Christianity in Ancient Rome

Essay by ptpete25College, UndergraduateA, July 2005

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Christianity in Ancient Rome

The way the Romans viewed Christianity is slightly different from the general theory. The Romans did not spend all their time hunting down Christians in order to crucify them or throw them to the lions. When Christianity first started in the Roman Empire, it was viewed as another sect of Judaism. There was no differentiating between the Jews and the Christians in the eyes of the Roman government. The Christians were seen simply as a more radical group of Jews. They were also not completely trusted because of their monotheistic belief and non-acceptance of the Roman gods. Not much was even known about them by the Romans because of their mostly secretive ways. This caused many rumors to circulate. Rumors were also started just because they were disliked. During Marcus Aurelius's reign, his good friend Fronto wrote to him about the Christians, which fueled the rise in arrests and persecution during this time.

He set forth accusations in his letter that Christians engaged in heinous practices. Examples he used were initiation rites involving human sacrifice and consumption of infants and religious worship involving incestual orgies. But even with these accusations, persecution was still not as widespread as is commonly believed. The prevailing approach to persecuting the Christians continued to be inconsistency.

Generally tolerant of all religions, the Romans only persecuted Christians when it was convenient to do so. Basically the Christians were the Roman scapegoat while Roman government was weak and having problems. One example of this is after the massive burning of Rome during Nero's reign. Nero needed to blame somebody for it and because the Christians were a secretive group, he picked them and executed as many as he could. But according to Kebric, most Romans did not agree with these actions. Persecution of...