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Constantine's influence on you and me

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Christians were persecuted and running for their lives until Constantine became emperor of Rome in 313 A.D. All Roman emperors before Constantine considered Christianity a Jewish sect and made life miserable for Jews and Christians, for they refused to acknowledge the emperor as "half god, half man."

 

They refused at tax time to swear to a magistrate "Caesar is lord," so Nero in 64 A.D., Domitian from 81-95 A.D. and Decius and other emperors later carried out systematic persecution and confiscation of property of Jews and Christians. Few if any church buildings existed before Constantine, so Christians met in homes or theaters or catacombs. Only after Constantine could Christians build churches and assemble freely.

 

Interesting article about Constantine the Great and his influence on our life at the Carolina Morning News

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Keep in mind that the 'persecutions' have always been a bit embellished by the Church. By no means am I being revisionist and suggesting that Christians led a wonderful life of free religion under Roman dominian, but there is always evidence to take with a 'grain of salt.' Labelling the early church as a victim standing up against opressors for the good of the people certainly did much to spread its awareness and influence.

 

When researching the Christian Persecutions, just be aware of the source material it is coming from. Did some atrocities take place? Of course. But the prevailing notion, among most people, that the Christians were brutalized for centuries under Roman rule is as much a falsehood as saying they were openly welcomed from the beginning. The simple truth of the matter is that Rome was far too pressed by a plethora of issues over the centuries which would weigh far more heavily than the issue of the Christian cult.

 

As an example, Domitian has always been labeled as one of the great persecutors. He was indeed a persecutor of many people and certainly ranks near the top of the list of 'nasty' and at time incompetent emperors. Real evidence shows no involvement on the part of Domitian in massive persecutions of Christians, however.

 

Tacitus, Pliny (who were both Senators during his reign and quite familiar with him), and Seutonius never mention these Christian persecutions. Tacitus, the son-in law of Agricola (a subject of one of Tacitus' many works) had plenty of reason to dislike Domitian, but yet never mentions any religious persecutions against Christians. Agricola, however, was a well documented victim of Domitians paranoia and had a fine career as a governor and legate cut short for this reason. Contrarily, both Seutonius and Tacitus did leave a written record of Nero's actions, but strangely left Domitian alone. Tacitus also quite blatantly faulted Domitian on several fronts, but never this one.

 

Pliny wrote to the emperor Trajan years later, "I have never taken part in trials of Christians; consequently I do not know the precedents regarding the question of punishment or the nature of the inquisition." Seems strange that a Roman senator during the reign of Domitian, who is supposed to have widely tried Christians, had no clue how to proceed on such matters.

 

A century later, the historian Dio Cassius wrote a commonly cited passage regarding Domitian. In it he claims that a particular Consul, his wife, and many others were killed for being Atheist or of Jewish persuasion (which can be translated as Christian since they did not believe in the Roman pantheon). This seems damning evidence against Domitian, but this passage was written a century later and abridged in the 11th century by a monk by name of Xilphinius. The original texts of Dio Cassius do not exist, and only the abridged versions do. Even Eusebius, the esteemed writer of "The Ecclesiastical History", suggests that Domitian was the second to raise persecutions against Christians (meaning Nero as the first), and that there were many christian martyrs. Yet, no where in his work, written 2 centuries after the fact, does he cite any evidence of this, or any names of the martyrs. While, Origen, another christian writer, wrote 50 years earlier, that only a few had been killed and whose number could be easily enumerated. Eusebius didn't even bother to cite the 'easily counted' figures of Origen, suggested only a generation earlier.

 

What does all this mean? Does it clearly define Domitian as innocent? No, but his guilt can be questioned as much as his innocence. There simply is no overwhelming evidence (there is some, I don't deny that.) All I intend with this, is to illustrate my point of embellishment by the early church of crimes against Christians at the hands of Romans. Domitian may have been guilty, but there is equal lack of evidence that he is not. As I said, take all source information on the issue, including this lenghty post =P, with a 'grain of salt.'

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Guest Bella

The situation with Domitian is interesting, but you don't claim that the entire history of Christianity as it relates to Rome is false do you?

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No, of course not, I only suggest that embellishment, in all forms of sociology (including history) is a common feature for those who write it. Just consider that after the fall of the Roman Empire the Church (and some noble houses, etc.) was all that remained of literacy and recording of knowledge for nearly the next millenium. There could be no dispute of the church's writings because very few other people pursued literary fields or similar endeavors.

 

The church alone, in many cases is the only source of written evidence for this time period. Just as Tacitus and Livy were certainly biased towards Rome, we can't assume that men of faith weren't the same towards Christianity. Remember, the recorders of this history were just men like anyone else. They had a definate agenda to increase the influence of the faith. While there was some certain destruction of many pieces of anti-church literature and artifacts, we can at least be thankful that the church was there to keep even a limited record of medieval history in Europe.

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I recently did a speech on the history of hotdogs in english class. Turns out that the early roman catholic church made eating a sausage a sin and so Constantine banned its consumption.

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I recently did a speech on the history of hotdogs in english class. Turns out that the early roman catholic church made eating a sausage a sin and so Constantine banned its consumption.

 

 

...any historical reference to that?

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I've searched but can't find any source on this. Apparently though Constantine banned sausages because of connections to pagan rites, or at least the informal information suggests. I will continue to look for something on this.

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I imagine that Christians were a convenient scapegoat when things weren't going well because they were members of a small, unpopular, and misunderstood cult.

So persecution was probably sporadic and neither as intense as Catholic martyrologists made it out to be, nor as rare and isolated as some of Rome's apologists have made out.  Nero's persecution of the church is probably the best documented, and I am sure it was conducted to deflect blame for the Great Fire, which many Roman gossips accused Nero of starting.

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Its best not to take the great fire away from Nero, as he has so few accomplishments to his name. He sent legions into both ends of Africa, and found nothing save a stagnant swamp, cavemen, and a black desert. He started digging the Canal at Corinth, and that wasn't done till the 19th century. He tried to kill the Christians off, and that horribly backfired, their still very much around, he attracted a literary circle of poets and philosophers around him, ordered them all to kill themselves, he tried to be a artist, and everyone killed him for it.

 

Let's just accept he burnt the city down with the ulterior motive of building bath houses and a stupid large statue of himself. Its the only thing that gives this guy the air if semi-compentence. I do believe infact he did so, but none the less, let's just not doubt the story. If we do, what really, are we left with as far as his accomplishments go? We are left with very little.Let's not turn a Emperor into a plebian, Arson is his big claim to fame. If you say he didn't play the lyre while the city burnt around him, then we must question if he even knew how to play the lyre.... he becommed a smaller and more pathetic man at every turn.

 

I personally loved his second act in River world, where he built a second Roman Empire against Mark Twain's Riverboat.

 

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gHcEGaizQxg

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Nero did not try to kill the christians off. A number were rounded up and set alight as punishment for their alleged involvement in the Great Fire. The story that he played the fiddle while Rome burned is also false. What is true that during his efforts to organise the rescue of Rome's population (he had rushed back from Antium), he asked to access a vantage point (The Tower of Maecanas) to see what was going on. Struck by the scene of devastation before him, he was moved to sing about the "Sack of Ilium". Suetonius reports that he donned stage costume to do that but somehow that doesn't ring true. I doubt Nero was much of musician but yes, the lyre was likely to be within his repertoire.

 

Having gained some knowledge of music in addition to the rest of his early education, as soon as he became emperor he sent for Terpnus, the greatest master of the lyre in those days, and after listening to him sing after dinner for many successive days until late at night, he little by little began to practise himself...,

 

...So without delay he had his name added to the list of the lyre-players who entered the contest, and casting his own lot into the urn with the rest, he came forward in his turn, attended by the prefects of the Guard carrying his lyre, and followed by the tribunes of the soldiers and his intimate friends. Having taken his place and finished his preliminary speech, he announced through the ex-consul Cluvius Rufus that "he would sing Niobe"; and he kept at it until late in the afternoon, putting off the award of the prize for that event and postponing the rest of the contest to the next year, to have an excuse for singing oftener. But since even that seemed too long to wait, he did not cease to appear in public from time to time. He even thought of taking part in private performances among the professional actors, when one of the praetors offered him a million sesterces. He also put on the mask and sang tragedies representing gods and heroes and even heroines and goddesses, having the masks fashioned in the likeness of his own

Life of Nero (Suetonius)

 

The fire started by accident, not far from the Circus Maximus, and was driven by a warm wind along two streets that caused the initial conflagaration. This was reported to have been re-started and spread further by unknown agents, but since the fire then destroyed the homes of the wealthy on the Palatine, there is suspicion that Nero or his allies  had deliberately fanned the flames to achieve the political end of weakening senatorial influence - since much of their business was interfering with Nero's rule and was conducted from their atriums. Sueonius accuses him of being fed up with narrow streets and so forth, and it is true that Nero wanted to reinvent the city as Neroplois, but his supposed city clearance and rebuilding was going to cost him dearly both in hard cash and the lives of important men he effectively stole it from.

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Given the conflicting testimony from the only three sources on Nero's life, none of whom were really his contemporaries, we may never know the exact truth of this.

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There is an element of doubt but there always would be when dealing with Roman emperors and their celebrity lifestyles. At least one senior archeologist now believes that judaean zealots were esentially committing terrorist outrages in Rome. I wondered about this for a long time but the evidence does point to a fire starting accidentially, dying out, then restarted to suit malignant purposes, mostly to do with land speculation and other dodgy deals, though clearly suspicion was levelled at Nero#s crowd of cronies and the observation that the Palatine was hit badly, the very same area of Rome in which political business was done behinbd closed doors - and out of Nero's sight.

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"Page not found" at the link provided here:

 

Interesting article about Constantine the Great and his influence on our life at the Carolina Morning News

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"Page not found" at the link provided here:

 

Interesting article about Constantine the Great and his influence on our life at the Carolina Morning News

 

 

I guess Carolina News, doesnt carry their archive for 11 years :)

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