When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity (God) ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious (favorable) and kindly disposed (incline) to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome (good) counsel and most upright provision (condition) we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence (goodwill). Therefore, your worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts (authoritative order) formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation disturbance). We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion.
Moreover, in the case of the Christians especially we esteemed it best to order that if it happens anyone heretofore (before) has bought from our treasury from anyone whatsoever, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble, concerning which a certain decree had been made and a letter sent to you officially, the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense (compensation or payment) and without any kind of fraud or deception, those, moreover, who have obtained the same by gift, are likewise to return them at once to the Christians. Besides, both those who have purchased and those who have secured (protected) them by gift, are to appeal to the vicar (agent of government) if they seek any compensation from our bounty (generosity), that they may be cared for through our clemency (mercy). All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property, namely the churches, belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things which we have included under the above law, you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all, to these Christians, that is to say to the corporations and their assemblies: providing, of course, that the above arrangements be followed so that those who return the same without payment, as we have said, may hope for an indemnity (reparation) from our bounty (generosity). In all these circumstances you ought to tender (compassionate) your most efficacious (virtuous) intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state. Moreover, in order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript (revision), published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence (goodwill), cannot be concealed.
Emperior Constantine announces religious freedom to the Christians.
The persecution of Christians ended in 313 when Emperor Constantine of the West and Emperor Licinius of the East proclaimed the Edict of Milan, which established a policy of religious freedom for all. Below is an English translation of the edict.
"Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced". Emperor Constantine is most likely referring to his victory against Maxentius in Rome at the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Constantine was ruler of the territory we now call France and he decided to become ruler of the Western Roman Empire by attacking the Emperor in Rome. Constantine built a monument to celebrate his victory. The structure still stands today and is shown below.
In the above picture, the main inscription would originally have been of bronze letters. It can still be read easily. It reads thus, identically on both sides of the Arch:
IMP · CAES · FL · CONSTANTINO · MAXIMO · P · F · AVGUSTO · S · P · Q · R · QVOD · INSTINCTV · DIVINITATIS · MENTIS · MAGNITVDINE · CVM · EXERCITV · SVO · TAM · DE · TYRANNO · QVAM · DE · OMNI · EIVS · FACTIONE · VNO · TEMPORE · IVSTIS · REM-PVBLICAM · VLTVS · EST · ARMIS · ARCVM · TRIVMPHIS · INSIGNEM · DICAVIT
To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the Divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.
The words instinctu divinitatis ("inspired by the divine") have been greatly commented on. They are usually read as sign of Constantine's shifting religious affiliation: It most be noted Constantine uses the word Divine in his Milan-Edict. Two men, Lactantius and Eusebius of Caesarea, wrote about the vision Constantine had before the battle in Rome. Constantine saw in the sky the sign of the cross and he ordered the cross to be painted on the men's shields.
The possibility exists that the vague wording of the inscription can be seen as the attempt to please all possible readers, being unclear, and acceptable to both pagans and Christians. It was normal that the conquored enemy is not mentioned by name, but only referred to as "the tyrant", drawing on the notion of the rightful killing of a evil ruler; together with the image of the "just war", it serves as justification of Constantine's civil war against his co-emperor Maxentius.
It's possible that the arch is heavily decorated with parts of older monuments, and the sculptures are now used to show Constantine's victory. As it celebrates the victory of Constantine, it praises him, both in battle and in his civilian duties. Most likely parts of the monument were taken from other monuments that were built in "golden times" of past Emperors such as Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
Another explanation given for using previous monuments is the short time between the start of construction (late 312 at the earliest) and the dedication (summer 315), so the architects used existing artwork to make up for the lack of time to create new art. As yet another possible reason, it has often been suggested that the Romans of the 4th century lacked the artistic skill to produce acceptable artwork and therefore plundered the ancient buildings to adorn their contemporary monuments. This interpretation has become less prominent in more recent times, as the art of Late Antiquity has been appreciated in its own right. It is possible that a combination of those explanations is correct. But what ever the case, the arch has images of the pagan sun god. Thus making Constantine's early faith weak compared to the Divine help he received in his battles.