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Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire – Reasons, Causes, and Contributing Factors: – Theories attributing general enactment forbidding Christian practices to Nero or Domitian. […]

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Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire
– Reasons, Causes, and Contributing Factors:
– Theories attributing general enactment forbidding Christian practices to Nero or Domitian.
– Emphasis on persecution due to the accusation of the Name.
– Theory of coercion by German scholars for punishment by Roman governors.
– Prosecution for criminal offenses like child murder, incest, and treason.
– Combining criminal charges with coercion theory for Christian persecution.
– Persecution Patterns and Responses:
– Neronian persecution under Emperor Nero.
– General persecution under Marcus Aurelius.
– Persecutions under Emperors Decius and Trebonianus Gallus.
– Diocletianic persecution initiated by Augustus Diocletian.
– Edict of Milan permitting tolerance of all religions.
– Religious Threats and Responses:
– Suspicion of night worship practices like Bacchanalia and divination.
– Response to religious threats by dissolving associations and imposing controls.
– Periodic expulsions targeting various religious groups.
– Tolerance or intolerance based on honoring gods according to ancestral customs.
– Shifts in Roman Religious Practices:
– Decline of traditional Roman polytheism and rise of new forms of worship.
– Cultural permeability allowing the acceptance of foreign gods.
– Expansion characterized by tolerance based on ancestral customs.

Social and Religious Causes
– Ideological conflict between worship of Caesar and Christian beliefs.
– Threat of denunciation for not participating in Roman state religion.
– Renunciation of worldly norms required by Christian faith.
– Participation in conflicting civic activities was dangerous.
– Suspicions of outrageous crimes like cannibalism and incest.
– Legal basis and precedents for persecutions under Roman law.

Privatizing and Inclusivity
– Privatization of Christian activities leading to suspicions and rumors.
– Inclusive early Christian communities across social strata and gender.
– Encouragement of love and inclusivity within Christian communities.
– Inclusivity seen as disruptive to traditional societal order.
– Christian converts renouncing ties instilling apprehension in pagan neighbors.

Exclusivity and Rejection of Paganism
– Christian refusal to sacrifice to Roman gods seen as defiance.
– Christians blamed for disasters by pagans due to refusal to worship.
– Scapegoating Christians for natural disasters and societal issues.
– Christian exclusivity causing apprehension and defiance against Roman identity.
– Constant defense against accusations of impiety and guilt.

Legal System, Trials, and Government Responses
– Roman law based on ancestral customs.
– Special laws introduced during Nero’s rule for trying Christians.
– Trials resulting in executions or varied outcomes.
– Government edicts during the Great Persecution.
– Distinction between Jews and Christians in Roman governance.

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire (Wikipedia)

Christians were persecuted, sporadically and usually locally, throughout the Roman Empire, beginning in the 1st century AD and ending in the 4th century. Originally a polytheistic empire in the traditions of Roman paganism and the Hellenistic religion, as Christianity spread through the empire, it came into ideological conflict with the imperial cult of ancient Rome. Pagan practices such as making sacrifices to the deified emperors or other gods were abhorrent to Christians as their beliefs prohibited idolatry. The state and other members of civic society punished Christians for treason, various rumored crimes, illegal assembly, and for introducing an alien cult that led to Roman apostasy. The first, localized Neronian persecution occurred under Emperor Nero (r. 54–68) in Rome. A more general persecution occurred during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180). After a lull, persecution resumed under Emperors Decius (r. 249–251) and Trebonianus Gallus (r. 251–253). The Decian persecution was particularly extensive. The persecution of Emperor Valerian (r. 253–260) ceased with his notable capture by the Sasanian Empire's Shapur I (r. 240–270) at the Battle of Edessa during the Roman–Persian Wars. His successor, Gallienus (r. 253–268), halted the persecutions.

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)

The Augustus Diocletian (r. 283–305) began the Diocletianic persecution, the final general persecution of Christians, which continued to be enforced in parts of the empire until the Augustus Galerius (r. 310–313) issued the Edict of Serdica and the Augustus Maximinus Daia (r. 310–313) died. After Constantine the Great (r. 306–337) defeated his rival Maxentius (r. 306–312) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in October 312, he and his co-emperor, Licinius, issued the Edict of Milan (313), which permitted all religions, including Christianity, to be tolerated.

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