Christianty in Ancient Rome
The beginnings of the Christian religion are rooted in the Jewish religion. Jesus, called the Christ, was born during the rule of King Herod in Judea. He was crucified, at the age of 33, by the Roman governor Pilate, at the urging of an angry mob. His followers, known as the Apostles, gave testimony that they saw him rise from the dead after three days in a tomb. These Apostles began to spread the good news, which became known as the Gospel, that Christ was the Son of God, and he had risen from the dead.
A Jewish Pharisee named Saul wanted to stamp out this newfound religion and went about persecuting converts of the Christian religion. According to Biblical accounts, Saul was blinded on the way to Damascus by a bright light, and a voice spoke to him. Closely following this encounter, Saul converted to the Christian religion. Saul had his name changed to Paul and began to spread this new belief system. Paul took three missionary journeys into Asia Minor and Greece. Paul was arrested and he appealed his case to Caesar (the right of any Roman Citizen). He was then taken to Rome. Paul wrote many letters during this time. Many of these letters now make up large sections of the Christian Bible's New Testament. Paul spent the last years of his life under house arrest in Rome. During this time many in Rome converted to this new religion, including some in Caesar's household. It is uncertain how he died, but Christian tradition suggests that Paul was beheaded by the order of Nero.
The Christian religion experienced heavy persacution in the
Roman Empire. The great fire in A.D. 64 burned more than half of the city of
Rome. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and began to persecute
any who held to the Christian beliefs. For the next two hundred years, Christians
suffered massive persecution from the Roman government until the reign of Constantine
(A.D. 324-337). Constantine issued the Edict of Toleration, which gave the Christians
the rights to worship as they chose. Constantine converted to Christianity and
made it the official religion of the empire.