Between the first and fourth centuries, Christianity went from being a persecuted minority religion to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and, in time, the Western world. Important turning points in this process included Constantines conversion and proclamation of legal tolerance for Christianity in 313 and Theodosius declaration in 394 that Christianity would be the only legal religion. One result of these developments was a complicated and problematic relationship between Christian traditions and Roman pagan traditions, which became perhaps the most pressing cultural issue in the Roman world for nearly three centuries. Historians have generally fallen into one of two camps when it comes to understanding the implications of the rise of Christianity for the culture of the ancient Roman world. One group sees the growth of Christianity as the force that effectively destroyed Roman culture, replacing it with an entirely new set of values, literary traditions, and cultural practices. A second group argues that Christianity fundamentally preserved Roman culture and looks for evidence of the ways in which Roman traditions were creatively adapted into Christian culture.
Your essay this semester will take a stand on whether the triumph of Christianity represented the destruction or preservation of Roman culture. The essay will be based on analysis of two primary sources: The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity and the two letters of Jerome, both of which we have discussed in class. Ultimately, you should produce an essay that analyzes the different ways in which each source depicts the relationship between Christianity and Romanitas and how that relationship changed between 200 and 400 CE. Through your analysis, you will make a single, coherent argument about the implications of this relationship for our understanding of the process of Christianization.
Your essay in its final form should be around 5-6 pages (about 1300-1500 words) in length. Its analysis should be thoroughly supported with specific evidence from the texts. Make sure to cite all quotations and textual evidence using in-text parenthetical citations. Your essay should be typed and double-spaced, and have page numbers. You should absolutely not use any sources other than those provided, the textbook, and material from lectures for this paper. Do not go online to Wikipedia or any other site to help with this essay. I am interested in your interpretation and understanding of the sources. If you use the textbook, please cite the page numbers, just as you would with the primary sources. Any form of plagiarism will result in a zero for the paper and the submission of a letter into your permanent student file.