Q: Why did the Romans convert to Christianity?
Rome: Thought of as one of the most majestic and powerful places in the world. It’s
composed of seven hills along the lush Tiber river and the Vatican City, St. Peters
Cathedral, and the Pope all call this place home. To know more about present day Rome and its
traditions we must first look into the past at its people.
One of the most important events in Rome was the Late Antiquity. This was the period
between the 3rd and 7th Century and was known as the beginning of Christianity in the Roman
Empire. Christianity had been present before in Rome, but was not accepted until the Late
Antiquity. One of the reasons why it was not accepted before was because Christianity
is the belief in Jesus Christ, who is the trinity (the father, the son, and the holy spirit.) This
ideology went against the principles of Rome and thus was believed to be a “subversive force”
which led to the persecution of Christians. Though the Late Antiquity seemed drastic, this was
exactly what Rome needed. The Roman people were in desperate need of a nurturing religion
that was set up on stable morals and did not believe in self sacrifice and mutilation. They needed
and wanted a basic religion for Rome for numerous reasons.
During the Fall of the Roman Empire the corrupt Caesars in control were pagan and
believed that they were a divine power and practiced intolerable acts such as self mutilation,
sacrifices, and persecution of those who would not grovel at the feet of the Roman Empire. Late
Antiquity was an extremely unstable era where many religions were transplanted from other
countries at the time religious cults were very prolific. One of the most prominent cults
worshiped Mithras, who was very popular with men in the military. Mithras was a strong
dominating character who believed in sacrifices. Another popular cult was based off the Egyptian
goddess Isis. This cult believed in a virginal birth and miraculous resurrections. Judaism and
Christianity were present at this time but in very minute numbers. Judaism had become known by
the soldiers because it was highly practiced in Judea and Palestine when the Romans conquered
them. Tales of the practices of the Christians and Jews circulated back to the enraged Emperor
Diocletian who began to persecute them. Though the Christians were being condemned now
their “salvation” was near.
Emperor Diocletians successor, Constantine, converted to Christianity in 312 and then in
313 legalized Christianity. This act put the Roman people on a path to hope. The legalization of
Christianity boosted the number of Christians from 5 % in the 4th century to the majority of the
people after 313. Then in 325 Constantine ordered the church council of Nicea to make one
unified statement of the Christian belief. He also changed the architecture of the Christian
churches. He built the first great basilicas and poured an enormous amount of money into
building churches. The Christians once worshiped in catacombs in the dark and were buried in
secret, now they were free to worship in public. Following in his fathers footsteps, Constantines
son, Emperor Constantius banned the pagan traditions and put out a decree that
anyone who followed in this corrupt practice would be put to death. The belief of Christianity in
Rome differed than our present day Christian belief in the fact that they believed the Emperor
would be “God on earth.”. The Christians were to unify together and take lead under the
Emperor who would take them to the promised afterlife when the end of the world came.
The drastic change of Rome becoming Christian is said to be anachronistic. This means
that it is historically out of place such as the takeover of Christianity. There are numerous
reasons though why the...
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