Rome and Religious Freedom

The early history of the Christian faith records the rise and fall of religious freedom in the Roman Empire. How well do you know your Roman history?

Elias Z. Ziadeh / Wikimedia

Who built the first-ever shopping mall?

The first-ever shopping mall was built by the Emperor Trajan in Rome. Now known as Trajan’s Market, it consisted of several levels and more than 150 outlets that sold everything ranging from food and spices to clothes.
Ad Meskens / Wikimedia

How many hours were in a Roman day?

Like us, the Romans divided the day into 24 hours. But unlike us, their hours varied in length. For the Romans, there were always 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Thus, for example, a daylight hour in high summer was considerably longer than one in midwinter.
Matthias Kabel / Wikimedia

In the Roman Empire, who was required to worship the emperor as a deity?

The Jews had proven so helpful to Julius Caesar during his conquests that they got a formal legal exemption. They didn’t have to acknowledge the emperor as a god; they just had to promise to pray for him and for the health of the empire.

Toward the end of the first century AD, a large portion of Rome burned to the ground. Which emperor blamed Christians for the fire?

Some blamed Nero for the fire to make room for his own projects, so he needed a scapegoat to divert attention. Some historians suggest that Nero actually blamed the poor—an easy target that no one would defend. Among the poor were many Christians, who faced death so fearlessly that people took note. In the end, Christians stood out so notably that they became the number one scapegoat.
G.dallorto / Wikimedia

Which emperor led the 10-year persecution of Christians foretold in the letter to Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11?

It was another fire, this time in the palace of Diocletian, that ignited 10 years of persecution of the Christians. A public ceremony thanking the Roman gods for saving the emperor’s family required everyone to offer incense to the gods. When the Christians refused, they were tortured and killed.
Walters Art Museum / Wikimedia

Why did Diocletian persecute the Christians?

His commanders and administrators told him that Christians were good citizens and faithful soldiers, but wouldn’t participate in public sacrifices. The army was worried that eventually, the Roman gods would get offended and quit helping them on the battlefield.
M.Violante / Wikimedia

In ancient Rome, who was permitted to wear purple?

Purple, the most expensive dye from Murex seashells, was reserved for the emperors’ clothes or senators. Over time, while senators could wear some purple, it became treason for anyone other than the emperor to dress completely in purple, punishable by death.

Which of these Christian martyrs was crucified?

Crimes such as treason or desertion were punishable by beheading or crucifixion. But only criminals without Roman citizenship (such as Jesus Christ) were crucified, because that death was so slow and painful.

Because of his Roman citizenship, the Apostle Paul could not be crucified, and tradition says he was beheaded by Nero. According to Acts 12:2, the Apostle James was killed with the sword. Of these three, only the Apostle Peter was crucified. According to tradition, he asked to be crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus.
Diliff / Wikimedia

The Colosseum got its name from what?

The Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, but got its nickname from the Latin word colossus, which means “giant statue.” A huge statue of Nero stood near the stadium, giving it its nickname.
Paul Burkhart

How many Christians are known to have been put to death in the Colosseum?

History records several periods of persecution and martyrdom of Christians. But there is no reliable evidence that any Christians were put to death in the Colosseum. Most executions took place in the larger Circus Maximus, which could hold as many as 250,000 spectators.
Phoenix Art Museum / Wikimedia

What was the primary entertainment staged at Circus Maximus?

For the Romans, a “circus” was a racetrack, not the tented entertainment venue of today. The Circus Maximus hosted the most popular entertainment of Rome: chariot racing. Because of its size, it was also commonly used for public executions. Gladiatorial combat and theatrical shows were also popular, but those venues were dwarfed by the circus.
J. Paul Getty Museum / Wikimedia

Which of the following outrageous behaviors did the Romans accuse 1st century Christians of committing?

Romans thought the early Christians were practicing some sort of cannibalism. While they shared bread and wine at their celebration of the Lord’s Supper, representing the body and blood of Jesus, untrue rumors spread that they literally ate flesh and drank blood at their ritual meals.
Joe Mabel / Wikimedia

Who was the first Roman emperor recorded as fighting in the line of battle?

Although in art they liked to be depicted in heroic and martial posture, Roman generals were “battle managers,” not warriors. Only in the most exceptional circumstances were they expected to fight hand-to-hand. If a battle was lost, the commander would usually draw his sword and either turn it on himself, or seek an honorable death at the hands of the enemy. Not until Maximinus Thrax (who reigned from AD 235 to 238) was an emperor recorded as fighting in the line of battle.