Orthodoxy in the World: The Roman Empire

This is the 2nd blog in this introductory series to the Orthodox Faith.  The First blog is Orthodoxy in the World & Light to the World.  The previous blog is Orthodoxy in the World:  Beginnings.


            The Christians were also much more active proselytizers than most other Jews who often saw their inclusion in the people of God as a birthright.  But the Christian penchant for converting others to the faith soon brought them into conflict with the religious mores of the polytheistic and pagan Roman Empire.  The Empire with its diverse religions and philosophies needed tolerance among religions for there to be peace within the Empire.  But the Christians were fiercely  monotheistic as the Jews had been, but unlike the Jews were also aggressive proselytizers.   As Christian populations grew they began to draw the attention of others because they had an economic impact on localities, refusing to participate in local religious festivals.  The Roman government attempted to  force the Christians to be more like all of the other religions of the Empire, and tried both persuasion and persecution to stop the growing movement or to get it to recognize the equality of all gods and religions. But the Christians proved to be recalcitrant and steadfastly held to their beliefs.   Despite official imperial persecution of the religion, Christianity continued to grow and spread.

            It was at this time that another historical development would take place which would change Christianity for ever.   The Roman Empire at the beginning of the 4th Century BCE was governed by four co-reigning emperors.   One of those Emperors, Constantine, who came from the far Western regions of the Empire, had a vision of an Empire united under one Emperor.   And he began through force to impose his will on the Empire and he proved himself to be a successful politician and general.  He also knew he needed something more than military force to unite the Empire.    He saw in Christianity such a force – a religious force to help him bring unity to the Roman world.   Christianity offered one God for all people, and was accepting of all people of any race or nationality or language.   Constantine brought an end to the persecution of Christianity and in the 4th Century helped turn Christianity from a persecuted religion of a sizeable minority into the official religion of the Roman Empire.

            He also did one other thing to shape the world and Christianity.  He moved the capital city of the Empire from Rome to a location which was much more central to the heart of Christianity.   He founded the imperial capital in what eventually would be known as Constantinople.   He picked a location that put him at the heart of the Greek speaking world.   And from that time on, officially the Roman Empire, the Empire of the Caesars, would be Greek in language and in culture.   Not until Charlemagne around 800 attempted to found a Roman Empire of the West would Christianity as a Greek religion be challenged by another Christian Empire.   The Greek Roman world centered in Constantinople was homeland to that form of Christianity known as Eastern Orthodoxy.   It is a world outside of the developments that occurred in Rome where the Papacy grew in power in the absence of imperial influence.  It is a Christianity that remained outside of the major split which would occur in Western Christendom – the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation of the Latin Church.

Next:  History – The Byzantine Period

2 thoughts on “Orthodoxy in the World: The Roman Empire

  1. Pingback: Orthodoxy in the World: The Byzantine Period | Fr. Ted’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Week in Review: 08.27.10 | Near Emmaus

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