- from Christianity and Rome's Legacies
560L - 740L
How did a small group of Jesus’s followers, in a remote part of the Empire, create the state religion of Rome? It didn’t happen quickly.
In fact, it took almost 400 years. Christianity slowly spread and grew. In the early days, Rome’s reaction to the religion was mixed. Some emperors persecuted Christians for their beliefs. Others ignored them. The Roman official Pliny the Younger asked the Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117 CE, how to treat Christians. [[The emperor replied in part, “They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved to be guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and quite clearly proves it—that is, by worshipping our gods—he shall gain pardon.”*]] Despite persecution, the religion grew. It was always strong in the eastern part of the empire, where it had begun. Large cities in the western empire also had churches. They started as small, secret groups that met in homes. Even in Rome, right under the emperor’s nose, the apostle Paul started a church in 50 CE.
*From Pliny, “Letters,” in The Romans: From Village to Empire. M.T. Boatwright, D.J. Gargola, and R.J. Talbert, eds. Oxford University Press, 2004.