Christianity slowly emerged and began to spread during the latter part of the Roman Empire. Early followers of this new, monotheistic faith were met with much brutality and hardship for their beliefs. How did the Roman legal system react towards early Christianity? Was there a law against Christianity? Who persecuted Christians? What options did Christians have if brought to trial?
To answer these questions we will review the reports of Christian apologists, ancient historians, and the correspondence between the emperor Trajan and his governor Pliny regarding the treatment of Christians. We will challenge these accounts by analyzing primary sources to discover how the legal system worked in recorded trials. Topics include origins of the Roman-Christian-Jewish communities in the Roman world, relations between the three communities, Roman law, and persecutors and prosecutors.
By completion of this course, successful students will be able to:
- Evaluate the various ways the Roman legal system dealt with foreign religions
- Define misconceptions about the relationships between Roman/Christian/Jewish communities
- Describe the division within ancient communities