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Posted: September 7th, 2023

Christianity in the Roman Empire


Research paper -> How did Christianity benefit from and suffer under the Roman Empire? Which factors supported the growth of Christianity, and which opposed it? How did Christianity both unite and divide the Roman Empire?
Christianity in the Roman Empire
Christianity began spreading peacefully throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE due to dedicated missionaries like St. Paul and others who shared the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Over time, Christianity appealed to many within the empire due to its uplifting moral teachings and promise of eternal life. By the 300s CE, Christianity had grown enormously and gained significant political support.
Under Emperor Constantine I, Christianity was granted legal protection and tolerance with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE. This allowed for open worship without persecution and marked a turning point where Christianity transformed from a persecuted cult to a major religious force. Further, the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, convened by Constantine, established important Christian doctrines like the Nicene Creed which outlined core beliefs around Christ’s divinity. This council helped unify Christian theology.
However, despite these advances, not all emperors and some pagans continued opposing Christianity. Persecution under emperors like Diocletian and Galerius in the Great Persecution of 303-311 CE set back growth. Additionally, some Christian sects like Arians and Donatists faced suppression as orthodox Nicene Christianity became the state religion under Emperor Theodosius I in 380 CE. This exclusion of other views divided Christians. [1]
Over time, as Christianity took hold as the empire’s dominant faith, it helped provide social-political cohesion during a period of transition and decline. Shared religious beliefs united diverse peoples. However, theological disputes over Christology and other doctrines also fractured unity among Christians themselves. By the 400s CE, Christianity had become a major factor in the division of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. [2]
In summary, while Christianity played an important role in uniting the diverse Roman Empire culturally and spiritually during its rise, theological and political differences also contributed to divisions among Christians and between Christians and opponents like pagan traditionalists. Both unity and division marked Christianity’s complex relationship with the empire it eventually came to dominate.
[1] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press, 2005. essay writing service
[2] Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
[3] Lane Fox, Robin. Pagans and Christians. Penguin Books, 1990.

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