Hagith Sivan

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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  • Classical Studies
  • Religion in the Ancient World
  • Ancient Roman History



A man by the name of Jesus (Yeshu), from the obscure region of the Galilee, clashed with the Jewish establishment in Judaean Jerusalem and was dispatched to his death on the orders of the Roman governor, like thousands of others, by the gruesome method of crucifixion. The Galilean preacher left behind a rich legacy of parables and miracles. His admirers, few but fiery, set out from Judaea to spread his message throughout major urban centres in the eastern provinces. Two even reached the imperial capital of Rome. Imperial decrees notwithstanding, by the third mid-century, Christianity was sufficiently prominent to elicit empire-wide persecution. Aided by Christ, Constantine could contemplate a Christian commonwealth that a Galilean had confidently claimed on the basis of a reformulated Judaism. Ironically, ecclesiastical monotheism and late Roman monarchy emerged as a perfect match. The stories that explained the birth of Christianity revolved around conflicts which assured the community of a recognisable identity: the conflict with Judaism and the conflict with paganism.

Keywords: Jesus; Christianity; Rome; Constantine; monotheism; Roman monarchy; Judaism; paganism

Article.  6506 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Religion in the Ancient World ; Ancient Roman History

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