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Old November 30th, 2014, 10:51 AM   #1

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Did Christianity Destroy Rome?


I'm sure we've had this question plenty of times, however I can't find them, and we have a few new people to contribute.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 01:08 PM   #2

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I think that argument is traced to Gibbon's 18th century "The Decline and Fall..." and isn't a thesis that many [if any] historians would hold today at least not as the single rationale in a more complex story of decline.

As an exercise turn the argument on its head and ask if Christianity helped retain some aspects of Rome's civilization.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 01:28 PM   #3

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No, and no, though something like this is advocated by many people. I posted on this several times in different threads.

Roman world was already experiencing profound changes by the beginning of the IV century, the old Graeco-Roman pantheon was largely gone and new eastern cults were gaining popularity, Mithraism, cult of Sol-Invictus, were the most famous ones.

If Christianity hadn't filled the gap, some other cult or religion would. The fact that Christianity was not a revolutionary religion that preached a secular revolution and rebellion is also important. Christianity was compatible with the Roman state and that become evident during the course of the IV century.

With this question, I have a problem, how do we interpret it? Destroyed Rome in what regard? Roman state, Roman culture or Roman religion? Latter two were already transforming and traditional Roman religion was a thing of the past.

As for Roman state and Roman culture, Christianity didn't destroy them in any way, in fact it brought new life to Graeco-Roman world and helped transform it.

You just need to look at Eastern Roman Empire, Hellenistic philosophy, Roman law and statehood and Christian religion formed a new kind of culture, which served as a model for the rest of Europe during the Early Middle Ages, even Western Europe was under this influence.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 01:33 PM   #4
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No, quit the opposite. It gave it the second life.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 01:50 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by arras View Post
No, quit the opposite. It gave it the second life.
Absolutely, and not only in the East, where the "original" Roman Empire kept on existing [with its clear Christian identity], but also in the West where the Barbarian Kingdoms accepted the Christian identity and they created Kingdoms and Empires with direct recall of the Roman power [we could think to the Holy Roman Empire as a clear evidence of this].
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Old November 30th, 2014, 01:52 PM   #6

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I'm still waiting for someone to give an intelligent reason for why Christianity caused the fall the Empire. It seems like the trendy thing to say, but little more than that.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 02:03 PM   #7

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I'm still waiting for someone to give an intelligent reason for why Christianity caused the fall the Empire. It seems like the trendy thing to say, but little more than that.
It created an intolerant division with intent of deleting divisions.
After Christianity was addopted it was impossible to integrate foreign tribes as it was previously possible, with their Gods and traditions being added to Roman.

The population concentrated more onto the next life, rather than current one, so people didnt really care about preserving the empire as much as they cared for salvation of their souls, transfering their ultimate loyalty from the empire/Rome to God/heaven

A lot of previous wisdom was seen as filthy pagan devilwork, which caused a scientific stagnation, which culminated in dark ages.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 02:20 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
Absolutely, and not only in the East, where the "original" Roman Empire kept on existing [with its clear Christian identity], but also in the West where the Barbarian Kingdoms accepted the Christian identity and they created Kingdoms and Empires with direct recall of the Roman power [we could think to the Holy Roman Empire as a clear evidence of this].
Well Western Roman Empire itself existed for some 150 years after adoption of Christianity.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 02:25 PM   #9

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The monotheistic nature of Christianity destroyed everything beautiful about Roman culture - because there could no longer be any other Gods, temples, cults of priests. All that made antiquity beautiful was washed away by a singular faith.

No. Christianity didn't 'destroy' Rome, but I truly believe it tore the heart out of almost every nation it took root in. And that's not a slur on the faith, or its devotees, but I find it hard not to be bitter that old Gods and Goddesses, revered for centuries, were suddenly deemed 'fake', or somehow barbaric. Culture was destroyed, and replaced with something far inferior.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 02:50 PM   #10

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Originally Posted by Hrulj View Post
It created an intolerant division with intent of deleting divisions.
After Christianity was addopted it was impossible to integrate foreign tribes as it was previously possible, with their Gods and traditions being added to Roman.
A common misconception. Christianity didn't automatically mean Roman culture lost its previous lure. Various people migrated to the Roman world during the V century when both halves of the Empire were already largely Christian. They wanted to enjoy the advantages of Roman civilization, not to destroy it. In fact, many people were Romanized during this era, Christianity was not an obstacle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hrulj View Post
The population concentrated more onto the next life, rather than current one, so people didnt really care about preserving the empire as much as they cared for salvation of their souls, transfering their ultimate loyalty from the empire/Rome to God/heaven

A lot of previous wisdom was seen as filthy pagan devilwork, which caused a scientific stagnation, which culminated in dark ages.
So, you imply all Christians were Early Christian martyrs and desert ascetics? Eastern Roman Empire was pretty prosperous and very much worldly, many old pagan traditions survived even into late Middle Ages, some just took a Christian form, but essentially remained pagan in character. In many cases Christianity was just added to earlier pagan traditions and was itself modeled and influenced by them. In some cases, even today common population follows an essentially pagan rites and superstitions dressed in Christian attire. It's a two-way process, Christianity influenced Graeco-Roman culture, but was also heavily influenced by it. Even Christian theology was shaped by Hellenistic philosophy, especially Plato and his notion of souls, such concept was not present in the original Jewish roots of Christianity.

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Originally Posted by Commodus View Post
The monotheistic nature of Christianity destroyed everything beautiful about Roman culture - because there could no longer be any other Gods, temples, cults of priests. All that made antiquity beautiful was washed away by a singular faith.
Traditional Roman religion was in deep decline already. And these "temples" "cults" and "priests" in Roman world more often than not served some political purpose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commodus View Post
No. Christianity didn't 'destroy' Rome, but I truly believe it tore the heart out of almost every nation it took root in. And that's not a slur on the faith, or its devotees, but I find it hard not to be bitter that old Gods and Goddesses, revered for centuries, were suddenly deemed 'fake', or somehow barbaric. Culture was destroyed, and replaced with something far inferior.
An arbitrary claim, old gods and goddesses lost their previous meaning already in the III century, Romans respected them because of tradition and deep link with their ancestors, it was a patriarchal society and a conservative one.
For them Gods were more a component of collective memory and tradition than a source of some genuine spiritual experience.

That's why Romans initially didn't understood Christianity, it was just another eastern cult for them, not different from others, early Christians were often denounced because they refused to respect ancestral Roman gods, it was considered blasphemous as the Gods were considered necessary to maintain social order and their veneration had a political connotation.
Christians, refusing to honor the Gods were upsetting the balance, but after a century or less, Christianity itself cooperated with the state.

Last edited by Valens; November 30th, 2014 at 03:03 PM.
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