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Unit 8, Part 5:
• Actually a very religious people and held many
festivals in honor of their gods.
• Didn’t think that they could be sure which gods
did or did not exist, so in order to avoid offending
any gods, so they allowed people they conquered
to keep their beliefs, and they even prayed to a
wide range of gods adopted from the people they
had conquered.
• For example, many Romans worshipped the
Olympian gods of Greece, whom they learned
about when they conquered Greece. They became
the main gods of Rome, though they were known
by Roman names.
• Many Romans also adopted gods from the
Egyptians, Gauls, or Persians.
• Romans built many temples to honor all the gods. These
temples were called pantheons.
• The most famous, known as the Pantheon, was built in the
20s BC in Rome.
• It is the best preserved ancient Roman monument, and is
particularly known for its impressive, huge dome.
The only time Rome banned a religion was when it
challenged the government and created a political problem.
Conflict with Judaism for both religious and political
Religious Conflict
Jews believed their God was the only god, and some
Romans thought the Jews were insulting their gods by not
praying to them.
Political Conflict
Jews only wanted to be ruled by Jews, not by outsiders.
In the AD 60s many Jews rebelled but were defeated
Masada – Refusing to accept defeat, about 1,000 Jews locked
themselves in a mountain fortress called Masada and held
off the Romans for 4 years. In the end, the rebels killed
themselves to avoid surrendering to the Romans
• In the 1st century AD, before the Jews’ first
rebellion, a new religion appeared in Judea.
• Christianity – religion based on the life and
teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
• According to Jewish prophecy, a Messiah
(Hebrew for “anointed”), who was a
descendent of King David, would one day
come to lead the people and restore the
greatness of David’s ancient kingdom, Israel.
• When the Romans took over Judea in 63 BC,
many Jews thought the Messiah was coming.
• Several prophets, such as John the Baptist,
wandered throughout Judea announcing
that the Messiah was coming.
Most of what is known about Jesus comes from the part of the
Bible known as the New Testament.
Birth – Born in small town of Bethlehem at the end of first
century BC (his birth marks the shift from BD to AD) to Mary,
who was married to a carpenter named Joseph. Christians
believe God, not Joseph, was Jesus’s father.
Life – grew up in Nazareth and likely studied to be a
carpenter. At about age 30, he began to travel and teach,
drawing many followers.
Death – His teachings challenged the authority of political and
religious leaders who had him arrested, tried, and executed by
crucifixion, a type of execution in which a person was nailed
to a cross (common practice in the Roman Empire).
Resurrection – Christians belief he rose from the dead three
days after he was crucified and appeared to several of his
disciples, or followers, and that he stayed and taught them for
40 days before he finally rose up into heaven. People began to
call him Jesus Christ, coming from the Greek word for
Miracles – According to the New
Testament, he performed many
miracles such as turning water to
wine, healing people who were sick
or injured, feeding a crowd with just
a few loaves of bread and a few fish,
walking on water, and even raising
people from the dead.
Parables – He often taught through
parables, stories that teach lessons
about how to live. These linked his
teachings and complicated ideas to
people’s everyday lives in a way they
could understand. (Ex: The Prodigal
Message – love God and love all
other people, even their enemies,
salvation comes from living God’s
• Apostles - From his followers, Jesus chosen 12
to receive special training carry on his work.
They travelled throughout the Roman world
telling about Jesus and his teachings. They
wrote the books of the New Testament known
as the “Gospels.”
• Peter – became the leader of the group after
Jesus died. Eventually went to live in Rome.
• Paul – Never met Jesus and actually started
out persecuting Jesus’s followers. Eventually
he did more to spread Christianity than
anyone else. Known for writing long letters
that he sent to communities throughout the
Roman world to explain and elaborate on
Jesus’s teachings.
At first Christians worked to spread Jesus’s teachings only
among Jews, but soon some apostles, including Paul, began to
introduce Christianity to non-Jews in the Roman Empire.
This growth began to concern some Roman leaders. Many
local officials arrested and killed Christians, including Peter
and Paul, who refused to worship Rome’s gods, making them
martyrs, or people suffered death for their religious beliefs.
Although most of Rome’s emperors allow Christians to
worship as they pleased, a few in the 200s and 300s feared they
would cause unrest and banned Christianity. This led to
several periods of persecution, or punishing a group because
of its beliefs.
Many Christians were tortured and executed in terrible ways,
often as part of the games in the Colosseum. It is reported that
Emperor Nero sometimes even had Christians crucified and
then lit on fire and burned as torches to light the Colosseum at
night. Others were stoned or ripped apart and devoured by
Because of the ban, they were often forced to meet in secret.
They used secret symbols, such as the fish, to identify other
Emperor Constantine – became a general and
led his army in many successful campaigns. He
came to power in 306 after fighting and
defeating many rivals. According to legend, he
was preparing for battle against one of these
rivals when he saw a cross in the sky. He
thought the vision meant he would win the
battle if he converted to Christianity, He
converted, won the battle, became emperor of
Rome, and removed the bans against
Council of Nicaea – In 325 AD Constantine
called together Christian leaders to clarify and
standardize church teachings.
60 years after Constantine died, Emperor
Theodosius I actually banned all non-Christian
religious practices.