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pompeius magnus

Christianities impact on Rome

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Hello, this is my first post. I am currently a student in college studying Ancient history and have an extreme fascination with rome. This idea I have been thinking about recently. What do you think that the role of christianity played in the fall of rome. Even though rome was on its way down, I believe the adoption of christianity helped pull it down. Throughout their history the romans viewed themselves not as a perticular person or nation, but as Romans. Their gods played a huge role in their life. The adoption of christianity changed that, they viewed themselves as Christians instead of Romans, which changed almost everything about their society.

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Hello pompeius magnus and welcome to UNRV.

 

Yes, I don't think there is any question that the adoption of Christianity played a role in Rome's ultimate demise. However, I think it was more a symptom of internal socio-political strife than a direct cause of the fall. It highlights the upheaval in Rome's social system, where the old traditions and customs were making way for the new, where old identities and roles were thereby confused and muddled.

 

Other factors played a much larger role, in my opinion. Migration of the Germanic tribes, economic troubles, failed leadership, military decline and other factors were all indivdually major concerns. All lumped together in one huge cluster of problems, along with the rise of Christianity, the demise of Rome was inevitable.

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Well one could argue that if christianity was the major factor then the the Byzantine empire shouldn`t have lasted another thousand year longer then it has.

 

So i agree with Primuspilus, there are other factors that played a much bigger role then christianity...

 

cheers

viggen

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I tend to see other socio economic problems as being the real cause. Many people, such as Diocletian, may have felt that Christianity had a chance of weakening the Empire, but history shows us that Christian nations can be as hard and warlike as any other. Plus it should be remembered that Constantine moved the capital city to Constantinople. Even if Rome in the west later fell, the capital still existed, and it was Christian. Albeit in the East.

Later of course there was a resurgence under Justinian with the victories of Belesarius in the west. Although the west was lost again later.

Personally I see the version put out by the Church as being purely propaganda intending to show the fall of an evil Empire, and the rise of a good empire based upon the Christian faith. If we look deeply into it we see it never really fell. Rome simply became poor and lacked the influence it once possessed. Not surprising seeing as though the centre of its power structure was no longer there, but in Turkey.

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I feel their is consenus that christianity was not the cause of the Empire's fall.

 

Perhaps the better socially unified and militarily stronger Eastern Empire was able to acclimate the christian religion to bolster the state much faster then the more fractured collasping Western half of the Empire, explaining in part the resurgence and continued stablity of the east.

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Ok this is my opinion and its going to sound kind of religious.....but the Roman Religion is my religion so I deffend it.....

 

The Romans empire fell because of 6 reasons........The Gods stop supporting the Romans as soon as they started to be converted to Christianity.....The gods were angering at the sins of mortals. The Military of Rome was too strong, the water in the anqueduts was poison it is a know fact that the average Roman lived to about 40 and many of them died of lead poesioning. And finnally the Romans were letting too many Barbarinas into the empire intill finnally came to an all out invasion by Barbarians.....Franks, Vandals, Goths, Huns, Lombards, Alamani, and several others. Finnally Econimoic faliure. I wouldn't cout poor leadership as a factor most empeoers were either insane or extreamly power hungry. Christinity help make the empire fall however because the gods in my views took away their favor from the Empire. ;)

Zeke

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Hello Zeke,

 

Not sure about the gods, i read that lead poisining wasn't really a factor as not much has been found in the bodies of ancient romans, I dont't think (apart from the Goths) the romans actually let them in, i believe they just went without asking. Poor leadership was often a problem, and as stated elsewhere logistics was always a problem too....

 

The impact of christianity however was huge, not only on Rome but the whole world. The roman pantheons were dwindling in importance long before christianity, and many foreign cults and religions were happyily absorbed by the Romans, but christianity was just the only monotheistic one i believe, while the other religions had room for more then one, chrisitanity was either or....

 

cheers

viggen

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Just a couple of thoughts here.

 

 

I.

 

The public cult of the Olympians had already fallen into disrepair by the time Christianity had ascended. The one notable exception may have been Mars, whom the soldiers honored alongside Mithras.

 

But Greek philosophy, which was either hostile or condescending to traditional religion, had captured the imagination of the upper classes. The lower classes increasingly came to prefer Oriental cults with their orgiastic rites and promises of afterlife salvation. Christianity's main rivals were not the cults of the Olympians, but the cult of Mithras as well as Greek philosophy. Christianity seems to have borrowed from both Mithras and the Greek philosophers, making it more amendable to potential converts.

 

It must be noted though, that if the public cult of the Roman gods had been pushed to the background, the private cult of the family endured. The worship of Roman households for their family gods and ancestors endured with few changes throughout all stages of Roman history, and was ended only when the Christian church promised the death penalty for it.

 

II.

 

Did Christianity help end the empire? Niccolo Machiavelli, an ardent admirer of the Roman Republic, seemed to think so when he wrote his <i>Discourses of Livy</i>. According to him Christianity's emphasis on peace, coupled with its scorn for worldly affairs, sapped the old martial spirit of Rome and made them less effective soldiers. If we look at the utter savagery with which Christians have fought other faiths and even between themselves, I think the theory that Christians aren't ruthless soldiers goes right out the window.

 

 

The theory that Romans abandoning their native gods led to confusion and demoralization doesn't hold up either. The Dii Consentes - the 12 gods said to be equivalent of the Olympians - were not always the staple of Roman religion. That was largely a product of Greek influence. At the founding of Rome, most of the gods were local Italic deities most modern people have never heard of. Eventually all of them except Jupiter and Mars were pushed aside in favor of the more Greek like deities. This gradual upheaval in religion occurred simultaneously with Rome's amazing expansion.

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Actually, I tend to agree with the poster of the question, that christianity actually played a prominent role in the downfall of the Empire.

 

Montheistic religions were actually quite old, much older than the empire. But because of their very nature they had trouble spreading. This is because the 'one-god' is often exclusively for one kind of tribe or people. Such as with judeism, for the Jews. The remarkable thing is that christianity became a mono-theisme for all. Of course the Jews are still Gods people, but Jesus became a bridge to all none Jews. (actually, there appear to have been two streams, after Jesus was crucified. One stream believed in keeping christianity for the Jews, the other, smaller group, that is was for all. Those of you who know the new testament will remember the Roman soldier thus converted)

 

Anyway, what signifies mono-theistic systems, like judeism, is the fact that they tend to form close nit, nearly or completely independent, communities, that awnser only to God. (like monastic communities)

Something else important is that the one-God does not bear other Gods. Mono-theisme is not a tolerant system, it has an important element of 'truth', that defies all others, and has a great drive to evangelicise, if need be by force. Holy wars, like crucades and jihads, are the proof of this, but also the marriage between religion and state.

 

And I believe that these two things meant, for a great deal, the downfall of the organization of the empire. A testament to this is that christian states never had the capability to grow as large as the empire, because the new mono-theisme made it harder to unite in a state. It took us many many centuries to seperate church from state.

 

The Roman Empire was a city state system, but with many monastic communities springing up, this system lost its appeal. Communities downsized in fact, and became virtually independent.

A law that was passed that actually liberated the tax system, more or less privatising it to large land-owners, meant that the legions no longer were supportable. And with the loss of the legions, Rome lost one of the greatest speaders of culture and control. Legions became allied to local lords.

 

And why did the Byzantine empire, as eastern part, stick it out longer? In fact, both Rome and the Byzantines held some sort of control. Rome was not 'gone'. The more than 1000 year old institution of the Pope of Roman Catholism sprang up, and had a great deal of influence in northern europe. Rome essentially chose to continue influence through being representitive of God himself, as the Roman emperors who had declared themselves God.

The Byzantines kept more control, because they held on to the military ways, while they in fact parted from the way of Rome by religion, as orthodox christians (which later gave them conflict with the west and Rome). But the Byzantine empire broke up later, also because of mono-theism. They were torn up between the Roman Catholics and the Moslim states, that, later than christianity, also became a one-God for all system thanks to Mohammed.

 

Personally, I would have preferred the old religions, that usually gave everybody the freedom, whoever your king or emperor, to excersise the religion and life style you wished.

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How can you say that Christianity had no impact on the fall of Rome. The Roman Pagan gods had an extremely important part in their society even after the fall of the republic in 27 BC, the year Octavian became Augustus. Casear and Sulla owed their military victories to the god Fortuna, even though more military skill was involved. and most important of all it changed the view from being Roman, to being Christian, a tremendous hit to the empire. I will give you that there were other factors involved and that the empire was weakening but I argue that the most noticeable weaking started with the adoption of Christianity. And in my view the Roman empire died in 1054 with the great schism when it became the Byzantine empire, a greek and middle eastern empire, not Roman.

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I also would say that Christianity had an impact, not so much christianity itself but the transition from one to another (exclusive) religion. Just imagine the ordinary people at the time for many it meant that all of a sudden all they believed in for centuries is no longer valid, basically saying their forefathers were believing in something wrong.

 

This must have had a psychological impact on people, i believe similar problems happend in medieval times in central europe (not in such a dramatic fashion but it did) when dukes or kings changed from catholic to protestants and vice versa in an instant to please a political situation. It followed confusion and inscecurity under the normal population, which leads to a difficult overall situation for individuals, as one has to deal with that change of religion instead of things like making a living...

cheers

viggen

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Guest snowhite3437

How did Christianity change as it developed within the Roman Empire between the time of Jesus and 430 CE (the death of St. Augustine)?

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How did Christianity change as it developed within the Roman Empire between the time of Jesus and 430 CE (the death of St. Augustine)?

 

 

Well, Christ was a Jew, speaking to a Jewish audience, and Christianity started as a somewhat heretical cult within the Jewish community.

 

This gradually changed as Hellenized Jews starting taking it to wider audiences. Saul of Tarsus was one. He was a Greek speaking Jew and a Roman citizen, and he helped bring Christianity from the Jewish community to the greater community of the Roman Empire. Saul often preached Christ's message in terms of Greco-Roman philosophy (Logos, and so forth ... the "word" as preached by John) so elements of Stoicism and Neoplatonism were grafted onto it. This made it more appreciable to Greco-Roman minds. Christianity is a mix of the Hebrew and the Hellene.

 

The Christian community was pretty close knit in its early years. And the charity and community it provided would have been appealing to many people suffering the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

 

Then Imperator Constantine decides to convert. History records him as having a religious vision which influenced his decision. I don't doubt he experienced something. But there's been some talk about how he felt that upon conversion, Bishops could deliver those close knit tax paying Christian communities to his rule. I'm sure this was also a factor.

 

From that point on Christianity is increasingly tied to government. It ceases to be something of a counter-culture movement, as it were, and instead becomes the culture in so many words. Freed from imperial oppression, Christians divide into sects and start having some disagreements about what exactly Christianity it. Eventually one version of Christianity somewhat forcibly triumphs over the others at the councils of Nicene, etc, and that version is the version that survives today. And thus it would remain in Europe until the fifteenth through twentieth centuries saw gradual secularization of culture.

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Christianity changed immensely in that time period and it needs more than this forum to truly lay it all out. However, among the most significant of changes was the shift from a small regional cult based on the teachings of the Christ, to that of an aristrocratic system paralleling that of the empire itself.

 

Initially the religion was a simple cult of faith. As time passed and the word spread, the religion grew from a secretive underground 'club' to that of an organized governing body, complete with elected or appointed magistrates and even a figurehead 'ruler'. Theology was debated intensely by the ancient Christian founders and details on rules and organization were hammered out to make the religion more accessable, exclusive or powerful depending on the circumstances. The word of the one 'God' became muddled by this aristocracy and was almost secondary to the original teachings of Jesus. Pagan traditions, stories and holidays were altered or adapted to become part of Christianity (ie the winter solstice becoming Christmas, etc.) The adoption of patron Saints to spiritually oversee various daily functions in the hearts and minds of the people helped ease the transition of replacing the polytheistic gods who originally occupied these roles. Resistant pagans to the monetheistic way could look at Christianity as a less abrupt change than it would've been in its original form.

 

Christianity also altered from that of strict non-violence, to becoming a rallying cry for Constantine in his civil war, and the original peaceful teachings were corrupted into symbols of war. The popularity in the legions of the similar cult of Mithra was fairly easily supplanted by that of Christianity, making the Roman military a virtual army of God. Though this is much later in history, the Christian crusades of the middle ages are a far cry from the original teachings of Jesus. Still though, it shows the process between its founding and the crusades that transformed the organized religion into an aggressive force dictating rules, viewpoints and absolute non-tolerance, rather than spreading the simple teachings.

 

By the fall of the west, the Roman government had collapsed, and though we like to think that suddenly all that was Rome just ceased to exist, it simply isn't true. The aristocracy of the empire was replaced by that of Germanic kings, sure, but the ethical code and law of the common man continued to be dictated by the church. One certainly can't blame the faith for that, as it was the corruption of men who got involved and not the teachings of Jesus that were changed. However, the way Christians lived and behaved in the 5th century AD was certainly a far cry from that of the 1st.

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