Centre for Continuing Education

Constantine the Great Course: Unconquered Emperor

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

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We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Roman Emperor from AD 306-337, Constantine the Great was one of the most influential figures in human history. His father Flavius Constantius was ‘Augustus’, senior western Emperor in Diocletian’s Tetrarchy. Constantine was proclaimed Emperor in Britain when his father died in 306 and he later emerged victorious in a series of civil wars with the Emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole emperor in 324.

Whilst Emperor, Constantine enacted many civil reforms and was the first Emperor to promote Christianity over traditional Roman religion. He also established a new imperial capital at Byzantium (re-named Constantinople in his honour) and is rightly seen as the founder of the Byzantine Empire. His legacy was a dynastic system that would rule the Empire for almost a century and the rise of Christianity in Europe.


This course aims to provide you with an understanding of Constantine and his court, the foundations of Byzantium, and the impact that his political use of Christianity had on European society.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • assess the political and social factors in the rise to power of Constantine.
  • describe the character of Constantine as indicated by contemporary textual sources.
  • evaluate scholarly perspectives as to what extent Constantine was a practicing Christian.
  • compare and discuss how Constantine used religion as a political tool.


Early life

Constantine was born in what is now Serbia in AD 272. He was the son of Flavius Constantius who would later become one of the tetrarchs in Diocletian’s new division of the Empire. Constantine lived at the court in Nicomedia and demonstrated his military abilities. In 305, Constantine joined his father in York to campaign against the Picts.

Early rule

The death of his father Constantius in AD 306 saw Constantine proclaimed Augustus, and he moved to the imperial capital at Trier which he greatly developed. He halted the official persecution of Christians and secured his position by marrying the daughter of Emperor Maximian. During this time, Constantine increasingly used a connection with the gods Apollo and Sol Invictus.

Civil wars

The death of Emperor’s Maximian and Galerius changed the power dynamics of the Empire and lead to civil war. Conflict between Constantine and Maxentius (son of Maximian) became inevitable. Constantine crossed the Alps and defeated his opponent at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Constantine supposedly received a vision of the Chi Rho emblem of Christianity that would see him promote this religion. Constantine entered Rome in 312 and the following year issued the Edict of Milan which officially granted tolerance of Christianity. Constantine later defeated the Emperor Licinius in 324 and became sole Emperor.

Later rule

Constantine called the council of Nicea in 325 which established an orthodox view of Christianity. The choice of Byzantium in 330 as a new capital for the Roman Empire sees the beginning of a new Christian Byzantine Empire. Pagan temples were largely replaced by churches including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Constantine maintained devotion to the traditional religion of Rome but Christianity would become a major force.


The Emperor Constantine died in 337. His family would rule the empire until 383 and leave a lasting legacy. Constantine had re-united the Empire and secured the state through major victories over invading barbarians including the Franks, Alamanni, Goth and Sarmatians. He was then considered the founder of the Byzantine Empire and his support for Christianity would ensure its future domination in Europe.

Delivery style

This course is delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussion are encouraged.

Recommended reading

Stephenson, P. 2011, Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor, Quercus, London, UK.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • I found the course particularly informative. The lecture was well illustrated with relevant and interesting photographs and extracts from primary sources. The reading list has provided me with a great starting place to better understand this period of history of which I knew little before this lecture.
  • An experienced and well-prepared presenter whose subjects are always engaging. Getting together with kindred spirits during the breaks adds to the pleasure of the day.
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