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Behind The Reason Of Constantine's Christian Conversion

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Humans are social animals and they tend to act in manner of the majority just because they want to fit in. Having lived as a community for over thousands of years, Humans have gradually but constantly developed themselves toward collective behaviors. All the acts were derived from beliefs that had risen in specific periods or passed along the generations. However, because of the improvement of philosophy, logical mindset had been applied. Not only faiths were used to make decisions but so were reasons. In the age of early Christianity, the religion of Jesus was forbidden and illegal for many years. Then, Emperor Constantine just simply turned to Christian and made it official. He claimed that he saw a vision that turned his life around. In contrast, his conversion gained him absolute political power. Until these days, it is still debatable whether Constantine's conversion to Christianity was due to political reason or religious one.

Constantine was born on 27 February AD272 in Naissus on the Danube. His father, the future emperor Constantius, was that time a junior army officer and it was claimed that Constantine's mother, Helena, was the daughter of an inn keeper. When the troops at York hailed Constantine as emperor, he was already in his thirties with a distinguished military career behind him. With all the support of York army, Constantine entered into the civil war as a usurper. Around that time, Severus had already been chosen to succeed Constantius and was the legitimate emperor. However, the death of Constantius had spawned another usurper linked to the imperial family but located in Rome named Maxentius. Severus marched against Maxentius but his army deserted him and he was forced to surrender. Soon after he took his own life leaving the field open for Constantine to move against Maxentius, who was busy seducing the wives of leading senators. In AD312, Constantine moved against Maxentius and this combat completely changed the world.

The story of vision had been recorded by a bishop named Eusebius Pamphilus. The history started when Constantine was on the way to the gate of Rome, he was worried about the size of his army. As he stopped to consider his battle plan, he realized that he needed greater power than just military force. Maxentius was also relying on magical enchantments. Then, what could he hold on to? Constantine saw that the pagan gods failed to protect their worshipers. Therefore, he sought his father's God in prayer. When he reached Milvian Bridge, he was praying to the god and asked for his succeed on his upcoming military campaign. Suddenly, Constantine had an absorbing vision. He saw the sign of the cross emblazoned across the sky and the words "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES" or in translation, "in this sign you shall be victorious". Constantine was struck with amazement, along with his whole army which also witnessed this miracle. Later on that night, he had a dream to reaffirm him what he had encountered before in the noon. Jesus emerged with the sign which had appeared in the sky and urged him to make himself a copy of it and use this as protection against the attacks of the enemy. On the next day, he called on the goldsmiths and jewelers, sat down among them, and explained the shape of the sign. It was created to a tall pole plated with gold including a transverse bar forming the shape of a cross on his shield. On the top, there was the intersection of Greek letters Chi and Rho, which symbolized his savior's name Ð'- Jesus. He engaged in the battle with Maxentius with his Christian shield and finally won. In AD313, he issued the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity no longer prohibited and unlawful for each individual.

On one hand, in a religious view point, Constantine was the first Christian emperor and he contributed so many exertions to Christianity. Christianity was initially banned because of the fact that it might have replaced the faith people devoted to the state. However, it kept growing strong. The majority of the population turned to Christianity except one authority, the state. Constantine as a representation of it legalized the Christianity, making it a protected religion of the empire. Once the choice was permitted to choose, Rome automatically became the state of Christianity by the social power. Constantine also persecuted other Christians who didn't have the Old Testament, especially the Gnostic Christians. There was sort of an internal purge of the church as one emperor ruling one empire tries to have this single church as part of the religious musculature of his vision of a renewed Rome. It was with this theological vision in mind that not only did Constantine help the bishops to reform a unitary policy of what a true Christian believed, but he also turned his focus to Jerusalem, the Jesus' birth place. He relocated the religious center to the spot where Jesus had suffered. He constructed extraordinary shapes of basilicas and architectures. The churches then appeared to be outstanding figures instead of being a part of mundane houses. Hence, pilgrimage sites became popular and for the first time physically resembled holy places where all the Christians did their sacred rituals. These encouraged people to attend church and, thus, learn the Christianity bible core. To promote even more accessibility of the Christian theology, bibles were copied at the public expenses. Another thing he aided the church's financial status was making church tax-exempted so that it could utilize the entire fund granted on building and ornamenting itself. Once churches were available, working citizens still couldn't manage their time to go there. Constantine perceived this problem and proclaimed Sunday an official roman holiday so that people could participate in religious practices and so were 25th December and Easter holiday later on. With Constantine's attempts, religion, especially Christianity, played an important role in the roman publics. The church was centralized and progressively won over the state.

On the other hand, in a political viewpoint, Constantine utterly made an excellent move out of the civil crisis. It has been argued over the past 1500 years whether he did it because of the option as political survival. He signaled a kind of dÐ"©tente that had reached between the church as a force to be reckoned within society and the Roman state. They were on a collision course with each other and resolution had to be accomplished by somebody, otherwise they would destroy each other or compromise each other's integrity. For this reason, Constantine was a historical point man with respect to the relation of the Roman state to the growing Christian movement as an institutional force in late antique community. The derivative from settling this dispute was the incredibly secular power. It used to be the problem of the negotiating



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