Rome Paper 1

Rome Paper 1 - Zach Hudson Classics 128 Gustafson 16...

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Zach Hudson Classics 128 Gustafson 16 January 2008 Constantine and the “Edict of Milan” In the early 300’s life as a Christian in the Roman Empire was grim, persecution was rampant, and life was tough and lived in hiding. In June of 313 the Emperor Constantine issued a decree in the form of a letter that changed many things for the followers of Christ. This decree was termed the “Edict of Milan” by later historians and it established religious equality throughout the empire. This letter to Roman leaders in the eastern provinces, where a previous decree ending persecution of Christians had been ignored, declared that Christianity was an acceptable religion, and that citizens were free to practice whatever religion they saw fit. The situation in Rome at this time strikes me as similar to the situation in America during early colonial times. Puritan forms of Christianity were dominant and followers of other religions, such as the Quakers, and those accused of witchcraft were persecuted. Eventually, however, religious freedom became a staple of American culture and was a key part of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Constantine came to power in 306 but still did not control the Eastern Empire and he faced a challenge from Maxentius in the West. While encamped outside of Rome Constantine had what has alternately been called a dream or vision that the God of the Christians would aid him to victory over Maxentius if he painted the symbol of God on his soldiers shields (On The Deaths of the Persecutors 44.1-10,L 82). Constantine
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2 defeated Maxentius at Milvian Bridge in 312 following his dream. This victory laid groundwork for his later conversion to Christianity. This moment was pivotal in establishing Constantine’s motivation for issuing his decree of religious freedom, aside from his own growing affection for “the religion of the Christians”(OTDOTP 48.2-12, L 84) he found that having this God’s favor might be beneficial to the Empire. This combination of influences led along with Licinius’ conquest in the East led the two Augusti to issue their famous statement of tolerance. The implications of this document were immense both in Late Antiquity, and in
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This note was uploaded on 05/08/2008 for the course CLASS 131 taught by Professor Gustaphson during the Winter '08 term at St. Olaf.

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Rome Paper 1 - Zach Hudson Classics 128 Gustafson 16...

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