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Roman Persecutions of Christians Age of Martyrdom.

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1 Roman Persecutions of Christians Age of Martyrdom


3 Early Roman Reaction to Christianity at first, paid them little attention Saw them as a small group of breakaway Jews Christians weren’t perceived as a threat Weren’t even on the radar

4 Things Change Christianity distanced itself from Judaism Roman Empire began to view them as enemies – they often defied the state Viewed as breeding ground for corruption and dissatisfaction in the empire

5 Nero (37-68 A.D.) Emperor from 54- 68 A.D. Known for being cruel, psychotic and paranoid. Began ruling at age 17 Murdered his mother, had his wife beheaded, forced his advisor (Seneca) to commit suicide


7 Hitler compared to Nero Hitler Killed a lot of people Wanted to be an artist Nero Killed a lot of people Wanted to be a musician

8 The First Roman Persecution July 19, 64 A.D. Fire broke out near the Circus Maximus Burned for 9 days straight 4 districts turned to rubble, 6 heavily damaged, left only 4 unharmed

9 Why did the fire spread so quickly? Houses were packed together Lower classes lived in tenements made with wooden walls Homes of the wealthy had combustible furnishings and textiles Gardens with large trees only helped the fire. Affected every class of people.

10 Tacitus’ Account "...Now started the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced. It began in the Circus, where it adjoins the Palatine and Caelian hills. Breaking out in shops selling inflammable goods, and fanned by the wind, the conflagration instantly grew and swept the whole length of the Circus. There were no walled mansions or temples, or any other obstructions, which could arrest it. First, the fire swept violently over the level spaces. Then it climbed the hills - but returned to ravage the lower ground again. It outstripped every counter-measure. The ancient city's narrow winding streets and irregular blocks encouraged its progress. Terrified, shrieking women, helpless old and young, people intent on their own safety, people unselfishly supporting invalids or waiting for them, fugitives and lingerers alike - all heightened the confusion. When people looked back, menacing flames sprang up before them or outflanked them. When they escaped to a neighboring quarter, the fire followed - even districts believed remote proved to be involved.

11 Tacitus’ Cont. By the sixth day enormous demolitions had confronted the raging flames with bare ground and open sky, and the fire was finally stamped out at the foot of the Esquiline Hill. But before panic had subsided, or hope revived, flames broke out again in the more open regions of the city. Here there were fewer casualties; but the destruction of temples and pleasure arcades was even worse. This new conflagration caused additional ill-feeling because it started on Tigellinus' estate in the Aemilian district. For people believed that Nero was ambitious to found a new city to be called after himself. Of Rome's fourteen districts only four remained intact. Three were leveled to the ground. The other seven were reduced to a few scorched and mangled ruins."

12 Who’s to Blame? Rumor’s spread quickly that Nero had started the fire He had wanted to demolish buildings to build a new palace Rumors said, he took delight in watching Rome burn, while reading his poetry or playing a lyre “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”

13 Nero’s Solution Provided emergency shelter to victims Accused Christians of causing the fire Tortured several to get false confessions Then ordered large numbers to be arrested Christians become the “scapegoat”.

14 Why pick on the Christians? Roman state demanded, participation in pagan cults, worship of the emperor, and serving in the legions – In short, give Rome undivided loyalty Christians refused to compromise their faith They refused to worship Nero Were pacifists – refused to fight in the army

15 The Persecution Nero declares Christianity illegal Aimed to punish all believers “Let the Christian be exterminated” Limited only to the city of Rome St. Peter – crucified (upside down) St. Paul – beheaded outside the walls of the city



18 Methods of Execution Sewn into animal skins, released into the gardens. Hungry mastiffs were released to hunt them down and eat them. Various methods of death in the arena Lions, leopards Crucifixion was popular Tied to the horns of a bull


20 Firework named after execution method Roman Candle Live Christians coated in pitch and resin Set on fire to provide light through his gardens and along streets


22 Sporadic Persecution Persecutions were not constant Most were limited to specific areas or cities Not empire wide

23 The Great Persecution During the rule of Diocletian, 303- 310 A.D. Christian churches destroyed; books burned Lasted 10 years, and was empire wide Christians imprisoned, tortured, and martyred


25 If Christians by the hundreds or thousands died these horrible public deaths, how did the church survive the persecutions?

26 Heroism and Virtue Being a Christian meant to die like Christ Martyrdom proved the strength of your faith Went to their deaths willingly and prayerfully Died heroically, inspiring others who witnessed it Seems to have inspired rather than discouraged

27 “When it’s hard to be a Christian, it’s easy to be a Christian; and when it’s easy to be a Christian, it’s hard to be a Christian.”

28 Homework Respond to the quote I just gave you. What does it mean to you?

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