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THE first question that has to be considered in laying down the plan of a Medieval History is, Where to begin? Where shall we draw the line that separates it from Ancient History? Some would fix it at the death of Domitian, others at that of Marcus. Some would come down to Constantine, to the death of Theodosius, to the great barbarian invasion of 406, or to the end of the Western Empire in 476; and others again would go on to Gregory I, or even as late as Charlemagne. There is even something to be said for beginning with Augustus, or at the destruction of Jerusalem, though perhaps these epochs are not seriously proposed. However, they all have their advantages. If for example we consider only the literary merit of the historians, we must draw the line after Tacitus; and if we fix our eyes on the feud of Roman and barbarian, we cannot stop till the coronation of Charlemagne. Curiously enough, the epoch usually laid down at the end of the Western Empire in 476, is precisely the one for which there is least to be said. We should do better than this by dividing in the middle of the Gothic War (535-553). We have in quick succession the closing of the Schools of Athens, the Code of Justinian, the great siege of Rome, and the abolition of the consulship. The Rome which Belisarius delivered was still the Rome of the Caesars, while the Rome which Narses entered sixteen years later is already the Rome of the popes. It is the same in Gaul. The remains of the old civilization still found under the sons of Clovis are mostly obliterated in the next generation. Procopius witnessed as great a revolution as did Polybius.


But even this would not be satisfactory. We cannot cut in two the Gothic War and the reign of Justinian; and in any case we can draw no sharp division after Constantine without ignoring the greatest power of the world that Eastern Roman Empire which carried down the old Greco-Roman civilization almost to the end of the Middle Ages. In truth, the precise beginning of Medieval History is as indefinite as the precise beginning of the fog. There is no point between Augustus and Charlemagne where we can say, “The old is finished, the new not yet begun”. Choose where we will, medieval elements are traceable before it, ancient elements after it. Thus Theodoric's government of Italy is on the old lines, while the Frankish invasion of Gaul belongs to the new order. If in the present work we begin with Constantine, we do not mean that there is any break in history at this point, though we see important changes in the adoption of Christianity and the fixing of the government in the form it retained for centuries. The chief advantage of choosing this epoch is that as the medieval elements were not strong before the fourth century, we shall be able to trace nearly the whole of their growth without encroaching too much on Ancient History. At the same time, we shall hold ourselves free to trace them back as far as may be needful.


We begin with an outline of Constantine’s life. Its significance we can discuss later.


Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born at Naissus in Dacia, about the year 274. His father Constantius was already a man of some mark, though still in the lower stages of the career which brought him to the purple. On his father’s side Constantius belonged to the great families of Dardania, the hilly province north of Macedonia, while his mother was a niece of the emperor Claudius Gothicus. But Constantine’s own mother Helena was a woman of low rank from Drepanum in Bithynia, though there is no reason to doubt that she had the legal (and quite moral) position of concubina or monargatic wife to Constantius.


Of Constantine’s early years we know only that he had no learned education; and we may presume from his hesitating Greek that he was brought up in Latin lands, perhaps partly Dalmatia, where his father was at one time governor. In 293 Constantius was made Caesar, and practically master of Gaul, with the task assigned him of recovering Britain from Carausius. But as a condition of his elevation he was required to divorce Helena and marry Theodora, a stepdaughter of Maximian. Constantine was taken to the court of Diocletian, partly as a hostage for his father, and partly with a view to a future place for him in the college of emperors. So he went with Diocletian to Egypt in 296, and made acquaintance on the way with Eusebius, the future historian and bishop of Caesarea. Next year he seems to have seen service with Galerius against the Persians. About this time he must have taken Minervina (most likely as a concubina), for her son Crispus was already a young man in 317. Early in 303 the Great Persecution was begun with the demolition of the church at Nicomedia: and there was a tall young officer looking on with thoughts of his own, like Napoleon watching the riot of June 1792.


When Diocletian and Maximian abdicated (1 May 305) it was generally believed that Constantine would be one of the new Caesars. There was reason for this belief. He had been betrothed to Fausta, the daughter of Maximian, as far back as 293, when she was a mere child; and daughters of emperors were not common enough to be thrown away on outsiders. Moreover, money had recently been coined at Alexandria with the inscription CONSTANTINUS CAESAR. But at the last moment Diocletian passed him over. Perhaps he was over-persuaded by Galerius: more likely he was reserving him to succeed his father in Gaul. After this, however, the court of Galerius was no place for Constantine. Presently he managed to escape, and joined his father at Boulogne. After a short campaign in Caledonia, Constantius died at York (25 July 306) and the army hailed Constantine Augustus. He was a good officer, the sons of Theodora were only boys, and the army of Britain (always the most mutinous in the Empire) had no mind to wait for a new Caesar from the East. Its chief mover was Crocus the Alemannic king (according Gregory of Tours this Crocus overran Gaul and the north of Italy in the year 268): and this would seem to be the first case of a barbarian king as a Roman general, and also the first case of barbarian action in the election of an emperor. Willingly or unwillingly, Galerius recognized Constantine, though only as Caesar. It mattered little: he had the power, and the title came a couple of years later.


Thus Constantine succeeded his father in Gaul and Britain. We hear little of his administration during the next six years (306-312), but we get a general impression that he was a good ruler, and careful of his people. Such fighting as he had to do was of the usual sort against the Franks, mostly inside the Rhine, and against the Alemanni and the Bructeri beyond it. The war however was merciless, for even heathen feeling was shocked when he gave barbarian kings to the beasts, along with their followers by thousands at a time. But Gaul had never recovered from the great invasions (254-285) and his remissions of taxation gave no permanent relief to the public misery. In religion he was of course heathen; but he grew more and more monotheistic, and the Christians always counted him friendly like his father.


The last act of Galerius (Apr. 311) was an edict of toleration for the Christians. It was not encumbered with any ‘hard conditions’, but it was given on the heathen principle that every god is entitled to the worship of his own people, whereas the persecution hindered the Christians from rendering that worship. A few days after this Galerius died. There were now four emperors. Constantine held Gaul and Britain, Maxentius Italy, Spain and Africa, while Licinius (more properly Licinian) ruled Illyricum, Greece and Thrace, and Maximin Daza (or Daia) held everything beyond the Bosphorus. Their political alliances were partly determined by their geographical position, Constantine reaching over Maxentius to Licinius, while Maximin reached over Licinius to Maxentius; partly also by their relation to the Christians, for this was now the immediate question of practical politics. Constantine was friendly to them, and Licinius had never been an active persecutor; whereas Maximin was a cruel and malicious enemy, and Maxentius, standing as he did for Rome, could not but be hostile to them. So Maxentius was to crush Constantine, and Maximin to deal with Licinius.


Constantine did not wait to be crushed. Breaking up his camp at Colmar, he pushed rapidly across the Alps. In a cavalry fight near Turin, the Gauls overcame the formidable cataphracti—horse and rider clad in mail—of Maxentius. Then straight to Verona, where in Ruricius Pompeianus he found a foeman worthy of his steel. Right well did Pompeianus defend Verona; and if he escaped from the siege, it was only to gather an army for its relief. Then another great battle. Pompeianus was killed, Verona surrendered, and Constantine made straight for Rome.


Still Maxentius gave no sign. He had baffled invasion twice before by sitting still in Rome, and Constantine could not have besieged the city with far inferior forces. At the last moment Maxentius came out a few miles, and offered battle (28 Oct. 312) at Saxa Rubra. A skillful flank march of Constantine forced him to fight with the Tiber behind him, and the Mulvian bridge for his retreat. His Numidians fled before the Gaulish cavalry, the Praetorian Guard fell fighting where it stood, and the rest of the army was driven head­long into the river. Maxentius perished in the waters, and Constantine was master of the West.


This short campaign, the most brilliant feat of arms since Aurelian’s time, was an epoch for Constantine himself. To it belongs the story of the Shining Cross. Somewhere between Colmar and Saxa Rubra he saw in the sky one afternoon a bright cross with the words Hoc Vince, and the army saw it too; and in a dream that night Christ bade him take it for his standard. So Constantine himself told Eusebius, and so Eusebius recorded it in 338; and there is no reason to suspect either the one or the other of deceit. The evidence of the army is in any case not worth much; but that of Lactantius in 314 and of the heathen Nazarius in 321 puts it beyond reasonable doubt that something of the sort did happen. But we need not therefore set it down for a miracle. The cross observed may very well have been a halo, such as Whymper saw when he came down after the accident on the Matterhorn in 1865—three crosses for his three lost companions. The rest is no more than can be accounted for by Constantine’s imagination, inflamed as it must have been by the intense anxiety of the unequal contest. Yet after all, the cross was not an exclusively Christian symbol. The action was ambiguous, like most of Constantine’s actions at this period of his life. He was quite clear about monotheism; but he was not equally clear about the difference between Christ and the Unconquered Sun. The Gauls had fought of old beneath the Sun-god’s cross of light: so while the Christians saw in the labarum the cross of Christ, the heathens in the army would only be receiving an old standard back again. Such was the origin of the Byzantine Labarum.


Constantine remained two months in Rome, leaving in the first days of 313 for Milan, where he gave his sister Constantia in marriage to Licinius, and conferred with him on policy generally, and on the hostile attitude of Maximin in particular. That ruler had not published the edict of Galerius, but merely sent a circular to the officials that actual persecution was to be stopped for the present. A few months later (about Nov. 311) he resumed it, with less bloodshed and more statesmanship. It was far more skillfully planned than any that had gone before. Maximin’s endeavor was to stir up the municipalities against the Christians, to organize a rival church of heathenism, and to give a definitely antichristian bias to education. Even the fall of Maxentius had drawn from him only a rescript so full of inconsistencies that neither heathens nor Christians could make head or tail of it, except that Maximin was a prodigious liar. He even denied that there had been any persecution during his reign. At all events, this was not the complete change of policy needed to save him. Constantine and Licinius saw their advantage, and issued from Milan a new edict of toleration. Its text is lost, but it went far beyond the edict of Galerius. For the first time in history, the principle of universal toleration was officially laid down: that every man has a right to choose his religion and to practice it in his own way without any discouragement from the State. No doubt it was laid down as a political move, for neither Constantine nor Licinius kept to it. Constantine tried to crush Donatists and Arians, and Licinius fell back even from toleration of Christians. Still the old heathen principle, that no man may worship gods who are not on the official list, was rejected for the present, and toleration became the general law of the Empire, till the time of Theodosius.


The wedding festivities were rudely interrupted by the news that Maximin had made a sudden attack without waiting for the end of the winter, and met with brilliant success, capturing Byzantium and pushing on towards Adrianople. There, however, Licinius met him with a very inferior force, and completely routed him (30 April 313). Maximin fled to Nicomedia, and soon found that it would be as much as he could do to hold the line of Mount Taurus. Now he had no choice—the Christians were strong in Egypt and Syria, and must be conciliated at any cost. So he issued a new edict, explaining that the officials had committed many oppressions very painful to a benevolent ruler like himself; and now, to make further mistakes impossible, he lets all men know that everyone is free to practice whatever religion he pleases. Maximin gives the same liberty as Constantine and Licinius—he could not safely offer less—but he states no principle of toleration. However, it was too late now. Maximin died in the summer, and Licinius issued a rescript carrying out the decisions of Milan, and restoring confiscated property to “the corporation of the Christians”. It was published at Nicomedia 13 June 313. Constantine sent out similar letters in the West.


The defeat of Maximin ends the long contest of Church and State begun by Nero. Former persecutions had died out of themselves, and even Gallienus had only restored the confiscated property; but now the Christians had gained full legal recognition, of which they were never again deprived. Licinius and Julian might devise annoyances and connive at outrages, and work the administration in a hostile spirit; but they never ventured to revoke the Edict of Milan. Heathenism was still strong in its associations with Greek philosophy and culture, with Roman law and social order, and its moral character stood higher than it had done. It hardly looked like a beaten enemy: yet such it was. Its last real hope was gone.


Religious peace was assured, but the unity of the Empire was not yet restored. Constantine and Licinius were both ambitious, and war between them was only a question of time. They were not unequally matched. If Constantine had the victorious legions of Gaul, Licinius ruled the East from the frontier of Armenia to that of Italy, so that he was master of the Illyrian provinces, which furnished the best soldiers of the Roman army. Every emperor from Claudius to Licinius himself was an Illyrian, except Tacitus and Carus. And if Constantine had done a splendid feat of arms, Licinius was a fine soldier too, and (with all his personal vices) not less careful of his subjects.


Constantine was called away from Milan by some incursions of the Franks, who kept him busy during the summer of 313. When things were more settled, he proposed to institute a middle domain for his other brother-in-law Bassianus. The plan seems to have been that while Constantine gave him Italy, Licinius should give him Illyricum. Licinius frustrated it by engaging Bassianus in a plot for which he was put to death, and then refused to give up to Constantine his agent Senecio, the brother of Bassianus. This meant war. Constantine took the offensive as he had done before, pushing into Pannonia with no more than 20,000 men, and attacking Licinius where he was endeavoring to cover Sirmium. He had 35,000 against him, but a hard-fought battle (8 Oct. 314) ended in a complete victory, and the capture of Sirmium. Licinius fled towards Adrianople, deepening the quarrel on the way by giving the rank of Caesar to his Illyrian general Valens. A new army was collected; but another great battle on the Mardian plain was indecisive. Constantine won the victory; but Licinius and Valens were able to take up a threatening position in his rear at Beroea. So peace had to be made. First Valens was sacrificed: then Licinius gave up Illyricum from the Danube to the extremity of Greece, retaining in Europe only Thrace, which, however, in those days reached north to the Danube. So things settled down. Constantine returned to Rome in the summer to celebrate his Decennalia (25 July 315), and in 317 the succession was secured by the nomination of Caesars, Crispus and Constantine the sons of Constantine, and Licinianus the son of Licinius. Crispus was grown up, but Constantine was a baby.


The treaty might be hollow, but it kept the peace for nearly eight years. If Constantine was evidently the stronger, Licinius was still too strong to be rashly attacked. So each went his own way. It soon appeared which was the better statesman. Constantine drew nearer to the Christians, while Licinius drifted into persecution, devising annoyances enough to make them enemies but not enough to make them harmless. Thus Constantine allows manumission in church, judges the Donatists, closes the courts on Sundays, loads the churches with gifts, and, at last (May 323), frees Christians from all pagan ceremonies of state. Licinius drove the Christians from his court, forbade meetings of bishops, and meddled vexatiously with their worship. This gave the war something of a religious character; but its occasion was not religious. The Goths had been pretty quiet since Aurelian had settled them in Dacia. It was not till 322 that Rausimod their king crossed the Danube on a foray. Constantine drove them back, chased them beyond the Danube, slew Rausimod, and settled thousands of Gothic serfs in the adjacent provinces. But in the pursuit he crossed the territory of Licinius; and this led to war. Constantine’s army was 130,000 strong, and his son Crispus had a fleet of 200 sail, in the Piraeus. Licinius awaited him with 160,000 men near Adrianople, while his admiral Amandus was to hold the Hellespont with 350 ships. There was no idea of using the fleet to take Constantine in the rear.


After some difficult maneuvers, Constantine won the first battle (3 July 323), but was brought to a stop before the walls of Byzantium. Licinius was safe there, so long as he held the sea; so he chose Martinianus his magister officiorum for the new Augustus of the West. Meanwhile Constantine strengthened his fleet, and his son Crispus completely defeated Amandus in the Hellespont. Licinius left Byzantium to defend itself—it had held out two years against Severus—and prepared to maintain the Asiatic shore. Constantine left Byzantium on one side and landed near Chrysopolis, where he found the whole army of Licinius drawn up to meet him. The battle of Chrysopolis (18 or 20 Sept. 323) was decisive. Licinius fled to Nicomedia, and presently Constantia came out to ask for her husband’s life. It was granted, and Constantine confirmed his promise with an oath. Nevertheless Licinius was put to death in October 325 on a charge of treasonable intrigue. The charge is unlikely: but Licinius was quite capable of it, and his execution does not seem to have estranged Constantia from her brother. But perhaps the matter is best connected with the family tragedy which we shall come to presently.


As a general, Constantine ranks high among the emperors. Good soldiers as they mostly were, none but Severus and Aurelian could boast of any such career of victory as had brought Constantine from the shores of Britain to the banks of the Tiber and the walls of Byzantium. But after the “crowning mercy” of Chrysopolis there was no more fighting, except with the Goths. The last fourteen years of Constantine (323-337) were years of peace: and the first question which then confronted him was the question of religion. By what road did he approach Christianity, and how far did he come on the journey?


Two fables may be dismissed at once—the heathen fable told by Zosimus in the fifth century, that the Christians were complaisant when the philosophers refused to absolve him for the murder of his son Crispus; and the papal fable of the eighth century, that he was healed of leprosy by Pope Sylvester, and thereupon gave him dominion over “the palace, the city of Rome, and the entire West”. These legends are summarily refuted by the fact that he was baptized in 337, not as they tell us in 326. Turning now to history, we have no reason to suppose that he owed Christian impressions to his mother’s teaching: but Constantius was an eclectic of the better sort, and a man of some culture; and his memory contrasted well with that of his colleagues. Constantine seems to have begun where his father left off, as more or less monotheistic and averse to idols, and more or less friendly to the Christians; and all these things grew upon him. The last of them may not have meant much at first, for even hostile emperors like Severus and Diocletian had sense enough to keep on good terms with the Christians when they were not prepared to crush them. But Constantine was drawn to them personally as well as politically; by his pure life and genuine humanity as well as by his shrewd statesmanship. Their lofty monotheism and austere morals attracted the man, their strong organization arrested the attention of the ruler.


When Diocletian threw down his challenge to the Church, he made religion the urgent question of the time: and the persecution was a visible failure before Constantine was well settled in Gaul. If Diocletian had failed to crush the Church, others were not likely to succeed. Maximin or Licinius might hark back to the past; but Constantine saw clearly that the Empire would have to make some sort of terms with the Church, so that the only question was how far it would be needful or safe to go. For the moment, a little friendliness to the Gaulish bishops was enough to secure the good will of the Christians all over the Empire. Then came the wars of 312-3, which forced on Constantine and Licinius the championship of the Christians, and made it plain good policy to give them full legal toleration. Licinius stopped there, and Constantine did not make up his mind without anxiety. The God of the Christians had shown great power, and might be the best protector; and in any case a firm alliance with their strong hierarchy would not only remove a great danger, but give the very help which the Empire needed. On the other hand, it was a serious thing to break with the past and brave the terrors of heathen magic. Moreover, the Christians were a minority even in the East, and he could not openly go over to them without risk of a pagan reaction. So he moved cautiously. Christianity differed forsooth very little from the better sort of heathenism. They could both be brought under the broad shield of monotheism, if the heathens would give up their idols and immoral worships, and the Christians would not insist too rudely on that awkward doctrine of the deity of Christ. On these terms the lion of Christianity might lie down with the lamb of Eclecticism, and the guileless emperor would be the little child to lead them both.


The problem of Church and State was new, for the old religion of Rome was never more than a department of the State, and the worshippers of Isis and Mithras readily “conformed to the ceremonies of the Roman people”. But when Christianity made a practical distinction between Caesar's things and God's, the relation of Church and State became a difficult question. Constantine handled it with great skill and much success. He not only made the Christians thoroughly loyal, but won the active support of the churches, and obtained such influence over the bishops that they seemed almost willing to sink into a department of the State. But he forgot one thing. The surface thought of his time, Christian as well as heathen, tended to a vague monotheism which looked on Christ and the sun as almost equally good symbols of the Supreme: and this obscured the deeper conviction of the Christians that the deity of Christ is as essential as the unity of God. After all, Christianity is not a monotheistic philosophy, but a life in Christ.


When this conviction asserted itself with overwhelming power at the Council of Nicaea, Constantine gave way with a good grace. As it had been decided at Saxa Rubra that the Empire was to fight beneath the cross of God, so now it was decided at Nicaea that the cross was to be the cross of Christ, and not the Sun-god's cross of light.


We may doubt whether Constantine took in the full meaning of the decision: but at any rate it meant that the Christians refused to be included with others in a monotheistic state religion. If the Empire was to have their full friendship, it must become definitely Christian: and this is the goal to which Constantine seems to have looked forward in his later years, though he can hardly have hoped himself to reach it. Heathenism was still strong, and he continued to use vague monotheistic language. Only in his last illness did he feel it safe to throw off the mask and avow himself a Christian. “Let there be no ambiguity”, said he, as he asked for baptism; and then he laid aside the purple, and passed away in the white robe of a Christian neophyte (22 May 337).


This would seem to be the general outline of Constantine’s religious life and policy. We can now return to the morrow of Chrysopolis, and take it more in detail. Now that he was master of the empire, he made his alliance with the Christians as close as he could without abandoning the official neutrality of his monotheism. His attitude is well shown by his coins. Mars and Genius P. R. disappear after Saxa Rubra, or at latest by 317: Sol invictus by 315, or at any rate 313. Coins of Jupiter Aug. seem to have been struck only for Licinius. Later on, the heathen inscriptions are replaced by phrases as neutral as the cross itself, like Beata tranquillitas or Providentia Augg., or Instinctu Divinitatis on his triumphal arch at Rome. His laws keep pace with the coins. In form they are mostly neutral; an increasing leaning to Christianity. Thus his edict for the observance of “the venerable day of the Sun” only raised it to the rank of the heathen feriae by closing the law-courts; and the Latin prayer he imposed on the army (the first case known of prayer in an unknown tongue) is quite indeterminate as between Christ and Jupiter. So too when before 316 he sanctioned manumissions in churches, he was only taking a hint from the manumissions in certain temples. Yet again, when in 313 (and by later law) he exempted the clergy of the Catholic Church—not those of the sects—from the decurionate and other burdens, he gave them only the privileges already enjoyed by some of the heathen priests and teachers. But the relief was great enough to cause an ungodly rush for holy Orders, and with it such a loss of taxpayers that in 320 he had to forbid the ordination of anyone qualified for the curia of his city. None but the poor (and an occasional official) could now be ordained, and those only to fill vacancies caused by death. The second limitation may not have been enforced, but the first remained. To save the revenue, the Church was debased at a stroke.


Other laws however lean more to a side, like the edict of 319 which threatens to burn the Jews if they stone “a convert to the worship of God”. No doubt such converts needed protection; and Roman law was not squeamish about burning criminals, if they were of low rank. Upon the whole, this policy of official neutrality and personal favor powerfully stimulated the growth of the churches. The time-servers were all Christians now, and Eusebius plainly denounces their “unspeakable hypocrisy”. At least in later years, Constantine himself had to rebuke bishops for flattery. The defeat of Licinius enabled him to come forward more openly as the patron of the churches. His letter to the provincials of the Empire (Eusebius naturally gives the copy which went to Palestine) begins with high praise of the confessors and strong denunciation of the persecutors, whose wickedness is shown by their miserable ends. They would have destroyed the republic, if the Divinity had not raised up me, Constantine, from the far West of Britain to destroy them. He then restores rank and property to all the victims of persecution in the islands, the mines, and the houses of forced labor, and finishes with an earnest exhortation to the worship of the one true God.


But after all, the Church was not quite what Constantine wanted it to be. He was not more attracted to it by its lofty monotheism than by the imposing unity which promised new life to the weary State. For six hundred years the world had been in quest of a universal religion. Stoicism was no more than a philosophy for the few, the worship of the emperor was debased by officialism, and by this time quite outworn, and even Mithraism had never shown such living power as Christianity. Here then was something that could realize the religious side of the Empire in a nobler form than Augustus or Hadrian had ever dreamed of—a universal Church that could stand beside the universal Empire and worthily support its labors for the peace and welfare of the world. But for this purpose unity was essential. If the Church was divided against itself, it could not help the Empire. Worse than this; it could hardly be divided against itself without being also divided against the Empire. One of the parties was likely to appeal to the emperor; and then he would have to decide between them and make an enemy of the defeated party; and if he tried to enforce his decision, they were likely to resist him as stubbornly as the whole Church had resisted the heathen emperors. This would bring back the whole difficulty of the persecutions, though possibly on a smaller scale. To put it shortly, the Christians had a conscience in matters of religion, and sometimes mistook self-will for conscience. 


Constantine had experience of Christian self-will in Africa soon after the defeat of Maxentius. When Diocletian commanded the Christians to give up their sacred books, all parties agreed in refusing to obey. Those who did obey were called traditores. But the officers did not always care what books they took: might apocryphal books be given up? So thought Mensurius of Carthage, while others counted it apostasy to give up any books at all. The controversy became acute at the death of Mensurius in 311, when Felix of Aptunga consecrated his successor Caecilian. But that right was claimed by Secundus of Tigisis, the senior bishop of Numidia, who consecrated a rival bishop of Carthage. It was some time before the Donatists (as they soon came to be called) got their position clear. They held that Felix was a traditor, that the ministrations of a traditor are null and void, and that a church which has communion with a traditor is apostate.


After the battle of Saxa Rubra Constantine sent money to Caecilian for the clergy “of the catholic church”; and as he “had heard that some evil-disposed persons were troubling them”, he directed Caecilian to refer them to the civil authorities for punishment. Thereupon they appealed to him. Constantine seems to have contemplated a small court to try the case—Miltiades of Rome, three Gaulish bishops, and apparently the archdeacon of Rome: but a small council met instead (Oct. 313) at Rome, which pronounced for Caecilian. The Donatists were furious and appealed again. This time Constantine summoned as many bishops as he could, directing each to bring so many clergy and servants with him, and giving him power to use the state post for the journey. So a large council of the Western churches met at Arles in August 314 (possibly 315). Even Britain sent bishops from London, York, and some other place. It destroyed the Donatist contention by deciding that Felix was not a traditor. It also settled some more outstanding controversies, in favor of the Roman date of Easter, and the Roman custom of not repeating heretical baptism, if it had been given in the name of the Trinity. The decisions were sent to Sylvester of Rome for circulation—not for confirmation. We can recognize in Arles the pattern of the Nicene Council. Still the Donatists were not satisfied. They asked the emperor to decide the matter himself, and he unwillingly consented. He heard them at Milan (Nov. 316) and once more decided against them. Then they turned round and said, “What business has the emperor to meddle with the Church?”


A vigorous persecution was begun, but with small success. A band of Donatist fanatics called Circumcelliones ranged the country, committing disorders and defying the authorities to make martyrs of them. Even in 317 Constantine ordered that their outrages were not to be retaliated; and when they sent him a message in 321 that they would in no way communicate with “that scoundrel, his bishop”, he stopped the persecution as useless, and frankly gave them toleration. Africa was fairly quiet for the rest of his reign.


After the defeat of Licinius, Constantine found several disputes in the Eastern churches. The old Easter question was still unsettled, the Meletian schism was dividing Egypt, and there was no knowing how far the Arian controversy would spread. Unity must be restored at once, and that by the old plan of calling a council. The churches had long been in the habit of conferring together when difficulties arose. They could refuse to recognize an unsatisfactory bishop; and cir. 269 a council ventured to depose Paul of Samosata, and Aurelian had enforced its decision. The weak point of this method was that rival councils could be got up, so that every local quarrel had an excellent chance of becoming a general controversy. Arianism in particular was setting council against council. Constantine determined to go a step beyond these local meetings. As he had summoned the Western bishops to Arles, so now he summoned all the bishops of Christendom. If he could bring them to a decision, it was not likely to be disputed; and in any case he could safely give it the force of law. An ecumenical council would be a grand demonstration, not only of the unity of the Church, but of its close alliance with the Empire. So he issued invitations to all Christian bishops to meet him at Nicaea in Bithynia in the summer of 325, to make a final end of all the disputes which rent the unity of Christendom. The programme was even wider than at Arles; but the Donatists were not included in it. Constantine could let sleeping dogs lie. We note here the choice of Nicaea for its auspicious name—the city of victory—and convenience of access; and we see in it one of many signs that the true centre of the Empire was settling down somewhere near the Bosphorus.


We need not closely analyze the imposing list of bishops present from almost every province of the Empire, with a few from beyond its frontiers in the Far East and North. Legend made them 318, the holy number of the cross of Jesus. We have lists in sundry languages, none of them giving more than 221 names; but these are known to be incomplete. The actual number may have been near 300. All the thirteen great dioceses of the Empire were represented except Britain and Illyricum, though only single bishops came from Africa, Spain, Gaul and Dacia. Only one came in person from Italy, though two presbyters appeared for the bishop of Rome. So the vast majority came from the Eastern provinces of the Empire. The outsiders were four or five—Theophilus bishop of the Goths beyond the Danube, Cathirius (the name is corrupt) of the Crimean Bosphorus, John the Persian, and Restates the Armenian, the son of Gregory the Illuminator, with perhaps another Armenian bishop. Eusebius is full of enthusiasm over his majestic roll of churches far and near, from the extremity of Europe to the furthest ends of Asia. It was a day of victory for both the Empire and the Church. The Empire had not only made peace with the stubbornness of its enemies, but been accepted as its protector and guide. The Church had won the greatest of all its victories when Galerius issued his edict of toleration: but its mission to the whole world has never been so vividly embodied as by that august assembly. We miss half the meaning of the Council if we overlook the tremulous hope and joy of those first years of worldwide victory. Athanasius shows it even more than Eusebius. One thing at least was clear. The new world faced the old, and the spell of the Holy Roman Empire had already begun to work.


Constantine took up at once the position of a moderator. He began by burning unread the budget of complaints against each other which the bishops had presented to him. He then preached them a sermon on unity; and unity was his text all through. He was much more anxious to make the decisions unanimous than to influence them one way or another. His one object was to make an end of division in the churches. So whatever pleased the bishops pleased the emperor too. Easter was fixed according to the custom of Rome and Alexandria for the Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. It is the rule we have now, and though it did not produce complete unity till the lunar cycle was quite settled, it secured that Easter should come after the Passover, “for” said Constantine, “how can we who are Christians keep the same day as those ungodly Jews?” The Meletian schism was peacefully settled—to the disgust of Athanasius in later years —by giving the Meletian clergy a status next to the orthodox, with a right of succession if found worthy. So far well: but the condemnation of Arianism may have been something of a trial to Constantine, who could not quite see why they thought it worthwhile to be so hot on such a trifling question as the deity of Christ. However that may be, Arianism was politically impossible. He must have known already from Hosius that the West would not accept it, and the first act of the Council meant its almost unanimous rejection by the East. As soon as there was no doubt what the decision would be, he did his best to make it quite unanimous. All the arts of imperial persuasion were tried on the waverers, till in the end only two stubborn recusants remained to be sent into exile.


To some wider aspects of the Council we shall return hereafter. For the moment it may be enough to say that Constantine had won a great success. He had not only got his questions settled, but had himself taken a conspicuous part in settling them. More than this. He had established formal relations, no longer with bishops or groups of bishops, but with a great confederacy of churches. The churches had long been tending to organize themselves on the lines of the Empire, as we see in Cyprian’s theories; and now Constantine made the Church an alter ego of the State, and gave it a concrete unity of the political sort which it never had before. Henceforth the holy Catholic Church of the creeds was more and more limited to the confederation of churches recognized by the State, so that it only remained to compel all men to come into these, and prevent the formation of any other religious communities. In this way the Church became much more useful to the State, and also perhaps fitter to resist the shock of the barbarian conquests which followed; but surely something was lost in freedom and spirituality, and therefore also in practical morality.


We pass from the Council of Nicaea to a family tragedy. So far Constantine may pass as fairly merciful to the plotters of his own house. Maximian, Bassianus and Licinius had all tried to assassinate him; and if he put to death Bassianus, he had spared Maximian till he plotted again, and so far he had spared Licinius also. But now in a few months from Oct. 325 he puts to death not only Licinius but his own son Crispus and the younger Licinius, then his own wife Fausta, and then a number of his friends. The facts are certain, but their exact meaning is obscure. It must however be noticed that the dynastic policy of Diocletian had given a new political importance to members of an imperial family. The widows of the third century emperors fall into obscurity; but the widow of Galerius is first sought in marriage by Maximin Daza, then executed by Licinius, who also put to death the children of Severus, Daza and Galerius. Now Constantine married twice; and there may well have been a bitter division in his family. Minervina was the mother of Crispus, whom we have seen greatly distinguishing himself in the war with Licinius: and there seems no serious doubt that the three younger sons were children of Fausta, though the eldest of them was not born till 315-6, eight years after her marriage. So we come to the questions we cannot answer. Was Constantine jealous of his eldest son, or anxious to get him out of the way of the others? Or was Crispus a plotter justly put to death? And how came Fausta to share his fate a little later? They are not likely to have been accomplices in a plot or connected by a guilty passion, though the story of Zosimus is not impossible, that she accused him falsely, and was herself put to death for it when Helena convicted her. We have not material enough for any decided opinion. The worst point, it may be, against Constantine is that he did not spare the young Licinius. If he was the son of Constantia, he cannot have been more than twelve years old. But the allusions to him suggest that he was something more than a boy, and we know that Constantia was on the best of terms with her brother when she died a couple of years later. If Constantine suspected the elder Licinius, the new sultanism would involve the younger in his fate; and if Crispus had married Helena his daughter, suspicion might attach to him too. Fausta’s fate is the mystery. Or was Constantine more or less out of his mind that winter, as despots occasionally are? One or two of his laws may point that way, and the possibility may help to explain a good deal.


Constantine kept his Vicennalia at Rome in the summer of 316. It was an unhappy visit, even if the domestic tragedy had already taken place. Rome was the focus of heathenism, and of Roman pride. She expected to see her sovereigns at the ceremonies, and to treat them with something of republican familiarity. Constantine scandalized her with his Eastern pomp, and gave deep offence to the senate and people by refusing to join the immemorial procession of the knights of Rome to the Capitol. When he left the city in September, he left it forever.


Rome indeed had long ceased to be a good capital. It was too far from the frontier for military purposes, too full of republican survivals for such sultans as the emperors had now become, too heathen for Christian Caesars. So Maximian held his court at Milan, while Diocletian gradually shifted his chief resort eastward from Sirmium to Nicomedia. There were many signs now that the seat of empire ought it to be somewhere near the Bosphorus. The chief dangers had always come from the Danube and the Euphrates; and about the Bosphorus was the only point which commanded both. If these were watched by the emperor himself, the Rhine might be left in charge of a Caesar. This was much the best course for the present; but in the long run the problem was insoluble. The Rhine and the Danube might be guarded, or the Danube and the Euphrates; but now that Rome had failed to make a solid nation of her empire, she could not permanently guard all three together. Sooner or later it must come to a choice between the Rhine and the Euphrates, between Italy and Greece, between Europe and Asia. Constantine is not likely to have seen clearly all this; but he did see that he commanded more important countries from the Bosphorus than he could from Rome or Milan. These might control the Latin West and the upper Danube; but at the Bosphorus he had at his feet the Greek world from Taurus to the Balkans, flanked northward by the warlike peoples of Illyricum, and eastward by the great barbarian fringe of Egypt, Syria and Armenia, reaching from the Caucasus to the cataracts of the Nile. Nobody could yet foresee that by the seventh century nothing but the Greek world would be left. But where precisely was the new capital to be placed? Nicomedia would have been Diocletian's city, not Constantine's, and in any case it lay at the far end of a gulf, some fifty miles from the main line of traffic. Constantine may at one time have dreamed of his own birthplace Naissus, or of Sardica, and at another he began buildings on the site of Troy, before he fixed upon the matchless position of Byzantium.


Europe and Asia are separated by the broad expanses of the Euxine and Aegean seas, together stretching nearly a thousand miles from the Crimea to the mountains of Crete, and in ancient times almost fringed round with Greek cities. It is not all a land of the vine and the olive, even in Aegean waters, for the Russian wind sweeps over the whole region except in sheltered parts, as where Trebizond is protected by the Caucasus, Philippi by the Rhodope, or Sparta by Taygetus, or where Ionia hides behind the Mysian Olympus and the Trojan Ida. For all its heat in summer, Constantinople is quite as cold in winter as London, and the western ports of the Black Sea are more cumbered with ice than the north of Norway. But the Aegean and the Euxine are not a single broad sheet of water. In the narrows between them the coasts of Europe and Asia draw so close together that we can sail for more than two hundred miles in full view of both continents. Leaving the warm South behind at Lesbos (Mitylene) we pass from the Aegean to the Propontis (Marmora) by the Hellespont (Dardanelles) a channel of some fifty miles in length to Gallipoli, and two or three miles broad. Then a voyage of a hundred and forty miles through the more open waters of the Propontis brings us to the Bosphorus, which averages only three-quarters of a mile wide, and has a winding course of sixteen miles from Byzantium to the Cyanean rocks at the entrance of the Euxine. It follows that a city on the Propontis is protected north and south by the narrow passages of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, and that all traffic between the Aegean and the Euxine must pass its walls. Moreover, the Bosphorus lay more conveniently than the Dardanelles for the passage from Europe to Asia. Thus two of the chief trade-routes of the Roman world crossed each other at Byzantium.


The Megarians may have had some idea of these things when they colonized Chalcedon (674 BC) just outside the south end of the Bosphorus, on the Asiatic side of the Propontis. But the site of Chalcedon has no special advantages, so that its founders became a proverb of blindness for overlooking the superb position of Byzantium across the water, which was not occupied till 657 BC. At the south end of the Bosphorus, but on the European side, a blunt triangle is formed by the Propontis and the Golden Horn, a deep inlet of the Bosphorus running seven miles to the north-west. On the rising ground between them was built the city of Byzantium. Small as its extent was in Greek times, it played a great part in history. Its command of the corn trade of the Euxine made it t one of the most important strategic positions in the Greek world, so that its capture by Alexander (it had repulsed Philip) was one of the chief steps of his advance to empire. It formed an early alliance with the Romans, who freed it from its perpetual trouble with the barbarians of Thrace, whom neither peace nor war could keep quiet. Vespasian (73 AD) took away its privileges and threw it into the province of Thrace. In the civil wars of Septimius Severus it took the side of Pescennius Niger, and held out for two years after Niger’s overthrow at Issus in 194. Severus destroyed its walls, and made it a subject-village of Perinthus. Caracalla made it a city again, but it was sacked afresh by Gallienus. Meanwhile the Gothic Vikings came sailing past its ruined walls to spread terror all over the Aegean and to the shores of Italy. Under the Illyrian emperors it was fortified again. Even then it was taken first by Maximin Daza and then by Constantine in the first Licinian war, so that its full significance only came out in the second. Licinius was a good general, and pivoted the whole war upon it after his defeat at Adrianople. He might have held his ground indefinitely, if the destruction of his fleet in the Hellespont had not driven him from Byzantium.  


The lesson was not lost on Constantine. He began the work some time after his visit to Rome, and pushed it forward with impatience. He traced his walls to form a base two and a half miles from the apex of the triangle. Byzantium stood on a single hill, but he took in five, and his successors counted seven, according to the number of the hills of Rome. The market-place was on the second hill, where his camp had been during the siege. He erected great buildings, and gathered works of art from all parts to adorn it. The temples of Byzantium remained, though they were overshadowed by the great cathedral of the Twelve Apostles. Some heathen ceremonies also were used, for Constantinople was the last and greatest colony of Rome, and for centuries retained the flavor of a Latin city. He gave it a senate also, and brought over many of the senators of Rome to be senators of the New Rome—for such was its official title, though it has always been known as the City of Constantine. The Northmen called it simply Miklagard, the Great City. It never had much in the way of amphitheatre or beast-fights: amusement more Christian and humane was provided by a circus and horse-races. Its corn largesses were like those of Rome, and the corn of Egypt was diverted to its use, leaving that of Sicily and Africa for Rome. The New Rome stood next to the Old in rank and dignity, being separated from the province of Europa, and governed by proconsuls till it received a Praefectus Urbi like Rome in 359. The bishop also soon shook off his dependence on Perinthus, and was recognized as standing next to the bishop of Rome, “because Constantinople is New Rome”, by the Council of 381. This ousted Alexandria from the second place, and the jealousy thereupon arising had important ecclesiastical consequences. The work was complete, so far as the hasty building would allow, by the spring of 330: and 11 May of that year is the official date for the foundation of Constantinople.


It would be hard to overestimate the strength given to the Empire by the new capital. So long as the Romans held the sea, the city was impregnable. If it was attacked on one side, it could draw supplies from the other; and when it was attacked on both sides in 628, Persians and Avars could not join hands across the Bosphorus. Even when the command of the sea was lost, it still remained a fortress of uncommon strength. So stood Constantinople for more than a thousand years. Goths and Avars, Persians and Saracens, Bulgarians and Russians, dashed in vain upon its walls, and even the Turks failed more than once. It was often enough taken in civil war by help from within; but no foreign enemy ever stormed its walls till the Fourth Crusade (1204 AD). The Arian controversy first made it clear that the heart of the Empire was in the Greek world, or more precisely in Asiatic Greece between the Taurus and the Bosphorus; and of the Greek world Constantinople was the natural capital. It did not however at once become the regular residence of the emperors. Constantine himself died in a suburb of Nicomedia, Constantius led a wandering life, Jovian never reached the city, and Valens in his later years avoided it. Theodosius was the first emperor who made it his usual residence. But the commercial supremacy of Constantinople was assured from the outset. The centre of gravity of Asia Minor had shifted northward since the first century, and the Bosphorus gave an easier passage to Europe than the Aegean. So the roads which had converged on Ephesus now converged on Constantinople. It dominated the Greek world; and the Greek world was the solid part of the Empire which resisted all attacks for ages. The loss was more apparent than real when first the Slavic lands were torn away, then Syria and Egypt, and lastly Sicily and Italy. The Empire was never struck in a vital part till the Seljuks rooted out Greek civilization from the highland of Asia Minor in the eleventh century. Even after that it was still a conquering power under the Comnenians and the house of Lascaris; and its fate was never hopeless till its last firm ground in Asia was destroyed by the corrupt and selfish policy of Michael Palaeologus.


We know little of Constantine’s declining years, except that they were generally years of peace. The civil wars were ended at Chrysopolis: now there was not even a pretender, unless we count as such Calocerus the camel-driver in Cyprus, who was put down without much difficulty, and duly burned in the market-place of Tarsus (335). If the Rhine was not entirely quiet, the troubles there were not serious. The Jews, to be sure, were never loyal, and the Christian Empire had already shown marked hostility to them. A rising mentioned only by Chrysostom is most likely a legend: but there may have been already some signs of the great outbreak put down by Ursicinus in 352. However, upon the whole there was peace. The old emperor never again took the field in person. His last war was with the Goths; and that was conducted by the younger Constantine.


On a broad view, the legions of the Danube faced the Germans in its upper course and the Goths lower down, with the Sarmatians between them; and each of these names stands for sundry tribes and groups of tribes, whose mutual enmities were diligently fostered by the policy of Rome. In 331 the Sarmatians and the Vandals had somehow got mixed up together, and suffered a great defeat from the Goths. They asked Constantine for help, and he was very willing to check the growth of the Gothic power. Araric the Gothic king replied by carrying the war into the Roman province of Moesia, from which he was driven out with heavy loss. The younger Constantine gained a great victory over him, 20 April 332; and when peace was made, the Goths returned to their old position as servants and allies of Rome. But when the Sarmatians themselves made inroads on Roman territory, Constantine left them to their fate. They were soon in difficulties with Geberic the new Gothic king, and with their own slaves the Limigantes, who drove them out of their country. Some fled to the Quadi, some found refuge among the Gothic tribes, but 300,000 of them sought shelter in the Empire, and were given lands by Constantine, chiefly in Pannonia.


The most interesting circumstance of the Gothic war is the help Constantine received from Cherson, the last of the Greek republics. It stood where Sebastopol now stands. The story is told only by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (911-959), but the learned emperor was an excellent antiquarian, and used original authorities. Cherson and the Goths were old enemies, Rome and Cherson old allies. The republic decided for war, and its first magistrate Diogenes struck a decisive blow by attacking the rear of the Goths. Cherson received a rich reward from Constantine, and remained in generally friendly relations to the Empire till its annexation in 829, and even till its capture by the Russians in 988.


The settlement of the Danube was the last of Constantine’s great services to the Empire. The Edict of Milan had removed the standing danger of Christian disaffection in the East, the defeat of Licinius had put an end to the civil wars, the reform of the administration completed Diocletian's work of reducing the army to permanent obedience, the Council of Nicaea had secured the active alliance of the Christian churches, the foundation of Constantinople made the seat of power safe for centuries; and now the consolidation of the northern frontier seemed to enlist all the most dangerous enemies of Rome in her defense. The Empire gained three hundred thousand settlers for the wastes of the Gothic march, and a firm peace of more than thirty years with the greatest of the northern nations. Henceforth the Rhine was guarded by the Franks, the Danube covered by the Goths, and the Euphrates flanked by the Christian kingdom of Armenia. The Empire was already dangerously dependent on barbarian help inside and outside its frontiers; but the Roman peace never seemed more secure than when the skilful policy of Constantine had formed its chief barbarian enemies into a covering ring of friendly client states.


At all events, the years of peace were not a time of healthful recovery. The Empire had not gained strength in the long peace of the Antonines; and it had gone a long way downhill since the second century. When Diocletian came to the throne in 284, he found three great problems before him. The first was military—how to stop the continual mutinies which cut off the emperors before they could do their work. This he solved, though at the cost of leaving behind him a period of civil war. The second was religious—how to deal with the Christians. Diocletian went wrong on this, and left his mistake to be repaired by Constantine. The third and hardest was mainly economic—to restore the dwindled agriculture, commerce, and population of the Empire. On this Diocletian and Constantine went wrong together. They not only failed to cure the evil, but greatly increased it. Not much was gained by remitting taxes that could not be paid, and settling barbarian colonists and barbarian serfs in the wasted provinces. Serious economic difficulties have moral causes, and there was no radical cure short of a complete change in the temper of society. Yet much might have been done by a permanent reduction of taxation and a reform of its incidence and of the methods of collection. Instead of this, the machinery of government (and its expense) was greatly increased. The army had to be held in check by courts of Oriental splendor and a vast establishment of corrupt officials. We can see the growth of officialism even in the language, if we compare the Latin words in Athanasius with those in the New Testament. So heavier taxes had to be levied from a smaller and poorer population. Taxation under the Empire had never been light; in the third century it grew heavy, under Diocletian it was crushing, and in the later years of Constantine the burden was further increased by the enormous expenditure which built up the new capital like the city in a fairy tale. We are within sight of the time when the whole policy of the government was dictated by dire financial need. We have already reached a state of things like that we see in Russia. The strongest of the emperors had never been able to put down brigandage; and now disorder was rampant in the mountains, and often elsewhere. The greats army of officials was all-powerful for oppression, and very little controlled by the emperor. He might displace an official at a moment's notice, or “deliver him to the avenging flames”; but he could enforce no reform against the passive resistance of the officials and the land­owners. So things drifted on from bad to worse.


Nor can we doubt that Constantine himself grew slacker in the years of peace. Nature had richly gifted him with sound health, strong limbs, and a stately presence. His energy was untiring, his observation keen, his decision quick. He was a splendid soldier, and the best general since Aurelian. If he had no learned education, he was not without interest in literature, and in practical statesmanship he may fairly rank with Diocletian. His general humanity stands out clear in his laws, for no emperor ever did more for the slave, the foundling, and the oppressed. If he began by giving the Frankish kings to the beasts, he went on (325) to forbid the games of the amphitheatre. In private life he was chaste and sober, moderate and pleasant. Yet he was given to raillery, and his nearest friends could not entirely trust him. His ambition was great, and he was very susceptible to flattery. So freely was it ministered to him that he sometimes had to check it himself: but in his later years he was more or less influenced by unworthy favorites, as Ablabius and Sopater seem to have been. No doubt his Christianity is of itself an offence to Zosimus and Julian, so that we may discount their charges of sloth and luxury: but upon the whole, the judgment of Eutropius would seem impartial, that Constantine was a match for the best emperors in the early part of his reign, and at its end no more than average.


As Constantine had won the Empire, so now he had to dispose of it. Constantine, Constantius, and Constans, his three sons by Fausta, were born in 316, 317, 320, and received the title of Caesar in 317, 323, 333. In 335 their inheritance was marked out. Constantine was to have the Gaulish prefecture, Constantius the Eastern, Constans the Italian and Illyrian. This is the partition actually made after the emperor's death; but for the present it was complicated by some obscure transactions. Constantine had made honorable provision for his half-brothers Delmatius and Julius Constantius, the sons of Theodora, and they never gave him political trouble. Of their sisters, he married Constantia to Licinius, Anastasia to Bassianus and Nepotianus, of whom the second certainly was a great Roman noble, so that they too suffered no disparagement. Basilina also, the wife of Julius Constantius and mother of the emperor Julian, belonged to the great Anician family. Now Delmatius left two sons, Delmatius and Hanniballianus. Of these Delmatius must have been a man of mark, for he held the high office of magister militum, and was made Caesar in 335, while Hanniballianus was the husband of Constantine’s daughter Constantina. But they had no proper claim to any share in the succession, and we do not know why they were given it. There may have been parties in the palace; and if so, Ablabius is likely to have had a share in the matter, for he was put to death along with them in the massacre which followed Constantine's death. Certain it is that shares were carved out for them from the inheritance of their cousins. Delmatius was to have the Gothic march, while Hanniballianus received Pontus, with the astonishing title of rex regum—for no Roman since the Tarquins had ever borne the name of king.


The strange title may point to some design upon Armenia, for the whole Eastern Question of the day was raised when Persia threatened war. Four emperors in the third century had met with disaster on the Persian frontier, but there had been forty years of peace since the victory of Galerius in 297. The Empire gained Mesopotamia to the Aboras, and the five provinces which covered the southern slopes of the Armenian mountains; and in Armenia itself, Roman supremacy was fully recognized by its great king Tiridates (287-314). If his adoption of Christianity led to a short war with Maximin Daza, it only drew Armenia closer to Constantine. But if the royal house was Christian and leaned on Rome, there was a large heathen party which looked to Persia: and Persia was an aggressive power under Sapor II (309-380). A vigorous persecution of Christians was carried on, and war with Rome was only a question of time. Sapor demanded back the five provinces and attacked Mesopotamia, while a revolution in the palace threw Armenia into his hands.


How much of this was done during Constantine's lifetime is more than we can say: but at all events a Persian war was plain in sight by the spring of 337; and a war with Persia was too serious a matter to be left to Caesars like a Frankish foray or a Gothic inroad, so the old emperor prepared to take the field in person. He never set out. Constantine fell sick soon after Easter, and when the sickness grew upon him, he took up his abode at Ancyrona, a suburb of Nicomedia. As his end drew near, he received the imposition of hands, for up to that time he had not been even a catechumen. He then applied for baptism, explaining that he had hoped some day to receive it in the waters of the Jordan like the Lord himself. After the ceremony he laid aside the purple, and passed away in stainless white (22 May 337). As all his sons were absent, the government was carried on for three months in the dead emperor's name, till they had made their arrangements, and the soldiers had slaughtered almost the entire house of Theodora. Constantine was buried on the spot he had himself marked out in the cathedral of the Twelve Apostles in his own imperial city. The Greek Church still calls him isapostolos - an equal of the Apostles.