Of Gods and Caesars: The Secular and the Sacred

An analysis of effects of Constantine’s edict to Christianize the Roman Empire.

This paper examines how the Roman Empire, while maintaining a measure of personal freedom for many of its subjects, did not allow religious freedom to prosper under its rule. It looks at how Rome mingled the identity of the Caesar with that of its pantheon of gods and how, in order to be an accepted Roman citizen, a person had to be willing to bow down to the Emperor. It explores the spread of Christianity within the Roman Empire and attempts to understand the events that led up to Diocletian?s edict and Constantine?s Edict of Milan, which reversed Diocletian?s policy. It does this through an analysis of the political setting of Rome and the slow erosion of Roman authority.
Due to the size of the empire, Diocletian created a division of power and responsibilities for administrative purposes. He divided the empire into two spheres, eastern and western. The division was enforced sporadically and became permanent with Arcadius and Honorius in 395 AD. Diocletian devised a system of co-emperors, which included two co-ruling senior emperors, one in the east, and the other in the west who each chose an assistant who would be mentored as his successor. This system was called the tetrarchy. The senior rulers were titled Augustus while their sub-rulers were entitled Caesars. Imperial edicts could be issued in the names of all four of the emperors and Caesars, or in any of their names.