CONSTANTINE I, Flavius Valerius Au relius Constantinus, called the GRE.AT, Roman emperor b. Naissus, in Mcesia (Serbia), 27 Feb. 274; d. Nicomedia, 22 May 337. He was the son of the Emperor Constantinus Chlorus, and after the death of his father was chosen emperor by the soldiery, in tlie year 306. Galerius was very unwilling to allow him the title of AUGUSTUS, and gave him that of C,EsAa only. Constantine, however, took possession of the countries which had been subject to his father, namely, Gaul, Spain and Britain. He overcame the Franks, who had formerly over run the territory of Gaul, made prisoners of two of their leaders, followed them over the Rhine, surprised and defeated them. He then directed his arms against Maxentius, veho had joined Maximian against him. In the campaign in Italy he saw, it is said, a flaming cross in the heavens, beneath the sun, bearing the in scription, "in hoc signo vincesa (Under this sign thou shalt conquer). He accordingly caused a standard to be made in this form, which was called the iabarum. Some days after this he vanquished the army of Maxentius, under the walls of Rome, and drove it into the Tiber. He then entered the city in triumph, set at liberty all whom Maxentius had unjustly imprisoned and pardoned all who had taken up arms against him. He was declared by the Senate chief, Augustus, and pontifex moximus. In the year 313, together with Licinius, he published the memorable edict of toleration in favor of the Christians. By this every one was allowed to embrace the religion most agreeable to his own mode of thinking, and all the property was re stored to the Christians that had been taken from them during the persecutions. They were also made eligible to public offices. This edict marks the period of the triumph of the cross and the downfall of paganism.
Constantine had married his daueiter to Licinius; but the latter, jealous of his fame, conceived a mortal hatred against him, which he displayed by persecuting the Christians. Both emperors took up arms and met in Pan nonia 314 A.D. Licinius was defeated, but the
conqueror granted him peace. He, however, re newed hostilities, was vanquished again, taken prisoner and put to death at Constantine's com mand. Thus the latter became, in 325, the sole head of the Eastern and Western empires. His first and chief cares were the establishment of peace and order, and the propagation of his religion. Many beneficial decrees were pro claimed by him. Among these wcrc those which abolished all the establishments of debauchery, ordered the children of the poor to be supported at his expense, gave permission to complain of his officers and promised that the Emperor would not only hear complaints, but compensate the complainants for injuries received, when they were proved to exist. He diminished the land-taxes and caused a new valuation of estates to be taken. The state treasury had always been enriched by the property of but Con stantine spared the property of their wives and ameliorated the condition of their children. Death in prison, he said, was a cruel punishment for the innocent, and an insufficient penalty for the guilty; he therefore ordered all trials of prisoners to take place at once. He forbade the use of unwholesome dungeons and oppressive chains. He gave leave to sick persons, widows and orphans to appeal from the local magis trates, and refused this privilege to their adver saries. It had been customary for the heirs of a person deceased to divide his slaves among them; Constantine forbade the separation in these cases of husbands from their wives and of parents from their children. To the Chris tians he gave permission not only to erect churches, but to be remunerated for the cost of them from his,domains. Amidst all the cares of government and the occupations of war he found leisure to assemble the Council of Arles, to put an end to the schism of the Dotiatists. The ecumenical council held at Nice, in Bithynia 325 A.D., was attended by him in person.