Constantine, it’s about religion, politics and culture.

Constantine did not believe in our Constitution, and that’s cool, he wasn’t around.  As a matter of fact, he quite actively believed and understood the role that religious beliefs can play in a society.  There are many detractors from Constantine, and they may score their points, but in the balance, the reason the Christian faith enjoys the status it does in Western Culture is in fact squarely on the shoulders of this man.  I’m not going to debate whether Constantine was a true believer, and whether the conversion of his army prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge was genuine or political; it doesn’t matter.  Constantine’s policy of toleration for all relgious beliefs serve as a bright spot in the oft dark history of mankind.  Later on he became an active patron of the Christian faith, and formulated the Council of Nicea, which synthesized the various beliefs about Christianity by gathering the best leaders and minds of its time to come about with a unified code, upon which all could agree by construction of The Nicene Creed.  No doubt, this model served the Founding Fathers of the US well, in the Congresses which drafted and signed the Declaration and the Constitution of the US.  For one of the first times in man’s history, we see the power of collaboration of great minds, sponsored by the state.  Truly, a step in the right direction.

Another step in the right direction under Constantine was the reformation of Rome and the vast amount of building that he undertook throughout the empire, particulalry in Rome and in Constantinople.  More importantly, are the social changes which took place under Constantine, and this is not limited to the emergence of Christianity, and the blending of Christian and pagan cultural expressions.  Constantine set about the model, of the ethos of Christianity towards the formation of state policy.  Here are some of the mandates brought about under his rule:

313 – Exemption of the Church from State duties and taxes

313 – Edict of Tolerance

321 – (The ERA of the Ancient World) Officially recognized the rights of women to own and inherit property, which typically was unheard of in the Ancient World.

321   Made the practice of “Patricide” illegal

321   Changed the legal standing of females in the state

321   Abolished the practice of abductive marriages in the Empire

321   Enforcement of incest laws

321  Abolishment of state sponsorship of gladiatorial events

325   Abolishment of slavery started in certain provinces throughout the Empire

325 – Council of Nicea

Constantine emulates the positive role that a religious ethic can have towards to formulation of progressive, ethical, and in the best sense of the word, humanistic policy.  Culturally, this is paramount and along with Constantine’s policies was the normal cultural fusion of Christianity and paganism into what is now accepted as the traditions of the Christian faith.

Constantine, the world could use another leader like you.  And I for one don’t see you as “The AntiChrist”.



  1. informative post…thanks!

    Comment by Angel — April 5, 2007 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  2. Yes, very nice piece. The importance of that man’s role in history had not occurred to me.

    Comment by hydralisk — April 5, 2007 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  3. What a magnificent day of posts. Your Constantine info makes me want to reacquaint with his history. Your Easter pieces are personal, thoughtful and most appropriate, as we head into Spring with a new Easter bonnet or whatever – and little thought of the gift of Grace.

    My computer is just back up and I’m behind, but I read each piece and was amazed that you could put all this together today. Wonderful!

    Maggie’s Notebook

    Comment by Maggie M. Thornton — April 6, 2007 @ 3:54 am | Reply

  4. Constantine didn’t kill enough people to be interesting enough. That’s what so sad about history today…nobody really cares unless you’re on the History Channel. Great post.

    Comment by sixhundredsix — April 6, 2007 @ 4:53 am | Reply

  5. Thank you Maggie. I was off yesterday, so I had a lot of time. More coming today!

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 6, 2007 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  6. Well, 606, he did kill a few, as he was a pretty able general, but his governance, and the model of forging a societal framework based on a religious ethich towards social improvement for the weakest members of that society are laudable, and worth remembering.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 6, 2007 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks for all the other kudos! 🙂

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 6, 2007 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

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