After the Great Persecution, what did the future hold for Christians in the Roman Empire? At this point, the story of Christianity collides with the story of a man named Constantine.
After the death of Galerius, men continued to be jockeying for position and power in the Roman Empire. One of the men positioning himself for a claim to the throne was Constantine, son of former Caesar, Constantius Chlorus. Constantine built up his resources and waited for his opportune time to attack his rival, Maxentius. In the year AD 312, Constantine made his move outside of Rome. The event came to be known as the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
Before the battle with Maxentius, Constantine purportedly had a vision. In this vision, according to church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, “he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and an inscription, CONQUER BY THIS attached to it . . . Then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the heavens and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.” It was this vision of the cross that reportedly led Constantine to attack Maxentius. On the shields of his soldiers, a symbol was placed of two Greek letters overlapping. It is believed that this was perhaps a Christian symbol since the two letters were the Chi and the Rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name. On October 28, 312, during the battle, Maxentius drowned in the river below the Milvian Bridge. Constantine was victorious. Importantly, Constantine attributed this victory to Christ. Constantine now controlled the western region of the empire while Licinius and Maximinus Daia controlled regions in the eastern part of the empire.