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Posted on October 12th, 2012, by

Among many factors that affected the strength of the Roman Empire, the impact of Christianity is one of the most questionable and argued ones. There are many opinions on the spread of Christianity, the policy of Constantine The Great and the division of the empire to Eastern and Western parts. The aim of this essay is to examine this question and analyze the influence of Christianity on the development and fall of the Roman Empire.

The story of Christianity in the Roman Empire started when the Jewish people were conquered and became part of the empire. Christianity started as a denomination in Judaism based on the teachings of Jesus (Novak 2001, p. 43). Based on monotheistic beliefs, it was rather alien to Roman society. However, the empire was quite tolerant to other religions in the period of 200BC-100AD Persian, Zoroaster and other religions have existed within the empire. In some places, Christians were prosecuted, but most often their belief was only a cover to start oppressions, and the real reasons for prosecutions were economical or political ones.

The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire happened due to Constantine the Great, who accepted Christianity and in 313 AD legalized this religion within the whole empire. Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, accompanied by the words in signus, vinctus (in this sign, conquer). Constantine defeated Mexentius the ruler of the western part of the Empire (Novak 2001, p. 70) and after those events started supporting Christianity and promoting it as a state accepted religion. He also moved to a city of Byzantium in the eastern part of the empire and renamed it as Constantinople, making it an eastern capital and also the center for the spread of Christianity.

There are several factors which conditioned the quick spread of Christianity over the empire (Novak 2001, p. 138):

ü    Increase of poverty (poor people were more eager to believe in paradise on heaven)

ü    Plagues, invasions, and wars which have split the empire – in this situation Christianity has become the unifying religion

ü    The loss of Imperial control in the West

Finally, Christianity has become the dominant religion. In my opinion, Christianity had won over paganism also because it has proclaimed some values and rules, uniting people together and giving them some moral laws, while pagan beliefs did not provide such a background. The rise of Christianity and its basic principles which have in many spheres contradicted the traditions of Romans has been one of the factors that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, but in my opinion, it has not been the major cause.

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