Christianity in the Later Roman Empire: A Sourcebook by David M. Gwynn

By David M. Gwynn

This sourcebook gathers right into a unmarried assortment the writings that light up some of the most primary classes within the background of Christian Europe. starting from the nice Persecution of Diocletian and the conversion of Constantine the 1st Christian Roman emperor, the quantity explores Christianity's upward push because the dominant faith of the Later Roman empire and the way the Church survived the decline and fall of Roman strength within the west and switched over the Germanic tribes who swept into the western empire. those years of problem and transformation encouraged generations of serious writers, between them Eusebius of Caesarea, Ammianus Marcellinus, Julian 'the Apostate', Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo. They have been additionally years which observed Christianity face large demanding situations on many an important questions, from the evolution of Christian doctrine and the increase of asceticism to where of girls within the early Church and the rising courting among Church and nation. a majority of these subject matters could be made available to experts and normal readers alike, and the sourcebook should be priceless for college kids and academics of classes in background and church historical past, the realm of past due antiquity, and spiritual studies.

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Only the first persecuting edict of 303 was ever enforced in the west by Maximian or his Caesar Constantius Chlorus. Indeed, Lactantius and Eusebius deny that Constantius took any violent actions against the Christians of Britain and northern Gaul. Both authors wrote after the conversion to Christianity of Constantius’ son Constantine, which must have influenced their judgements. But it seems probable that Constantius did do little to enforce the Persecution, not least because there were not many Christians in his regions to persecute.

Despite Eusebius’ rhetoric, Christians were still a distinct minority of the population and perhaps made up 10–15 per cent of the empire’s estimated 60 million inhabitants. The vast majority continued to worship the traditional gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Most Christians came from the urban social classes, and Christianity was slower to penetrate the peasants in the countryside, the governing aristocracy, or the army. There was similarly a greater concentration of Christians in the Greek-speaking eastern regions of the empire, where Eusebius resided, than in the more distant Latin-speaking provinces such as Gaul and Britain.

On 24 February (the following day) the first persecuting edict was published. All churches were to be destroyed and their sacred books and vessels seized, congregations were banned and Christians lost their official positions and social and legal privileges. A man named Euetius who tore the edict down was roasted to death as a martyr, and further edicts soon followed. The second persecuting edict a few months later ordered the arrest of all Christian clergy, while a third edict offered an amnesty to clergy who sacrificed to the gods but torture for those who refused.

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