Roman emperor Constantine I, the Great, 307 - 337 AD, is best known for being the first Christian Roman emperor. According to the Christian historian Eusebius, the turning point for Christianity’s rise in Rome is attributed to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on Oct 28, 312 AD. Before the battle, Constantine beheld a flaming cross in the sky and the words, In Hoc Signo Vinces! (In This Sign Ye Shall Conquer). Seeing this as a divine signal, it is said that Constantine had his soldiers paint the symbol of the Christogram on their shields. The battle ended with the defeat of the much larger army of his rival, Maxentius. The following year Constantine issued the historic Edict of Milan (313 AD) that proclaimed religious toleration throughout the empire; it legalized Christianity, ended persecution, returned confiscated Church property, and establishes Sunday as a day of worship. Constantine constructed the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire at Constantinople in 330 AD. Later, that city would emerge as the seat of power for the 1,000 year reign of the succeeding Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine liturgical calendar, observed by the modern Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite, lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as saints.
This posthumous coin issue by Constantine’s sons shows a bust of their late father wearing a customary burial shroud. The coin’s obverse shows how paganism was still popular at this time. The often partially visible Latin inscription around the obverse perimeter reads: DV CONSTANTINVS PT AVGG (Divus Constantinus Pater Augustorum: Divine Constantine Father of the Augusti). Having been deified by the Senate upon his death in 337 AD, Constantine would be the last emperor to bear the pagan title divus. Eusebius records, "A coin … (had) on one side a figure of our blessed prince, with head closely veiled; the reverse showed him sitting as a charioteer drawn by four horses, with a hand stretched downward from above to receive him up to heaven". Constantine's metamorphosis from pagan to Christian is represented on the reverse. Previous emperors rode up to heaven in a chariot. However, Constantine was the first to be received by Manus Dei, the "hand of God". This coin variety is the first coin to ever depict the Christian God.
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