Free Research Paper About Ancient Rome: A History Of Changing Faiths

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Rome, Religion, Christians, History, Jesus Christ, Empire, Church, Belief

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/14

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INTRODUCTION

When people think of ancient Rome they may reflect on its vast architecture, like the Coliseum, they may recall famous figures of history, like Julius Caesar, or see it as the modern center of the Catholic religion and the home of their leader, the pope. However, one of the most common and familiar topic that arises when discussing ancient Rome, is their religion The Roman pantheon of Gods, including names like Jupiter, Venus and Mars, still represent power, divinity and magic. You will see their inclusion in advertising, sports teams and organizations, over the course of the years of the great Roman Empire; however, they did not stay loyal to a single belief system. There are many scholars ad researchers that claim that Rome absorbed and stole much of their mythology and ideologies most heavily from the Greeks. For many years they celebrated this ancient paganism and persecuted early Christians. Then, once again, they changed and converted to Christianity. However, modern thinkers see the behaviors differently that the ways were seen in the past. While the Romans did adopt much of their philosophy, architecture and faith from the Greeks, among a few other cultures, they did persecute Christians and then become Christians themselves, but there may have been a calculated approach to their adoption of elements from other cultures. After all, the Roman Empire was a conqueror; there is more than one way to conquer an enemy.

BACKGROUND

Rome did have a religion of its own that predates their interactions with Greece; however details regarding it are few and far between. It is believed they practiced varying forms of animism faiths. In the simplest description, animism is the belief that divinity and faith is found in nature. Every river, stream, forest and field was embodied with a divine power protected by differing divine spirits or Gods, many of which had no specific names and the few that did have been lost to history. The Roman believers would make appeasements to the spirits, primarily blood sacrifices, in exchange for their blessings. Unlike many modern religions most people are familiar with, the Romans did not consider these beings to be creators or superior, but as beings worthy of respect, but not necessarily worship.When the Romans came in contact with other faiths, particularly the Greek pantheon, filled with Gods that were individually dedicated to different aspects of nature and life, it would not be hard to take those same beings and reassign them to the different nature spirits that they already acknowledged, therefore the conversion would be easier.

DISUCUSSION

The Roman Empire, most certainly, borrowed many of the Greek pantheon and deities for their own; they differentiated by giving them different names. One does not have to be an expert in ancient religions to notice than the Grecian Zeus, King of the Gods, was the same entity as the Roman Jupiter, The Grecian Goddess of Love, Aphrodite is the same as Rome’s Venus, or that the Grecian God of War, Ares, is the same as the Roman Mars. We can see the in influence of Greeks on the columned designs in their architecture represented within ancient Roman structures, as well as, philosophy, however, adopting of the Greek pantheon may have had a calculated maneuver for Rome, not a matter of faith at all. The Romans figured out that expanding their empire and spreading Roman ideals and control into foreign lands, it is easier to adapt to the people one is conquering and avoid costly and bloody warfare. This approach was, also, practiced by the Greeks, When the Greeks took over in Egypt, the Greeks, essentially, became Egyptian. They practiced the local faith, wore their traditional attire and adopted the local culture. The Romans adapting of the Greeks ideologies and faith is very much a similar thought process. Rome had a lofty goal to be the largest, most powerful and most formidable of empires, blending in is a fantastic way to avoid too much resistance and take over from the inside out.
Rome obtained and succeeded in maintaining the powerful empire they had built; many might say that, at the time, Rome was pretty much an unstoppable force. They were well-organized, politically and religiously motivated and highly educated, but most importantly, they dealt quickly and harshly with enemies and resistance that presented itself. When earliest forms of Christianity began to evolve Rome saw them, at first, as an annoyance. At first Rome was not that threatened by what would be considered a small religious movement, it was the powerful Jewish leaders that were most bothered and threatened by this new religion and, of course, its inspirational and essential Christian figure, Jesus of Nazareth. It would be the Romans that would be remembered in biblical history as those who tortured and crucified Jesus, which is a hugely significant moment in Christian history. However, the Romans may have enacted the punishment it was the Jewish leadership that believed they would benefit most from the elimination of this “upstart” religious leader. Still Rome would tolerate the Christian sects for a time, but ultimately, whenever things began to go poorly for Rome, they were quick to blame the minority groups, like Christians. This encouraged the hunting, torturing and executing of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Some would be captured and were torn to pieces by hungry dogs, others might find themselves facing a lion in a gladiator-type game, others were burned at the stake, and, even more, were likely crucified. Rome crimes against early Christians was extreme, they were one of most prolific prosecutors of Christians in all of ancient history. That fact makes it all the more fascinating that they would eventually become Christians themselves and the greatest and most aggressive supportive of Christianity’s spread.
Rome’s Conversion to Christianity can be attributed to the shocking and bold conversion of one famous and powerful Roman Emperor, Constantine. It is unknown exactly when Constantine was born it is believed to be after 280 C.E. He became emperor around 306, after his father’s death, and many could not believe that the great Roman leader would abandon traditions and embrace a belief system that was centered on the life and death of an executed, Jewish criminal, whose sentence Rome carried out. Christianity had been persecuted doggedly by the previous emperor, Diocletian; the faith was only popular among Roman slaves and some of the military. Constantine’s conversion was, apparently, a result from a dream, which he called a vision, where Jesus Christ in person told him to come to his faith and fight under Christian banner. He did this, and his continuing victories in battle, and spread of Christianity, proved to him his conversion was ordained by God. In his rule, he united East and Western Rome from 324 to 337; Constantine won many wars, defeated rebellions, and brought his new religion with him as he moved. One of the most significant examples of Constantine’s accomplishments involves his attack on the Greek city of Byzantium, for its benefit strategically. He conquered the city and renamed it Constantinopolis, today we refer to it as Constantinople, where Constantine ordered a Temple of Aphrodite destroyed and erected a new church, Church of the Holy Apostles, in its place.Again, we see another of example of Roman tactic of simply building over other religions and faiths in hopes that the public would more easily adapt.
What many see is a Rome that became the “sword” of Christianity. The now “Holy Roman Empire” taking the faith across the seas and with an army conquered foreign lands and forced conversion upon those that lived in those lands. Interestingly enough the peaceful, brotherly and non-violent ministering that many associated with Christianity did not exist for the Romans. Expanding Christianity became even greater motivation for Rome to continue to assert itself on other lands throughout the generations. However, they did meet with a great deal of resistance, which was problematic. Once again, Rome came up with the means to make the overthrowing of governments and ruling families a far easier process. Roman leadership looked at the existing holidays and relevant dates to the different pagan cultures they were conquering and converted the holidays, therefore converting the people. For example, December 25, was celebrated by pagans as the winter celebration and solstice. The Romans renamed this day the celebration of the day of Jesus Christ’s birth, regardless of the fact that they had no idea what day Jesus was born on.
The Roman Empire at one time would be remembered as one of the largest empire of all history, its boundaries stretched for more than a million square miles. Constantine has split the powerful empire into two distinct halves, the Western Roman Empire, lead by Rome and the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople. It was the Empire’s size but, also, its conversion to Christianity that contributed to the Empire’s ultimate fall. The split in the empires caused two very different interpretation of the faith to evolve. The Eastern Roman Empire practiced what we would call today Eastern Orthodox Christianity, while the west practiced Roman Catholicism. It was the latter that faced collapse first, while Constantinople managed to stem of instability and collapse for nearly, another millennia. When scholars discuss the “Fall of Rome” they are specifically the fall of Western Rome. The west began to experience serious economic difficulties, trade issues and political and military unrest. Leaders were widespread throughout the empire and bartered for greater power and control beyond what Rome allowed them. By the year 476 that last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus, was overthrown by the Germanic Visigoths and the Empire of Rome fell.
All of the differing thinkers, theorists, theologists, scholars and laymen have an impression or opinion when speaking of ancient Rome. There are many who feel that they set into motion one of the bloodiest and widespread crusades in the name of religion. Arguing that Christianity is a religion of peace and the Roman’s behaved and practiced far differently. These views have made many people perceive the idea of Christianity in any form is a religion that conquered the better part of the world, which places them in a negative light. For many years many people have perceived ancient Rome as a people who stole religions, persecuted another and then became the principal followers of the very faith that they had so long persecuted. This does not make them seem very powerful, but culturally and philosophically lazy. However, more in-depth research and modern scholars, argues that Rome’s actions were not due to “fickled” faith and changing religions, but were practicing a very calculated maneuver to manipulate the public into conforming, converting and overpower those they wish to conquer with far less bloodshed and costly warfare. It was a clever trick to build their churches over pagan temples and overwriting exiting pagan holidays with those that would now represent Christina holidays. Again, the Romans are not the only ones to make this move and it was successful. Rome became one of the most powerful of empires, became the center of religion that is still practiced by more than a billion people and paved the way for the other Christian denominations that came after them.
While the Ancient Roman Empire fell and never regained the power and influence that it once had as a political entity, it still became a blessed location for practicing Catholics all around the world. Today the city of Rome is the destination of many pilgrimages. Where Rome was once a nation ruled by its faith, as the modern Italian government began to rise, it led to many disputes over issues between the government and religion. Many political decision and compromise made were not conducive with exiting ethical and moral church doctrine. To avoid any further problems, in the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Italian government allowed the Vatican, now called Vatican City, to exist as its own entity; literally a separate country within the confines of Rome.This would let the Catholic Pope to be the leader of, not only, of their faith, but, also, their “government.” At the same time the Italian government could enjoy a separation of church and government. While the Western Empire fell it is hardly forgotten its religious legacy, for better or worse, depending on one’s perspective, it continues to flourish all across the globe.

CONLUSION

In the end, the Roman Empire may spawn many different images and ideas for many different people. For those people who celebrate Catholicism they see its history as highly important to the life of their faith, without them, Christianity might have remained as small and isolated faith that may not have withstood the test of time. To non-Christians Rome represents an ancient and dangerous enemy that at one time or another threatened them and worked to undermine the traditional faiths, often by force. To impartial scholars and atheists ancient Rome represents a succession of smart and clever regimes that were successful conquerors and converters, however, whether their efforts were ethical or moral is not, necessarily, relevant to their analysis. Ultimately, what matters is that ancient Rome managed to develop a means to grow an immense empire, and whether one supports their tactics or not, it played a significant role in how the world developed. If Rome had not possessed so much power, regardless of the good, bad and indifferent influences, then the world we live in today may be very, very different. Rome’s contributions , particularly their clever tactics and strategies to the present is relevant and significant and justifies why understanding this ancient power is incredibly worthwhile when learning the importance of ancient world history

WORK CITED

Kagan, Donald. "Stealing history." New Criterion Magazine. Mar 1996: 54. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Stealing-history-3624
Klein, Christopher. “10 Things You May Not Know About the Vatican.” The History Channel. 2013. 1. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-vatican>.
Lunn-Rockliffe, Sophie. "Christianity and the Roman Empire." BBC. 11 September 2011: 1. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/christianityromanempire_article_01.shtm>.
Sheldon, Natasha. "The Nature of the Roman Gods: Greek Influences or True Originals?." The Decoded Past. 21 May 2014: 1. Print.
"The Fall of the Roman Empire." Ancient Civilization. 2014: 1. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ushistory.org/civ/6f.asp>.
Greek and Roman Guide, . "Greek and Roman Gods and Mythology Guide." Greek and Roman Guide. 2015: 1. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.talesbeyondbelief.com/greek-and-roman/greek-and-roman-index.htm>.
The Saylor Foundation, . "Christianity and the Roman Empire." Saylor Foundation. 2012: 1-6. Print.

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