The Fight at Milvian Bridge, Essay Example

The main cause of battle was a five year old rivalry between Maxentius and Constantine over who was to control the half of the western empire. Despite the fact that Constantine was the western emperors’ son, the system at that time did not allow for hereditary succession. Roman politics became complicated after emperor Diocletian was abdicated in AD305, and then the emperors and deputy emperors from the west and east began contending for power. One of such personality was Flavius Valerius Constantine, also known as Constantine the great. He was acclaimed emperor by his army men in AD 306 in York. He was thus appointed deputy emperor of the western region by Galerius, a successor of Diocletian. Constantine was then placed in charge of Gaul and Britain, and his brother in law Maxentius often waged were against Galerius and even seized Rome and Italy.

In AD 311, Galerius died and in the subsequent year, at its beginning, Constantine attacked Italy and won battles there then matched to Rome. When Maxentius came out to wage war against him, he was defeated and destroyed at the Milvian Bridge. Through this battle, Constantine became the master of the whole Roman Empire. One of the things that made this battle more significant in history was its great link to Christianity.

The account of this story is given by one of the historian and Christian biblical scholars who wrote the very first bibliography of Constantine after the emperor had died. His name was Caesarea and he claimed to know the emperor well and got the entire story from him. In his story he referred to Constantine as a pagan monotheist who was devoted to serving the sun god Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun). Before the battle at the Milvian Bridge, he and his army men saw a cross of light above the sun with swords. On the very night, Constantine dreamt of Christ telling him to use the sign of the cross when fighting his enemies. He got so overwhelmed and had the mark of the Christian symbol placed on the shields of his soldiers. When he won the battle, he attributed the victory to the God of Christians.

For centuries, this story has been accepted, however many historians especially those that are non-believers in dreams and visions have greatly opposed the story. Earlier accounts of this battle mentioned so little about this battle. In fact, it states that Maxentius retreated at the banks of Tiber. He cut down the bridge and hopped to escape through a temporary one made of boats in case of defeat at the battle. When the Constantine’s army overpowered Maxentius, his men tried to escape through the bridge of boats and in the process it collapsed and drowned most of the soldiers there under, Maxentius included. Constantine and his men cut of Maxentius’ head and carried it to the city on a spear.

On another account of the same story, written by a Christian author Lactantius two years within the battle period; the emperor dreamt of a warning asking him to mark heavenly sign of God on the shields of his soldiers. He followed the instructions of the dream and placed the mark on the shields. He then matched against Maxentius and his men and emerged victorious in that battle. His triumph was then attributed to the God of Christians.

One of the most certain things about this history is that Constantine was converted to Christianity and was vigorous in promoting the Christian culture. Galerius and Diocletian prosecuted Christians severely but in AD 311 they were granted freedom of worship by Galerius. In AD 313, Constantine made a proclamation that no person whatsoever should be denied opportunity to join and pay allegiance to the Christian religion. He then went ahead and gave great positions to Christian priests and also privileges similar to those that pagans had. He also taught his army men to always respect the day of worship which was Sunday and was also the Christians Sabbath day.

All these Christianity changes came in and by the years AD 323, the sun god (Sol inviticus) birthday was made to be the birthday of Christ. This was December 25. Constantine strongly tried to eliminate any theological disagreements that arose among Christians and in AD325 he went to the council of Nicaea which brought in place the trinity doctrine. At the same time he built wonderful places of worship for Christians in his city and other places around the kingdom. One of the churches that he built was called Santa Sophia which was later on renamed after him Constantinople. Upon his death in AD337, Christianity was becoming very strong and a religion that was dominating in that nation. There were many followers to this faith as well as many temples built for worshiping God. The emperor Constantine regarded himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ.


Dam, Raymond. Remembering Constantine at the Milvian Bridge. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Potter, D. S.. Constantine the Emperor. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Stephenson, Paul. Constantine: Roman emperor, Christian victor. New York: Overlook Press, 2010.