Constantine The Great Vs Ashoka


Constantine the Great was one of the greatest rulers in the ancient Roman Empire. His might and strength was majorly in the battles he fought and the conquests he managed to win. This gave prominence to the Roman Empire. Although the Roman Empire was split between the Western and Eastern Empires by the time he was crowned, he managed to unite the two empires by defeating strong Empires led by Maxentius and Licinius. Constantine is remembered for his military reforms and changes that made the Roman empire one of the most feared and successful empires of all time (Bauer, 2010). Ashoka on the other hand was an Indian Emperor. He ruled in the Maurya Dynasty between c 268 and 232 BCE. He is remembered for his conquests in other Indian Dynasties. The ruthless reign under Ashoka saw the eviction of Monks to Sri Lanka and other parts of Central Asia. He also forms part of the modern emblem of the Indian Republic. Indeed, both Constantine and Ashoka were fearless successful rulers (Lindenfeld, 2016). However, despite the similarities, the two rules had differing methods to reinforce their iron rule.    

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Similarities Between Constantine the Great and Ashoka

Acquiring Power through military means

Constantine the great and Ashoka can both be described as medieval rulers. They exercised their rule by conquering neighboring empires and subduing rules in their very regions as well. They were dictators who did not want to be questioned or challenged. Before Constantine the great became the ruler of the Roman Empire, he led his army to defeat his opposing Emperors in a series of wars that lasted several years. He ensured that there was no challenge from the western and eastern emperors before placing both under his rule. For Ashoka, he is fondly remembered for his victory in the war against the state of Kalinga. This protracted war led to many deaths and deportations. Indeed, the hunger for blood and victory at the battle ground formed an integral part of the rule of Ashoka, as well as that of Constantine the Great (Talbott, 2009). 

The Practice of Religion

In his reign, Emperor Constantine the great is believed to have been the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. Constantine is believed to have made this decision after having engaged in years of war and brutality. Constantine is famed for the Nicene Creed, recited by many Christians around the world. This creed came about the first congregation of Christians he called under his reign. He also tolerated religion and decreed that the Roman Empire would be tolerant to Christianity, although he never actually imposed it (Bauer, 2010). Ashoka was initially a pagan ruler, only interested in power. However, according to Lindenfeld (2016), Ashoka converted to Buddhism in 263 BCE, after the Kalinga War, feeling guilty and sorry for the massive loss of lives he had caused. He later sanctioned sculptures, statues and monuments in honor of the Buddha.

Memorial Pillars and Scriptures  

In their reigns, both Ashoka and Constantine the Great set up monuments in their honor. These monuments were often curved from stone and erected in regions they conquered, to show their might and rule. Both rulers ensured that they would be remembered for their many accounts of victory and triumph. This is why; some of the Rock Edicts designed by Ashoka exist to date. Constantine The Great also built an Emperor Residence at Byzantium, while under his rule. However, he went on to rename the city Constantinople, after himself. This ensured that generations on end could remember his legacy and rule. Constantine also built the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, in memory of the burial place of Jesus Christ. Ashoka is known to have ordered that his Bibliography be written, to record his reign (Lindenfeld, 2016). By the time of their deaths, their empires were full of mementos depicting their greatness and rule.

Differences between Constantine the Great and Ashoka

Devotion to Faith

Constantine the Great was a controversial ruler in the Roman Empire. As his rule became cemented among Romans, he also encouraged the spread of Christianity, to the point that he was venerated upon his death. Both Orthodox Christians and Byzantine Catholics have recognized the leader as a significant contributor to the spread of Christianity, and a central figure to the church. His army also adopted the symbols ‘Chi Rho’, the Greek letters that symbolize the Initials J.C (Jesus Christ). On his part, Ashoka was hardly religious. He converted to Buddhism as penance for the many lives that had been lost during the Kalinga war. However, as a Buddhist leader, he consistently executed many men, against the practice of the Buddhism religion. He is also known to have executed his wife, for conspiring against him. This makes his religious beliefs quite controversial. Of the two rulers, Constantine can be considered to have been the religious ruler while Ashoka was not (Lindenfeld, 2016).  

Differing Periods of Rule

The rule of Ashoka preceded the rule of Constantine the Great. Ashoka ruled between c 268 and 232 BCE. Constantine the Great’s rule extended between 306 AD to 337 AD. Historical records place the dynasty under the rule of Ashoka as being almost equal to the entire Asian continent. Constantine the Great ruled over the empire of Gaul, Britain and Spain; combined to be the Roman Empire. Although the region under the rule of Constantine the Great was smaller than that of Ashoka, he commanded a bigger army. This is because, he spent a lot of time consolidating the army instead of killing all dissidents like Ashoka did (Talbott, 2009). The number of years Constantine the Great ruled were less compared to the rule of Ashoka. He however achieved more success and is remembered more than Ashoka in medieval literature (Bauer, 2010).


The reigns of Constantine the Great and Ashoka in Rome and India respectively led to significant changes in the approach to democracy and civilization. These two leaders shaped their empires to modern recognition. They had robust ideas and captured extensive territories. However, the legacies of these leaders are sometimes overshadowed by rulers who came after, for their wholistic approach to leadership, that grew democratic principles further. The totalitarian rule under both Constantine the Great and Ashoka had its advantages but mostly, was seen to be derogative in significantly advanced civilizations. Ashoka was more fierce and ruthless compared to Constantine the Great. However, his empire collapsed a few years after his death. For Constantine, his legacy was passed down from his father and he passed it on to his son. The great stability of the Roman Empire can be greatly attributed to the strength and determination of Emperor Constantine the Great (Lindenfeld, 2016).


Bauer, S. W. (2010). The history of the medieval world: From the conversion of Constantine to the first crusade. WW Norton & Company.

Lindenfeld, D. (2016). Meta-Religion: Religion and Power in World History by James W. Laine. Journal of World History27(1), 152-155.

Talbott, S. (2009). The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation. Simon and Schuster.

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