1. Outline • Late Roman empire • Moral decline and cultural relativism • Historical overview • Rise of Christianity • the elements of Christianity • the rise of Christianity
Evaluate these statements 1. Christianity triumphed because of its moral superiority over the pagan values of the decadent Roman empire. 2. With the arrival of Christianity the pursuit of reason (science, philosophy) and the freedoms typical of a secular society (freedom of thought and speech, pleasures of life, admiration for the human body) gave way to the (irrational) promise of messianic deliverance and eternal life.
Moral decline and the Late Roman Empire • Moral decline • The moral decline of Rome is denounced by Roman writers as early as the 3rd century BCE. • Examples: Julius Caesar, Sallust, Livy, Augustus’ moral legislation… • It is a constant topic in every culture. • It is retrospective and frequently used to justify the need of reform or the moral superiority of the reformer.
How depraved were the Romans of Late Imperial times? Achievements • Staunch moralists: Seneca • Unsurpassed physicians: Galen • Wise emperors: Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian. • Foreign emperors: Trajan, Hadrian, Diocletian. • Urbanism, architecture and civil administration.
Moral decline and the Late Roman Empire Pantheon (Hadrian’s) Trajan’s market
Moral decline and the Late Roman Empire City of Thamugadi, Algeria Volubilis (Morocco), Roman mosaic.
2. Historical overview • Christianity arises in the Roman province of Judea in the first century AD. • At first Christianity appears as a reform of Judaism: followers are Jews. • Over the course of the 1st century Christianity becomes open to non-Jews.
2. Historical Overview • Diocletian divides the empire (284-305): • Eastern Roman empire: Byzantium • Western Roman empire: Rome • He persecutes Christians (303 CE)
2. Historical Overview • Constantine (315-330 CE) converts to Christianity (Constantinople). • Theodosius (379-395 CE) closes all the pagan cults and outlaws the practice of other religions: • Concludes the celebration of the Olympic games • Closes the oracle of Delphi • Extinguishes the sacred fire of the Vestal Virgins in Rome.
3. Origins of Christianity • Christianity coexists with and is informed by other monotheistic and salvation religions • Judaism • Mystery cults • Let’s explore the religious atmosphere surrounding the rise of Christianity.
4. Christianity and Judaism • Monotheism • God who speaks through sacred texts • Insistence on moral behavior (ethical monotheism) • Messiah (divine savior) • Sabbath (Sunday), Passover (Easter) • Dichotomies: good/evil
4. Christianity and mystery religions • A dying and reborn god. • Promise of immortality through sacrifice of a savior: Osiris, Dionysus, Orpheus, Mithra (Sunday, Dec, 25th) • Dichotomies: body/ soul, sin/reward, good/evil • Rituals of initiation: baptism, communal meal • Isis, Cybele (mother goddesses): Virgin Mary • Worship of an intercessor in the final judgment: Dionysus, Isis, Mithra.
5. The rise of Christianity • Christianity arises among other similar and competing religions. • Why did it prevail over others?
5. The rise of Christianity • Proselytism • Infrastructure of the Roman empire • Relative freedom from class distinctions • Mutual aid to members • Ideas of monotheism and salvation • Assimilation of elements of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy • What does it mean? • How and why did it help? • To whom would this be appealing? • Were monotheism and salvation popular ideas in other religions? • How did this contribute to the consolidation of Christianity?
5. The rise of Christianity • Proselytism: conscious effort to spread the faith (Paul) • Infrastructure of the Roman empire: easy communications, common languages (Greek, Latin) • Relative freedom from class distinctions: appeal to women and slaves. • Greek and Hellenistic philosophy created the theological pillars of Christianity making it intelligible to educated minds.
5. The rise of Christianity • A common religious landscape: • National identity is no longer defined in religious terms (Athens/ Athena) • Preoccupation for individual salvation rather than national prosperity. (Pharaoh: fertility of Egypt) • A common religious language: • Shared by mystery cults, Jewish sects and Christianity: immortality of the human soul, divinity-intercessor in the final judgment, rebirth, initiation, dogma, sin/ reward…
6. Persecutions of Christians • Was Christianity tolerated by the Roman emperors? • Why were Christians persecuted? • Were members of other religions persecuted too?
6. Persecutions of Christians • Firstly Christians gained the enmity of Jews, who considered them heretic. • They were perceived as a secretive and sectarian group by the Roman establishment, because they chose NOT to participate in the state politics or religion. • They refused to worship the state gods and therefore were perceived as a threat to civil order.
6. Persecution of Jews Arch of Titus, Rome. • Not only Christians but also Jews were persecuted (destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, 70 CE).
7. Early Christian Art • Clandestine and iconoclastic at first. • Funerary art with subliminal messages of salvation.
7. Early Christian Art • Funerary art: paintings in the catacombs and sculpted sarcophagi.
7. Early Christian Art • Catacombs of Saint Domitilla
11. Early Christian Art • It utilizes the forms of the Greco-Roman tradition to convey religious meanings. • Highly symbolic.
11. Early Christian Art • Common motifs: • Jesus as the Good Shepherd. • Leader of the flock and sacrificial lamb.
11. Early Christian Art • Common motifs: • scenes from the Old and New testaments
11. Early Christian Art • individuals praying
12. Roman Architecture • Last remainders of imperial monuments • Arch of Constantine- last in tradition of Roman triumphal monuments.
13. Christian architecture • Development of new Christian churches with the support of the emperors. • Use of the basilica design