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During the formative period of disputation over the theology of Arius, the emperor Licinius ruled over the eastern Roman provinces. The emperor Constantine was directly involved in the doctrinal controversy only after his victory over Licinius in 324. But Constantine’s engagement in imperial politics had already shaped his thinking about theology. In imperial successions sons were sometimes promoted but also sometimes overlooked. Emperors introduced a new five-year cycle for calculating taxes and often held annual consulships. Emperors identified with deities such as Jupiter and Hercules. At the Council of Nicaea, Constantine was hence ready to debate with bishops over the theology of Father and Son, the annual date of Easter, and the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. One bishop who attended the council was Eusebius of Caesarea, whose panegyric equated the emperor with the Son of God. Constantine himself strengthened the association by funding churches in honor of Jesus’s nativity and resurrection in the Holy Land and by publicizing a story about his own vision of a cross in the sky. The Council of Nicaea had been a crucible for the formation of both a theology of God and a political philosophy of a Christian emperor.
Constantine emerged as victor first over Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge in the late autumn of 312, and then over his erstwhile ally Licinius at Cibalae in 316 and Chrysopolis in 324; however, most of the surviving literature favours and justifies his success. Constantine was to reign as sole emperor from 324 until his death in May 337. The episodes of Constantine's campaign are famously depicted on the arch of Constantine: these include his progress through northern Italy and the siege of Verona, as well as vivid scenes of the defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge and his army's dramatic engulfment in the Tiber. Constantine's first move during the winter of 312-13 was to strike an alliance with Licinius, cemented by a marriage at Milan between Licinius and Constantine's sister Constantia. Constantine himself was a product of the tetrarchic system and in many respects he behaved no differently from his colleagues and rivals.
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