In AD 324, after defeating his co emperor Licinius, Constantine the Great (324 - 37) became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. One of his greatest achievements was to move the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium.
Initially, Constantine preferred the site of Troy for his capital, but was persuaded by advisers that Byzantium held a superior position for both defence and trade. Constantine's city was officially styled the "New Rome" but became widely known as Constantinople.
The emperor quickly started on an ambitious programme of construction work, which included the Great Palace and various public buildings.
Constantine was also instrumental in the spread of Christianity. According to legend, he saw a vision of the cross before a battle in 312.
Although not actually baptized until just before his death, he worked hard to create a coherent system of Christian belief out of the variant practices of the day.
All the early church councils took place in the city or nearby, the first being held in Nicaea (modern day Iznik), and the second in Constantinople itself.
A successor of Constantine, Theodosius I (379 - 95), divided the Empire between his two sons, Honorius and Arcadius.
When the Latin-speaking Western Empire fell to barbarian armies during the 5th century, the Greek speaking Eastern Empire, thereafter known as the Byzantine Empire, survived.
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