Religion and believers #14 Church and state

Constantine wanted unity in his realm, and his call in 325 C.E. for a council of his bishops at Nicaea, located in the Eastern, Greek-speaking domain of his empire, across the Bosporus from the new city of Constantinople was in a certain way his goal to achieve some agreement by which many could live.

Constantine did not make Christianity the religion of the empire, but he granted important concessions to the church and its overseers or bishops.
His foundation of Constantinople (conceived to be the new Rome) as a Christian city untainted by pagan religion profoundly affected the future political and ecclesiastical structure of the empire and the church, whilst his conversion encouraged other Roman citizens also to join Christian communities.

It is said that anywhere from 250 to 318 bishops attended, only a minority of the total number, and most of those attending were from the Greek-speaking region.

Lots of real followers of Christ were not interested into going to the pagant his conference and kept to their ecclesiae, where they kept worshipping the only One True God. The apostles who had warned against the dangers of false preachers had crossed wide regions and several of their affiliates got based in Athens, Antioch, Ethiopia, Constantine, Armenia, Milan, and other locations around Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor. Particularly influential Churches were established in Corinth (by Paul), Alexandria (by Mark), and Rome (by Peter).
Those ecclesiae or churches had people taking care of them and as overseers managed the daily concerns. In Ancient Greek those overseers also got called bishops and as such the apostles were considered the first bishops, who passed on the responsibility of overseeing Churches to others. But those real followers of Christ had no intention to place themselves higher than somebody else in the ecclesia.

On the other hand, there were those false teachers who were eager to gain more power and therefore wished to place themselves higher than the other church members. Thus, they created a hierarchy in their midst. Their high positions did not mean they all agreed with those other bishops and people who called themselves pope.
However, they felt strengthened by the call to oppose those faithful to the apostles who renounced the world and therefore did not wish to give in or yield to human traditions whereby more followers could be gained in the community.

File:Sylvester I and Constantine.jpg
Pope Sylvester I and Constantine in a 1247 fresco – San Silvestro Chapel at Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome


Even Pope Sylvester I who was pope from 314 to 335 and whose long pontificate saw the beginnings of the Christian Roman Empire, was not present at the requested meeting to come to an agreement about the future of Christendom.

The Roman emperor Constantine the Great had allegedly given him the Donatio Constantini (Donation of Constantine), a grant of spiritual supremacy over the Eastern patriarchates and over all matters of faith and worship as well as temporal dominion over Rome and the entire Western world. The Donation is now universally admitted to be an 8th-century forgery, but it was important in the development of the medieval theory of church and state.

Golden coin depicting bearded man with diadem, facing right. The text around the edges reads FL CL IVLIANVS P F AVG, clockwise.
Golden coin of Julian from Sirmium. Legend: Fl Cl Iulianus p f aug. calling Julian “father of the nation” (Latin: Pater Patriae).

During the brief reign of Constantine‘s nephew Julian (361–363), a persistent enemy of Christianity, who acquired the epithet “the Apostate” many efforts were made to reinstate paganism in its former place of supremacy. But after him, the Church received growing support, until, under Theodosius the Great (379–395), orthodox Christianity, which stood upon the platform adopted at Nicaea in 325, was finally established as the sole official religion of the state, and heathen worship was put under the ban, though in itself that Nicean doctrine covered up a sort of paganism, having a three-headed god worshipped, namely a God the Father (1), a god the son (2) and a God the Holy Spirit (3).

By accepting a similar three-headed god, like in the Roman-Greek religion, they came into an agreement also that figures of those gods could be accepted to be sold to the public and as such not anymore endangering the trade in god figures or idols

The union between Church and State thus constituted continued unbroken in the East throughout the Middle Ages.

The last of Constantine his line and his Byzantium Empire, Theodosius I (379–395), was the last emperor to rule over a unified Roman Empire. The Western Empire, suffering from repeated invasions (a.o. from the Visigoths) and the flight of the peasants into the cities, had grown weak compared with the East, where spices and other exports virtually guaranteed wealth and stability. When Theodosius died, in 395, Rome split into Eastern and Western empires.

The fall of Rome was completed in 476, when the German chieftain Odoacer (Odovacar) entered Italy with the Sciri tribe to revolt against the Roman general Orestes (475). Besieging and killing Orestes in Pavia they deposed the last Roman emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus.

The East, always richer and stronger, continued as the Byzantine Empire through the European Middle Ages.

The division of the Empire resulted finally in the division of the Church, which was practically complete by the end of the 6th century but was made official and final only in 1054, and the Eastern and Western halves, the Greek Catholic and the Roman Catholic Churches, went each its separate way.


Next: Religion and believers #15


Religion and believers #1 Lots of groups to be taken interest in

Religion and believers #2 Different forms of Truth

Religion and believers #3 From father and mother gods to land and local gods

Religion and believers #4 Order of Nature and Polytheism on the way to monotheism

Religion and believers #5 Transition to Monotheism

Religion and believers #6 Origin of a church

Religion and believers #7 Independent and organised form of existence of a religion

Religion and believers #8 Groups following one or another apostle

Religion and believers #9 Old and new cults

Religion and believers #10 Infiltrating pagan teachings

Religion and believers #11 Prospect of a life without end in a peaceful kingdom

Religion and believers #12 Ranking and days for days to holding worship in secret

Religion and believers #13 Superstition, misunderstanding and hatred leading up to the Nicene Creed



  1. Matthew 22:16-22 – The diaries from the ancient east – Part 6 – Church and State
  2. Vicisti, GalilaeeDid Romans Kill Jesus Twice?: The Beardless Versus the Bearded Jesus
  3. Saints Alive! | St Sylvester I, pope
  4. Lydia and the Oracle of Delphi1 Timothy 5
  5. Destroy All Their Metal Images
  6. Book review: Love on Escolano-Poveda, The Egyptian Priests of the Greco-Roman Period
  7. Appealing to Caesar: Leveraging the Rights of our Earthly Citizenship
  8. Rendering Unto Caesar, According to Caesar: Supreme Court Declines Review of City’s Revocation of Church’s Tax Exemption
  9. Euripides’ Dramatic Jab Against Aeschylus’ Orestes Footprint Scene
  10. Helen, Penelope, Clytemnestra Genealogy
  11. Church history: From the Edict of Milan (A.D. 313) to Charlemagne (A.D. 800)
  12. “Church and State” available as a PDF file
  13. a balance 
  14. a political pope
  15. The Church, the Kingdom, and Governing Authorities
  16. The Christian and the state – I
  17. September 4, 476: Fall of the Western Roman Empire
  18. Historical Calendar: August 23
  19. The Chariot Race
  20. What’s in a name? # 5
  21. Ricimer, Odovacar & the last phantom Emperors in the Roman West – German colonisation of Italy
  22. Ostrogothic Italy – J.B. Bury
  23. Nova Religio (Or, Long, Late-Night Ponderings on the New Orthodoxy)
  24. Faithful Catholics and Good Citizens: The Church and the Political Community
  25. It Doesn’t Always Work Out For Byzantium
  26. Iconic Weapons: Greek Fire
  27. The Special Shoes Of Emperors Of Constantinople
  28. The Byzantine Empire – According to tradition, the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC. (Archaeology suggests that people lived at that location far earlier, but likely for most or all that time, they did not consider themselves “Romans.”) The last Roman king was deposed in 509 BC, creating the Republic of Rome, which expanded over the centuries to rule the Mediterranean basin.
  29. The Byzantine Empire – Under Constantine’s reign, the Roman Empire, which was divided during the rule of Emperor Diocletian, was reunited. This time, however, Constantine focused on the development of the eastern Roman Empire. Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium (present-day Istanbul which is in Turkey).
  30.  Circa February 15, 706: Byzantine Emperor Justinian II Executes His Predecessors
  31. What would Basil II think of the emperors after him?
  32. The Avar Outwitting Of Emperor Heraclius Of Constantinople
  33. The Column of Justinian
  34. Procopius’s Portrayal of Justinian
  35. How did the Eastern Roman Empire survive?
  36. At what point is the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantine?
  37. Who was the greatest Byzantine Emperor?
  38. Why is the Byzantine Empire not popular in popular culture?
  39. The Byzantine Empire is Too Strong
  40. The Byzantine Empire in the 11th Century (Before Manzikert)

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