State church of the Roman Empire

With the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, Emperor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the Empire's state religion.[1][2] The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church each stand in that continuity.

Earlier in the 4th century, following the Diocletianic Persecution of 303-313 and the Donatist controversy that arose in consequence, Constantine had convened councils of bishops to define the orthodoxy of the Christian faith, expanding on earlier Christian councils. A series of ecumenical councils convened by successive emperors met during the 4th and 5th centuries, but Christianity continued to suffer rifts and schisms surrounding the issues of Arianism, Nestorianism, and Miaphysitism. In the 5th century the Western Empire decayed as a polity: invaders sacked Rome in 410 and in 455, and Odoacer, an Arian barbarian warlord, forced Romulus Augustus, the last nominal Western Emperor, to abdicate in 476. However, apart from the aforementioned schisms, the church as an institution persisted in communion, if not without tension, between the east and west. In the 6th century the Byzantine armies of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I recovered Italy and other sections of the western Mediterranean shore. The Eastern Roman Empire soon lost most of these gains, but it held Rome, as part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, until 751, a period known in church history as the Byzantine Papacy. The Muslim conquests of the 7th century would begin a process of converting most of the then-Christian world in West Asia and North Africa to Islam, severely restricting the reach both of the Byzantine Empire and of its church. Missionary activity directed from Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, did not lead to a lasting expansion of the formal link between the church and the Byzantine emperor, since areas outside the empire's political and military control set up their own distinct churches, as in the case of Bulgaria in 919.

Justinian I, who became emperor in Constantinople in 527, recognized the patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem as the top leadership of the Church (see Pentarchy). However, Justinian claimed "the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church".[3][4]

In Justinian's day, the Christian church was not entirely under the Emperor's control even in the East: the Oriental Orthodox had seceded, having rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and called the adherents of the imperially recognized Church "Melkites", from Syriac malkâniya "imperial".[5] In western Europe, Christianity was mostly subject to the laws and customs of nations that owed no allegiance to the emperor in Constantinople.[6] While eastern-born popes appointed or at least confirmed by the Eastern Emperor continued to be loyal to him as their political lord, they refused to accept his authority in religious matters,[7] or the authority of such a council as the imperially convoked Council of Hieria of 754. Pope Gregory III (731-741) was the last Bishop of Rome to ask the Byzantine ruler to ratify his election.[8][9] With the crowning of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800 as Imperator Romanorum, the political split between east and west became irrevocable. Spiritually, Chalcedonian Christianity persisted, at least in theory, as a unified entity until the Great Schism and its formal division with the mutual excommunication in 1054 of Rome and Constantinople. The Eastern Roman Empire finally collapsed with the Fall of Constantinople to the Islamic Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The obliteration of the Empire's boundaries by Germanic peoples and an outburst of missionary activity among these peoples, who had no direct links with the Eastern Roman Empire, and among Pictic and Celtic peoples who had never been part of the Roman Empire, fostered the idea of a universal church free from association with a particular state.[10] On the contrary, "in the East Roman or Byzantine view, when the Roman Empire became Christian, the perfect world order willed by God had been achieved: one universal empire was sovereign, and coterminous with it was the one universal church"; and the church came, by the time of the demise of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, to merge psychologically with it to the extent that its bishops had difficulty in thinking of Christianity without an emperor.[11][12]

Modern authors refer to the church associated with the emperor in a variety of ways: as the catholic church, the orthodox church, the imperial church, the imperial Roman church, or the Byzantine church, although some of these terms are also used for wider communions extending outside the Roman Empire.[13] The legacy of the idea of a universal church carries on, directly or indirectly, in today's Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in others, such as the Anglican Communion.

Disco o Missorium Teodosio MPLdC
Missorium of Emperor Theodosius I, who made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.


Early Christianity in relation to the state

Chrisme Colosseum Rome Italy crop
Monogramme of Christ (the Chi Rho) on a plaque of a sarcophagus, 4th-century AD, marble, Musei Vaticani, on display in a temporary exhibition at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Before the end of the 1st century, the Roman authorities recognized Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism. The distinction, perhaps already made in practice at the time of the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64, was given official status by the emperor Nerva around the year 98 by granting Christians exemption from paying the Fiscus Iudaicus, the annual tax upon the Jews. Pliny the Younger, when propraetor in Bithynia in 103, assumes in his letters to Trajan that because Christians do not pay the tax, they are not Jews.[14][15][16]

Since paying taxes had been one of the ways that Jews demonstrated their goodwill and loyalty toward the Empire, Christians had to negotiate their own alternatives to participating in the imperial cult. Their refusal to worship the Roman gods or to pay homage to the emperor as divine resulted at times in persecution and martyrdom.[14][15][16] Church Father Tertullian, for instance, attempted to argue that Christianity was not inherently treasonous, and that Christians could offer their own form of prayer for the well-being of the emperor.[17]

Christianity spread especially in the eastern parts of the Empire and beyond its border; in the west it was at first relatively limited, but significant Christian communities emerged in Rome, Carthage, and other urban centers, becoming by the end of the 3rd century, the dominant faith in some of them. Christians accounted for approximately 10% of the Roman population by 300, according to some estimates.[18] According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals.[19]

In 301, the Kingdom of Armenia, nominally a Roman client kingdom but ruled by a Parthian dynasty,[20] became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion.

Establishment and early controversies

Major communions of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries
Communion Major churches Primary centers

(after 451)
Catholic/Orthodox Church
Georgian Church
Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople,
Georgian Kingdoms (Colchis and Iberia)
(after 431)
Persian church Syria,
Sassanid Empire (Persia)[21]
(after 451)
Armenian Church
Coptic Church
Syriac Church
Ethiopian Church
Armenia, Syria, Egypt[22]
(largely ended after 411)
North Africa[23]
Arianism parts of Eastern Roman Empire until 380
Gothic tribes[24]

In 311, the dying Emperor Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution that he is reputed to have instigated, and in 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting to Christians and others "the right of open and free observance of their worship".[25]

Constantine began to utilize Christian symbols such as the Chi-Rho early in his reign but still encouraged traditional Roman religious practices including sun worship. In 330, Constantine established the city of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city would gradually come to be seen as the intellectual and cultural center of the Christian world.[26]

Over the course of the 4th century the Christian body became consumed by debates surrounding orthodoxy, i.e. which religious doctrines are the correct ones. In the early 4th century, a group in North Africa, later called Donatists, who believed in a very rigid interpretation of Christianity that excluded many who had abandoned the faith during the Diocletianic persecution, created a crisis in the western Empire.[27]

A synod was held in Rome in 313, followed by another in Arles in 314, the latter presided over by Constantine while still a junior emperor (see Tetrarchy). These synods ruled that the Donatist faith was heresy and, when the Donatists refused to recant, Constantine launched the first campaign of persecution by Christians against Christians, and began imperial involvement in Christian theology. However, during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, the Donatists, who formed the majority party in the Roman province of Africa for 30 years,[28] were given official approval.[29]

Nicaea icon
Icon depicting Constantine and the bishops of the Council of Nicaea (325). The centrally placed and haloed Emperor holds the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople (381).

Debates within Christianity

Christian scholars and populace within the Empire were increasingly embroiled in debates regarding christology (i.e., regarding the nature of the Christ). Opinions ranged from belief that Jesus was entirely human to belief that he was entirely divine. The most persistent debate was that between the homoousian view (the Father and the Son are of one substance), defined at the Council at Nicaea in 325 and later championed by Athanasius of Alexandria, and the Arian view (the Father and the Son are similar, but the Father is greater than the Son). Emperors thereby became ever more involved with the increasingly divided Church.[30]

Constantine backed the Nicene creed of Nicaea, but was baptized on his deathbed by the Eusebius of Nicomedia, a bishop with Arian sympathies. His successor Constantius II supported Arian positions: under his rule, the Council of Constantinople in 360 supported the Arian view. After the interlude of Emperor Julian, who wanted to return to the pagan Roman/Greek religion, the west stuck to the Nicene creed, while Arianism or Semi-Arianism was dominant in the east (under Emperor Valens), until Emperor Theodosius I called the Council of Constantinople in 381, which reasserted the Nicene view and rejected the Arian view. This council further refined the definition of orthodoxy, issuing the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

On 27 February of the previous year, Theodosius I established, with the Edict of Thessalonica, the Christianity of the First Council of Nicaea as the official state religion, reserving for its followers the title of Catholic Christians and declaring that those who did not follow the religion taught by Pope Damasus I of Rome and Pope Peter of Alexandria were to be called heretics:[31]

It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.

— Edict of Thessalonica

In 391, Theodosius closed all the "pagan" (non-Christian and non-Jewish) temples and formally forbade pagan worship.

Late antiquity

Byzantine Empire animated
Changes in extent of the Empire ruled from Constantinople.
476 End of the Western Empire; 550 Conquests of Justinian I; 717 Accession of Leo the Isaurian; 867 Accession of Basil I; 1025 Death of Basil II; 1095 Eve of the First Crusade; 1170 Under Manuel I; 1270 Under Michael VIII Palaiologos; 1400 Before the fall of Constantinople

At the end of the 4th century the Roman Empire had effectively split into two parts although their economies and the Church were still strongly tied. The two halves of the Empire had always had cultural differences, exemplified in particular by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and its more limited use in the West (Greek, as well as Latin, was used in the West, but Latin was the spoken vernacular).

By the time Christianity became the state religion of the Empire at the end of the 4th century, scholars in the West had largely abandoned Greek in favor of Latin. Even the Church in Rome, where Greek continued to be used in the liturgy longer than in the provinces, abandoned Greek.[32] Jerome's Vulgate had begun to replace the older Latin translations of the Bible.

Hagia Sophia exterior 2007 002
The Hagia Sophia basilica in Constantinople, for centuries the largest church building in the world.

The 5th century would see further fracturing of the Church. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, the first of which condemned the teachings of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, while the second supported the teachings of Eutyches against Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople.[33]

Nestorius taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. Eutyches taught on the contrary that there was in Christ only a single nature, different from that of human beings in general. The First Council of Ephesus rejected Nestorius' view, causing churches centered around the School of Edessa, a city at the edge of the empire, to break with the imperial church (see Nestorian schism).[33]

Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church (the future Church of the East). The Second Council of Ephesus upheld the view of Eutyches, but was overturned two years later by the Council of Chalcedon, called by Emperor Marcian. Rejection of the Council of Chalcedon led to the exodus from the state church of the majority of Christians in Egypt and many in the Levant, who preferred miaphysite theology.[33]

Thus, within a century of the link established by Theodosius between the emperor and the church in his empire, it suffered a significant diminishment. Those who upheld the Council of Chalcedon became known in Syriac as Melkites, the imperial group, followers of the emperor (in Syriac, malka).[34] This schism resulted in an independent communion of churches, including the Egyptian, Syrian, Ethiopian and Armenian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy.[35] In spite of these schisms, however, the Chalcedonian church still represented the majority of Christians within the by now already diminished Roman Empire.[36]

End of the Western Roman Empire

Odoacer 480ad
Odoacer's kingdom in 480, after annexing Dalmatia and most of Sicily.

In the 5th century, the Western Empire rapidly decayed and by the end of the century was no more. Within a few decades, Germanic tribes, particularly the Goths and Vandals, conquered the western provinces. Rome was sacked in 410 and 455, and was to be sacked again in the following century in 546.[24]

By 476 the Germanic chieftain Odoacer had conquered Italy and deposed the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, though he nominally submitted to the authority of Constantinople. The Arian Germanic tribes established their own systems of churches and bishops in the western provinces but were generally tolerant of the population who chose to remain in communion with the imperial church.[24]

In 533 Roman Emperor Justinian in Constantinople launched a military campaign to reclaim the western provinces from the Arian Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. His success in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean was temporary. The empire soon lost most of these gains, but held Rome, as part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, until 751.

Justinian definitively established Caesaropapism,[37] believing "he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church".[3] According to the entry in Liddell & Scott, the term orthodox first occurs in the Codex Justinianus: "We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed."[38]

By the end of the 6th century the Church within the Empire had become firmly tied with the imperial government,[39] while in the west Christianity was mostly subject to the laws and customs of nations that owed no allegiance to the emperor.[6]

Patriarchates in the Eastern Roman Empire

1800 Wilkinson Map of the 4 Eastern Churches rectified
A map of the five patriarchates in the Eastern Mediterranean as constituted by Justinian I. Rome is coloured in pink, Constantinople in green, Antioch in blue, Jerusalem in pink and Alexandria in yellow. Leo III extended the jurisdiction of Constantinople to the territories bordered in pink.

Emperor Justinian I assigned to five sees, those of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, a superior ecclesial authority that covered the whole of his empire. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 reaffirmed that the bishop of a provincial capital, the metropolitan bishop, had a certain authority over the bishops of the province.[40] But it also recognized the existing supra-metropolitan authority of the sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch,[41] and granted special recognition to Jerusalem.[42][43][44]

Constantinople was added at the First Council of Constantinople (381)[45] and given authority initially only over Thrace. By a canon of contested validity,[46] the Council of Chalcedon (451) placed Asia and Pontus,[47] which together made up Anatolia, under Constantinople, although their autonomy had been recognized at the council of 381.[48][49]

Rome never recognized this pentarchy of five sees as constituting the leadership of the church. It maintained that, in accordance with the First Council of Nicaea, only the three "Petrine" sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch had a real patriarchal function.[50] The canons of the Quinisext Council of 692, which gave ecclesiastical sanction to Justinian's decree, were also never fully accepted by the Western Church.[51]

Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, most of whose Christians were in any case lost to the orthodox church since the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, left in effect only two patriarchates, those of Rome and Constantinople.[52] In 732, Emperor Leo III's iconoclast policies were resisted by Pope Gregory III. The Emperor reacted by transferring to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Constantinople in 740 the territories in Greece, Illyria, Sicily and Calabria that had been under Rome (see map), leaving the bishop of Rome with only a minute part of the lands over which the empire still had control.[53]

The Patriarch of Constantinople had already adopted the title of "ecumenical patriarch", indicating what he saw as his position in the oikoumene, the Christian world ideally headed by the emperor and the patriarch of the emperor's capital.[54][55] Also under the influence of the imperial model of governance of the state church, in which "the emperor becomes the actual executive organ of the universal Church",[56] the pentarchy model of governance of the state church regressed to a monarchy of the Patriarch of Constantinople.[56][57]

Rise of Islam

Age of Caliphs
A map of Muslim expansion in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Rashidun conquests began to expand the sway of Islam beyond Arabia in the 7th century, first clashing with the Roman Empire in 634. That empire and the Sassanid Persian Empire were at that time crippled by decades of war between them. By the late 8th century the Umayyad caliphate had conquered all of Persia and much of the Byzantine territory including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.

Suddenly much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. Over the coming centuries the successive Muslim states became some of the most powerful in the Mediterranean world.

Though the Byzantine church claimed religious authority over Christians in Egypt and the Levant, in reality the majority of Christians in these regions were by then miaphysites and members of other sects. The new Muslim rulers, in contrast, offered religious tolerance to Christians of all sects. Additionally subjects of the Muslim Empire could be accepted as Muslims simply by declaring a belief in a single deity and reverence for Muhammad (see shahada). As a result, the peoples of Egypt, Palestine and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations. Muslim incursions later found success in parts of Europe, particularly Spain (see Al-Andalus).[58]

Expansion of Christianity in Europe

Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1)
The spread of Christianity in Europe by 325 AD (dark blue) and 600 AD (light blue).

During the 9th century, the Emperor in Constantinople encouraged missionary expeditions to nearby nations including the Muslim caliphate, and the Turkic Khazars. In 862 he sent Saints Cyril and Methodius to Slavic Great Moravia. By then most of the Slavic population of Bulgaria was Christian and Tsar Boris I himself was baptized in 864. Serbia was accounted Christian by about 870.[59] In early 867 Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople wrote that Christianity was accepted by the Kievan Rus', which however was definitively Christianized only at the close of the following century.

The spread of Christianity in Europe by 1000.

Of these, the Church in Great Moravia chose immediately to link with Rome, not Constantinople: the missionaries sent there sided with the Pope during the Photian Schism (863–867).[60] After decisive victories over the Byzantines at Acheloos and Katasyrtai, Bulgaria declared its Church autocephalous and elevated it to the rank of Patriarchate, an autonomy recognized in 927 by Constantinople,[61][62] but abolished by Emperor Basil II Bulgaroktonos (the Bulgar-Slayer) after his 1018 conquest of Bulgaria.

In Serbia, which became an independent kingdom in the early 13th century, Stephen Uroš IV Dušan, after conquering a large part of Byzantine territory in Europe and assuming the title of Tsar, raised the Serbian archbishop to the rank of patriarch in 1346, a rank maintained until after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Turks. No Byzantine emperor ever ruled Russian Christianity.

Expansion of the Church in western and northern Europe began much earlier, with the conversion of the Irish in the 5th century, the Franks at the end of the same century, the Arian Visigoths in Spain soon afterwards, and the English at the end of the 6th century. By the time the Byzantine missions to central and eastern Europe began, Christian western Europe, in spite of losing most of Spain to Islam, encompassed Germany and part of Scandinavia, and, apart from the south of Italy, was independent of the Byzantine Empire and had been almost entirely so for centuries.

This situation fostered the idea of a universal church linked to no one particular state.[10] Long before the Byzantine Empire came to an end, Poland also, Hungary and other central European peoples were part of a Church that in no way saw itself as the empire's church and that, with the East-West Schism, had even ceased to be in communion with it.

East–West Schism (1054)

Karelbig leo3
The coronation of Charlemagne as emperor.

With the defeat and death in 751 of the last Exarch of Ravenna and the end of the Exarchate, Rome ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire. Forced to seek protection elsewhere,[63] the Popes turned to the Franks and, with the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800, transferred their political allegiance to a rival Roman Emperor. Disputes between the see of Rome, which claimed authority over all other sees, and that of Constantinople, which was now without rival in the empire, culminated perhaps inevitably[64] in mutual excommunications in 1054.

Communion with Constantinople was broken off by European Christians with the exception of those ruled by the empire (including the Bulgarians and Serbs) and of the fledgling Kievan or Russian Church, then a metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople. This church became independent only in 1448, just five years before the extinction of the empire,[65] after which the Turkish authorities included all their Orthodox Christian subjects of whatever ethnicity in a single millet headed by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Westerners who set up Crusader states in Greece and the Middle East appointed Latin (Western) patriarchs and other hierarchs, thus giving concrete reality and permanence to the schism.[66][67][68] Efforts were made in 1274 (Second Council of Lyon) and 1439 (Council of Florence) to restore communion between East and West, but the agreements reached by the participating eastern delegations and by the Emperor were rejected by the vast majority of Byzantine Christians.

In the East, the idea that the Byzantine emperor was the head of Christians everywhere persisted among churchmen as long as the empire existed, even when its actual territory was reduced to very little. In 1393, only 60 years before the fall of the capital, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople wrote to Basil I of Muscovy defending the liturgical commemoration in Russian churches of the Byzantine emperor on the grounds that he was "emperor (βασιλεύς) and autokrator of the Romans, that is of all Christians".[69] According to Patriarch Antony, "it is not possible among Christians to have a Church and not to have an emperor. For the empire and the Church have great unity and commonality, and it is not possible to separate them",[70][71][72] and "the holy emperor is not like the rulers and governors of other regions".[72][73]


Byzantine eagle
Emblem of the Patriarch of Constantinople, based on the imperial symbol adopted in the 11th century

Following the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, various emperors sought at times but without success to reunite the Church, invoking the notion of Christian unity between East and West in an attempt to obtain assistance from the Pope and Western Europe against the Muslims who were gradually conquering the empire's territory. But the period of the Western Crusades against the Muslims had passed before even the first of the two reunion councils was held.

Even when persecuted by the emperor, the Eastern Church, George Pachymeres said, "counted the days until they should be rid not of their emperor (for they could no more live without an emperor than a body without a heart), but of their current misfortunes".[74] The church had come to merge psychologically in the minds of the Eastern bishops with the empire to such an extent that they had difficulty in thinking of Christianity without an emperor.[11]

In Western Europe, on the other hand, the idea of a universal church linked to the Emperor of Constantinople was replaced by that in which the Roman see was supreme.[75] "Membership in a universal church replaced citizenship in a universal empire. Across Europe, from Italy to Ireland, a new society centered on Christianity was forming."[76]

The Western Church came to emphasize the term Catholic in its identity, an assertion of universality, while the Eastern Church came to emphasize the term Orthodox in its identity, an assertion of holding to the true teachings of Jesus. Both churches claim to be the unique continuation of the previously united Chalcedonian Church, whose core doctrinal formulations have been retained also by many of the churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism.

See also


  1. ^ Forster (2008), p. 41.
  2. ^ Tony Honoré (1998), p. 5.
  3. ^ a b Ayer (1913), p. 553
  4. ^ Thomas Talbot, The Inescapable Love of God (Wipf and Stock 2014 ISBN 978-1-62564690-3), p. 18
  5. ^ Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition (Westminister John Knox Press 1996), p. 63; James Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press 2012), p. 209
  6. ^ a b Ayer (1913), pp. 538-539
  7. ^ Ekonomou (2007), p. 218
  8. ^ Granfield (2000), p. 325
  9. ^ Noble (1984), p. 49
  10. ^ a b Gerland, Ernst. "The Byzantine Empire" in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. Retrieved 19 July 2010
  11. ^ a b Schadé (2006), art. "Byzantine Church"
  12. ^ In 1393, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople declared the Byzantine emperor to be "emperor (βασιλεύς) and autokrator of the Romans, that is of all Christians, and "it is not possible among Christians to have a Church and not to have an emperor. For the empire and the Church have great unity and commonality, and it is not possible to separate them" (Dimitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Inheritance of Eastern Europe (Variorum Reprints 1969 ISBN 978-0-86078102-8), p. 339).
  13. ^ Latourette (1983), p. 175.
    Schaff (1883), p. 179.
    Irvin (2002), p. 160.
    O'Hare (1997), p. 88.
  14. ^ a b Wylen (1995). Pp 190-192.
  15. ^ a b Dunn (1999). Pp 33-34.
  16. ^ a b Boatwright (2004). Pg 426.
  17. ^ Tertullian, Apologeticus 30.1, as discussed by Cecilia Ames, "Roman Religion in the Vision of Tertullian," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), pp. 467–468 et passim.
  18. ^ Hopkins(1998), p. 191
  19. ^ Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
  20. ^ Redgate, Anne Elizabeth (2000). The Armenians (First ed.). Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, p. 88–91. ISBN 0-631-22037-2.
  21. ^ O'Leary (2000), pp. 131–137.
  22. ^ Price (2005), pp. 52–55.
  23. ^ Dwyer (1998), pp. 109–111.
  24. ^ a b c Anderson (2010), p. 604.
    Amory (), pp. 259–262.
  25. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 45.1, 48.2, qtd. and tr. in Graeme Clarke, "Third-Century Christianity" in The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Crisis of Empire, edited by Alan Bowman, Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, 589–671. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-30199-8, pp. 662–663
  26. ^ Payton (2007), p. 29.
  27. ^ Irvin (2002), p. 164, ch. 15.
  28. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Facts about Julian: Donatists
  29. ^ George M. Ella, The Donatists and Their Relation to Church and State
  30. ^ Irvin (2002), p. 164, ch. 16.
  31. ^ Bettenson (1967), p. 22.
  32. ^ "The first Christians in Rome were chiefly people who came from the East and spoke Greek. The founding of Constantinople naturally drew such people thither rather than to Rome, and then Christianity at Rome began to spread among the Roman population, so that at last the bulk of the Christian population in Rome spoke Latin. Hence the change in the language of the liturgy. ... The liturgy was said (in Latin) first in one church and then in more, until the Greek liturgy was driven out, and the clergy ceased to know Greek. About 415 or 420 we find a Pope saying that he is unable to answer a letter from some Eastern bishops, because he has no one who could write Greek" (Alfred Plummer, Conversations with Dr. Döllinger 1870-1890, ed. Robrecht Boudens (Leuven University Press, 1985), p. 13).
  33. ^ a b c Price (2005), p. 52
  34. ^ Price (2005), p. 54
  35. ^ Bussell (1910), p. 346.
  36. ^ Latourette (1975), p. 183.
  37. ^ Ayer (1913), p. 538
  38. ^ Code of Justinian I.5.21 Archived 27 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Cairns (1996), p. 124. "By 590 the church had not only been freed from persecution by the Roman state but had become closely linked with that state."
  40. ^ Canon 4
  41. ^ Canon 6
  42. ^ Canon 7
  43. ^ Paul Valliere, Conciliarism (Cambridge University Press 2012 ISBN 978-1-10701574-6), pp. 91-92
  44. ^ J.F. Puglisi (editor), How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church? (Eerdmans 2010 ISBN 978-0-80284862-8), p. 40
  45. ^ Canon 3
  46. ^ George C. Michalopulos, "Canon 28 and Eastern Papalism: Cause or Effect?" Archived 10 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ Canon 28
  48. ^ Canon 2
  49. ^ L'idea di pentarchia nella cristianità
  50. ^ Wilhelm de Fries, The College of Patriarchs from the Point of View of Rome
  51. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica "Quinisext Council"
  52. ^ Robert Browning, The Byzantine Empire (Revised Edition, CUA Press 1992 ISBN 978-0-81320754-4), p. 73
  53. ^ Treadgold. History of the Byzantine State, pp. 354–355.
  54. ^ John Meyendorff, The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 1982 ISBN 978-0-91383690-3), p. 20
  55. ^ Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades (Continuum International 2006 ISBN 978-1-85285501-7), p. 44
  56. ^ a b Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, p. 95
  57. ^ Milton V. Anastos, Constantinople and Rome
  58. ^ Cardini (2001), p. 9.
  59. ^ The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 208
  60. ^ Warren T. Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford University Press 1997 ISBN 978-0-80472630-6), pp. 453, 558
  61. ^ Kiminas, D. (2009). The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Wildside Press LLC. p. 15
  62. ^ GENOV, R., & KALKANDJIEVA, D. (2007). Religion and Irreligion in Bulgaria: How Religious Are the Bulgarians? Religion and power in Europe: conflict and convergence, 257
  63. ^ Jeffrey Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages (Routledge 1979 ISBN 978-0-71000098-9), p. 230
  64. ^ Paul Johnson, History of Christianity (Simon & Schuster 2005 ISBN 978-0-74328203-1), p. 186
  65. ^ E.E. Golubinskii, Istoriia russkoi tserkvi (Moscow: Universitetskaia tipografiia, 1900), vol. 2, pt. 1, p. 469
  66. ^ Aidan Nichols, OP, Rome and the Eastern Churches (Ignatius Press 2010 ISBN 978-1-58617282-4), p. 281
  67. ^ St Cletus Parish Adult Education, "Nails in the Coffin of Reunification"
  68. ^ Eparchy of Newton, "The Melkites"
  69. ^ Meyendorff 1996, pp. 89.
  70. ^ Borys Andrij Gudziak, Crisis and Reform (Harvard University Press 1992), p. 17
  71. ^ Michael Angold, Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 5, Eastern Christianity (Cambridge University Press 2006 ISBN 978-0-52181113-2), p. 31
  72. ^ a b Dimitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Inheritance of Eastern Europe (Variorum Reprints 1969 ISBN 978-0-86078102-8), p. 339
  73. ^ J. Chrysostomides in Kathēgētria (Surrey 1988 ISBN 978-1-87132800-4), p. 516
  74. ^ Donald M. Nicol, The Last Centuries of Byzantium (CambridgeUniversity Press 1993 ISBN 9780521439916), pp. 78-79
  75. ^ "It was the papacy also which kept alive in western Europe the ideal of a universal imperial Church, for the whole of western Christendom came to acknowledge the supremacy of the Roman see" Arthur Edward Romilly Boak, A History of Rome to 565 A.D., p. 4030.
  76. ^ Marvin Perry et alii, Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, Volume I: To 1789 (Cengage Learning 2012 ISBN 978-1-11183168-4), p. 213


Christianity in the 4th century

Christianity in the 4th century was dominated in its early stage by Constantine the Great and the First Council of Nicaea of 325, which was the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils (325–787), and in its late stage by the Edict of Thessalonica of 380, which made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire.

Church of Rome

Holy Roman Church, Roman Church, Church of Rome or Church in Rome may refer to:

the Diocese of Rome or the Holy See

the Latin Church

Churches of Rome (buildings)In historical contexts Roman Church may also refer to:

the Catholic Church (also known as the Roman Catholic Church)

the first Christians in Rome

the State church of the Roman Empire

the State church of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire)

the church of the Holy Roman Empire

Constantine the Great and Christianity

During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have often argued about which form of early Christianity he subscribed to. There is no consensus among scholars as to whether he adopted his mother Helena's Christianity in his youth, or, as claimed by Eusebius of Caesarea, encouraged her to convert to the faith he had adopted himself.

Constantine ruled the Roman Empire as sole emperor for the remainder of his reign. Some scholars allege that his main objective was to gain unanimous approval and submission to his authority from all classes, and therefore chose Christianity to conduct his political propaganda, believing that it was the most appropriate religion that could fit with the Imperial cult (see also Sol Invictus). Regardless, under Constantine's rule Christianity expanded throughout the Empire, launching the era of Christian Church's dominance under the Constantinian dynasty. Whether Constantine sincerely converted to Christianity or remained loyal to Paganism is still a matter of debate among historians (see also Constantine's Religious policy). His formal conversion in 312 is almost universally acknowledged among historians, despite that he was baptized only on his deathbed by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia in 337; the real reasons behind it remain unknown and are debated too. According to Hans Pohlsander, Professor Emeritus of History at the University at Albany, SUNY, Constantine's conversion was just another instrument of realpolitik in his hands meant to serve his political interest in keeping the Empire united under his control:

The prevailing spirit of Constantine's government was one of conservatorism. His conversion to and support of Christianity produced fewer innovations than one might have expected; indeed they served an entirely conservative end, the preservation and continuation of the Empire.

Constantine's decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship. The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxy, Christendom, ecumenical councils, and the state church of the Roman Empire declared by edict in 380. He is revered as a saint and isapostolos in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and various Eastern Catholic Churches for his example as a "Christian monarch."

Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism

Religion in the Greco-Roman world at the time of the Constantinian shift mostly comprised three main currents:

the traditional religions of ancient Greece and Rome;

the official Roman imperial cult;

various mystery religions, such as the Dionysian and Eleusinian Mysteries and the mystery cults of Cybele, Mithras, and the syncretized Isis.Early Christianity grew gradually in Rome and the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries. In 313 it was legally tolerated and in 380 it became the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica. Nevertheless, Hellenistic polytheistic traditions survived in pockets of Greece throughout Late Antiquity until they gradually diminished after the triumph of Christianity.

Ecclesiastical differences between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church

Catholic–Orthodox ecclesiastical differences are differences between the organizational structure and governance of the Eastern Orthodox Church and that of the Catholic Church. These are distinguished from theological differences which are differences in dogma and doctrine.

A number of disagreements over matters of Ecclesiology developed slowly between the Western and Eastern wings of the State church of the Roman Empire centred upon the cities of Rome (considered to have "fallen" in 476) and New Rome/Constantinople (c.330-1453) respectively. The disputes were a major factor in the formal East-West Schism between Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I in 1054 and are largely still unresolved between the churches today.

Edict of Milan

The Edict of Milan (Latin: Edictum Mediolanense) was the February 313 AD agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I and Emperor Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan) and, among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the Edict of Toleration issued by Emperor Galerius two years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity a legal status, but did not make Christianity the State church of the Roman Empire; this took place under Emperor Theodosius I in 380 AD with the Edict of Thessalonica.

The document is found in Lactantius' De Mortibus Persecutorum and in Eusebius of Caesarea's History of the Church with marked divergences between the two. Whether or not there was a formal 'Edict of Milan'  is debated by some.The version found in Lactantius is not in the form of an edict. It is a letter from Licinius to the governors of the provinces in the Eastern Empire he had just conquered by defeating Maximinus later in the same year and issued in Nicomedia.

Great Church

The term "Great Church" (Latin: ecclesia magna) is a term of the historiography of early Christianity describing its rapid growth and structural development 180–313 AD (around the time of the Ante-Nicene Period) and its claim to represent Christianity within the Roman Empire. The term is primarily associated with the Roman Catholic account of the history of Christian theology, but is also used by non-Catholic historians.

The "epoch of the Great Church" is counted as beginning around the end of the second century when, despite the persecution of Christians, the religion became established numerically and organizationally, eventually becoming the state church of the Roman Empire in 380. However, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, an Oriental Orthodox branch parted ways with the Great Church due to Christological differences.In contrast, in modern Catholic usage, the "Great Church" broadly means the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" unity of the Catholic Church (Latin Church) - continuing in authority from the apostles to today - and all bishops who remained in fellowship with the Pope.The sees of Rome and Constantinople, both applying the Chalcedonian Definition, remained in full communion throughout the First seven ecumenical councils (325–787) and until the East–West Schism (1054).


In theology or the history of religion, heresiology is the study of heresy, and heresiographies are writings about the topic. Heresiographical works were common in both medieval Christianity and Islam.

Heresiology developed as a part of the emerging orthodoxy in the Christian state church of the Roman Empire. Church scholars studied and documented the teachings of various Christian sects in order to clearly distinguish between those they accepted as orthodox and those they rejected as heretical. Other Christian communions developed their own competing heresiological traditions as well.

In Islam, heresiology surveyed both the various Muslim sects, and also other religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Some like Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi and Ibn Hazm wrote polemical works, arguing the falseness of sects and religions other than their own. Others like Al-Shahrastani's Al-Milal wa al-Nihal took a more impartial approach closer to modern religious studies works.

History of the Jews in the Roman Empire

The history of the Jews in the Roman Empire traces the interaction of Jews and Romans during the period of the Roman Empire (27 BC – AD 476). Their cultures began to overlap in the centuries just before the Christian Era. Jews, as part of the Jewish diaspora, migrated to Rome and Roman Europe from the Land of Israel, Asia Minor, Babylon and Alexandria in response to economic hardship and incessant warfare over the land of Israel between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires. In Rome, Jewish communities enjoyed privileges and thrived economically, becoming a significant part of the Empire's population (perhaps as much as ten percent).The Roman general Pompey in his eastern campaign established the Roman province of Syria in 64 BC and conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC. Julius Caesar conquered Alexandria c. 47 BC and defeated Pompey in 45 BC. Under Julius Caesar, Judaism was officially recognised as a legal religion, a policy followed by the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Herod the Great was designated 'King of the Jews' by the Roman Senate in c. 40 BC, the Roman province of Egypt was established in 30 BC, and Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom) were converted to the Roman province of Iudaea in 6 AD. Jewish–Roman tensions resulted in several Jewish–Roman wars, 66–135 AD, which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple and institution of the Jewish Tax in 70 and Hadrian's attempt to create a new Roman colony named Aelia Capitolina c. 130.

Around this time, Christianity developed from Second Temple Judaism. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan giving official recognition to Christianity as a legal religion. Constantine the Great moved the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople ('New Rome') c. 330, sometimes considered the start of the Byzantine Empire, and with the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, Christianity became the state church of the Roman Empire. The Christian emperors persecuted their Jewish subjects and restricted their rights.

Imperial church

An imperial church is a church associated with an empire. The first such church was the state church of the Roman Empire, as patronized and largely controlled by the Roman Emperors from the time of the transfer of the seat of government to Constantinople. The link between the church within that empire and the state was formally established by Theodosius I with the Edict of Thessalonica of 27 February 380.

There was the imperial church of the Spanish Empire, as described in the chapter The Course of the Imperial Church from Imposition to Eclipse of the book The Church in Latin America 1492-1992 by Enrique Dussel.

The term imperial church has been used also with reference to a vision of the Church of England as the church of the British Empire.In her book The Church on the Margins: Living Christian Community, Mary R. Sawyer uses the term imperial church to mean any church that supports domination by some over others. She thus describes the church, after the conversion of Constantine, as one that "evolved as a hierarchical, patriarchal, and episcopal institution in which the charismatic, or spiritual, expression of Christianity was suppressed. Christianity became not only the 'state' religion but an imperial religion."

Nestorian Schism

The Nestorian Schism (431–544), in church history, involved a split between the Christian churches of Sassanid Persia, which affiliated with Nestorius, and churches that rejected him. The schism rose out of a Christological dispute, notably involving Cyril (Patriarch of Alexandria) and Nestorius (Patriarch of Constantinople). The First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 condemned Nestorius and his doctrine, which emphasized the radical distinctness between Christ's human and divine natures.

That forced a breach between the churches that defended Nestorius and the state church of the Roman Empire, which caused the Church of the East, the Christian church of Sassanid Persia, to become known as the Nestorian Church, as it took the side of Nestorius.


Flavius Odoacer (; c. 433 – 493 AD), also known as Flavius Odovacer or Odovacar (Latin: Odoacer, Odoacar, Odovacar, Odovacris), was a barbarian statesman who in 476 became the first King of Italy (476–493). His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Odoacer is the earliest ruler of Italy for whom an autograph of any of his legal acts has survived to the current day.

Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of the emperor in Constantinople. Odoacer generally used the Roman honorific patrician, granted by the emperor Zeno, but is referred to as a king (Latin: rex) in many documents. He himself used it in the only surviving official document that emanated from his chancery, and it was also used by the consul Basilius. Odoacer introduced few important changes into the administrative system of Italy. He had the support of the Roman Senate and was able to distribute land to his followers without much opposition. Unrest among his warriors led to violence in 477–478, but no such disturbances occurred during the later period of his reign. Although Odoacer was an Arian Christian, he rarely intervened in the affairs of Trinitarian state church of the Roman Empire.

Of East Germanic descent, according to most opinions, Odoacer was a military leader in Italy who led the revolt of Herulian, Rugian, and Scirian soldiers that deposed Romulus Augustulus on 4 September AD 476. Augustulus had been declared Western Roman Emperor by his father, the rebellious general of the army in Italy, less than a year before, but had been unable to gain allegiance or recognition beyond central Italy. With the backing of the Roman Senate, Odoacer thenceforth ruled Italy autonomously, paying lip service to the authority of Julius Nepos, the previous Western emperor, and Zeno, the emperor of the East. Upon Nepos's murder in 480 Odoacer invaded Dalmatia, to punish the murderers. He did so, executing the conspirators, but within two years also conquered the region and incorporated it into his domain.

When Illus, master of soldiers of the Eastern Empire, asked for Odoacer's help in 484 in his struggle to depose Zeno, Odoacer invaded Zeno's westernmost provinces. The emperor responded first by inciting the Rugii of present-day Austria to attack Italy. During the winter of 487–488 Odoacer crossed the Danube and defeated the Rugii in their own territory. Zeno also appointed the Ostrogoth Theoderic the Great who was menacing the borders of the Eastern Empire, to be king of Italy, turning one troublesome, nominal vassal against another. Theoderic invaded Italy in 489 and by August 490 had captured almost the entire peninsula, forcing Odoacer to take refuge in Ravenna. The city surrendered on 5 March 493; Theoderic invited Odoacer to a banquet of reconciliation and there killed him.

Religious persecution in the Roman Empire

As the Roman Republic, and later the Roman Empire, expanded, it came to include people from a variety of cultures, and religions. The worship of an ever increasing number of deities was tolerated and accepted. The government, and the Romans in general, tended to be tolerant towards most religions and cults. Some religions were banned for political reasons rather than dogmatic zeal, and other rites which involved human sacrifice were banned.In the Christian era, when Christianity became the state church of the Roman Empire, the Church came to accept it was the Emperor's duty to use secular power to enforce religious unity. Anyone within the church who did not subscribe to Catholic Christianity was seen as a threat to the dominance and purity of the "one true faith" and they saw it as their right to defend this by all means at their disposal. This led to persecution of pagans by the Christian authorities and populace after its institution as the state religion.

Roman Christianity

Roman Christianity may refer to:

State church of the Roman Empire

Roman Christianity, the doctrine of the contemporary Roman Catholic Church

Roman Christianity, Early Christianity in Rome during the 1st to 4th centuries

Rutilius Claudius Namatianus

Rutilius Claudius Namatianus (fl. 5th century) was a Roman Imperial poet, notable as the author of a Latin poem, De reditu suo, in elegiac metre, describing a coastal voyage from Rome to Gaul in 416. The solid literary quality of the work, and the flashes of light it throws across a momentous but dark epoch of history, combine to give it exceptional importance among the relics of late Roman literature. The poem was in two books; the exordium of the first and the greater part of the second have been lost. What remains consists of about seven hundred lines.

Whether Rutilius had converted to Christianity, which was well established as the state church of the Roman Empire by his time, has been a matter of scholarly debate. In the early 21st century, editors of his work concluded that he had not, and Alan Cameron, a leading scholar of Late Antiquity, agrees that he "probably" remained unconverted from Rome's traditional religious practices, but that his hostility was not to Christianity as it was practiced by the vast majority of citizens of the Empire, but rather against the total renunciation of public life advocated by the ascetics.

Symphonia (theology)

Symphonia (Greek: συμφωνία "accord") is a normative theory or concept in Orthodox Christian theological and political thought, especially within the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, which posits that church and state are to complement each other, exhibiting mutual respect with neither institution presuming to dominate the other.

Theodosius I

Theodosius I (Latin: Flavius Theodosius Augustus; Greek: Θεοδόσιος Αʹ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also known as Theodosius the Great, was a Roman Emperor from 379 to 395, and the last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and the Western halves of the Roman Empire. On accepting his elevation, he campaigned against Goths and other barbarians who had invaded the Empire. His resources were not sufficient to destroy them or drive them out, which had been Roman policy for centuries in dealing with invaders. By treaty, which followed his indecisive victory at the end of the Gothic War, they were established as foederati, autonomous allies of the Empire, south of the Danube, in Illyricum, within the Empire's borders. They were given lands and allowed to remain under their own leaders, a grave departure from Roman hegemonic ways. This turn away from traditional policies was accommodationist and had grave consequences for the Western Empire from the beginning of the century, as the Romans found themselves with the impossible task of defending the borders and deal with unruly federates within. Theodosius I was obliged to fight two destructive civil wars, successively defeating the usurpers Magnus Maximus in 387-388 and Eugenius in 394, though not without material cost to the power of the Empire.

He issued decrees that effectively made Nicene Christianity the official state church of the Roman Empire. He neither prevented nor punished the destruction of prominent Hellenistic temples of classical antiquity, including the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and the Serapeum in Alexandria. He dissolved the Order of the Vestal Virgins in Rome. In 393, he banned the pagan rituals of the Olympics in Ancient Greece. After his death, Theodosius's young sons Arcadius and Honorius inherited the east and west halves of the empire respectively, and the Roman Empire was never again re-united, though Eastern Roman emperors after Zeno would claim the united title after Julius Nepos's death in 480.

Theodosius is considered a saint by the Armenian Apostolic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, and his feast day is on January 19.

Western religions

Western religions refers to religions that originated within Western culture, and are thus historically, culturally, and theologically distinct from the Eastern religions. The term Abrahamic religions (Islam, Eastern Christianity and Judaism) is often used in lieu of using the East and West terminology.

Western culture itself was significantly influenced by the emergence of Christianity and its adoption as the state church of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century and the term "Christendom" largely indicates this intertwined history. Western Christianity was significantly influenced by Hellenistic religion (notably Platonism and Gnosticism) as well as the Roman imperial cult. Western Christianity is based on Roman Catholicism (Latin Rite), as opposed to Eastern Orthodoxy, from which it was divided by the Great Schism of the 11th century, and further includes all Protestant traditions splitting off Roman Catholicism from the 16th century.

Since the 19th century, Western religion has diversified into numerous new religious movements, including Occultism, Spiritism and diverse forms of Neopaganism.

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