Mother of Constantine the Great
237 – 338 A.D.
The varied and romantic career of this woman has in it the materials for a most interesting historical novel. She was the daughter of an obscure innkeeper; but of her nationality nothing certain is known. Constantine was born to them about 272, probably in Britain.
Constantius became co-emperor by appointment of Diocletian, and by him was compelled, for political reasons, to divorce Helena and marry the daughter of Maximillian. By this cruel act Helena was repudiated and sent back from the court splendors to an obscure and lonely life.
In time, the co-emperors died, and her son Constantine won his way to the throne, and dispensed with any imperial colleagues. He sought out his mother, restored to her the imperial dignity, gave her the title of Augusta, and caused her to be received at court with all the honor due to the mother of the emperor.
The conversion of Constantine marks an epoch in the world’s history. He adopted Chrisianity as the relition of state, a marvelous contrast to the attempt of his predecessor, Diocletian, to utterly exterminate it. Persecutions were now at an end. Constantine, by circular letter, urged his subjects to follow by example of their sovereign, and become Christians. He did not forbid paganism, but he sought by ridicule and neglect to cause its decline.
His mother, Helena, became a Christian, and was everywhere loved for her liberality. During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she claimed to have discovered the holy sepulcher and true cross. She relieved the poor, the widows, and the orphans, built churches, showed herself the worthy mother of a great son.
At her death he paid her the highest honors. Her body was sent to Rome and placed in the tomb of the emperors. He made her native village a monument to her memory by raising it to the rank of a city, and gave it the name of Henenopolis.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.