The end of paganism in Rome began during the latter years of Constantine the Great‘s rule. It is listed on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History around 508 AD. When Constantine had just begun his reign, he allowed pagan practices although they were not allowed to construct temples. Pagans continued to experience less freedom in performing their religious practices as years went by. They eventually witnessed the destruction of their temples, as ordered by the emperor.
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Laws Against Paganism
During the reign of Constantius II, various edicts and laws were enacted to punish those who were involved in pagan practices. In fact, it started the suffering of pagans as they were executed by Christian authorities in Rome. By 350 AD, more and more laws were established including the persecution of individuals who worshiped “idols” and attended pagan activities. Pagan temples were also pillaged, and the Altar of Victory that was once at the Senate was removed. Some Christians were also involved in the destruction, vandalism and desecrating of pagan monuments, tombs and temples.
Meanwhile, paganism remained popular in Rome, despite the severity of the laws that were focused on individuals practicing their pagan traditions. There were also governors who remained passive about the imperial rules that targeted the pagans. Nevertheless these laws (which started during the reign of Constantius) slowly succeeded in ending paganism in the Roman Empire.
In 381, Theodosius ordered the widespread persecution of pagans in Rome. He put an end on pagan rituals and traditions, destroyed a vast number of temples and considered magistrates as criminals each time they failed to put anti-pagan laws into practice in their areas. Later during the rule of Theodosius there were more laws that banned paganism. For instance, Pagan holidays were no longer observed, temple visits were not allowed, and witchcraft was banned, to name a few. Soon, Pagan priests were killed, and there was a desecration of holy sites and symbols.
Death sentence and confiscation of property were the consequences faced by people who continued to practice paganism. These harsh edicts were also viewed as a means of declaring war against traditional religious practices, and Christianity was seen as the primary religion in the empire.
Despite all of these sufferings, they remained true to their faiths. Some pagans defied the authority and the edicts that were passed, although this would mean risking their lives and their loved ones’. Yet, the anti-paganism laws became unbearable to the people, and many pagans were killed and tortured.
Back in 300 AD, only a small percentage of people in Rome were made up of Christians. In fact, Christianity was considered as the empire’s minority religion where only 10 percent of the citizens practiced this religion. However, several decades later, it became Rome’s official religion, and most of the people converted from other faiths and adopted Christian practices. This became more evident during the persecution of pagans, which ended this traditional religion in the Roman Empire.
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