When you think about Christianity, you don’t think about it being a bad thing. Christianity is the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies. This religion came to be one of the largest and most influential religions today. When the Romans thought about Christianity, it was considered a sin. But what exactly was the nature of the conflict between Christianity and the Roman government? The conflict between Christianity and the Roman government was that Christians refused to recognizes the romans beliefs in their religion.
The positive influence of Christianity is far reaching especially in the rich history and culture of Western Civilization despite a long standing ignorance or adamant denial of its contributions. The Bible itself is responsible for much of the language, literature, and fine arts we enjoy today as its artists and composers were heavily influenced by its writings. Paul Maier, in writing the forward to the book How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt, says this about the profound impact Christianity has had on the development of Western Civilization:
‘Christians to the lions’ as Trajan would say, an emperor in the early centuries Christianity to them have alienated the favour of their gods which has and would continue to cause disasters in the Roman Empire. The misfortune of Christians did not stop during this period, but it did come to a composed halt as Galerius, gave Christians the right to worship in some sense. Christianity during the early stages was clearly a course of persecution and forced pagan accusations. Constantine dramatically changed the recourse of religions with the battle of Milvian Bridge as Christianity became the predominant religion of the Roman Empire.
Ancient Rome and Christianity experienced many similarities and differences throughout their time. Because the Roman World began their religion multiple years before Christianity began to erupt, therefore Christianity was persecuted by the Roman World. The Roman World based their religion off gods and goddesses while Christianity was based off of Jesus and his crucifixion on the cross for our sins. These religions share different but in some way similar purposes, virtue, and destiny.
Factors Which Led to the Spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire Christianity was not born in a vacumn. There were many social, geographical, historical and religious issues prevailing at the time of Christ and all of which were favorable to the spread of Christianity. Geograpicly, Christianity came into being in the Meditation world, the largest of the various centers of civilization at that time. Israel stands almost central to the five continents, dividing the east and west.
Then and now religions shared common dimensions that provide society with a doctrine, narrative, ethics, ritual, experience and a social institution. These six dimensions that Ninian Smart derived spell out the framework for comparative study of religions1. The six dimensions hold true when comparing the daily routine Roman religious thought to modern Christianity. Interwoven into the core of both cultures is a strong unifying spirit that built a strong communal bond for its people.
Christians went from being persecuted to dominating Rome rather quickly. In a world where separation between church and state does not exist, a Christian becoming the sole emperor of Rome symbolized a huge turning point in history. The power switched and the Pagans in turn became persecuted. Christians rose up and took control of all aspects of Roman society. The Pagan past was destroyed, banned, or forgotten about. Those Christians that did not agree with how things were being run either left the empire and became monks or formed their own sect. All of Rome changed.
The Romans were hard headed when it came to religion, as to a lot of things. This probably explains why they had a really tough time understanding the concept of a single, all knowing and most powerful god. The change from being a Pagan city to a Christian city was hard and it took the city of Rome a long time to get used to it. There are many differences between Paganism and Christianity, Christian beliefs are all centered around the words of the Bible. Also, Christianity has one singular God they worship whereas Paganism have many different Gods they worship.
The Jewish community started Christianity, but Christianity later spread and convert from all over the Greco-Roman world were attracted by this religion during the progress of the first century CE. Ideas, traditions, ways of worship and traditions were brought along by the new convert of Christianity and it was adopted by their faith. This is through art because Christians who were once pagans of the Roman Empire stick to their artistic heritage when they became followers of Jesus Christ. Roman artistic forms and motifs and also Roman architecture were being used by this new convert to express their new faith. In further explanation, we’ll see how Roman art influenced the developing art of early Christians.
The relationship between Christianity and the Roman Empire is interconnected with each other in different ways. Heaps of commotion and perspectives were constructed, and it caused several disputes to form all over Europe. In addition to this, there was also a large amount of seclusion, death and persecution during the time. Events such as the Fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, the rise of Christianity, and its expansion throughout the Europe were a result of the political conflict. Due to the actions of many individuals and groups that influenced the course of major events, the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity was quite tense, problematic and confrontational.
With its insistence on exclusive monotheistic worship of the Christian God it won where paganism could only fail, in demanding solitary allegiance to its movement (pp. 201-204). In demanding such commitment, those won to Christianity were far more allied to its goals and purposes than adherents to pagan movements that were non-exclusive. Further, the possibility of publicly suffering for their faith offered Christians the hope of enormous communal esteem. For those already firmly committed, the benefits of esteem and other-worldly reward far out-weighed whatever cost in suffering martyrdom might bring. Paganism had nothing analogous to win such enthusiastic commitment. Whereas, Christianity promised life after death in heaven while in the Roman religion, only gods went to heaven; emperors were considered gods, everyone else went to the underworld.
In my Theatre of History class, we briefly discussed Rome and the fall of the Western Roman Empire as it related to theatre but I was intrigued to learn more. It didn’t seem sensible that the fall of the Western Empire would be placed, even a little, on the rise of Christianity during that time. It didn’t seem sensible for two reasons. The first reason is that Jesus Christ, in whom the Christians believed, had been born, lived, and crucified over 400 years before the Empire fell. His lifetime spanned only until the second emperor of the Roman Empire, before Rome’s crooked ways became noticeable and uncontrollable. The second reason is because the Western Roman Empire that fell was officially, as declared by an emperor, a Christian Rome. In this paper I will present and argue the many contributing factors of Rome’s demise, and answer the question was Christianity responsible for the decline of theatre as a practice in the Western Roman Empire and ultimately its fall?
Throughout history, Christianity always had a reputation, or a “name” following it. Different perspectives approached the reputation that was attached to Christianity in different manners. Justin Martyr and Porphyry had objectives when defining whether this “name” really defined Christianity and the past. They wondered whether the past really represented Christianity. Additionally they honed in on the question of was the past that people represented as Christianity really the roots of Christianity? All around Porphyry and Justin was perceptions of what Christianity rooted from and stood for.
The early church was hated by the society and government of the Roman Empire for various reasons, such as the refusal of Christians to sacrifice to the gods. The Empire went through many phases of demanding that the Christians sacrifice which meant denying their faith or be killed. The earliest attacks claimed the lives of many of the apostles.This text is the story, from around 160 AD, of the martyrdom of Polycarp, the Bishop of the church in Smyrna, a city in Asia Minor (modern Izmir in Turkey) devoted to Roman worship. The account is in the form of a letter from eye-witnesses to other churches in the area. It is the earliest chronicle of a martyrdom outside the New Testament.Polycarp was an old man, at least 86, and probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of St. John. This was one reason he was greatly revered as a teacher and church leader. One interesting feature of the letter is that the writer is very conscious of how Polycarp’s death followed the pattern of Christ’s. As you read it, look for parallels between this story and the Easter story in the gospels. We are writing to you, brothers, with an account of the martyrs, especially the blessed Polycarp, whose death brought to the persecution to a close. Almost all the events that led up to it reveal it to be another martyrdom in the divine pattern that we see in the Gospel. For he waited for his betrayal, just like the Lord did, so that we might follow him, in looking out