<p>This sculpture of Roman Emperor Constantine was created by the Baroque artist Bernini. The ruler is depicted here as awed by the vision of a cross presaging victory of an important battle in 312 A.D.</p>

This sculpture of Roman Emperor Constantine was created by the Baroque artist Bernini. The ruler is depicted here as awed by the vision of a cross presaging victory of an important battle in 312 A.D.

Photograph by JAMES L. STANFIELD, Nat Geo Image Collection

Who was Constantine?

Constantine made Christianity the main religion of Rome, and created Constantinople, which became the most powerful city in the world.

Emperor Constantine (ca A.D. 280– 337) reigned over a major transition in the Roman Empire—and much more. His acceptance of Christianity and his establishment of an eastern capital city, which would later bear his name, mark his rule as a significant pivot point between ancient history and the Middle Ages.

The Roman Empire that Constantine was born into was one of chaos and anarchy. Civil wars, invasions, and disease were rending the empire so badly that the era is regarded as the Crisis of the Third Century. Emperor Diocletian tried to bring order by distributing power to a four-ruler tetrarchy that would govern the four quarters of the empire. Constantine’s father, Constantius I, was one of the rulers.

Diocletian’s plan

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