Why did Constantine convert to Christianity

Why did Constantine convert to Christianity? Was his credence of Christianity heartfelt and genuine or was it politically motivated? If he genuinely was a Christian, why did he non criminalize pagan religion in the Empire?

The transition of Constantine would hold far making effects on the universe that he could non perchance hold predicted at the clip he made his determination. It seems improbable that his transition was done entirely for personal grounds, but even if there were political considerations present, that need non needfully halt it from being a heartfelt move in which he genuinely believed. The Roman Empire had a history of spiritual diverseness, and the refusal to criminalize Paganism would about surely have been politically motivated ; powerful and influential figures were far more loath than Constantine to turn their dorsums on their old Supreme beings, and trying to coerce them to make so would hold risked rebellion and discord. Alternatively, if the transition was genuinely echt, so Constantine would hold recognized that his official transition would help the spread of Christianity, but doing it compulsory would put on the line stoping it wholly ; he could non distribute Christianity throughout the Empire if the Empire had been destroyed by spiritual wars.

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Eusebius’ history of Constantine’s grounds for transition appear to be based in simple logic ; that every Emperor before him had had faith in, and sacrificed to, multiple Gods, in the paganistic Roman tradition, and that each had done so had suffered, non been warned of impending day of reckoning, etc [ 1 ] – and yet that Constantine’s father’s God had blessed him, and moreover that Constantine had his ain disclosure, in the signifier of “a cross of visible radiation from the heavens” [ 2 ] . Eusebius clearly does non doubt Constantine’s history, and assures the reader that whilst from anybody else the claim would be antic, from Constantine it could be believed ; whether Constantine himself did believe it, or was merely stating a narrative to explicate his transition can non be known. All of which we can be certain is that he did, so, convert – he must hold had his grounds. Genuine personal belief, after holding been shown the power of God, would hold been a powerful such ground.

An alternate possible option is that Constantine recognized that the bing position of faith within the Empire did non map as it could as a consolidative force, or supply a coherent disposal which would function to as a gum, to adhere the Empire closer together, and simplify the Imperial administrative function. Such a realisation would besides hold been a powerful ground for transition – but it would be a less honorable one to acknowledge to biographers, and hence be far less likely to look in histories such as those by Eusebius.

Asserting this place, would, nevertheless, conveying about its ain jobs – that of leting pagan religion to go on. His ain being a Christian is non really in contradiction with leting those who chose non to be to go on to idolize in their ain traditional manner. In modern times, we would see this esteeming the rights of others, including the right to be ‘wrong’ on spiritual affairs – and it appears that the same may so hold been on Constantine’s head, when he noted that “we might allow to the Christians and others full authorization to detect that faith which each preferred” [ 3 ] . Constantine recognised that he preferred one faith, one God, but that his position was non alone ; he would non forestall others from idolizing their Gods in the manner that they had prevented people of his religion from idolizing theirs.

If, nevertheless, the alteration was made for political grounds, to do the Empire easier to administrate, to seek to hammer the common bond of a shared religion between disparate peoples, it would be a extremely legitimate inquiry to inquire why that bond was allowed to be so weak, and why the challenge of Paganism was non banned in an attempt to guarantee that the alteration took topographic point every bit to the full as possible. If anything, that Constantine did non criminalize Paganism serves farther to show that it was his personal belief which caused his transition, and non simply a misanthropic move driven by the political relations of the Empire. Alternatively, he may hold wanted to criminalize pagan religion, but felt that the discord which would ensue from coercing baronial households to give up their ancient Supreme beings would hold outweighed the benefits brought from a individual faith uniting his imperium instantly. This appears to be supported by his statement that “for the interest of the peace of our times, that each one may hold the free chance to idolize as he pleases ; this ordinance is made that we may non look to take away from any self-respect of any religion” [ 4 ] . Constantine recognized that whatever his personal beliefs, allowing spiritual diverseness was a safer class of action than trying to coerce his positions on others who might non be so receptive to them.

It is impossible to see inside the psyche of any adult male, peculiarly those who have been dead for 1000s of old ages – yet it is eminently possible that Constantine’s transition to Christianity was both echt and heartfelt. If Eusebius can be trusted, so Constantine surely told him it was, and did so convincingly. It is, nevertheless, improbable that political considerations did non come in his head – peculiarly sing the legality of Paganism. Outlawing the pattern could hold antagonized powerful figures, and destabilized the imperium. Constantine avoided that, doing his new religion more acceptable in the procedure, and increasing the opportunity that over clip, his pick could distribute, and get the better of the staying belief in the old Gods – as, so, it did.

“Eusebius: The Conversion of Constantine” , in the Medieval Source Book, at hypertext transfer protocol: //www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/conv-const.html

The Nicene Creed, in the Medieval Source Book, at hypertext transfer protocol: //www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/nicenecreed.html

The Edict of Milan, in the Medieval Source Book, at hypertext transfer protocol: //www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/edict-milan.html

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