Constantine’s conversion made him more tolerant of Christianity in Rome, allowing the Church to spread to other parts of his empire and to preach in public society. Constantine is praised as the emperor who made Christianity no longer anti-Roman. Had Constantine not converted and reformed Rome, the Church would have never been able to gain as much of a foothold in Rome and the West. His conversion ended the widespread persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and greatly increased Christian power and influence in Rome. Additionally, his conversion contributed Roman law to the Catholic Heritage of the West, forming a basis of Western thought on law and justice. The time frame significant to Constantine and the Church stretches back to
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In the years leading up to Constantine, there was still persecution in the Roman that stemmed from the rule of Nero. In AD 64, a large fire spread through Rome and nearly destroyed it, crippling its economy and forcing many citizens to flee. Nero, who is often accused of “fiddling while Rome burned,” irresponsibly stood by as much of Rome was consumed. Now in a difficult position, he blamed Christian arsonists. This led to a large, state-sanctioned killing of Christians that continued, on-and-off depending on various historical events and periods of peace, to AD 313, when Constantine ended it with the Edict of Milan. One of the supporters of this persecution was Emperor Diocletian. Beginning in AD 303, Diocletian’s persecution of Christians was the worst and final persecution in the Roman Empire. Diocletian dictated that the Church at Nicomedia be demolished and the scriptures burned. Christian men, women, and children were gathered together and told to offer a collective sacrifice to pagan gods. If they refused, they were executed. Also, Rome ruled that any Christian killed while attacking a pagan statue would be kept off the list of martyrs.
At this time, Diocletian had split into East and West halves (ca. AD 285-293), appointing a ruler (Augustus) and co-ruler (Caesar), for ease of ruling the vast empire. The Eastern portion was ruled by