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Posted: December 6th, 2022

Did the rise of Christianity support or weaken Rome

Ancient history homework help

Did the rise of Christianity support or weaken Rome in the years 300 to 600 C.E.? In your response, compare the impact Christianity had on both Eastern and Western Rome by introducing specific developments, events, and individuals from each side of the divided Roman Empire.

Your response must be at least 300 words in length.

Study notes:
Christianity and Rome

Christianity was a perilous venture in Ancient Rome. The Romans placed a high value on religion. Christianity was outlawed in the Roman Empire, and Christians were persecuted for many years. In Ancient Rome, feeding Christians to lions was considered entertainment.

St. Paul, who founded Christian churches in Asia Minor and Greece, spread the Christian message throughout the Roman Empire. He eventually took his teachings to Rome.

Ancient Rome’s Early Christianity
The early Christians in Ancient Rome faced numerous challenges. The poor and slaves were usually the first converts because they had a lot to gain from the Christians’ success. If they were caught, they would be executed for refusing to worship the emperor. When Rome faced difficulties, it was not uncommon for emperors to turn the people against the Christians. A section of Rome was burned down in AD 64. The Christians were blamed by Emperor Nero, and the people turned against them. There were arrests and executions.

“Nero punished a race of men who were despised for their evil deeds.” These men were known as Christians. He persuaded a number of people to confess. On the basis of their testimony, a number of Christians were convicted and executed with heinous cruelty. Some were covered in wild beast skins and left to be eaten by dogs. Others were hung from the cross. Many were burned alive and set on fire to serve as nighttime torches.” Tacitus

Christianity’s Perils in Ancient Rome
Because of the dangers that the Christians in Rome faced, they had to meet in secret. They typically used underground tombs because they were literally hidden from view. Rome’s population included a large number of poor people, and Christianity spread. In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal, allowing them to openly worship for the first time. Churches were quickly built throughout the empire, not just in Rome. Other gods’ worship was made illegal in 391 AD.
The spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire was not difficult. Tens of thousands of Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred in what was essentially a religion-fueled genocide in Ancient Rome. As the Empire gradually came to accept and welcome Christians, the religion spread like wildfire. It is widely acknowledged that the spread and prosperity of Christianity in the Western world aided in delaying the inevitable fall of the Roman Empire. The influence of Christianity on the Empire is still visible, particularly in political, social, and economic terms. Politically, Christianity aided in the reinforcement of morals and the stability of the Empire’s government. It aided in the restoration of trust and… more content…
This strategy made Christianity appear to be a better, more unified, and more stable version of the rapidly deteriorating Empire. St. Paul describes the broad structure of the Church’s authoritative aspect, which is similar to the governmental structure of Rome. “Everyone must submit to the supreme authorities,” he says. There is no authority except by the act of God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him; thus, anyone who rebels against authority is opposing a divine institution, and those who do so deserve the punishment they will receive” (St. Paul, 70). He appears to be emphasizing the purity of Christian administration by stating that God appoints all positions and leaders, as opposed to the usual corrupt process of new leadership in the monarchical Roman government. …display more content …
By removing money from the values and instead preaching goodness and charity, Christianity became a social and economic unifier. The wealthy, seeking heaven, responded by donating a large portion of their wealth and possessions to the Church or directly to the lower classes. The Church grew in wealth and prominence, and the large disparity between classes shrank. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, he says, “Give to the one who asks, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 69). Although this excerpt can be interpreted in a variety of ways, it is relevant to the development of new economic ideas because it emphasizes charity and humanitarianism over avarice. In St. Jerome’s The Fall of Rome, he expresses his, and others’, disbelief that the once-mighty, once-energetic, once-dominant Roman Empire was in decline. Although much of the piece is centered on the shock of the state of Rome and its surrounding cities, St. Jerome credits the Catholic Church with saving the few cities. “I cannot speak without tears of Toulouse,” he says, “which the merits of the holy Bishop Exuperius have prevailed so far to save.”

Europe was undergoing seismic change at the time. The Western Roman Empire, which had replaced villages, cart paths, and ancient superstitions with stone cities, solid roads, and written and dictated laws from Rome. It also had a military system that was virtually unbeatable for 750 years. By the fourth century AD, all of this infrastructure had begun to crumble, allowing new forces from the Russian Steppes and the Baltic to enter Europe and take control. The Roman cities were frequently abandoned, and the villages reverted to being semi-autonomous regions. Crucially, Christianity did not vanish completely but persisted in the most remote areas. Importantly, the Byzantine Empire remained strong, steadfast, Christian, and eager to reclaim influence.

The Byzantines sought out and began trading with the isolated Christian enclaves. They promoted writing, monastic practices, and an evangelistic policy. Western European Christianity was also modified in order to be more compatible with pagan religions. For example, themes of rebirth and renewal, Christ as a symbol of perfection in human form, and the concept of Christ as the primary actor on the world stage were found in European Paganism, while God the Father and the Holy Spirit, while having greater power, had less direct bearing on the living. As a result, the Roman church has always interpreted Christianity differently than the Byzantines (Byzantines consider themselves to be closer to the original form and the Romans to be impostors).

The rulers of these hundreds of autonomous regions began to see the enormous commercial benefits that a Europe-wide Byzantine trade system and monasticism would bring as a result of Byzantine efforts. Also, Christianity no longer seemed incompatible with their own belief systems, and conversion would be a small step toward joining one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

This set the tone for Western Europe for the next 1500 years, until the birth of the EU. A region riven with petty squabbles, power struggles, and discord. All speaking different languages, but all connected by Christianity. Only in declaring war on the Ottomans in the Holy Land would these disparate states come together. The European army stopped in Byzantium and attacked it during the Fourth Crusade. The city surrendered and granted them rule. The crusaders refused, preferring instead to pillage the area. This eventually led to the Byzantine Empire’s demise at the hands of the Ottomans.

Interestingly, despite the seismic rift that resulted, the rise of Protestantism in Northern Europe allowed for greater trade and prosperity, as well as a revolution in technological innovation.

Despite its Christian heritage, Europe remained a place of immense greed and self-interest. Only in the last 200 years or so has the concept of caring for one’s fellow beings gained traction. Overall, we Europeans are a mixed bag, capable of both good and evil in large quantities. With all of our history’s upheavals, the only constant has been change.

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