Although Christianity was born into a culture in which there was little sympathy for its ideas or values, the new faith spread rapidly in both the western and eastern regions of the Roman Empire. This rise in influence can be thought of as a “bottom up” development, which took place without imperial intervention or support, or the use of violence or force by the early Christians. It is difficult to identify the “tipping point” – the moment at which the numerical strength of Christianity forced a change in the attitude of the Roman authorities towards its presence. As we shall see, one of the most significant turning points in the history of the Christian church took place in the early fourth century, with the conversion of the emperor Constantine. In this section, we shall consider the chang- ing status of Christianity, and its implications for Christian identity within an imperial culture.
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The Imperial Religion:The Conversion of Constantine
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