The Christian Empire: 313-476
Christianity Becomes Dominant
The status of Christianity changed considerably in the fourth century because of one person, Emperor Constantine the Great, who officially permitted and promoted Christianity in the Roman Empire. The emperors who followed Constantine I continued his legacy; they were all Christian except one. A little later in the century, Theodosius I (379-395) required that all of his subjects be Christian. Now the former "persecuted church" was in danger of becoming a worldly and "oppressing church."
At the time of the Edict of Milan, the Roman Empire was at war with Persia. Rome began to consider Christians in the Persian Empire as potential allies. As a result, the Persian Empire persecuted Christians under its rule, the worse time being between 339 and 379, under Sapor II. Thousands of Christians were martyred.
Another Powerful City Emerges
Shortly after his victory over Licinius near the ancient city of Byzantium in 324, Constantine founded the "New Rome" on the site Byzantium. The new capital city became known as Constantinople (it is now Istanbul, Turkey). Constantine made Constantinople his imperial headquarters.
Constantine built a number of Christian churches, including those of the Holy Apostles, where he was buried. Hagia Sophia, an early basilica erected in 325 and restored many times since then, is one of the most important monuments of the Byzantine architecture.
Constantinople became a major center of Christianity along with:
· Antioch in Syria
· Alexandria in Egypt
· and Rome in Italy
· Caesarea in Israel
Between 330-565, Constantinople became arts and cultural center of the world. During the reign of Justinian (527-565), early Christian civilization gained momentum and created some of the best landmarks of the history of civilization.
Changes in Christianity by 500 A.D.
During the time of the Christian Empire, the first ecumenical councils were convened; early statements of orthodoxy, such as the Nicene Creed, were written; and the church recognized and Old and New Testament but the canon was not yet completely closed.
Like the Roman Empire, the church of the 4th and 5th centuries was divided into two groups, the East, where most Christians spoke Greek, and the West, where most Christians spoke Latin. In the first two centuries of Early Church, most of the churches had been Greek-speaking; some spoke Aramaic and other languages. The church expanded beyond the Roman Empire to places such as Ethiopia and India, where other languages were spoken and other Christian traditions developed.
Eventually the differences between geography, cultures, traditions, and languages contributed to the church's splitting into the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches (1054). Certain churches that began in Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Armenia, and Syria that accept only the church councils before Chalcedon were to become the Oriental Orthodox churches.
Take the Highway
During the time of the Christian Empire, many more people became Christians. With the growth of Christianity came more conflict and controversy. Meet Athanasius of Alexandria, the "Father of Orthodoxy."
Choose a Byway
1. Learn about the some of the ways early Christians interpreted the Bible. Meet Ephraim of Syria of the Edessan School of Interpretation, Clement and Origen of Alexandrian School of Interpretation, and John Chrysostom of the Antiochene School of Interpretation.
2. Read the Edict of Milan, the document which ended the persecution of Christians.
3.Visit other web sites that have information about this time