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Period 2 Time of Greeks and Romans

Christianity in the Roman Empire: from forbidden to any permitted religion

Nowadays, almost every village has a church. Can you imagine the church was once forbidden? In the era of the Romans, you weren't allowed to be a Christian.

Christianity was born around the year 100 AD. In this era, the Romans were in charge in Palestine. This is the land where Jesus Christ was born in year 0. The Romans had always been very religious. But their faith didn't look very much like Christianity. It was more like the religion that the ancient Greeks had also had. They believed in several gods. We call this polytheism.

The Roman religion was the state religion. That meant that everyone had to practice this religion. From the year 42 BC onwards, this also meant that the emperor was to be re-adered. In the year 42 BC Julius Caesar was deified. This meant that he was given a temple and priests who revered him. So two years after his death, he was seen as a god. That was fairly normal for this time.

In the year 44 BC he was assassinated because the Senate thought he wanted to be king. This would mean that the Senate would lose its power to Julius Caesar. But Caesar was very generous towards the city and its inhabitants in his testamant. Caesar's gardens were given to the city and each citizen was paid 10 weeks' wages. A close friend of Caesar's told the citizens who were Caesar's killers. The civilians burned the houses of the killers. Now Julius Caesar's friend became the boss of Rome. This friend's name was Mark Antony. In het jaar 27 voor Christus liet Marcus Antonius al zijn bezittingen na aan Augustus. Augustus became the first emperor in history. He ruled until the year 14 AD.

Augustus was also deified after his death. And as I said, all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire had to resent the emperor. The Roman religion was a state religion. But this was a problem for the many Jews who lived in the east of the Empire. They were only allowed to worship their faith in their own God. From the year 100 AD there were also more and more Christians. They had the same problem. They, too, were not to worship anyone besides their own God. This was the reason the Romans persecuted the Jews and Christians.

The Christians were blamed for all the disasters that hit the Roman Empire. The prosecutions lasted until the second century. In the second century, Emperor Trajan said that christians should be left alone. They were no longer allowed to be actively persecuted. Yet the Romans continued to see the Christians and Jews as a danger to society. Christianity was also still forbidden.

Emperor Constantine changed this. In 312 he repealed the ban on Christianity. In the year 312 he had won a war because he had prayed to the God of the Christians. However, it took a long time for Christianity to become the new state religion. It was not until 394 that Emperor Theodotius of Christianity made the state religion. In the history of Christianity this was a great step. It meant that they had now changed from a forbidden religion to the only permitted religion.