Religious Conflicts in Late Antiquity
Romans, Jews, and Christians competed and disputed orally and sometimes physically among themselves between the first and early fourth centuries CE. Roman authorities intermittently persecuted the expanding Christian communities but even harsh measures failed. The ultimate triumph of Christianity within the empire led to new problems, including heated quarrels between various religious communities, but especially intra-Christian community disputes about theology. These were especially intense in the Middle East. Competition between ambitious individuals complicated conflicts, but the authenticity of religious sentiments was indisputable. There was a religious core to it. The strife was not simply a manifestation of political, social, and economic agenda. People absolutely believed their salvation depended on the right choice, in part because some believed that the end of the world was drawing near.
1. “Ancient History in Depth: Christianity and the Roman Empire.” BBC History. Link to resource (accessed March 5, 2010).
2. “Legitimization Under Constantine: From Persecuted Minority to Official Imperial Religion—What Caused This Extraordinary Reversal for Christianity?” PBS, From Jesus to Christ. Link to resource (accessed March 5, 2010).
Walter E. Kaegi
Professor of History, University of Chicago
1. Explain how Christianity became the sanctioned religion of the Roman Empire. Why was it so appealing to the masses?
2. Describe the impact of religion on a society. How can it not only be a benefit but also a detriment to societies?