To what Extent Was the Development of Christianity in Rome due to Its Popular Appeal?
In ancient times, religion was highly significant among the Romans. Unfortunately, Christianity had been prohibited within the Roman Empire. History regarding the rise of Christianity to prominence from a small persecuted religion is incredible. In the initial centuries, Christians were commonly punished and persecuted with death. Historically, it is predicted that Christianity was founded in 4 B.C., during the year when Christ was born. Basically, Christianity is a religion that highlights the acts of doing well to others and establishing individual qualities, such as kindness, compassion, gentleness, and patience. It is also considered very important for each Christian to forgive and forget. Christianity is a religion that is practiced by numerous people globally, unlike in the past, especially in the Roman Empire. Christians were commonly used as scapegoats for most of the tragedies by the emperors as a way of eliminating them. The emperor would order a mass massacre for the Christians due to his hatred for Christianity. The Romans hatred for Christianity was unusual because these were people that as a rule easily accepted other gods of other faiths into their religion. In cases where the Romans conquered other empires, they would accept their gods, goddesses, and myths. For instance, they accepted the gods and goddesses of Greece after they had conquered the country. Actually, they modified some of the Roman gods in order to resemble those of the Greeks. It was perceived that the Roman deity, Jupiter, had numerous traits of Zeus, the Greek deity of the heavens. Therefore, Romans did not have any room for the Christian religion. The point is that the Christian religion did not have any physical idols that were worshipped. As it has been stated earlier, Christianity is assumed to have begun when Christ was born. Thus, Christians believed in and worshipped Jesus. Romans disliked Christians since their belief in Christ was against their gods.
In addition, in the Roman Empire, the residents perceived the emperors as gods, and this began with Augustus Caesar (Brown 120).Christians were adamant in participating in the worship of the emperors. This accelerated the hatred of the Romans towards the Christians. The latter were punished and persecuted for many years, and the rulers continually intensified those persecutions. Romans were significantly loyal to their emperors and worshipped them openly. Moreover, Christianity was highly despised by the state due to its fervent desire to convert people into this faith. Christians were determined to change the Romans perception about worshipping gods and their emperors (Brown 123).
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Romans had a highly negative attitude towards the Christians, and besides, they were threatened by the Christianitys reverence for one God. However, the Christians refusal to participate in the Romans public festivals and openly criticizing their old traditions accelerated the dislike among the Romans. Christians also evaded the Roman public offices and the military services. Ironically, the number of Christians continually increased despite numerous persecutions conducted under emperors Neroand Diocletian.The substantial growth of this faiths followers bothered the rulers of the state, who began persecuting the Christians directly. During 250 AD, the Emperor Decius ordered that each individual was supposed to offer a sacrifice for the emperor and the success of the entire Empire. Christians, such as Fabian, the bishop of Rome, were arrested and later executed for defiance. Furthermore, Emperor Diocletian demanded that Christians should be banned from serving in the military. What is more, he proceeded to imprison numerous priests, bishops, and Christians, as well as destroyed Christian scriptures and areas of worship. Emperor Diocletian also warned the Christians of meeting together for worship. Essentially, the major punishment for the Christians was death, while many others were arrested or lost their property. They were zealously pursued and persecuted by the Roman emperors.
The growth of Christianity to imperial-sponsored ascendancy in the fourth and fifth centuries, although unexpected, was not with lack of standard and its spread hardly as relentless as contemporary Christians have illustrated it. In these centuries, many persecutions of the Christians relied on the local governors and how ardently they persecuted the Christians. In fact, the reasons behind the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire varied. In some cases, they were used as scapegoats and their faith was attacked where local hostilities were at issue. Over the years, Christians were punished, and feeding them to the lions was actually perceived as great entertainment in Rome (Frend 78).
St. Paul established Christian churches in Asia Minor and Greece, and he continually spread the message of Christianity around the Ancient Rome. There were numerous converts, but they encountered a lot of challenges in the region. These converts were commonly poor people and slaves since they had a significant deal to gain from the Christians being triumphant. Christians in Rome faced many trials until they were forced to hold their meetings in secret places. Particularly, these followers of Christ used the underground tombs because those were hard to be noticed by strangers. The growth of Christianity in Rome was fuelled by the huge population of the poor and slaves.
Christians were usually accused of many obscenities, such as incest and cannibalism, by the pagans. The latter were suspicious of the Christians since they practiced the rites of the love-feast and the Eucharist, which involved taking the body and blood of Christ in secrecy. Moreover, pagans pursued the Christians due to their refusal to worship and offer sacrifice to their gods. According to those believing in many deities, it was an intense insult to the gods, which supposedly protected the entire Roman Empire. Therefore, their refusal to worship the gods endangered the Empire. Nevertheless, their refusal to worship the emperors, who were perceived as semi-divine monarchs, bore the trace of both treason and sacrilege about it. Basically, the standard test of a Christians faith in the ancient Rome was to compel him or her on pain of death in order to offer sacrifice and incense to gods and swear by the emperor. For example, the test of Polycarps martyrdom in the mid-second-century to confess that Caesar is Lord and to offer incense to the gods portrayed the pain that the Christians experienced in Rome. The point is that his refusal to bow down before Caesar caused him to be burnt alive (Frend 100).
In the ancient Rome, Christianity was perceived as an illegal religion because it was believed they practiced black magic and cannibalism. Generally, persecutions in the Roman Empire were triggered by certain events, such as the fire at Rome under Nero, in moments of certain crisis, e.g. the third century or even the turn-over of emperors. However, Christians were less likely to be punished and persecuted under particular rulers for being Christians or for having ever been a Christian (Frend 100). During 249 AD, the Emperor Decius established the first Empire-wide persecution and he ordered each individual to offer sacrifice to the gods in order to regain favor to the staggering empire. During this period, the Christian members that failed to agree with the order were imprisoned and later executed. Nonetheless, in 303 AD, Emperor Diocletian established the last general persecution. In the period of the Emperor Trajan, it was still perceived an offence to confess to being a Christian, but ex-Christians would not be prosecuted. In 311 AD, it is believed that Galerius, who was one of the leading executors in persecution, gave an edit that finished the Diocletian persecution of the Christians. He ruled for two years after ending the great Christian persecution, and was then succeeded by Emperor Constantine.
In the history of the rise of Christianity in Rome, the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in or about 312 AD was remarkable. During this period, Emperor Constantine supported the Christian churches financially by establishing Basilicas, offering privileges to the clergy, and also offered Christians positions in offices. It was considered unusual because for many years the Roman Emperors were significantly hostile towards this religion. This was evident with the numerous persecutions that were conducted under them. It was considered impossible for a Roman emperor to subscribe to worship of Jesus Christ, who was considered an executed Jewish criminal. Moreover, the faith of Christ was solely common among the slaves, poor, and soldiers who were hardly respected in the empire. These people were greatly impressed with Christianity mostly owing to the caring nature that the Christian members portrayed. Specifically, Christians were highly concerned with the health of other people. They intensely cared for the sick individuals in the society. To some extent, this boosted the increase on the Christian religion. During that time frame, there were several plagues in the region, such as the plague of Cyprian, the Antoine plague, and the plague of Justinian. In other words, these plagues coincided with the gradual growth of Christianity in the ancient Rome. Christian communities were perceived to have higher survival rates during these events than people worshiping other faiths. This was because of the intense healthcare they provided to each other during the outbreaks. Ironically, Christians also offered healthcare services to individuals that were not Christians. This circumstance increased the rate of conversion among people in the society, especially at the point of death and uncertainty (Lunn-Rockliffe 1).
In the Roman society, other religions lacked any details regarding the occurrence of the epidemics since they had no factual understating of micro-organisms and the reasons behind the spread of the communicable diseases. Therefore, residents viewed Christianity as the sole way of salvation, thus causing high rate of conversion. Basically, there were many reasons that caused the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Certain Christians believed that the effective spread of their faith was majorly the inherent consequence of the truth of the religion and the hand of the providence. What is more, it is also believed that Christianity dominated over the pagan religion mainly because it improved the lives of its followers in different ways. Moreover, Christianity won the hearts of many people with its promise of a universal resurrection of the dead with the addition of teachings of how it was going to occur at the end of the world. There were many other reasons of the expansion of Christianity, such as zeal of existing followers, the miraculous powers attributed to the primitive church, the chaste and ascetic morals of the Christians, the principle of a future life, and the union and discipline of the Christian republic.
The conversion of Emperor Constantine occurred after the great persecution of Christians that was under Diocletian. Essentially, the conversion of this state ruler acted as a great foundation for the acceptance of Christianity in the Roman Empire. He was actually the first emperor to officially accept Christianity in the Roman Empire and allow the Christians to conduct their practices freely. According to two Christian narrators, the conversion of Emperor Constantine is related to a military campaign that was against Maxentius, his political rival. His conversion is assumed to have occurred due to a dream or a vision that illustrated Christ directing him to fight under the Christian terms. His triumph strengthened his belief in his new-found God. During the era of Emperor Constantine, Christians and pagans were granted the freedom to worship freely. Furthermore, he ordered the return of confiscated property belonging to the Christians. He highly participated in the leadership of Christianity. For instance, Emperor Constantine participated as a judge during a North African dispute regarding the Donatist disagreement. The ruler also granted the Nicene Creedthat among other issues professed a belief in One Holy Catholic Church(Lunn-Rockliffe 2).This Roman state official, therefore, developed a guide for the Emperors as responsible to the Almighty God for the spiritual well-being of their people. The emperor had a duty to sustain orthodoxy in the ancient Rome. Thus, it was the emperors duty to implement doctrine, eliminate heresy, and endorse religious unity. However, it is believed that Emperor Constantines conduct did not completely portray his Christianity because most of his actions illustrated paganism. For example, it was utterly embarrassing to discover that he had established pagan temples and idols. Differing but connected events of his miraculous conversion to Christianity stated some vital spiritual encounter, which he deduced as associated with this faith. The Emperor Constantines comprehension of Christianity at the point of conversion was evidently unsophisticated. He failed to understand the repercussions of converting to a religion, which anticipated its members to commit themselves wholly to it. Generally, Christians in the Roman Empire handled the Emperor Constantines conversion as a decisive period of victory in a battle between the good and evil, even as the end of history, though it was far from that.
The number of Christians increased gradually over the next two centuries. Other successors of the Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, except for the Emperor Julian that re-instated paganism as the sole religion in the Roman Empire. However, it is not clear of moments that Christianity won a battle against the pagans (Fox 145). The struggle of this religion was fragmentary, gradual, and geographically patchy. As it has been earlier stated, Christianity continually increased despite numerous persecutions. It gave spiritual comfort and the view of salvation on the one side, and alluring new career paths and riches as a worldly bishop on the other side. Christianity also remained steady because majority of its followers remained strong in their adherence to their faith. In any case, pagans aristocrats living in the both huge cities and the rural areas in the ancient Rome remained staunch in their beliefs. Although paganism did not end, Christianity continually expanded in the Roman Empire. Emperors that succeeded Emperor Constantine allowed Christianity thus promoting its growth. In fact, it is believed that numerous years after the conversion of Emperor Constantine, the religion of Christianity seemed to be ingrained as the developed one. It was actually supported financially by emperors and protected by law. The rise and dominance of the Christian religion did not hinder the presence of paganism in the Roman Empire. The point is that these rulers also allowed the worship of idols in the ancient Rome. Pagans accused the Christians of Christian impiety, which meant disregard of the old gods for the barbarian sack of Rome during 410 AD. However, Augustus, one of the Christian intellectuals during that period, considered the accusation as serious enough to demand a long reply in his enormous book known as The City of God. Nevertheless, the Pagan religion might have been successfully eclipsed as a grand religion; but it went on being an influential political and religious challenge to the Christianity. Even though the great persecution of Christians was intense and significant, it is believed that it finished until the middle of the 3rd century AD (Fox 148).
Eventually, the Christian faith overtook the Roman religion and became the widespread religion within the European continent. In comparison to the Christianity, the Roman set of beliefs was very distinct in its nature. Basically, it was initially polytheistic and primitive animism. To be more precise, they had gods that had names, but lacked personalities, myths, or even histories. On the other hand, Christianity concentrated on teaching people about the good virtues, such as goodness, love, tolerance, and the numerous rewards from the kingdom of heaven. Overall, the era of Emperor Constantine marks the period that Christianity rose to its full dominance since it was allowed officially to be practiced publicly. It has become the worlds biggest religion covering at least a quarter of the globes population. To draw a conclusion, it began as a small sect during the life of Christ, and within 4 centuries, it rose to being the largest religion of the Mediterranean world (Fox 139).