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Monday, January 9, 2017

Ancient Rome and Christianity

Rome and the New Religion
Christianity caused concern for Roman leaders. The Romans allowed people to have other religious beliefs as long as they also worshipped the Roman gods. The Roman leaders believed that their gods would become angry because the Christians did not worship them. Therefore, they began to persecute the Christians. To persecute someone is to punish him or her for following certain religious beliefs. Often they ordered the death of Christians who would not worship the Roman gods. Christians were killed in cruel ways such as by crucifixion.

Pliny the Younger, a Roman government official in Asia Minor around A.D. 112, explained his actions in this way:

With those who have been brought before me as Christians, I have acted as follows: I asked them whether they were Christians. If they answer yes twice, I threaten to punish them and ask a third time. Those who continue to say yes, I order executed. ... I dismissed those who said they had never been Christians and those who offered sacrifices to our gods.

Roman persecution did not stop Christianity. In fact, the persecutions made many Christians more determined to hold on to their beliefs. Many Christians became martyrs (MAR»terz), or people who willingly died for their beliefs. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), an 86-year-old bishop from Asia Minor, was one such martyr. When he was brought before the Roman governor, he was given several chances to give up his beliefs. Polycarp refused, saying he had served Jesus for many years and would not stop. The example of Polycarp and other martyrs helped other Christians to remain strong in their beliefs.

In A.D. 313 the persecution of Christians came to an end. This happened because of the actions of the new Roman emperor, Constantine (KAHN »stuhn* teen).
The year before, Constantine, then a general in the Roman army, had fought another k    general for the right to become emperor.

Their armies faced each other at Rome's Milvian Bridge. Just before the battle something happened that changed Constantine's life. He reported that the Greek letters for the word Christ chi rho appeared in the sky above him. Over these letters were written the Latin words in hoc signo vinces, which means "In this sign you will conquer." So Constantine ordered his soldiers to paint crosses symbols for Jesus on .    their shields. Constantine won the battle and became emperor.

Because of this victory, Constantine believed that the God of the Christians was a powerful god. In A.D. 313 he issued the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity an accepted religion. Throughout his reign as emperor, Constantine supported Christianity.

How did Roman persecution affect the Christians?


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