Sunday, January 8, 2017

Roman Empire and Beginnings of Christianity

Beginnings of Christianity
Parts of the Roman Empire lay far from the city of Rome itself. More than 1,200 miles (1,932 km) from their central city, the Romans claimed the region of Judaea, once known as Judah. Many Jews, the descendants of the Israelites, lived in this distant region. Today, Judaea is remembered by many people around the world as the birthplace of Christianity.

Religion and the Roman Empire
Augustus was not only the ruler of the Roman Empire but also a leader of Rome's religion. As a religious leader, he wanted all citizens to take part in religious ceremonies. He believed that this would help unite the many groups of Romans.

Like most cultures of long ago, the Romans worshipped many gods. Of all their gods, Jupiter was believed to be the most powerful. Other Roman gods included Mars, the god of war, and Ceres, the goddess of the harvest.

Although the Romans had their own religion, they often adopted the gods and the beliefs of the people whom they conquered. The Romans also came to identify some of the gods they already believed in with the gods of other peoples. For example, the Roman goddess Juno, who protected marriage and women, came to be like the Greek goddess Hera. Jupiter, the main Roman god, began to match Zeus, the ruler of the Greek gods. The Roman religion even included myths borrowed from the Greeks.

Belief in the gods was an important part of Roman life. The Romans thought that harm would come to the empire if people did not respect the Roman gods. So Roman law punished those who discouraged worship of Roman gods.

As time passed, the Romans began to treat their emperor as a god. Anyone who refused to worship the emperor was considered an enemy of the empire.

Roman control over religion was not always carried out, however. For example, the Romans allowed the Jewish people to follow their own religious leaders, laws, and teachings. Jews lived not only in the Roman-controlled land of Judaea but also throughout the Roman Empire. Although Jews were allowed to live among the Romans, they were often mistreated.

Why did the Romans want everyone to respect the Roman gods?

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