Early Christian Martyrdom – Myths & Manipulation

Early Christian Martyrdom – Myths & Manipulation

Introduction

The first few centuries of the Christian era was not the best time to be a Christian.  Aside from justified intellectual attacks from some of that era’s most renowned philosophers and thinkers, Christians were occasionally subjected to barbaric persecutions.  Christians weren’t persecuted to the extent that many modern evangelists, preachers and apologists would have us believe, but it was a sad phenomenon recorded by both Christian and non-Christian historian alike.

Real Persecutions

Christians suffered state sponsored persecutions on only a few occasions throughout the first three centuries.  The first time was under the Roman Emperor Nero (64 CE).  In this particular instance, Christians were not persecuted for being Christian, but instead for the crime of arson, and not throughout the entire empire, as some have claimed, but only within the confines of the city of Rome. [1] They seem to have made convenient scape goats for what appears to have been a crime committed by Nero himself.  Nero accused the Christians of setting fire to the city of Rome, causing the ‘Great Fire of Rome’, which destroyed much of the city.  Many historians, however, including the ancient historian Tacitus, thought that the fire may have been started by Nero himself, in order to rebuild Rome and take his place in Roman history as the founder of New Rome. [2]

What followed serves as one of the most heinous indictments against the Roman Emperor Nero and his superstitious people. Tacitus recorded the terrible persecution of Christians under Nero in the following words:

And so, at first, those who confessed were apprehended, and subsequently, on the disclosures they made, a huge number were found guilty—more because of their hatred of mankind than because they were arsonists.  As they died they were further subjected to insult. Covered with hides of wild beasts, they perished by being torn to pieces by dogs; or they would be fastened to crosses and, when daylight had gone, burned to provide lighting at night. Nero had offered his gardens as a venue for the show, and he would also put on circus entertainments, mixing with the plebs in his charioteer’s outfit or standing up in his chariot. As a result, guilty though these people were and deserving exemplary punishment, pity for them began to well up because it was felt that they were being exterminated not for the public good, but to gratify one man’s cruelty. [3]

In this account, Tacitus relayed a crucial fact about the persecutions – a fact which would later be turned into a tool for conversion by later Christian leaders.  What the Christians learned from this particular bout of persecutions was that suffering in public spectacles at the hands of Roman officials was good for business.  It provided Christianity with a free and symbolically significant marketing tool, one which we will return to in a moment.

The next time Christians were subjected to persecution by the state was over half a century later, under Emperor Trajan in the year 112 CE. [4]

The famous second century historian and Roman governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger, recorded the persecution of Christians in a letter he wrote to Emperor Trajan.  In this letter, Pliny the Younger requested that the Emperor advise him on how to deal with the Christians in his territory, in particular, those who recanted their Christian faith and resumed worshipping the gods of Rome. [5]

Trajan responded to this letter in the following words:

You have followed the proper judicial procedure, my dear Secundus, when examining the cases of those formally accused before you as Christians. For, it is impossible to establish something of universal application that has a more or less fixed procedural rule. These people should not be sought out. If they are accused and found guilty, then they should be punished — provided, however, that if they deny being Christians and make this evident by their actions (that is by making offerings to our gods), then they should receive a pardon for their recantation, however suspect they were of being Christians in the past. Moreover, anonymously published pamphlets should not be admitted as evidence in any criminal charge; for this not only sets a dangerous precedent but also does not keep with the spirit of our times. [6]

A number of curiosities arise from this correspondence – curiosities that seem to undermine two of the popular myths held by modern Christians.

Firstly, prior to the second century and even afterwards, but for a very brief empire wide edict by the Emperor Decius in the mid-third century requiring all members of the Roman empire to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods, [7] there were no laws in place that made Christianity an illegal religion- that is to say – Christianity was not outlawed by the Romans, a matter which we will also return to shortly.  The second of the popular myths overturned by this correspondence pertains to the modern belief that pagan emperors, like Trajan, hunted Christians down and exercised no restraint in dealing with Christians.  In fact, we see from this correspondence quite the opposite.  Rigorous procedural safeguards were set in place to ensure that Christians were not hunted down and that they were always given the chance to recant their faith and be spared.  In the words of the famous British historian Edward Gibbon:

Instead of displaying the implacable zeal of an inquisitor, anxious to discover the most minute particles of heresy, and exulting in the number of his victims, the emperor (Trajan) expresses much more solicitude to protect the security of the innocent, than to prevent the escape of the guilty. He acknowledged the difficulty of fixing any general plan; but he lays down two salutary rules, which often afforded relief and support to the distressed Christians…Nor was the magistrate allowed to proceed on every kind of information.  Anonymous charges the emperor rejects, as too repugnant to the equity of his government; and he strictly requires, for the conviction of those to whom the guilt of Christianity is imputed, the positive evidence of a fair and open accuser. It is likewise probable, that the persons who assumed so invidious an office, were obliged to declare the grounds of their suspicions, to specify (both in respect to time and place) the secret assemblies, which their Christian adversary had frequented, and to disclose a great number of circumstances, which were concealed with the most vigilant jealousy from the eye of the profane. If they succeeded in their prosecution, they were exposed to the resentment of a considerable and active party, to the censure of the more liberal portion of mankind, and to the ignominy which, in every age and country, has attended the character of an informer. If, on the contrary, they failed in their proofs, they incurred the severe and perhaps capital penalty, which, according to a law published by the emperor Hadrian, was inflicted on those who falsely attributed to their fellow−citizens the crime of Christianity. [8]

One might even argue that these safeguards were so rigorous that they would have discouraged many from bringing charges against alleged Christians, for the fear that they may be proven errant and result in the accuser being put to death instead.

The final state sponsored persecution prior to the legitimization of the Church by Emperor Constantine, occurred under Emperor Diocletian.  The ‘Diocletiantic Persecution’ was dubbed the ‘Great Persecution’ and it spanned a decade, from 303-313 CE. [9] It involved the destruction of Christian scriptures and churches, the forfeiture of certain citizenship rights of Christians, [10] the imprisonment of many elite Christian officials, and the torture and bloody murder of possibly hundreds of human beings. [11]

Some historians, like Edward Gibbon and Henry Chadwick for example, are of the opinion that in the beginning, Diocletian had nothing at all against the Christians, [12] and that it was Galerius, his co-emperor, who eventually convinced him to persecute them. [13]

Galerius developed a distaste for Christians, not only because of his zeal for the gods of Rome, [14] but also because he was incensed by certain Roman centurions, who, having been converted to the Christian faith, renounced their posts and quit the army – an act which brought upon the courageous soul charges of sedition and treason, as well as the dangerous contempt of Galerius. [15] None of this, according to Gibbon anyway, appears to have provoked Diocletian to persecute the Christians though.

It wasn’t until later on, following two separate occasions in which Diocletian’s own bed-chamber was set ablaze (some say by Galerius himself, in order that he might lay the blame of this assassination attempts on the Christians, [16] in similar fashion to Nero’s famous and successful persecution strategy in years past,) that Diocletian began persecuting Christians with a similar zeal shared by later Christian emperors when persecuting those who did not share their Christian beliefs. [17]

What followed was the most unjust and inhumane persecution early Christians would ever suffer.  Although Diocletian wished the oppression to be absent bloodshed, Galerius had other ideas, wishing to torture and murder all those who did not offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. [18]  In February of 303 CE, Diocletian issued the first of a series of edicts that began stripping Christians of the rights they had enjoyed during the last few centuries. [19] These oppressive edicts were applied throughout different regions and provinces of the Empire to differing degrees.  In some places the edicts were strictly observed, whilst in others, more moderately.  The edicts also varied over time, sometimes increasing in severity and at other times relaxing. [20] This continued until Emperor Constantine ascended the imperial throne and issued the famous Edict of Milan in 313 CE, which not only restored the rights of Christians, but also bestowed many financial and other legal benefits upon them, setting the stage for the swinging of the pendulum, so to speak. [21]

Over the years, more than a few Christians have found great profit in asserting that the Great Persecution under Diocletian saw hundreds of thousands of Christians murdered.

As appealing as this notion might be to a fire and brimstone preacher seeking to convert new comers or rouse his congregants, this doesn’t appear to have been the case.  Firstly, there weren’t hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Empire at that time and secondly, most ancient accounts, both Christian and non-Christian, suggest that the numbers of martyred Christians under Diocletian were much less, possibly in the hundreds.

Reading from Donald G. Kyle’s, Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome, we learn:

  1. Hertling and E. Kirschbaum, warn against believing fantastic numbers: ‘There were certainly not tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of martyrs at Rome during the persecution of Diocletian since the Christian community at that time did not number a hundred thousand souls.’ They suggest that executions of martyrs did not exceed, and were usually smaller than, groups of 40 or 50 in number. Fox, estimating that around 5 per cent of the population around was Christian, feels that martyrdom was a rare occurrence. He, notes that no governor in Africa is known to have executed Christians before 180, and he cites Origen’s comment (C. Cels. 3.8) in the 240s that ‘few’ Christians had died for their faith. Following de Sainte-Croix (1954), Fox adds, that the numbers who died in the ‘Great Persecution’ are uncertain, ‘but the impact of a persecution was always greater than the numbers executed or sentenced to the mines’.[22]

The impact of those persecutions and the later exaggeration thereof, supplied the early Christians with a very powerful tool for drawing large numbers of fresh converts to the faith at this early and vulnerable phase in its development.

Aside from rare state sanctioned persecutions, Christians were occasionally martyred by local prefects and non-Christian mobs during the ante-Nicene period.  One notable occasion was under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, in which local mobs turned on Christians. [23] Some Christian historians have asserted that Marcus Aurelius was directly involved with these persecutions due to his contempt for this religion, like the fourth century Church father Eusebius, who alleged:

But as Paul refused to surrender the church building, the Emperor Aurelian was petitioned; and he decided the matter most equitably, ordering the building to be given to those to whom the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome should adjudge it. Thus this man was driven out of the church, with extreme disgrace, by the worldly power. Such was Aurelian’s treatment of us at that time; but in the course of his reign he changed his mind in regard to us, and was moved by certain advisers to institute a persecution against us. And there was great talk about this on every side. [24]

 

As this charge against Marcus Aurelius seems to have been derived from the records of Eusebius, its authenticity rests on the accuracy of his testimony, which has been brought into question for a number of good reasons.  Within his account, Eusebius misplaced and misnamed emperors of two centuries prior to his time, he mistook events as having occurred in regions and at times when they couldn’t have, and so modern historians question the accuracy of Eusebius’ assertions regarding the direct involvement of this emperor. [25] There is little doubt that Marcus Aurelius disliked the Christians, for in his ‘Mediations’ we read:

What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man’s own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show. [26]

Aurelius’ contention with the Christians of his day was their theatrical martyrdoms – martyrdoms which, from the time of Nero’s persecution, appear to have been calculated to inspire new converts to join their religion.

Exaggeration of Christian Martyrdom

Despite sporadic and occasional harassment, and contrary to popular apologetic opinion, Christianity was not, for the majority of the ante-Nicene period, outlawed nor was it heavily harassed.

Notwithstanding the sheer volume of historical evidence to the contrary, the popular myth surrounding early Christian persecutions is still alive in churches and apologetic forums across the globe.  The nineteenth century theologian and church historian, Phillip Schaff, was of the opinion that:

…Christianity was always an illegal religion from Trajan to Constantine, and subject to annoyance and violence everywhere. [27]

Standing in opposition to this myth, historian, theologian and the only person in history to have been appointed Regius Professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Historian Dr. Henry Chadwick, says:

Eusebius of Caesarea prefaces his account of Diocletian by describing the Church’s prosperity in the decades before the coming of sharp persecution. Even in the time of Origen there were individual governors and highly placed officials who, though not believers, did everything in their power to help the Christians, and Christians believed that there could be mercy hereafter for them (Origen, In Matt. ser. 120). Eusebius records that more recently there had been provincial governors who were Christians and had even been allowed by authority not to participate in pagan sacrifices; moreover, bishops had been treated with honour by governors. Since the emperor Gallienus had enacted that Christians could legitimately own and assemble for worship in their church buildings and could have their cemeteries (Eus. HE 7. 13), the numbers of Christians had swelled, and larger buildings had to be erected to contain the overflowing congregations. [28]

Further, Gibbon, although cautiously lending credence to the myth of the illegality of the Christian religion, reaffirms the notion that the Romans were by and large tolerant of the Christian religion, saying:

But these transient persecutions served only to revive the zeal and to restore the discipline of the faithful; and the moments of extraordinary rigor were compensated by much longer intervals of peace and security. The indifference of some princes, and the indulgence of others, permitted the Christians to enjoy, though not perhaps a legal, yet an actual and public, toleration of their religion. [29] 

The truth of the matter seems to be, that the Romans tolerated a wide variety of religions, so long as those religions did not in any way infringe upon the central beliefs of the Roman Empire and even in such cases, persecution was not always the result.  The Romans believed that the Emperor was a divine ruler, a lower-level kind of incarnated god, appointed by the higher gods of Rome to rule the earth. [30] Thus, in order to appease the gods, who were believed to have been prone to expressing their anger in a variety of fiendish ways, all those living within the borders of the Roman Empire had to recognize the divinity of the Roman Emperor, and take part in the various sacrificial rites and ceremonies of the Roman religions.  For most polytheistic religions of the time, recognizing the divinity of the Roman Emperor and worshiping the gods of Rome was no problem. They just added both the emperor and these Roman gods to their pantheons, many of which were already in existence amongst their own gods, under different names.  For Christians, however, as was also the case with the Jews, believing the Roman Emperor to be a lower-level god and worshiping the gods of Rome was antithetical to their monotheistic and exclusivist belief systems, for in their minds, there was only one God and for the Christians, only one son of God, Jesus Christ, the “king of kings.”

As a result of the seditious doctrines of the Christian faith, and the Christians’ obstinacy toward the gods of Rome, they occasionally suffered persecution, but for the most part were not considered by the Roman officials to be an illegal group.  Historical records tend to suggest that the reason for their persecution was inspired not as result of their reverence for Jesus as a god, but for their irreverence for the gods of Rome.  Subsequently, it seems that if a notable calamity befell Rome, be it in the form of an earthquake, a famine, a plague, a military defeat, or otherwise, the people of the Roman Empire, in particular the officials, would believe that such a calamity was brought about by the anger of their gods.  So who were making their gods angry?  The people who refused to worship them and acknowledge the divinity of their gods’ earthly ruler, the same people who refused to take part in the rites and rituals that appeased these bad tempered gods.  The Christians and the Jews.

Aggressive Martyrdom

This superstitious belief on the one hand resulted in the unjust persecution of a number of innocent Christians, whilst on the other, it worked in the Church’s favor.  For we have records that testify to early Christian Church officials and fathers encouraging many of their followers to voluntarily provoke the Roman authorities and submit themselves to martyrdom, in the oftentimes realized hope that they might be martyred in public spectacles, thereby increasing the popularity of the early Church.

Take for example the empty yet manipulative and provocative promises made within the following words of one of the apostolic fathers, who, in his work ‘The Martyrdom of Polycarp’ wrote:

All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God.  For it becomes us who profess greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly, who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?—who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by [the suffering of] a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things “which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man,” but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. [31]

And so like gullible lambs, a number of the more enthusiastic Christians of the ante-Nicene period were sent out amongst the wolves to be slaughtered for their deluded leaders’ ambitions, with the hope that the fires would be cool to them and that they, as willing martyrs for their faith, acting imitatio Christi,’ would be afforded an opportunity to commune with Christ himself and attain a free ticket to a nonexistent heaven.

Returning once again to the contempt of Marcus Aurelius, in Anthony R. Birley’s, ‘Marcus Aurelius: A Biography,’ we gain further insight into why Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and defender of the notion of suicide, had such a problem with the Christian martyrs and also, increase our understanding of the manipulation the early martyrs were subjected to:

Thus Marcus thinks of Christians as ‘lined up unarmed’ for death, as soldiers in battle array: but not as persons who had really made an individual reasoned choice – they were drilled, trained to die… [32]

This voluntary and deliberate martyrdom became such a problem that it not only led the Roman proconsul Antoninus to exhort, “Unhappy men!  If you are thus weary of your lives, is it so difficult for you to find ropes and precipices,”[33] but toward the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria spoke out against what we might call today, the jihadist-like practice of voluntary martyrdom.  On this issue, Chadwick says:

Voluntary provocative martyrs were easily engendered by promises of celestial joy. In the 190s Clement of Alexandria deeply disapproved of aggressive voluntary martyrs. Their attitude seemed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic defender of suicide, ‘theatricality’ in poor taste. Cyprian of Carthage under persecution in 250–8 also united idealized language about the martyr’s crown with express disapproval of voluntary self-destruction. [34] 

There is little doubt that voluntary martyrdom helped to jump-start Christianity by drawing large numbers of converts, who saw Christianity as a kind of rebellious, anti-establishment counter-culture – an answer to the overbearing rule of imperial Rome, especially in those lands that had been reluctantly annexed by the Roman Empire.

Referring once again to Chadwick’s ‘The Church in Ancient Society’, we read:

From embodying a counter-culture to being seen as a mainly (not invariably) conservative social force was an extraordinary step. The number of martyrs did not need to be very large for their ‘witness’ to be public and ‘newsworthy’. Remarkably soon the Church had recruits in high society, and as early as the middle of the second century was dreaming of a day when the emperor himself would be converted. [35]

Finally, in a series of lectures entitled ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,’ Professor Ehrman delivered a lecture on ‘The Early Persecutions of the State’, in which he outlined five of the common myths about early Christian martyrdom.  In this lecture he says:

 

Myth one; the myth is that Christianity was an illegal religion in the empire and was constantly opposed by the Roman emperors.  That in fact, is a myth.  Christianity for most of the first two centuries was not illegal, per se…Christianity was not declared illegal throughout the empire until the middle of the third century, and then only briefly as we will see.  The emperors themselves, in fact, were almost never directly involved with Christian persecution…

 

Myth two; during the first three centuries Christians were everywhere hunted down and martyred for their faith.  That is a myth, in fact, it’s not true.  In most times and in most places, Christians were tolerated just as were the devotees of other religions.  I’ve indicated before that Roman religion tended to be highly tolerant, Christians were largely tolerated, unless something happened that started a persecution.  But by and large Christians were not being hunted down and martyred. 

 

Myth three; the Christians therefore had to go into hiding in the Roman catacombs to avoid detection.  That is a complete myth even though you might see it occasionally on bad late night movies…They certainly did not hide out in the catacombs in order to avoid detection.  Christians didn’t need to go into hiding because for the most part, Christians were not being hunted down throughout these centuries.

 

Myth four; many, many thousands of Christians died in the early persecutions.  That is probably false.  In fact, we don’t know the exact number.  When you read the ancient sources you get the impression that some hundreds were possibly martyred for their faith, certainly not many, many thousands.

 

Myth five; Christians were opposed because they worshipped Jesus as god and this was seen as a threat to the Roman belief that the emperor was god.  That is a complete myth.  It’s not a myth that Christians worshiped Jesus as god, they did so, but there was no problem with worshiping Jesus as a god.  Remember pagans worshiped many gods, they thought that some human beings were divine and could be worshiped.  Pagans had no difficulty with Christians saying that Jesus was a divine being.  That, in itself, would not preclude them from saying that the emperor was a divine being, because the people who thought the emperor was a divine being also had many gods.  It was not against the law for Christians to consider Jesus god.  The problem was not their worship of Jesus; the problem was their failure to worship the Roman gods.  Failing to worship the Roman gods was one of the chief reasons for the persecutions. [36]

 

Conclusion

The irony of Nero’s persecution of the first century Christians of Rome was that it worked in the Church’s favor, forming the foundations of the initial kick-start that the Church needed to draw large numbers of converts.  Discovering the political value of these persecutions, Church leaders began to promote and encourage voluntary martyrdom to such a degree that less ambitious fathers, like Clement of Alexandria, could hold their tongues no more.  Despite the sane appeals from disapproving Christians and non-Christians like Antoninus, aggressive martyrdom continued sporadically.  The stories of these martyrs were eventually exaggerated in a bid to increase the sympathies of prospective converts, and at the same time, stir the emotional convictions of the converted.

Today we may observe the same situation with Islam.  Following 9/11, Muslims across the globe have been persecuted, and misplaced sympathies have led to a rise in conversions to Islam across Europe and other western nations. [37] There have been calls for Jihadist martyrdom, which have often taken the form of suicide bombers, who, convinced with similar promises to those of the early Christian martyrs, have dangerously sought out a place in a nonexistent paradise, with a nonexistent God, as well as other salacious gratuities.  There appears to be something about the human psyche which causes it to identify and empathize with the persecuted, a noble psychological drive played upon in the first few centuries of the Christian era by Church leaders and by modern Muslim clerics.

The trouble with this misplaced sympathy, is that once a target is converted, generally speaking, they make a psychological commitment to the belief and it becomes difficult to expel.  Perhaps the only remedy for this tragic and potentially dangerous forfeiture of psychological sovereignty is, in my opinion, the intellectual honesty occasioned by scientific skepticism and the humble honesty of an atheistic worldview.

 

 

End Notes:

 

  1. Bart D. Ehrman. ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity’. The Teaching Company. (2004). Lecture 11: The Early Persecutions of the State.
  2. Tacitus. ‘The Annals: The Reigns of Claudius, Tiberius and Nero’. (trans. J.C. Yardley). Oxford University Press (2008). pp. 356-357.
  3. Ibid. p. 360.
  4. Bart D. Ehrman. ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity’. The Teaching Company. (2004). Lecture 11: The Early Persecutions of the State.
  5. Pliny the Younger. Epistle X.XCVI; cited in: Amy Jill-Levine, Dale C. Allison Jr., and John Dominic Crossan. ‘The Historical Jesus in Context’. Princeton University Press. (2006). pp. 369-370.
  6. Ibid. pp. 370.
  7. David S. Potter. ‘The Roman Empire at Bay’. Thames & Hudson. (1995). p. 241.
  8. Edward Gibbon. ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2′. George Bell & Sons. (1892). pp. 113-114.
  9. George Mousourakis. ‘A Legal History of Rome’. Routledge (2007) pp. 140-141.
  10. Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). pp. 179-180.
  11. L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone. ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’. Oxford University Press. (1997). p. 483.
  12. NOTE: Chadwick is a little more uncertain of the true fomenter of the persecutions, citing Lactantius in support of the idea that Galerius was the prime mover of the persecutions, and Libanios, to show it was in fact, Diocletian who initiated the persecutions against the Christians: Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). pp. 178-179.
  13. Edward Gibbon. ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2’. George Bell & Sons. (1892). p. 147.
  14. Ibid. p. 150.
  15. Ibid. p. 147.
  16. Ibid. pp. 153-154.
  17. Ibid. p. 153.
  18. Hans A. Pohlsander. ‘The Emperor Constantine, 2nd Ed’. Routledge. (2004). p. 11; George Mousourakis. ‘A Legal History of Rome’. Routledge (2007). p. 140.
  19. Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). pp. 179-180.
  20. Bart D. Ehrman. ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity’. The Teaching Company. (2004). Lecture 11: The Early Persecutions of the State.
  21. Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). p. 187.
  22. Donald G. Kyle. ‘Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome’. Routledge. (1998). p. 256.
  23. Bart D. Ehrman. ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity’. The Teaching Company. (2004). Lecture 11: The Early Persecutions of the State.
  24. Eusebius. ‘History of the Church: Book 7, Chapter 30:19-20’; cited in: Philip Schaff. NPNF2-01. ‘Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine’. Christian Literature Publishing Co. (1890). p. 507.
  25. Anthony R. Birley. ‘Marcus Aurelius: A Biography’. Routledge. (2000). p 256-265.
  26. Marcus Aurelius. ‘Mediations. 11.3’. (Trans. George Long). The Internet Classics Archive: http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.11.eleven.html
  27. Philip Schaff. ‘History of the Christian Church. Vol.2: Ante-Nicene Christianity, A.D 100-325’. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Reprint edition (1910). 39.
  28. Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). p. 176.
  29. Edward Gibbon. ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Volume 2’. William Hallhead. (1781). p. 329.
  30. Jorge Rupke. ‘A Companion to Roman Religion’. Blackwell Publishing. (2007). p. 69, 306-310.
  31. Philip Schaff. ‘Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Martyrdom of Polycarp’. Christian Ethereal Library. (1885).p. 66.
  32. Anthony R. Birley. ‘Marcus Aurelius: A Biography’. Routledge. (2000). p. 264.
  33. Edward Gibbon. ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 2’. William Hallhead. (1781). p. 361.
  34. Henry Chadwick. ‘The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great’. Oxford University Press. (2001). p. 67.
  35. Ibid. p.1.
  36. Bart D. Ehrman. ‘From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity’. The Teaching Company. (2004). Lecture 11: The Early Persecutions of the State.
  37. Growth of Islam – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091402265.html; http://www.30-days.net/muslims/statistics/islam-growth/

 

 

 

 

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