Why Was Christianity Persecuted By The Romans

Why Was Christianity Persecuted by the Romans?

Early Christianity faced immense trials, tribulations, and difficulties – one chief being the persecution of the religion by the Roman Empire. The religion, while globally practiced today, had a rocky beginning, as the Roman Empire viewed Christians as a foreign group that threatened their way of life. The Roman leadership was determined to make sure whatever was threatening to their established order was dealt with properly.

The early Christians were a people of faith, determined to practice their new religion without compromise, even if it might make them unpopular with their government. As a result, the Romans were ruthless in their attempts to suppress the influential religion, passing laws that forbid conversion and denying the religion of any recognition under Roman law.

This harsh approach to the spread of Christianity meant that the religion faced a period of extreme subjugation. Roman anti-Christians often targeted the people because of their faith, arresting them without cause and subverting their civil rights with impunity. Furthermore, the Romans often sought to discredit the religion by staging public spectacles that mocked Christian beliefs.

The Roman Empire was an absolute monarchy, with its rulers believing that they had a divine mandate to control the people. Christian expressions of faith, while inspiring to the believers, infuriated the Empire and caused them extreme consternation. As a result, the Roman leadership attempted to stop Christianity at any cost, with martyrs becoming a common sight in the Empire.

Christians were not the only religious group that faced persecution under the Roman Empire, with the persecution extending to nearly all minority religions. By the height of their power, the Roman Empire had extended its reach far beyond what it had begun in the Mediterranean, with many cultures in the Middle East and parts of Asia under Roman rule.

Despite the fact that Christianity was unpopular with the Roman Empire at the time, it was able to spread and grow, as it had always done – through faith and perseverance. Today, Christianity is one of the world’s largest religion, and its followers can thank the strength, energy and faith of those early believers for their success.

Perspective from Christian Leaders

Some Christian leaders have suggested that the persecution served as a way to strengthen the faith of early Christians. This sentiment is shared by the early Church Father and Bishop Tertullian who wrote in Apologeticum: “the oftener we are mowed down by you, the more in number we grow.”

The idea of persecution as a tool for instilling strength comes from a practice known as Patheos Theosis, or spiritual insecurities, That belief strives to align man spiritually with God’s power and mold it into a passionate and lasting faith. The thought is that, while pain and suffering may temporarily halt the efforts of Christianity, they ultimately strengthen the bond between believers and God.

With that being said, it is important to note that this type of interpretation can be applied to all forms of persecution, regardless of the faith or ethnicity to which those being persecuted belong. It is only when we view persecution in terms of spiritual growth and eventual success that we can begin to understand its relationship to religion. When we understand the pain and suffering of persecution as a necessary part of religion and faith, we can begin to appreciate its place in the history and evolution of Christianity.

Early Christian Martyrdom and Canonization

The Roman persecution of Christians led to many martyrs. With that being said, the early Christian Church also developed the concept of canonization. Through canonization, the Church aimed to identify and venerate the individuals who were brave enough to stand up for the beliefs of Christianity in the face of extreme adversity.

The issue Roman religious leaders had was that canonization focused on aspects of individual sanctity and courage. This was seen by the Roman leadership as an attempt to elevate certain individuals to a divine status, thereby creating potential dissent between the Church and the Roman Empire.

Despite this, the practice of canonization was an important aspect of Christianity as it provided a sense of direction, pride and courage to those who felt connected to their faith. By focusing on certain individuals who were seen as examples of bravery and courage, the Church enabled others to feel inspired and follow their example.

Roman Acceptance of Christianity

Though initially met with resistance, Christianity slowly gained acceptance with the Roman Empire, with the Catholic Church eventually embracing the faith. The Roman establishment eventually came to recognize the value that Christianity could bring to the Empire and its people, as it provided a sense of community and shared values.

The conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine was seen as the key moment in the acceptance of the faith by the Romans, with the event leading to the Church consolidating its power and spreading throughout the region. Under Constantine’s rule, the Church was given privileges, resources and legal recognition from the Roman government.

This not only enabled Christianity to grow and develop within Roman society, but also to spread throughout the region and beyond. The spread of the religion was also aided by the Edict of Toleration, with Christianity now spreading through the Roman Empire as an accepted religion.

Impact of Roman Persecution on Christianity

The persecution suffered by early Christians can be seen as having had a positive impact on the development of the religion. Though hard and trying times, the faith managed to survive and blossom despite the attempted and successful suppression it was subjected to.

It can be argued that the brutality and suffering of the period helped to shape the religion and its character. As historian Robin Clarke noted, “the persecution of Christians in the late Roman Empire had the effect of unifying them and strengthening the solidarity of their faith.”

The faith that was used as a tool to persecute them was now a badge of honour and a source of pride. The legacy left behind by their suffering gave the early Christians the faith and courage needed to continue the spread of Christianity, eventually leading to its eventual global prevalence.

Christianity in Modern Society

Today, Christianity is a prominent force in our society, with the religion having successfully crossed cultural, geographical and ideological boundaries. We can see the impact of the religion in all aspects of modern life, as it has become a foundational part of many countries’ laws and societal norms. This massive reach has made Christianity one of the most influential forces in our collective history.

A large part of this success can be attributed to those early Christians who persevered and delivered the message of Christianity to all parts of the world, despite the immense odds up against them. This faith and determination resulted in a global movement that continued even when its own existence was threatened.

Modern Persecution of Christianity

Today, Christianity faces modern day forms of persecution, with Christianity remaining one of the most persecuted religions in the world. In some countries, there are laws actively prohibiting its practice, while in others, believers are still persecuted, harassed and even killed for their faith.

Despite these setbacks, Christian faith continues to drive people and communities to stand up for their beliefs and protect the rights of religious minorities. By taking up their faith, Christians can choose to stand up for those oppressed, often at personal risk, and prove that ultimately, their faith will endure even in the face of intense persecution.


The start of Christianity was tumultuous, with early believers facing immense trials, tribulations, and difficulties, with the persecution from the Romans being of utmost importance. Despite the suffering, early Christians used their faith and determination to spread their message, eventually leading to its global acceptance today.

Though Christianity has been able to survive and grow, it continues to face persecution in many parts of the world. Today, Christians can use their faith to fight for their rights and stand up for those oppressed, proving time and time again that their faith is resilient, and that its message will remain until the end of time.

Jennifer Johnson is an experienced author with a deep passion for exploring the spiritual traditions of different cultures and religions. She has been writing about religion and spirituality for the past ten years in both print and digital platforms, engaging readers in meaningful dialogue about the soul's journey through this life. With degrees in Comparative Religion and English Literature, she brings an insightful perspective to her work that bridges the gap between traditional knowledge and modern theories. A lifelong traveler, Jenn has lived in multiple countries exploring various paths to understanding faith, and her dedication to learning new things is palpable in every piece she creates.

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