Did Christianity Bring Down the Roman Empire?


RomeBurning

picture source

Rome was a vast empire that lasted for about 1,ooo years. It was founded in 753 B.C and collapsed around the 5th century. To give you a brief history of what happened in this time, Rome was split into two different empires: East and West. The western part of the Empire fell in 476 A.D while the Eastern Empire thrived until Muslim forces conquered Constantinople in 1453 A.D.

At its height, Rome held territories from Britain to Asia Minor. Many of the Roman roads that connected Europe in that ancient time are still used today. So what eventually brought down this great empire?

Yes, it was stretched too thin. Yes, there were several barbarian attacks and invasions that eventually brought the whole thing down.

Yet there was another decisive factor as well: the forced conversion to Christianity.

The empire converted to Christianity in 395 A.D. and fell apart about 80 years later.

MAPPING A TOLERANT EMPIRE 

MapRomeEmpireAtHeight

Up until that point, Rome was tolerant of different religious and cultural ideas. This was the key to their success actually. The persecution of Christians in Rome was a highly exaggerated affair. The Christians were persecuted more for their refusal to follow Roman laws than they were for their religious beliefs.

For example, if a Fundamentalist Religious Cult in America refused to follow our most basic of laws (and claimed God as the reason) we’d probably throw the practitioners of that cult in jail.

I am not trying to downplay the barbarity of Roman conquest here. I am well aware that Romans had their fair share of slavery, warfare and capital punishment. They also did force Roman cultural norms upon those they conquered. (The execution of the Druids at the Isle of Mona was a particularly gruesome affair)

However, the Romans did not do a wholesale eradication of the cultures and Gods of the people they conquered. Most people were permitted to continue with these traditions as long as they also worshiped the Roman emperor as a God and paid their taxes. (With the exception of Carthage. The Romans waged a brutal campaign and salted the Earth in Carthage so that nothing could grow).

The Romans even added other cultures Gods within their own repertoire. For example, when the Gauls started fighting within Roman military ranks, Roman Calvary started saying prayers to the Gallic Horse Goddess Epona.

Pictures of the Egyptian Goddess Isis suckling her son Horus were also circulated in Roman homes (later to be copied by images of the Mother Mary suckling Jesus).

romanisis

(Roman Statue of Egyptian Goddess Isis)

My point here is that the Roman empire could not have ever hoped to become as large and powerful as they did if they were not tolerant. Rome had its flaws to be sure, but it was an empire that was highly advanced for its time. It was a place where art, science, poetry, and medicine flourished. Rome was an advanced society because they learned from those they conquered and became stronger in the process. You can only benefit from your conquered subjects if you allow them to maintain some level of autonomy – if you don’t crush the spirit and soul of those you rule over.

For example, by allowing the Greeks to maintain their “Greekness” so to speak, The Romans were able to share the benefits of the great art, knowledge and science produced by the Greeks. Many Roman families even employed tutors for their children from Greece (or had Greek slaves for this purpose). The Romans also knew how to turn the ferocity of the Gauls to their advantage, by employing Gallic mercenaries in the military with the promise of Roman Citizenship as a reward. The Gauls could not have been great warriors if the Romans tried to eradicate and supplant Gallic culture in entirety.

Xenophobic and narrow minded civilizations can not achieve the same grandeur as Rome did. For example, when the Ming Dynasty in China abandoned exploration and trade in favor of Isolationism, their status as a world power declined rapidly – and they were eventually conquered by European powers within a few centuries.

romantemple

When Rome embraced Monotheistic Christianity, their blazing torch of culture, art and power was extinguished. Christian values were completely contrary to Roman Pagan values. Romans and their Gods valued a bold and heroic life in the present. The Gods rewarded those who were particularly brave, beautiful or artistic. Christianity, with its focus on a meek and mild existence in exchange for a glorious afterlife was completely contrary to indigenous European values in general.

Up until Rome’s forced conversion in 395 A.D, Christianity was an insignificant cult, a fringe minority that many people never even heard of.

Yet once Rome converted, Christianity released a madhouse of horrors upon Rome. Ancient temples to other Gods were sacked and destroyed. Entire libraries of valuable knowledge and literature were  burned to the ground. The tolerance that allowed Rome to rule over a vast and diverse empire was replaced by a zealous, single minded cult that destroyed all who didn’t subscribe to their ideology. Even other Christians were killed if they didn’t adhere to the “correct” version of Christianity.

Even if the strongest person swallows a poison, they become more vulnerable to the most mild of viruses. Once Rome embraced Christianity, it fell prey to barbarian invasion, splintering and eventual destruction.

The light of Rome was replaced by a millenia of darkness and ignorance. Western Europe became rampant with inquisitions, crusades, witch burnings and disease. It wasn’t until the church started to lose authority in Europe around the Renaissance that Western Europe began to get back onto its feet again. Coincidence? I think not.

Spiritually the world must once again learn how to tolerate different systems of belief that are aligned with the real principals of human nature (rather than attempting a system of morality only suitable for the dead).

athena

May the torch of the Ancient Pagan world burn bright once again as many around the world reawaken to ancient values.

Now enjoy some Roman Metal:

EX DEO – ROMULUS 

4 responses

  1. Samantha

    This was a great article, I always thought the same thing when reading history. Tolerance and acceptance of others beliefs is what allows us to grow and become stronger and more intelligent.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  2. Did Christianity bring down the Roman world? Who knows. It is probably more complex than religion and involving political and economic factors also. If you abandon your god with a thunderbolt on a mountain for one nailed to a cross, probably a bad choice, lol. The Romans did wipe out those who would not yield, like the Druids, but once the troops passed by the old religions were still allowed to worship as they wish. I think the later Caesars of Rome declaring themselves to be gods and demanding worship might have pissed off their gods for sure, must like Christians saying the teacher Jesus is God.
    I am reminded of the difference between Buddhism going into Hindu areas and saying their gods were still gods and could still be worshiped at the gateway to the new Buddhist temple. But the Christians said no your gods are demons and burned everything down then built their churches on the ashes, as evidenced by archeological evidence of old altars below new ones and old temples below even the Vatican.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    • You’re right Blau Stern. The collapse of Rome was a complex affair and probably was caused by a multitude of things. As I said above, being stretched too thin and having constant barbarian invasions is probably not good. Yet I think Christianity is a catalyst (perhaps among others) that helped the collapse happen. For example, if the Romans never Christianized, they may have been able to work out a more reasonable agreement with the Barbarians who were angry at them (rather than “my way or the highway”).

      If it weren’t for Christianity, I think the Roman Empire would’ve fallen apart much later – and the dark ages wouldn’t have lasted 1,000 years. There would’ve just been a century or two of chaos before another group rose to power. But that is just speculation on my part, who knows what really would’ve happened.

      As I said in my analogy in the article, drinking a poison may not be enough alone to kill a strong man. But it will weaken his defenses enough for other diseases to do the job. Christianity alone didn’t destroy Rome, but it was a philosophy that significantly weakened Rome’s culture enough for other invading forces to finish the job.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm

  3. Pingback: The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire – Video Map | Metal Gaia

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