19 Oct

Map of the Week: Christianity in the Roman Empire


By Sophie Lichtenstein

This map of Christianity in the Roman Empire is our Roman Empire: 

In the modern period, Christianity is the largest religion, with 2.4 billion observants worldwide. Christianity originated in Judea in the early years of the common era. At the time, Judea was under control of the Roman Empire, but Jewish people lived in the area and practiced Judaism. Compared to the Jewish monotheists in Judea at the time of Jesus’s birth, the inhabitants and authorities in the Roman Empire practiced polytheism.

During Jesus’s life, he was accepted as the messiah by many Judeans, but the new religious movement threatened Roman authority. In the years following Jesus’s crucifixion, many lower class citizens in the Roman Empire became Christians. However, Christianity is a monotheistic religion, meaning observants stopped contributing to sacrifice and rituals for gods worshiped under the Romans. Despite the Romans religiously persecuting Christians, the apostles converted many, encouraging the geographic spread of the religion. 

As seen on the map, despite religious persecution, Christianity made its way to various communities throughout the empire, from North Africa to present-day France to present-day Turkey. Before Constantine, Christians accounted for about 5 percent of the population of the empire with an estimated 3 million observants. Religious persecution of Christians continued until 313 CE when Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. Constantine himself converted, furthering the spread of the religion throughout the empire. 

Christianity is a proselytizing religion, meaning that it seeks to convert as many people to the faith as possible. This makes the geographical extent of Christianity quite large– the apostles intended to spread the religion as far across the Roman Empire and all of Eurasia as they could.