Constantine And The Edict Of Milan: Act Of Devotion? Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Religion, Christians, Church, Rome, Jesus Christ, Empire, Ideology, History

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/21

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The close relationship between politics and religion is unequivocally complex, nuanced, and dynamic and spawns significant ramifications for both parties. Such a connection is clear in the context of the Roman Empire in relation to the burgeoning Christian Church during the epoch in which the Emperor Constantine reigned during the fourth century in the common era. Legislation and events unequivocally impacted the relationship between church and state. Indeed, the policies enacted by the emperor Constantine enabled the Roman state at large as well as the Christian Church in order to influence each other as well as gain control. This process catalyzed a mutuality and dependency that allowed for and maintained imperial control over Roman subjects. Scholars continue to debate and engage in dialogue about the policies of the emperor Constantine, especially those related to religious tolerance. Much of this line of inquiry rests on the perceived genuineness of Constantine’s Christian conviction as well as his relationship to the Christian Church during an epoch in which Christianity had hitherto been ostracized and persecuted. The Edict of Milan represents one of the earliest manifestations of laws protecting and promoting religious toleration. However, controversies arose regarding how this edict came into being and the impact it had on the development of the institution of the church itself. This edict was posted in 313 AD by Licinius at Nicomedia and emerged as a public policy that preserved religious freedom, allowing Christians and pagans alike to follow the religion of their choice.
The Edict of Milan enacted a litany of changes to the cultural milieu in the Roman Empire. It preserved the right of Roman citizens to profess a faith of their choosing, thereby getting rid of the legal ramifications that had previously been exacted if one did not adhere to the state religion. In addition, no individual could be kept from publically exercising their duty to their religion, thereby allowing Romans to freely assemble and worship according to Christian law. Land and structures that had been confiscated when Christians were persecuted were returned. Finally, the Christian church was publically recognized as a state institution and corporation that retained the prerogative to own and hold property.As such, Christianity was put on the same legal footing as other religions, thereby extending personal liberties to the adherents of other religions. As such, the Edict of Milan was unequivocally an overt yet formal abandonment on the part of the state to control the spirituality and religiosity of Roman citizens.
During the late second and third centuries, Third and late second century CE, a litany of changes were taking place in the Roman Empire as a result of the pressures Rome faced at the frontiers by the Persians in the east as well as those on the Rhine and on the Danube. Such tensions propelled the Romans to move to the frontier because the Roman army resided there since by law the army could not enter the city. Emperors had to be at the frontiers when the army of over fifty thousand troops were mobilized in order to quell any possible threat of a rebellious general. As such, wherever the emperor is was where the Roman imperial court would be, and so the imperial court followed the emperor. As such, one did not have to be born in Rome to be a Roman citizen because Romanness was not tethered to a location as anyone born in Rome’s territorial jurisdiction was granted citizenship. The so-called “crisis of the third century” refers to a fifty year period of essential chaos between 230s-280s. The emperor was faced with multiple challenges both internally and externally. While Christianity was initially persecuted in imperial Rome, the emperor Constantine changed that pattern once he converted to Christianity after a mystical experience.
External problems imperial Rome faced exacerbated the harsh reaction to the burgeoning of Christianity. Germanic tribes and Persians were pressuring Rome at the same time at the frontiers because the Roman Empire was too large to deal adequately with threats from all sides. If emperors respond to one area and not another, then the general proclaims himself to be emperor if legitimate emperor is not with them. As such, generals declared themselves as emperor as a result of the actual emperor’s inability to be in all places at once, which led to the outbreak of a bitter civil war. Disease and famine plagued everyone at the same time. During a time of chaos, Roman emperors asked themselves why their pagan gods were punishing them and why god was so upset with the Romans. As a result, the Romans blamed the Christians for not sacrificing to the Roman gods and thus displeased them and incurred their wrath on society at large. The imperial persecution of Christianity began during this time period because the Romans scapegoated Christians whom had hitherto never experienced persecution on such a wide and imperial scale.
Diocletian ascended to power amidst this crisis of the third century and restored order, which portrayed him as a seminal figure in devotional legislation passé for the sake of preserving and sustaining Christianity amidst a hostile environment. He gained a reputation as a great persecutor of Christians, as he persecuted the Christians on a very large scale that rendered him an immoral and malignant figure. As such, he instigated the persecution of Christians on a massive scale, as he was often referred to as a barracks emperor who was a superb general. He was also considered to be a savior after he defeated external threats that Rome perceived as menacing.
Several church histories unveil the great diversity of beliefs within Christianity that plagued the religion beginning around the third century (Philostorgius xiv). The Church historians Socrates of Scholasticus and Philostorgius recount their respective histories of the Christian Church. However, both histories are biased because the authors are not eyewitnesses to certain events or reigns of certain rulers, allowing their theological biases to influence their depiction of the church history. When Constantine became emperor of Rome and converted to Christianity during the fourth century, he desired to unite the Roman Empire in both state and religious matters. His call for the Council of Nicaea in 325 addressed the most pressing doctrinal argument over the nature of Jesus, known as the Arian controversy, and formulated the Creed of Nicaea, which was supported by Socrates. It became the orthodox Creed and described the nature of the Son as homoiousis, or similar in substance, to the Father. It dismissed the Arian view supported by Philostorgius and caused intermittent state-sponsored persecutions of the “heresy” promoted by Arian supporters. Subsequent interactions between religion and state led to the ultimate defeat of the Arian brand of Christianity (xv). Through his church history, Socrates Scholasticus argues for an ideology that reflected the orthodox Christian tenets espoused by the Nicene Creed, which is evident through his glorification of emperors who supported the orthodox tenets as well as through his belief that such emperors received divine favor as a result. In contrast, Philostorgius’ church history reflects an alternative, pro-Arian, ideology that greatly opposed the tenets espoused in the Nicene Creed, propelling him to revere Arian sympathizers while denigrating those against Arianism as revealed through divine reproach. As a result of their theological biases, Philostorgius and Socrates organize and shape their histories in ways that elevate their respective ideologies over their opponent’s, making it a historiographical challenge to ascertain which history represents the actual truth.
Early church histories such as those written by Socrates Scholasticus and Philostorgius help historians understand the world of the Early Christian churches. This enterprise became difficult due to the theological biases evident in almost every church history. The different theological biases of Socrates and Philostorgius effect how each represents their Church histories, which is evident in their contrasting characterization of the Roman emperors Theodsius I and II. Although Socrates Scholasticus sought impartiality by detailing both secular and religious figures and events, it is clear that he defends the orthodox Christian point of view. He depicts the emperors Theodosius I and II as devout emperors whose peaceful reigns signaled divine favor as a result of their strong, orthodox Christian convictions. As a result, God favored them by granting them peace and stability. Philostorgius, on the other hand, presents an alternative ideology through his denigration of Theodosius I and II as well as through his belief that God favored those who championed Arian ideology while rebuked those who did not. Although Philostorgius was accused of heresy for his ideology, his church history offers a provoking glimpse of an alternative ideology that opposed the brand of Christianity that the Roman government adopted as the official religion of the empire. However enticing it may be to look at the different Christian histories and accept those expressing dominant ideology as truth, it is necessary to consider opposing views as represented by Philostorgius. In doing so, we may further comprehend the entire process of the development of church ideology during that time period as help us better understand the origins of theological disputes we still have in the church today.

Bibliography

Anastos, Milton V. “The Edict of Milan (313): A Defense of Its Traditional Authorship and Designation.” Revue Des études Byzantines, 1(1967): 13-41.
Barnes, Timothy. Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. 2006.
Constantine & Licinius. The Edict of Milan (313). Edict. Milan, Italy. Lactantius Liber de Mortibus Persecutorum, XLVIII. Web. http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/edict_of_milan.htm (accessed 13 April 2015).
Davidson, Ivor J. Birth of the Church: From Jesus to Constantine, AD30-312. Oxford, UK: Monarch Books. 2013.
Drago, Duric. “Religious Tolerance in the Edict of Milan and in the Constitution of Medina.” Filozofija i Društvo. 24(2013): 277-292.
Herrmann-Otto, Elizabeth. “The So-Called Edict of Milan and Constantinian Policy.” Belgrade Law Review, 3(1998): 39-49.
Leithart, Peter J. Defending Constantine: The Twilight Empire and the Dawn of Christendom New York: InterVarsity Press. 2010.
MacMullen, Ramsay. “Religious Toleration Around the Year 313.” Journal of Early Christian Studies, 22(2014): 499-517.
Montgomery, Hugo. “From Friend to Foe: The Portrait of Licinius in Eusebius.” Symbolae Osloenses, 1(2000): 130-38.
Sharp, Pamela. “Constantine’s Policy of Religious Tolerance: Was it Tolerant or Not?” University of New Mexico, 1(2010): 1-86.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 21) Constantine And The Edict Of Milan: Act Of Devotion? Essays Examples. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/constantine-and-the-edict-of-milan-act-of-devotion-essays-examples/
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Constantine And The Edict Of Milan: Act Of Devotion? Essays Examples. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/constantine-and-the-edict-of-milan-act-of-devotion-essays-examples/. Published Feb 21, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021.
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