Rome Essay, Research Paper
Between the first and fourth centuries Christianity gradually became the prevailing religion of Rome. The burden of how to respond to this new religion was placed upon the Roman government. Many kings or emperors of the Romans responded to Christianity in a different fashion. Over this large amount of time Christianity fought its way into the hearts and souls of the Roman people. Through the first general persecution of Christians by Decius in 250 A.D. to the conversion of the emperor to Christianity by Constantine, it was only a matter of time before Christianity came to the forefront.
In Rome from 17 A. D. to 69 A. D. the Julio-Claudian dynasty began. It began under the rule of Tiberius from (17-37). During Tiberius reign Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus of Nazareth to Death in the Roman province of Judea created from the Jewish Kingdom Judah. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God according to Christianity, was alive during a troubled period when Roman rule aroused feelings of anger. This feeling of anger in Judaea was an idle setting for the ministering of Jesus (Holmes 68). The Christians were believed to have been conspiring against the Roman Government and were therefore persecuted by governors and local authorities, but no major persecution took place.
From 37-41 A. D. Caligula (Gaius) became ruler of Rome. During his younger years Caligula had been secluded at the island of Capri and therefore had not been trained appropriately to become the king of Rome. He was totally unprepared for such a challenge. As his reign began he first brought back all of the Augustian ideals that made former ruler Augustus so popular. He promised to work with the Senate and the elections would return to the people. He also promised that there would be no unpopular taxes. However, after surviving a near-death illness Caligula revoked his promises for Rome and became power-crazy. At times he would throw extravagant parties that would deplete Rome s funds. This led him to taxing everything to try and raise more money for Rome. This power led him to believe that he was a God and he killed anything that attempted to surpass him (Joy 132). He ended all senatorial powers and armies believing that the Senate was gaining more power than he was. He had two temples built for him due to his view of himself as a deity. His declaration of himself as a God caused major backlash in Judea and eventually led to his assasination in 40 A. D.(Holmes 133) Caligula s reign as emperor was the first signs of Roman religion being questioned. His belief of himself as a deity corrupted the Roman government and the religion.
Nero was the Roman Emperor from 54-68 A. D. He blamed the Christians in Rome for a furious fire that started at Circus Maximus and lasted for nine days. He used the Christians as scapegoat for his want to rebuild Rome. He brutally persecuted many Christians after this fire(Gibbons 230). Many Christians were torn to pieces by dogs while others were lit on fire to light up his parties at night. This was the first of brutal persecution of Christians.
Christianity began as a Jewish sect that was popular among non-jewish people who felt attracted to the Jewish religion (Joy 139). Differences in beliefs caused the Christians not to participate in the Major Jewish uprising of 66-70 against Roman authorities. Shortly afterwards, Christianity began to spread due to their expulsion from the Jewish community. Slaves and women were quickly attracted to Christianity because of its view of equality.
Christianity was beginning to make impacts on the Roman society. It was at this point being recognized as a quickly growing religion. But, due to the unrebellious nature of Christianity, Christians were forced to participate in worship of the Roman state Gods and the emperor cults in the military camps and in administrative functions (Joy 142). This caused the Christian religion to take a backseat to Roman Imperialism during the flavian dynasty and the era of five good emperors. During these periods Rome was in a state of prosperity and successful battles against surrounding areas. The five good emperors; Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius ruled in Rome from 96-180 A.D. They were able to win cooperation and support from the Senate. All of these emperors were successful in their reign. They brought Rome into an age of imperialism.
The third century marked a period of political instability, military crisis, economic crisis, and social upheaval (Whatmough 322). In 249 Decius was appointed emperor of Rome after defeating and killing King Phillip at a battle in Lower Danube. Attempting to restore the stability of Rome, and the virtues of old Rome, he commanded all citizens of the empire demonstrate their loyalty to state gods and his divine reign through public sacrifice (Blois 227). Decius then set up sacrificial commissions that were to record all records of those citizens who performed sacrifices. The citizens that refused to participate were considered a threat to religious unity in the Roman Empire. Those who did not cooperate were subject to arrest, imprisonment, and execution. In the establishment of these rules Decius began Rome s first general persecution of Christians. At this point in time there were Christians at all social class levels. Decius persecution had a devastating impact on the Christian community. Many Christians recanted and performed the sacrifices, many others bought false documents and to avoid persecution, others fled.(Joy 154) Those who did refuse to perform the sacrifices were imprisoned, tortured, and eventually executed. Decius was also battling against the Goths in lower Danube during this persecution of Christians. In the summer of 251 Decius was killed in a battle against the Goths. This ended the general persecution of Christians in that period of time.
became a Christian state. The Church and the state also begin to work closely together due to the implementation of Christianity. Many Roman emperors responded negatively to Christians and used them as scapegoats to Rome s problems. Other rulers just ignored Christianity and went about ruling the state. As Christianity gained popularity it was only a matter of time before it came to power as the prevailing religion of ancient Rome.
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