Rise and Transition to Christianity
Religion had always been very important in Rome. Often, religious and political positions went hand in hand. Many priests held high political positions. Romans also adopted the religious and mythological gods and figures of the Greeks.
While Romans accepted and tolerated some religions, they persecuted others. Christianity began in the Roman empire. Jesus Christ was killed by Roman officials and his followers began spreading his message. Christians refused to participate in some of the Roman religious activities they did not believe in. They began being persecuted for their beliefs. One of the great persecutions of early Christians occurred in 64 CE after a fire burned Rome. Many believed that the emperor Nero started the fire. To clear his name, he blamed the fire on Christians. They were an easy group to scapegoat and were seen as outsiders by traditional Romans. Many Christians were arrested and executed, and some were thrown to the lions at the colosseum.
Despite the widespread persecution of Christians, Christianity grew rapidly. It mostly appealed to the poor in Rome. Many were drawn to the religion’s belief in salvation and that if you lived a good life you would go to heaven. Rome’s religion believed that heaven was only for gods and that everyone else would go to the underworld. People also liked that Christians believed in equality, and that everyone was equal with no hierarchy or caste.
Christiantiy spread among the poor and soldiers and was eventually tolerated. Under the emperor Trajan, Christians would no longer be prosecuted. Progress was slow and occurred in patches at various points of the empire. The empire became so vast that it grew to tolerate the different people who became part of it.
Emperor Constantine converted to Christiantiy in 312 and declared that Christians and Pagans should be allowed to worship freely. During one of his battles, Constantine had a vision of Christ and was directed to fight with Christian standards. The victory in this battle resulted in Constantine’s new faith in Christinaity. It would take over a hundred years before Christianity was sponsored by emperors and protected. However, paganism still remained and continued to pose a challenge to the rising Christian faith.