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Rivalry of traditional Roman faith and Christianity in the 4th century CE

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The Appearance of the Cross to Constantine, Paul Rubens
The Appearance of the Cross to Constantine, Paul Rubens

The fourth century CE brought significant changes to the Roman Empire. The legalization of the Christian faith allowed the church authorities to leave their secret offices and officially proclaim faith in Christ. The followers themselves could freely discuss in public, which led to animosities between pagans and Christians.

Christians despised and laughed at conservative Romans praying for silver or gold sculptures representing ancient deities. In turn, pagans mocked Christians who did not fulfill the patriotic obligation to go to temples and worship traditional Roman deities. In their opinion, such behavior was dangerous to Roman statehood, which for centuries was based on faith in many gods and thus enjoyed peace. As proof of their argument, the conquest of Rome in 410, 455 and 472 CE was presented several times, which was to prove the anger of the gods against the Romans.

Pagans largely constituted the elite of the country, which was carefully educated and decided about the fate of the state. The awareness that people from the Christian circle were entering offices caused that substantive conflicts were arising. They criticized the style and language, frescoes and construction of Christians, which in their opinion did not reach the heels of Roman counterparts.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Constantine I, also called “the Great”, owes its nickname to Christians, not to traditional Romans. Christ’s followers thus repaid him for liberalizing his religion in the Empire and indirectly for raising faith to the top. Romans of a traditional denomination widely criticized the emperor for adopting Christianity on his deathbed; transfer of the ancient capital to Constantinople – New Rome; or promoting Christian officials in government offices.

  • Bożena Fabiani, Rzym. Wędrówki z historią w tle, Warszawa 2018

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