The Edict of Milan

In February 313 C.E., Constantine went to Milan for the wedding of his half-sister Constantia and Licinius. There, Constantine and Licinius agreed to proclaim that the toleration of Christianity be extended into Licinius' territory. The so-called Edict of Milan (see Primary Document 3.6) was really a letter from Licinius to a local governor stating that Christians and all others were free to worship as they desired, so that whatever divinity was in heaven might be appeased and be propitious toward the empire's rulers and her citizens. The previous edicts ordering the persecution of Christians were nullified, all places of Christian worship were now to be restored, and all confiscated property was to be returned. It is important to notice that the edict neither sanctioned Christianity exclusively nor suppressed other non-Christian cults. It seemed clear that Constantine had embraced the widespread well-established monotheism of pagan religious tradition, but whether, or to what degree, Jesus was distinct from Sol is less clear. Sol maintained a prominent place as Con-stantine's patron divinity on coins through 325 C.E. And on the arch erected in 315 C.E. to commemorate his victory over Maxentius, Con-stantine acknowledged his debt to the "inspiration of divinity" (instinctu divinitatis), but Jesus was not named as that divinity (see Primary Document 3.7). In fact, the only depiction of divinities on the arch are in two medallions, one facing west and one facing east: facing west, Luna, "Moon," rides into the sea on her two-horse chariot; and facing east, Sol, in a four-horse chariot, rises from the sea, just above the scene of Constan-tine's adventus into Rome after the Battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 C.E. As the empire moved toward a universal monarchy under the Christian God, the identity of that God, at least initially, was less important that the fact that Constantine was his divine representative on earth.

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