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The Constantine Influence on Early Roman Christianity

Early before the reign of the great Constantine, Roman Christianity was discriminating in which the Jews were supposed to pay taxes while the Christians did not. The Christians, therefore, started to suffer from sporadic persecutions for a period of 2.5 centuries when they refused to participate in the imperial cult (Schultz and Ward, 585). As a result, they were considered to have committed a treason act, which was punishable by execution. The worst and longest persecution occurred between 303 and 311, where the then Emperor ordered all the Christian homes be burned down and the Christians being tortured and starved to amuse the spectators. The senior Emperor of Tetrarchy later ended the persecution and issued a toleration edict that allowed Christians to practice their religion.

Later, during Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the religion of dominance in the Roman empire between 306 and 337 AD. His reasons to support Christianity were unknown, and nobody knew about his early Christianity (Kling, 60). It is, however, not known whether he practiced her mother’s Christianity or requested her to join him in the religion; he had adopted himself. He ruled the Roman Empire, with his main goal being gaining submission and approval from all the classes. He did this by choosing the Christian faith to spread his propaganda by trusting that the religion was the most suitable to fit the imperial cult. Christianity, therefore, expanded throughout the empire when the Great Emperor launched it as a state church of the Emperor. The Emperor influenced Christianity in many ways, some of which are discussed below.

The Milvian Bridge Battle

Constantine is one Emperor who experienced a series of dramatic battles, like the battle of the Milvian Bridge, which occurred during his tenure on the 28th October, 312. However, he won the battle and secured his claim to the Augustus title, which he had unilaterally assumed upon his father’s death (Potter, 18). Constantine had seen an image of a trophy that was cross-shaped made on the sun at noon. The medal bore an attached text that said, “by this conquer,” and was witnessed by his soldiers accompanying him during his campaign tour somewhere. He also developed another dream in the same night in which the God’s Christ came to him with the sign of trophy he had seen over the sun, and he was requested to make a similar copy of the symbol he had earlier seen in the sky, for himself (Schultz and Ward, 590). This was to protect him against attacks from the enemies. After being advised to label the holy symbol of God, Constantine embarked on battles that he never lost because he believed the symbol of cross turned sideways marked Christ on their shields. This sign was marked on Constantine’s army’s shields and resembled the letter, T. The symbol is interpreted differently by different scholars, but they do not connect it to the Milvian Bridge Battle. The war continued until Maxentius was beaten and killed, and the undisputed Emperor in the west carried out an occasional entrance to the city. When he entered the walls of Rome, he ignored and dishonored the alters of the gods, machinated on the Capitoline, and refused to make the customary sacrifices that were supposed to be carried out to celebrate the triumphant entry into Rome. He instead headed directly to the Palace. An arch of Constantine was recurring with his image, not sacrificing to Jupiter but sacrificing to Hercules and Apollo.

The Milan Edict

Constantine and Licinius declared that it was good for the Christians and others to have the freedom to follow the modality of religion they felt was the best. This gave all faiths, including Christianity, tolerance in 313 (Kling, 70). The proclamation also saw that the church property that had earlier, in 311, confiscated was returned to the church. Therefore, the edict made the empire an officially neutral body concerning religious worship, which refused to make traditional religion illegal and Christianity the state religion. The decree raised the stock of Christian life in the kingdom and rechecked the importance of faith to the welfare of the state. Most military officials practiced traditional Roman religion because they had not been converted to Christianity.

 The Early Christian Bibles

Constantine commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty books of scriptures to the four Constantinople’s churches in 331, leathered and portable. Others were established, and the scriptures were then licensed. These scriptures were good news books and contained the canonical gospel of the Four Evangelists but not complete Bibles with the entire Biblical canon (Potter, 14). Constantine commissioned the building of the first Hagia Irene’s church in Constantinople, a site now occupied by the church of Justinian of the same name. It marked Constantine’s peace which he won, and the victory over Licinius and Licinius II at the Chrysopolis Battle of 324, the church of Holy Peace. He dedicated two other churches to Saint Acacius and Mocius. The latter included parts of the former Hercules’ temple that did not have the Constantinian walls. Christian sacraments were also practiced in the Mausoleum of Constantine, which later became the Holy Apostle’s Church, among the numerous churches around and inside the city.

Pope Gregory I Accomplishments in Early Christianity

Gregory was of Roman descent, whose Christian faith was firm and was related to Agaspitus I and Felix III, the previous popes. He was well educated and learned grammar, science, rhetoric, law, and literature very well (Potter, 40). Gregory was able to write correctly Latin but neither write nor read Greek. He knew all authors of Latin, history, natural science, music, and mathematics and was very fluent in the imperial law that he had trained. Gregory advanced faster when he assumed government office to become a roman perfect, which was the highest office in Rom. He became the chief administrative officer, responsible for police, public works, finances, and provisioning in the city at 30 years. This experience helped him gather skills which he used together with his wealth to create six monasteries. After his father’s death, Gregory converted his house into the monastery and led a life of prayer, which gave him the happiest life. He started fasting and detailed studying the scriptures with this motivation, thus deteriorating his health. Later in 577, he was appointed by Pope Benedict as one of the seven Roman deacons, and Pope Pelagius II then sent him to Constantinople to be a representative in the imperial court before he called him back to serve as his advisor.

Later in 589, a famine was instigated by floods in Rome, destroying grain reserves. At the same time, Pope Pelagius was killed by a plague that swept Rome, and Gregory was then appointed to succeed him (“Pope Gregory”, 240). Gregory then instituted a city-wide penance to deal with the famine by feeding his people from the church granaries. During his tenure, Gregory removed his high officials because they were proud and replaced them with monks, after which the revenue collection from the states became efficient. The collections were used to run the church and perform duties neglected by the imperial government. Gregory also wrote a book of instruction for bishops because he was concerned about the work of the priests of the time. Through writing, he asked the priests to act so that their humility would not weaken or their authority be severe. He asked them to combine humility with justice so that humility would render justice lovable. Gregory also believed that the primary duties of the clergy were to preach, and therefore he could conduct preaching tours to the area churches.

Gregory believed that the gospel was supposed to be preached to all parts of the globe, although his primary concern was Southern Italy and Rome. In these two areas, Gregory was powerful, and that is why he gave them the priority to have the gospel spread. He then continued as a monk, trusted people who had replaced the clergy of the Palace (“Pope Gregory”, 243). Papal patrimony was excellent in southern Italy, and therefore, the efficiency and sound administration of the pope brought enough revenue. This revenue was used extensively in Rome to run the government programs and support the poor from oppression and distress. Because of the skills that Gregory possessed, he knew that the future would not be better for peasants, and therefore he changed the law to allow land inheritance so that the poor would cultivate their food. He also refused his people from practicing slavery and advised them to be more human and obedient to God.

The pope also made many liturgical changes in which he revised the Mass of the Pre-Tridentine by adding some things while removing others. He withdrew the part of Our Father and replaced it with the Roman canon, a position that was maintained up to today. Gregory also decreased the roles of the deacons in the liturgy of Roman Christianity (“Pope Gregory”, 244). The reforms that pope Gregory made were majorly influenced directly by the sacramentary. The pope is also a writer who found the medieval papacy, thus becoming the pioneer of medieval spirituality. For example, his writings, the histories which are his most extended works of patristic, have survived enough to form an inclusive corpus. In his last years of life, Gregory wrote over eight hundred and fifty letters which is the correct image of his work. Gregory, the pope, also identified Mary Magdalene, anointed Jesus with a holy ointment. This woman, whom Luke called a sinner while John called Mary, was the same person whom seven demons were cast out.


The essay has explored three primary influences that Emperor Constantine had on Christianity. In his hands, the Romans accepted Christianity as part of the state religion, and the gospel was spread all over the state. Also, Pope Gregory, who was also born in Rome, had a solid Christian foundation and was very skilled. Through his skills, he was able to deliver his people from the famine that had struck the state during the death of Pope Pelagius.

Works Cited

“Pope Gregory.” The Rhetoric of Free Speech in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, 2019, pp. 230-242.

Kling, David W. “The Early Church through Constantine (100–337).” A History of Christian Conversion, 2020, pp. 53-77.

Potter, David. “Constantine and the Christian Church.” Disruption, 2021, pp. 13-46.

Schultz, Celia E., and Allen M. Ward. “Constantine the Great and Christianity, 306 to 337 c.e.” A History of the Roman People, 2019, pp. 581-595.


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