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Christianity in the Roman Empire
In a distant province of Rome, a trial was causing the Roman governor a headache. Pliny the
younger was a wealthy senator, and a refined man of letters. In AD 111, near the waters of the
Black Sea, a tricky case was brought before him that would prove to be a nuisance.
When Pliny was touring the province to hear legal cases, a group of people of been brought
before him and denounced buy some locals. Their alleged crime? Being Christians. Pliny gave
them every opportunity to prove their innocence. However, when he interrogated them, some
confessed that they followed Christ. So Pliny gave them another chance and reminded them of
the punishment for their confession: death. After the second and third interrogations, the people
refused to take back their belief in Jesus Christ.
The governor was left with no choice. The Roman citizens were sent to Rome to be given an
official Roman trial. The non-citizens were executed on the spot. Pliny continued to have
problems with these Christians who continued to break the law. He had a series of letters with
Emperor Trajan. The letters reveal how the persecution and execution of Christians was an
accept practice in the empire.
This was not the first time Christians were persecuted in the empire. 64 AD - Looking to avoid
the accusation that he himself had started the great fire of Rome in order to build a new palace,
Nero famously had Christians crucified or burnt in the gardens of his residence.
Worshiping the Christian God and not the traditional Roman gods was simply intolerable. Trials
were brought against Christians. If found guilty, the unfortunate believers in this religion were
treated no better than criminals and prisoners of war. Indeed the often met a similar end, A
gruesome death in the Roman arena.
In spite of the hostility and penalties they experienced, Christianity grew and grew.
In 303, The Christians faced their greatest persecution yet. The emperor Diocletian issued a law
ordering churches to be destroyed, scriptures to be burnt, and some Christians to be removed
from their jobs and made slaves.
Constantine was a man who was pushing for control of the Roman empire. However he needed
to defeat is enemies to take full control. Before one of his battles, Constantine had a vision. At
noon, under a bright blue sky, the general saw a shining cross, and inscribed upon it, and
instruction: "By this sign, you will conquer." Just before battle he made a radical, last-minute
change of plan. All the soldiers to market if shields in white paint with a sign need to Greek
letters - chi-ro (XP) - the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ (Kristos). Constantine and
his soldiers had overwhelming victories with the shields painted with the sign of Christ.
Sign of Christ put on soldiers’ shields.
Constantine would soon control the Roman Empire.
Constantine would be known as the first emperor to defend the Christian faith. A new law was
also created under Constantine. The edict of Milan was a document that recognized freedom of
belief. As a result the persecution of Christians was now outlawed. Buy 324 Christianity would
become the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Constantine's decision to support Christianity was perhaps the single most influential turning
point in Roman history and possibly world history. It was because of Constantine's conversion
that Christianity thrive throughout the Roman empire and transformed itself into the world
religion that it is today. He would die in 337 and asked to be baptized on his deathbed, officially
becoming a Christian himself.