Roman Catholics

After everything you've read so far, putting the words “Roman” and “Catholic” together seems like an oxymoron. Nevertheless, Christianity did manage to take hold in Rome, but only after Christian leaders and believers underwent some very trying times.

When the Romans took over countries, they brought peace and stability to many nations previously ruled by tyrannical dictators. This era of “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) lasted about 200 years, and most people of the Roman Empire were actually grateful for their newfound liberties and modernization. They built temples to worship the goddess Roma, the deity that they felt was the reason for this peace. This worship was gradually transformed to a human symbol—and what better symbol than the emperor of Rome himself? Temples previously built in honor of a pagan goddess were now built to honor Caesar.

Caesar Worship

At first, the Roman emperors were not thrilled by the idea of being worshipped. The Emperor Claudius I (who ruled from A.D. 41–54), for example, thought that such worship would be insulting to his fellow Romans. Eventually, however, the idea began to make sense. The Roman Empire was huge, stretching from the Euphrates River in the Middle East all the way west to the Irish Sea. The concern of the empire was how to unify such a vast region of cultures and languages. It made sense to take care of the problem by enforcing a common religion—and why not worship emperors? After all, that was the one thing all the regions under the rule of Caesar had in common. Soon temples recognizing the emperor as a living god were constructed all over the empire.

The first temple to honor the emperor of Rome (Caesar Augustus) as a deity was built in the city of Pergamum (western Asia Minor) in about 29 B.C.

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