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Unit 5 Discussion: Pagans vs. Christians Debate in the Roman Empire


The traditional Roman religion was a polytheistic religion, centered around the worship of a multitude of gods, each of whom fulfilled a particular function (e.g., harvest, childbirth, war, women’s crafts, the Roman sewage system, etc.). The Romans believed that the success of their city was entirely due to “pax deorum” — peace with the gods, which meant that as long as the Romans honored their gods and sacrificed to them regularly, their city and empire would prosper. A new monotheistic religion, however, began to challenge the traditional Roman religion in the mid-first century CE and beyond — Christianity.

Choose one of the Roman gods from their pantheon, and describe how he or she was worshiped, including rituals and festivals associated with this deity. Include images (if available) of temples and shrines dedicated to this god, and the benefits Romans believed were derived from this worship.

Next, discuss how Christianity challenged and offered a viable alternative to traditional Roman paganism. Include in your post the elements of Christianity that might have been appealing to the average Roman, and those aspects that would ultimately lead to Christianity’s acceptance as the de facto “faith” of the Roman Empire.

Peer Response:

After you have made your initial post, respond to at least two of your classmates in posts of at least 100-words each. Bring in new information and ideas from class materials and the linked sources to develop each of your response posts. Make sure to reference what source you are referring in your post and to cite sources used in a bibliography at the end of each of your posts.

Sources on early Christian beliefs:

The Gospel of Mark (any translation)

1 Corinthians (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1COR+1&version=NIV)

Philippians (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=PHIL+1&version=NIV)

Selection from Romans: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ROM+7%3A22-8%3A17&version=NIV

Selection from Galatians: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=GAL+3%3A27-29&version=NIV

Sources on traditional Roman religion and Roman perspectives on the Christians:

Pliny and Trajan’s letter exchange: https://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html

Ritual cannibalism charge against Christians: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/Halsall/ancient/christian-cannibals.asp

Description of several Roman religious rituals: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/Halsall/ancient/romrelig3.asp

Other websites on the Roman gods

List of the gods with some explanation: https://www.ancienthistorylists.com/rome-history/top-10-ancient-roman-gods/

Another list of gods: https://www.timelessmyths.com/classical/roman.html

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