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Christian persecution rome essay

It meant that you and your companions would be exposed in the arena to a variety of wild and ferocious animals, such as leopards, boars, and yes, lions, and required to fight for your lives. This was one part of a day-long festival of violence and slaughter, and was usually scheduled during the lunchtime interval to provide some light relief.

It is important to emphasise that such cruel deaths were not unique to Christians.

Condemnation to the beasts was a popular punishment for criminals of any type, because it maximized their suffering and allowed good and proper Roman citizens to gain pleasure from the deaths of wrong-doers. The pattern of localised persecution changed in A.

Not Just Lions…

In that year, the emperor Decius issued an edict that ordered all Romans to sacrifice to the gods and present a certificate to prove that they had done so. This edict was prompted by serious barbarian invasions. Decius believed that Romans needed to unite to show support for the gods in order to protect the empire. His sacrifice edict was not specifically directed at Christians, though it did pose a particular problem for the followers of this monotheistic religion.

Essay about christianity expansion

The sacrifices evidently did nothing to assist Decius personally, since he died fighting the Goths in a swamp a year later. Christians could then breathe a sigh of relief until A. The legislation described those who did not sacrifice as un-Roman. Death was not initially the automatic punishment for Christians who refused to sacrifice. Some clergy, such as Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in North Africa, were simply sent into exile. His less fortunate colleagues in Numidia were condemned to hard labour in the mines, a punishment usually reserved for slaves. It was only in the second stage of persecution that death was prescribed for Christians such as Cyprian.

This was a major disaster which later Christian authors recounted with glee as some kind of divine retribution.

After Valerian, the Roman state took no official action against the Christians for more than forty years. In a series of edicts, the emperors ordered the destruction of churches, the seizure of ecclesiastical property, and the burning of Christian texts. Every opportunity was given to Christians to acknowledge the gods, and the emperors even introduced an amnesty for imprisoned clergy if they performed a sacrifice. The types of penalties inflicted on Christians depended on provincial governors who were charged with enforcing imperial will. Some were tortured and then burned to death. Others were mutilated and then sentenced to the copper mines in Egypt.

However, Lactantius tells us that some governors did not spill Christian blood, indicating that persecution was not uniformly enforced. Nor did all the emperors agree with the policy. The eastern provincials had to endure a series of waves of persecution until A. This was neither an edict, nor from Milan, but a letter from Constantine and his co-emperor Licinius to eastern governors. The Romans were horrible, bloodthirsty people in many ways. But the treatment of Christians by the Roman imperial state was more complex than we might at first think.

Persecution of Christians was carried out on the local level, and usually initiated by provincial mobs.


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Death — particularly by lions — was not an inevitable punishment, and not restricted to Christians. Universal edicts of persecution were only issued on specific occasions in the third and early fourth centuries A.

Related Documents

They were a result of the emperors trying to reinforce traditional Roman religion in increasingly unsettled times. Courageous Leaders: promoting and supporting diversity in school leadership development — Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. The Maldon UP! Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Blaming the Emperors The myth of constant persecution largely stems from two works written in the early fourth century A.

The persecutions during this period were, although at times ferocious, less severe and had less effect upon the Church than did the period that followed. The second period began with the emperor Decius, who had inherited an Empire in which the Christian Church had grown significantly in size and influence. Decius started a campaign in which he hoped that Christianity would be eradicated. Thus began a policy of general persecution against the Church that was to be adhered to by later emperors.

It was during this period that many were to be martyred; shedding their blood in defiance of the Roman State. During this period, as with the first, there were seasons of apparent tranquillity these were broken by renewed hostility that was savage in its intensity, if not, at times, in its extent. An important aspect to be considered is that of the motives or reasons behind the violent hatred displayed by the Romans towards Christianity. To this end, six areas will be viewed. The first area is that of the exclusive and separatist nature of Christianity as viewed by the pagan world. The Christians were regarded by both the common people and the authorities as being separatists.

The Christian lifestyle itself distanced it from that of the pagan world. The very moral standards of the Church were seen as a severe reproach of the pagan way of life. Indeed, some Christians lived an almost excessively puritanical life and thus incurred the wrath of the populace. However, some other believers did not distance themselves so far from the world, conforming more to the society in which they lived. A description of a Christian community can be found within the Epistle to Diognetus , where it reads: "They pass their lives in whatever township - Greek or foreign - each man's lot has determined: and conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, diet, and other habits.

It is possible that the Christian community had begun to acquire some wealth. This, perhaps, was gained by non-participation in the excesses of the pagan world, which for the Christian led to a more frugal existence than that of his contemporaries in Roman society.

36. Nero and Imperial Persecution of Christians

Also, believers looked to the immediate needs of their fellow Christians and exhorted one another to be gainfully employed, not idle. The most significant problem appertaining to employment was that of whether or not a Christian could serve in the army.

Describe the persecution of the Christians in Rome by Nero.

Some said an emphatic "No! There was another dilemma that faced the Christian soldier, especially those of rank. For example, a centurion was duty-bound to participate in and to witness pagan sacrificial ceremonies. If he did not comply he would lose his office and, most probably, his life. Christians were singled out as being a "gang The second area to be examined is that of the pagan misunderstanding of the rites and ceremonies of the Christian Church.

A regular accusation propagated against Christianity was that of atheism. Christianity, because of its monotheistic faith, would not offer the customary sacrifices and worship to other gods: a duty of Roman subjects. Justin Martyr wrote: "Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God The agape, or love feast, was regarded as an orgy and as Athenagoras records: "Three things are alleged against us: atheism, Thyestean feasts [cannibalism], Oedipodean intercourse [incest]".

The Christian 'kiss' was also misunderstood. Other religions, such as Mithraism, the worship of Isis and other pagan gods endeavoured to take precautions against persecution.

Essay on Roman Persecution of Christians

The Church, however, did not conform nor compromise to avoid danger; indeed Christians were observed to adopt a deliberately aggressive attitude towards the State, inciting and deliberately seeking martyrdom. Often Christians were punished for natural disasters and defeat in battle; the logic behind this being that the Pagan gods had been offended by the Christian's atheism and were making the people suffer as a result. Christianity was reported as being a "foreign superstition"[ 15 ] possessing a "new and mischievous religious belief".

Essay about christianity expansion - Words | Major Tests

Another factor that induced anger from the populace was the Church's chiliastic eschatology by which they believed that upon the Lord's return he would reign on David's throne for a thousand years. This view, concerning the fate of the world, deeply offended the pagan, who, according to Christian teaching, was doomed. The Church taught that upon the fall of the sinful world the reign of the saints would begin. Such a stance naturally resulted in intense dislike. It is worth noting that the instructions concerning the Eucharist, contained within the Didache, close with the word 'Maranatha', meaning 'our Lord come".

A fourth area that caused concern for the authorities was that of the Christian attitude to wealth and property. Of prime concern was the church's radical view concerning the position and treatment of slaves. The slave was considered by pagans to be a mere chattel: a possession with no rights or liberties. The teaching of the Church, however, was that slaves were no longer to be regarded in such a way. The slave was to be accepted as a brother and an equal. Chadwick writes: "In the Church masters and slaves were brethren. Such people became highly respected members of the Church.

Christian attitude towards wealth and property ran contrary to the materialistic position held by many pagans. Indeed, wealth was considered to be a hindrance to those who held high office within the Church. Many advocated that poverty was a prerequisite for those of rank within the faith. This appeared to the State to be nothing less that anarchy. The threat to the established pattern of family life was a fifth sphere of Christian influence that concerned many unbelievers. Some felt that Christian teaching, such as Paul's[ 21 ], actively discouraged marriage.

Any inter-marriage between Christian and Pagan was forbidden and in some extreme cases Christians were attempting to divorce their unbelieving partners. Those who remained with their partners were a source of much concern and consternation.