Compares Roman religious experience in the many generations before emperor Constantine adopted Christianity with the transformation religious life he initiated as ruler

Question

Step I

In this exercise you will write an essay using your textbooks, eCore online material, and primary sources, that compares Roman religious experience in the many generations before emperor Constantine adopted Christianity with the transformation religious life he initiated as ruler. The point of the exercise is not to argue what religion is better, but to use ancient sources to inform you about Romans’ religious life and how things changed as the older religious ideas gave way to new ones. To do so you will assume the role two characters listed below.

Answer

The Romans

Name

Instructor

Course name and number

Date

 

Characters chosen

Constantine

A Christian bishop in Greece after the Council of Nicaea

Introduction

Prior to the great Christian influence driven by Constantine, the religious life of Romans was characterized by a plethora of religions. Christianity comprised of only a small segment of the population, and even then, it was characterized by persecutions instigated by the majority pagans. In the mid-3rd century, Christian persecutions were on the rise in Rome. By 64 AD, Christians were the target of persecution by pagans and the then rulers. Emperor Nero at the time launched an anti-Christian campaign that saw the persecution of many Christian followers. Christians were persecuted for a variety of reasons, but mostly trivial issues. In 312 AD, a great marvel occurred in Rome where the ruling emperor, Constantine, expressed his support of the Christian faith, bringing to an end persecutions which had become synonymous with Christianity.

This paper will analyze the religious life of the Romans prior to Constantine’s adoption of a Christian lifestyle and the new life of Christianity from a variety of primary sources.

Describe the nature of your character’s religious beliefs and practices

As Constantine the Emperor of Rome, I am heavily subscribed to the Christian beliefs and faith. The Christians’ beliefs and practices revolved around the worship of Jesus Christ. Currently, majority of individuals who subscribe to the Christian faith are slaves, soldiers, peasants, and other lower-ranking individuals in the society. Christianity revolves around the life of Jesus Christ, the belief we hold in Him, and the love Christians express as taught by Christ. Believers in Christ often focus on divine transcendence expressed by Jesus Christ, or the suffering which He underwent for the sake of mankind. The religious beliefs and practices of Christians are guided by the Gospels, which are writings accounting the life of Jesus Christ and His numerous teachings and miracles that he performed. The Gospels were written by Christ’s apostles following His death, and all reflect His teachings and prophecies to the people (Digeser, 2000).

Particularities of Constantine’s religious worship

There are a number of particularities associated with Christianity. First, Christians used to practice Agape or Love Feast (Lunn-Rockliffe, 2011). The early Christians closely associated the Love Feast with Eucharist. Earliest references of the feast can be found in 1st Corinthians 13, which is an epistle by Apostle Paul to Corinthians. This feast was marked by a shared or common meal where Christians would gather in the evening and partake the meal together. Christians gathering for the meal often brought their own food. Perhaps one of the greatest characteristics of Christian faith is the partaking of the Holy Eucharist, which represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist feast is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Lunn-Rockliffe, 2011). This feast came to be during Christ’s Last Supper with his disciples where he gave them bread and wine. Bread represents Jesus’s body while wine represents the blood that would be shed during hiss crucifixion. Christians observe the feast for his remembrance.

How might your character have reacted to the empire’s toleration of their particular religion?

Although Constantine was largely influenced by Christian doctrines and way of life, he was more tolerant towards other religions. Upon taking the throne, Constantine declared freedom of worship, allowing Christians, pagans and other groups to freely practice their faiths (Lunn-Rockliffe, 2011). One of his greatest contributions to Christians is the protection he provided including restoration of property that had been acquired from Christians during their persecution. Christians were also given more privileges than any other time in history. Although Constantine was Christian, his leadership did not entirely follow the Christian doctrines, and neither did he establish a Christians-only state. In fact, one of the cities he founded and fondly named after him, Constantinople, tolerated both the Christian and pagan way of life, much to the consternation of early Christians. Constantine not only built churches for Christian worship, but also helped built pagan temples and erect statues associated with pagan beliefs. Constantine thus perpetuated the idea of freedom of worship.

What would the conversion of the emperor Constantine have meant to persons like your character had he or she lived in the 4th century CE?

As a Christian Bishop in Greece after the Council of Nicaea living in 4th century CE, a number of radical changes would have to be adopted. Early 4th century was greatly influenced by Constantine’s doctrines (Rüpke & Gordon, 2007). First, Christianity was adopted as the stare religion. Any Christian Bishop would thus have to interact with the state and speak on behalf of the state during religious activities. Christian Bishops were expected to support the state in various ways. For instance, they would provide advice to the state when it was needed. Such advice may pertain crucial decisions such as going to war or annexing new territories. The First Council of Nicaea had played an important part in Christian faith. First, it settled the Christological issue on the relationship between Son of God to God the Father (Rüpke & Gordon, 2007). Second, it established a uniform date for the celebration of Easter, and thirdly promulgated the canon law. A Christian Bishop would thus be expected to prepare celebrations for Easter on specific period and enforce the Canon Law among members.

What customs would your character believe to be threated, if any?

The conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity saw a number of radical changes to Christian way of life. Constantine radically influenced a number of Christian policies during this period. One of the customs which came under threat involves the church re-admittance policy. Constantine greatly pushed for a change in this policy whereby repentant Arians could then be accepted back in church (Odahl, 2004). Constantine wished that he would establish unity in church, and bring lasting peace to the region. Prayers would also be offered for his dynasty. Another custom that was threatened was the worship and sacrifices made by individuals to the emperor of the state. Christians strongly opposed the worship of the emperor and any sacrifices made for him. To them, the emperor was only human. This was one of the reasons why Christians were blamed of treason by the pagans. With the rise of Constantine, this practice was threatened (Odahl, 2004).

What role did the emperor play in Roman Religious rituals?

Emperor Constantine played a significant role in Roman Religious rituals.  One of his greatest contributions is the establishment of specific day for the celebration of Easter in the Christian calendar. This was one of the agendas during the First Council of Nicaea. Constantine also played a great role in the establishment of the Canon law which governs the Catholic Church (Odahl, 2004). The significance of this is that Christianity became more rooted in the society leading to a decline in Roman paganism which had persisted for centuries. Disputes which earlier dogged the Christian faith were also resolved following First Council of Nicaea meeting. This helped in uniting Christians and spreading the faith even more among the people.

In conclusion, Emperor Constantine had a pervasive and profound impact on the lives of Romans. His conversion to Christian way of life led to the decline in paganism and the rise of Christianity. Constantine was able to unite various groups of people under Christianity including the Arians who were re-admitted back to church. This helped to promote peace in the entire region.

References

Digeser, E. D. P. (2000). The making of a Christian empire: Lactantius & Rome. Ithaca, N.Y:      Cornell Univ. Press.

Lunn-Rockliffe, S. (2011). Christianity and the Roman Empire. BBC. Retrieved from:             http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/christianityromanempire_article_01.shtml

Odahl, C. M. (2004). Constantine and the Christian Empire. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rüpke, J., & Gordon, R. L. (2007). Religion of the Romans. Cambridge: Polity.

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