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Christianity in the roman empire.
#31
Does someone mind telling me quickly how to quote? I obviously messed up in my last post....
Nomen:Jared AKA "Nihon" AKA "Nihonius" AKA "Hey You"

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#32
Quote:Does someone mind telling me quickly how to quote? I obviously messed up in my last post....
You must remove the / in the very first line.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
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#33
I think it would be more correct to say that people are intolerant and at times brutal, and not try to pin it to one religion or the other. No matter who you may call God, we all suffer from being Human.
Travis Satterfield
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#34
Hi Theo,
Quote:
Nihonius Legio:iegykghi Wrote:Up north I think there were alot less christians in Europe. After the fall of Rome christianity died down a bit everywhere except Rome, Egypt, Judea, and the Byzantine Empire I believe. This is due to the barbarian invasians into former Roman areas.
This was only true for Britain, IIRC. The Goths were already Christian before they even invaded Roman territory. The Franks and Vandals quickly converted after their invasions. Christianity was flourishing in Spain under the Visigoths. It was still possible to attain a classical education in Spain and Italy in the sixth century. Only Britain and parts of Gaul truly descended into a dark age.
I must say that I am still wondering very much about the actual figures. On the one hand it's clear that paganism is not very much alive in most areas of the Roman empire by the late 5th century, we must of course wonder about the actual 'depth of belief' in those areas. Thompson made a case for the absence of any paganism in Late Roman Noricum - which must indeed tell us something; if border areas under threat indeed showed such a level of Christianization, the more central areas would probably have been even more Christian.

That being said though, I have some reserves about your statement on Britain descending into a dark age, whilst in Spain a classical education was still available.

Spain, especially the areas suffering from Suevic domination between the vandal move to Africa and before the Gothic takeover, was not exactly a good place for the intellectuals. Nor was it a place for obedient Christians, judging from the letters from pope Leo to the disobedient see of Tarragona (the only area not under Suevic control). It seems to have been a place that you wanted to escape from, as the historian Orosius did, scrambling towards a ship under a hail of barbarian missiles, fleeing to Minorca (and a frowning St Augustine noticed that some Spanish did stay with their beleaguered flock).

Britain would have been a similar place like Suevic Spain. It seems that many British Christians did not stay true to their belief though, and they may have embraced paganism as they may have embraced the Anglo-Saxon language at some point.
And even so, it seems that a monk called Gildas was by the early 6th century still able to get a classical education. Strange.
Robert Vermaat
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#35
Quote:It seems that many British Christians did not stay true to their belief though, and they may have embraced paganism as they may have embraced the Anglo-Saxon language at some point.
I think it is possible to exaggerate the distance between Christianity and Paganism. Compare today: there are people calling themselves Christians who teach utterly unChristian ideas (cf. the criticism of the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, which at times turned into docetism), and there are people who are not recognized as Christians but who propose ideas that might fit well within the scope of Christianity (e.g., certain pacifist movements). Nowadays, it is hard to define who is a Christian and who is not.

The same applies to Antiquity. The official Church will have regretted it when a Christian sacrificed to a Pagan god, and the priests will have thought that the sacrificer had "gone Pagan", but that does not mean that he himself was of the same opinion. He may have thought that it was prudent to both attend Church and sacrifice to a local deity. I think many people accomodated themselves to the dominating point of view, and privately kept their options open.

There's a parallel in Judaism: although many people in Palestine of the third century accepted guidance of a rabbi, the archaeological evidence proves that they also used Dionysiac motifs.

I am reminded of my grandmother, who, when my father was recovering from an illness, gave him a big piece of bread before he could go to church. "But the priest has said that we should be sober!" my father objected, to which my grandmother replied that priests don't know anything about illnesses - those were the things only mothers know. We have no written records for the ordinary people of Europe in Late Antiquity, but I am quite sure that they would have understood my grandmother.

Also notice that many bishops (e.g., Sidonius Apollinaris) were not really orthodox. We must abandon strict dichotomies and accept that the phenomena are deeply ambiguous.
Quote:it seems that a monk called Gildas was by the early 6th century still able to get a classical education.
In Gaul or Ireland (depends on the hagiographer); not in Britain.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
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#36
Hi Vortigern,

Quote:That being said though, I have some reserves about your statement on Britain descending into a dark age, whilst in Spain a classical education was still available.

I was somewhat vague and may have exaggerated but the term 'dark' is, of course, relative. When I look at Spain in the sixth century under the Visigoths I read about local church synods and national councils. The ruling Goths spoke Latin and were (Arian) Christians who though themselves despised education nonetheless saw value in it. Ancient laws were largely preserved and new ones written down. Isidore of Seville was educated in Spain and taught himself to read Hebrew and Greek. Not that he was a typical product of his time but nonetheless is still a brilliant mind by most standards, IMO.

When juxtaposed against Britain of the same period the difference is rather stark. We see Brits fleeing from the island to Britany and even to Spain itself, forming an enclave known as Britonia. Back on the island the Germanic invaders wrought massive destruction while importing their paganism and language, thus permanently changing its character and hindering its development in the process.

I know this period is your passion so you're well placed to detect any errors on my part. Please do correct me if I've erred. Smile

As for fourth century Spain, yes, you're absolutely right. I've read parts of Orosius recently and he does tell of the problems facing his native province. But I did not mention this period since it proved to be temporary as the arrival of the Goths brought much stability.

Quote:And even so, it seems that a monk called Gildas was by the early 6th century still able to get a classical education. Strange.
Gildas was unknown to me. That is interesting even if he was educated in Gaul or Ireland. Southern Gaul sounds like the most likely place (in Septimania). As I said, things are relative.

Quote:I think that how the Romans acted under the religious title of "Christian" is no different from how they acted as "Pagans". They still maintained large armies and conquered lands, fought amongst themselves, had slaves, etc.
It's interesting how the institution of slavery actually disappeared during the Middle Ages in Christian Europe and would not return until the Renaissance.

Quote:The official Church will have regretted it when a Christian sacrificed to a Pagan god, and the priests will have thought that the sacrificer had "gone Pagan", but that does not mean that he himself was of the same opinion. He may have thought that it was prudent to both attend Church and sacrifice to a local deity.
Which helped fuel the preceived need for Inquisitions. Yes, it would be naive to think of most groups as homogenous in anytime period. But I'd say only about 5% of any religious group is really devout. Then there are more layers of varying degrees of orthodoxy. It's like pealing an onion. But I think Primus Pilus is more interested in nominal figures which is at any rate the best we can hope to guess at.

~Theo
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#37
In regards to when exactly the Roman Empire became majority Christian, I decided to check and see what Gibbon had to say. Gibbon estimates that only 20% of the population was Christian by the time of Constantine. Like others have mentioned, he also points out that some regions and cities had a much higher proportion of Christians than others (Near East vs. Gaul, for instance).

It looks like he thinks that the Empire was majority Christian by about a generation after Theodosius – say about 420 or so.
David J. Cord
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#38
Quote:It's interesting how the institution of slavery actually disappeared during the Middle Ages in Christian Europe and would not return until the Renaissance.
Rather only in terminiology. Serfs were basically slaves, just not called so by word. Note that the term "serf" derivers from "servus". The end of slavery rather falls to the french revolution.
Christian K.

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Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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#39
I have seen different figures, although I do not remember where, that Christianity was a really tiny minority. The point is of some importance, because if Christianity was not big, it makes Constantine's conversion illogical, which in turns leads us to reconsider his motive: did Constantine indeed convert to the new faith out of a deep personal conviction, or was his conversion caused by other, political considerations?

Which in turn leads us to the question what happened in 312. We know for certain that Constantine had a vision of Apollo in late 309, mentioned in the Panegyrici Latini 7 (6) 21.4-5, which is almost contemporary with the events; it was written just a few weeks after this vision and delivered in Trier, with the emperor present. There is no online edition, unfortunately. That Constantine venerated Apollo is also proved by his coins (photo).

Writing at the end of the 330s, Eusebius tells that Constantine had a second vision in October 312, in which he saw the cross and the words "in this sign you will conquer" (Life of Constantine, 1.26-32). In this version, Constantine becomes a Christian. Under normal circumstances, we would have discarded Eusebius' story and would have explained it as a mistaken version of the first vision. After all, in his earlier account of Constantine's victory (Ecclesiastical History, 9.9), Eusebius does not refer to a vision. We would also have said that Eusebius' version was influenced by Constantine's measures after 324, when he had gained control of the eastern provinces, where Christianity had become deeply rooted.

The complicating factor is Lactantius, Death of the Persecutors 44-46, written in 313 or 314, in which we read that Constantine and Licinius both had dreams. Constantine now ordered his soldiers to paint XP-signs on the shields: a sign that was common in the cult of Apollo, but may have been taken as evidence for Constantine's presumed Christianity by Lactantius after the Edict of Milan, which compensated Christianity for the losses it had suffered during the persecutions. This measure must have been more important to Licinius than Constantine.

As far as I can tell, there is no conclusive evidence for Constantine's Christianity before 324. On the contrary, we have very strong proof that before his Italian campaign, he preferred Apollo. I think this complex, ambiguous situation does not reflect problems in our sources, but the ambiguity of Constantine's own beliefs in the years between 309 and 324. He had experienced something marvellous in 309, but it was only at the end of his career, after many people had already offered Christian interpretations, that he accepted that he had been a tool of Christ for some thirty years.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
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#40
From personal observation, I handled some of the bones, paganism or pagan practises probably took a long time to die out, or alternatively, become adopted into Christianity.

A burial of aborted foetuses and neonates was discovered in the 1990s in central Italy, dated to around 450AD. The burials had all occurred within a short time, probably the result of a Malaria epidemic (malaria has particularly marked effects on the placenta). Alongside the human remains were the remains of puppies. Dogs were noted as sacrifices to the underworld godess Hecate, and to godesses associated with childbirth.
Martin

Fac me cocleario vomere!
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#41
Again, all very interesting points. (sorry to interfere again but seing as I set this up for my benefit mainly I feel i need to contribute and give thanks hence;...) Thankyou all!
Conor Maher
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#42
So has your question been effectively answered (and were the various side tracks worthwhile to you)?
M. Demetrius Abicio
(David Wills)

Saepe veritas est dura.
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#43
Yes, My question has been answered and the various sidetracks proved interesting and informative so definately worthwile.
Conor Maher
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#44
As it happens, Roger Pearse today has a most interesting article on the value of sources for this age: here. I do not agree with the phrasing of the final footnote, but the article itself is excellent.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#45
Quote:Constantine now ordered his soldiers to paint XP-signs on the shields: a sign that was common in the cult of Apollo

Ooh, I have been trying to pin down a source for the pre-Christian use of the 'chi-rho' for ages - can you help me out with a reference?

Many thanks Smile
Salvianus: Ste Kenwright

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